Gone at the much, much too young age of 63.
When I was a kid, I knew a lot of Trekkies. I even knew a guy obsessed with the Gil Gerard Buck Rogers TV show. However, I was a Doctor Who guy, even though the show, broadcast Monday through Friday in Chicago at 5:30 in the afternoon on our local PBS affiliate, drew little attention or respect even from my fellow geeks.
I still remember the very first, quite small Doctor Who con I attended, downtown Chicago at the Congress Hotel. There several hundred Doctor fans basically milled around, entirely satisfied by the evidence that, yes, other people were also watching the show. (Remember, this was loooong before the Internet.) It was a blessed Eden for a few years, until I went to a third yearly con and suddenly all the people in costumes started showing up, along with the sniggering jackasses who lived only to remember the name of each and every planet the Doctor visited in each episode, and to snidely mock those (like me) who couldn’t be bothered. That was my last such con.
Even so, even so. Every Doctor Who fan has His (or Her) Doctor, and every fan His (or her) Companion. My Doctor was Tom Baker (no great originality there), and my companion Sarah Jane Smith. Without meaning to denigrate other people’s Companions, previous assistants like Jo Grant did little for me. Nor did a later parade of pretenders. To me, Sarah Jane was to Doctor Who what Diana Rigg was to The Avengers. Sarah Jane hung around an atypically long time, as well, being a companion to both the third and fourth Doctors.
Clearly I wasn’t alone; the revival of the show featured a loving tribute to Sarah Jane, and she was even recently awarded her own TV series. Liz Sladen still looked damn good in the role, and her stunned gasp when she stumbled across David Tennant’s TARDIS, and her subsequent diatribe spilling out several decades’ worth of bewildered rejection and abandonment at the Doctor’s deserting her at the end of The Hand of Fear, touch something deep inside me. And deep inside quite a few others, I expect.
All too recently we lost one of Sarah Jane’s compatriots, the Brigadier, in the person of actor Nicholas Courtney. Now Liz Sladen too has shuffled off this mortal coil. God bless, Liz. And thank you.
[Thanks to Fish Eye no Miko, Eric Balzer and Michael Conroy for the sad news]