Elisabeth Sladen (born 1 February 1948, Liverpool) is an English actress best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in the British television series Doctor Who.
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.
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.
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