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Spin-off from the Tardis

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  • Publication: The Age
  • Date: 2008-10-30
  • Author: Tim Hunter
  • Page: Green Guide, p. 17
  • Language: English

FOR 35 years, British actress Elisabeth Sladen has lived with the character that made her famous - Doctor Who companion Sarah Jane Smith. She joined the original series in 1973 when Jon Pertwee was the Doctor, and then spent more than two years alongside Tom Baker, making her one of the best-loved companions from the series.

Sladen returned twice as Sarah Jane to the original series; once in 1981 for the spin-off, K9 & Company (she was the "company" to the robot dog), and again in 1983 for the 20th anniversary special, The Five Doctors. "It's weird; I left her but she never left me. Obviously I've got a problem!" jokes Sladen on the phone from Britain. "I was very fortunate with my Doctors; that's when Doctor Who worked in the '70s with the audience.

"She is a lovely character," Sladen explains about her attachment to Sarah Jane. "I aspire to be part of who she is, but I don't think I'll get there. She makes mistakes, but she keeps coming back and trying because she doesn't want anyone to be hurt. You know, when you're young, you think 'It's not fair; I have to make it fair'. She never lost that attitude. I like her; I like her very much."

Doctor Who was never far from Sladen. If it wasn't audio adventures, it was documentaries and DVD commentaries, and then in 2006, just after David Tennant took on the role of the Doctor in the new series, Sarah Jane returned to the revived series, and proved so popular she was given her own spin-off children's series, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

"I don't think they'd thought of it at the time; I believe it was a one-shot wonder for her to come back, and I thought 'what a lovely place to leave her'. But then (executive producer) Russell T. Davies started to rethink. It got good viewing figures and a good response; not only the storyline, but the character. I didn't see the possibilities, but he did."

The new series sees Sarah Jane return to her journalist roots as she investigates aliens and monsters, but with her adopted son Luke (Tom Knight) and his school friends Maria (Yasmin Page) and Clyde (Daniel Anthony) in tow. Being aimed at a younger audience didn't mean that Sladen approached Sarah Jane any differently though.

"Your guideline is the script, and you add your bits and pieces to it. The only time Sarah Jane really changes for me is that she's different with the Doctor than she is with the children. You put yourself in a different position; you lead more with the children and you look after them, and I think with the Doctor, she was more likely to leap and think afterwards. It's a different dynamic with different responsibilities."

But just because Sarah Jane is in the Doctor's role doesn't make Sladen the "mother" on the set.

"I'm blessed with the children, they're really lovely; they have their own lives, I have mine, and we get together occasionally, and they put up with me. I know what I want, but there's very much an equality. I might be numero uno on the call sheet, but you forget that. It's very much a company feel, and that includes the crew as well, who, I have to say, we couldn't do without. And this is what happened in the '70s when I was on Doctor Who, and the crew were the most wonderful people I've ever worked with, and it comes through the lens."

While we're getting our first chance to see the first series here on pay TV now, in Britain a second series is already screening. It's obviously captured the viewers' imaginations, and Sladen puts that down to the format of the show.

"It can't really fail. In the first series we established what we wanted to do, and it's not cosy. There's a very real but very safe atmosphere about The Sarah Jane Adventures. Things are explained and not glossed over. You have big issues, like people losing people - Maria's family are not together; we touch very briefly on Alzheimer's, for example - but it's all done in a very supportive way.

"Maybe it's safe fear, but it's done in a way that people can understand. It's caring for people, and doing your best, and having the right motive, but it's also fun, and it's about having adventures. It's the number one program on Children's BBC, and repeats got 1million viewers, and that's incredible for a children's program. I don't really want to define it because we might be doing something right! And we take it further in the second series."

And what about beyond that? Will Sarah Jane be around for a while yet? "I never like to look that far in the future; I never expected to be around this long, but I think she's still got some mileage."

The Sarah Jane Adventures premieres tomorrow at 7pm on Nickleodeon.

GRAPHIC: PHOTO: Elisabeth Sladen rose to fame with Doctor Who and is now back in The Sarah Jane Adventures.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Hunter, Tim (2008-10-30). Spin-off from the Tardis. The Age p. Green Guide, p. 17.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Hunter, Tim. "Spin-off from the Tardis." The Age [add city] 2008-10-30, Green Guide, p. 17. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Hunter, Tim. "Spin-off from the Tardis." The Age, edition, sec., 2008-10-30
  • Turabian: Hunter, Tim. "Spin-off from the Tardis." The Age, 2008-10-30, section, Green Guide, p. 17 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Spin-off from the Tardis | url= | work=The Age | pages=Green Guide, p. 17 | date=2008-10-30 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 April 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Spin-off from the Tardis | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 April 2024}}</ref>