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Elisabeth Sladen (born 1 February 1948, Liverpoolmarker) is an Englishmarker actress best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in the Britishmarker television series Doctor Who, K-9 and Company and the current The Sarah Jane Adventures, as well as in various audio stories.

She appeared as a regular on Doctor Who with both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, and has reprised the role many times. Sladen has been married since 1968 to actor Brian Miller. Their daughter, Sadie Miller, appeared with her in the range of Sarah Jane Smith audio plays by Big Finish Productions.

Early career

An only child, Sladen developed an interest in performing at an early age, beginning dance lessons when she was five and dancing in one production with the Royal Ballet. She eventually turned to acting, and after finishing grammar school, attended drama school for two years.

Following this, she began work at the Liverpool Playhousemarker repertory company as an assistant stage manager. Her first stage appearance was as a corpse. However, she was scolded for giggling on stage, thanks to a young actor, Brian Miller, whispering the words, "Respiration nil, Aston Villa two" in her ear while he was playing the doctor. Sladen was so good as an assistant stage manager that she did not get many acting roles, a problem she solved by deliberately making mistakes on several occasions. This got her told off again, but she started to get more on-stage roles.

Sladen eventually moved into weekly repertory work, travelling around to various locations in England. Sladen and Miller, now married, moved to Manchestermarker, spending three years there. She appeared in numerous roles, most notably as Desdemona in Othello, her first appearance as a leading lady. She also got the odd part on Leeds Radio and Granada Television, eventually appearing as a barmaid in six episodes of the long-running soap opera Coronation Streetmarker. Sladen made her first, uncredited, screen appearance in 1964 in the film Ferry Cross the Mersey as an extra.

In 1972, Miller was appearing in a play that moved down to Londonmarker, and they had to move along with it. Sladen found city life a bit of an adjustment, but eventually adapted. Her first television role in London was as a terrorist in an episode of Doomwatch. This was followed by guest roles in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em and Z-Cars.

Sarah Jane Smith

In 1973, Doctor Who actress Katy Manning, who was playing the Third Doctor's assistant Jo Grant opposite Jon Pertwee, was leaving the series. Producer Barry Letts was growing increasingly desperate in his search for a replacement when Z-Cars producer Ron Craddock gave Sladen an enthusiastic recommendation.

Sladen arrived at the audition not knowing it was for the new companion role and was amazed at Letts's thoroughness. She was introduced to Pertwee, whom she found intimidating at the time. As she chatted with Letts and Pertwee, each time she turned to look at one of them the other would signal a thumbs-up. She was offered and accepted the part of investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith.

She stayed on Doctor Who for three and a half seasons, alongside Pertwee as the Third Doctor and Tom Baker as the Fourth, receiving both popular and critical acclaim for her role as Sarah Jane. When she left the series, in the 1976 serial The Hand of Fear, it made front page news , where previously only a change of Doctors had received such attention.

Sladen has returned to the character of Sarah Jane Smith on numerous occasions. In 1981, new Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner asked her to return to the series to ease the transition between Tom Baker and new Doctor Peter Davison. She declined but accepted his second offer of doing a pilot for a spin-off series called K-9 and Company, co-starring K-9, the popular robot dog from Doctor Who. However, the pilot was not picked up for a series. Two years later Sladen appeared in the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors.

She reprised the role in the 1993 Children in Need special Dimensions in Time, and in the 1995 independently produced video Downtime alongside former co-star Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Deborah Watling as Victoria Waterfield. This was her last on-screen appearance as Sarah Jane Smith for some time.

Sladen played Sarah Jane in several audio plays. Two of them were produced for BBC Radio, The Paradise of Death (Radio 5, 1993), and The Ghosts of N-Space (Radio 2, 1996), together with Jon Pertwee and Nicholas Courtney. Big Finish Productions has also produced two series of Sarah Jane Smith audio adventures set in the present day, released in 2002 and 2006. Her daughter Sadie has also appeared in the audios.

Following the successful revival of Doctor Who in 2005 Sladen guest starred as Sarah Jane in "School Reunion", an episode of the 2006 series, along with John Leeson, who returned as the voice of the robot dog K-9, and David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. In the lead-up to the broadcast of "School Reunion", Sladen was quoted in The Daily Mirror being somewhat critical of the characterisation of Sarah Jane in the original programme: "Sarah Jane used to be a bit of a cardboard cut-out. Each week it used to be, 'Yes Doctor, no Doctor', and you had to flesh your character out in your mind — because if you didn't, no one else would." She spoke more favourably of the characterisation in the new series.

Following her successful appearance in the series, Sladen now stars in The Sarah Jane Adventures, a Doctor Who spin-off focusing on Sarah Jane, produced by BBC Wales for CBBC and created by Russell T Davies. A 60-minute special aired on New Year's Day 2007, with a 10-episode series commencing broadcast in September 2007. The programme was nominated for a prestigious Royal Television Society award and was recommissioned for a second 12-episode series which was broadcast in late 2008. The third series is currently broadcasting as of October 2009, and again achieved audience ratings well in excess of the usual average figures for the time slot (sometimes even double).

Sladen also read two original audio stories for The Sarah Jane Adventures, which were released in November 2007 on CD: The Glittering Storm by Stephen Cole and The Thirteenth Stone by Justin Richards. This was the first time that BBC Audiobooks have commissioned new content for exclusive release on audio.. Two new audio stories ("Ghost House" and "Time Capsule") were released in November 2008, both read again by Sladen..

Sladen appeared in the final two episodes of Doctor Who’s 2008 series (season 4) finale "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End" and was credited in the title sequence of both episodes. She has been spotted during location filming for the 2009 Doctor Who Christmas specials.

Other work

Post-Doctor Who Sladen returned to Liverpool with her husband and did a series of plays. Notable appearances following that include a two-year stint as a presenter for the children's programme Stepping Stones, a role as a stand-up comic's spouse in Take My Wife, and a small part in the movie Silver Dream Racer as a bank secretary in 1980, only her second motion picture appearance to date.

In 1981, former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts cast her as the female lead in the BBC Classics production of Gulliver in Lilliput.

She continued to appear in various advertisements and in another Letts production, Alice in Wonderland (playing the Dormouse), as well as attending conventions in the United Statesmarker. After the birth of her daughter Sadie Miller in 1983, Sladen went into semi-retirement, placing her family first, but still finding time for the occasional television appearance. She played Dr Pat Hewer in Peak Practice, her last television appearance until the 2006 Doctor Who episode "School Reunion".

In 1991, she starred as "Alexa" opposite Colin Baker in The Stranger audio adventure The Last Mission for BBV Audio.

Sladen also appeared in a Bernice Summerfield audio drama, Kate Orman's Walking to Babylon.

In 2008/9, Sladen appeared in a panto production of Peter Pan at the Theatre Royal Windsormarker. She played the character of Mrs. Darling.


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