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Doctor Who's most famous companion dies

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ELISABETH Sladen, the actress who played Sarah Jane Smith, arguably Dr Who's most famous companion, has died at the age of 63.

The actress, who played the character during the Seventies before returning to the show four years ago, had been suffering from cancer.

Sladen, who also had a successful stage career, played alongside several of the most iconic timelords including Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, David Tennant and the current incumbent of the Tardis, Matt Smith.

The producers were so delighted with fans' reaction to the character's return that they gave Sarah Jane her own show.

The Sarah Jane Adventures brought the Dr Who universe to a new generation of younger viewers via CBBC.

In 1973, Katy Manning, who was playing the Third Doctor's assistant Jo Grant opposite Jon Pertwee, was leaving the series. Ron Craddock, who was producing Z Cars, recommended Sladen to producer Barry Letts.

Despite not knowing she was up for a companion role - and finding Pertwee somewhat intimidating - Sladen was offered the job.

Her character remained on the series for three-and-a-half seasons and appeared in some classic stories including Pertwee's swan song Planet of the Spiders and Genesis of the Daleks, which introduced the evil creator Davros. When she left the series, in the 1976 serial The Hand of Fear, her decision became a national news story.

Sladen returned to the character of Sarah Jane Smith on numerous occasions.

Initially she resisted overtures to make a comeback. In 1981, new Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner asked her to ease the transition between Tom Baker and new Doctor Peter Davison. She declined but accepted his second offer of doing a pilot for an ill-starred spin-off series called K-9 and Company. Two years later Sladen returned in person for the show's 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors.

She reprised the role for a Children in Need special, which saw Sarah Jane appear alongside the cast of East Enders, and in numerous radio plays, including two opposite Jon Pertwee.

Last year Sarah Jane teamed up with another former companion, her predecessor in the Pertwee years, Jo Grant (played by Katy Manning).

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  • APA 6th ed.: Burton, Nigel (2011-04-20). Doctor Who's most famous companion dies. The Northern Echo .
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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Doctor Who's most famous companion dies | url= | work=The Northern Echo | pages= | date=2011-04-20 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=29 May 2024 }}</ref>
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