Elisabeth Sladen was the first companion many fans of “Doctor Who” remember, and certainly has been loved in her role as Sarah Jane Smith, the character who often won fan votes for the favorite companion over the years. She passed away on Tuesday at the age of 63 after a battle with cancer.
Sladen served as companion for longer than most, and thanks to her appearance in both the new series and the classic episode “The Five Doctors,” she managed to appear in episodes with more Doctors than any other character: the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, tenth and eleventh. After 1983, her career was composed mostly of the stage, until Russell T Davies plucked her back up for a guest role in the second season of the revived “Doctor Who” in 2006. After two decades gone, Sarah Jane Smith got her own show, the “Sarah Jane Adventures,” a “Doctor Who” spin-off targeted more directly at younger children. Receiving several children’s television awards and smashing ratings for its time slot, the show has now run for four series. A fifth series was already approved, and six of the planned twelve episodes finished filming. There is no word yet on when (or if) those episodes will air, or if the series itself will continue without Sladen.
The modern world makes a strange thing of death. We amplify the world so much that it seems smaller, more manageable. We connect to more people, many of them one way connections due to television and film. Media constructs a world both infinitely richer and infinitely snugger. But that also means that death isn’t just an occasional thing to us, it doesn’t just darken that black day when someone close to us passes on. There are now a hundred little deaths every year for each of us, people we know but don’t know, people who touched us from a distance without ever knowing us back. The price we pay for infinity are the numbers that drop continually out of the equation. Each loss makes the world feel that much smaller.
Perhaps somewhere Sarah Jane is dining with ten Doctors tonight.