I just finished reading Elisabeth Sladen: The Autobiography and I’m in no shape to write an impartial review.
I was a few years younger than Sadie Miller when my own mother died abruptly from cancer. I’ve mentioned before how much Sarah Jane reminds me of her. The book’s afterword, written by Sadie and her father Brian, brought all those feelings back again.
There’s more to it than that, though. It sounds ridiculous, but Doctor Who has had a huge impact on my life. It literally changed me – from a normal person into a lunatic who collects costumes, toys, fan art, and DVDs, who writes blog posts and fanfic and original stories, who goes to conventions, who spends an inordinate amount of time watching – and loving – television. It made me someone who thinks about courage, and creativity, and what it is to be human. I didn’t watch the show as a child, and I didn’t see the classic series until I was well obsessed with the new one, but still I’m aware that Sarah Jane is a big part of what made it all possible. Her time with Tom Baker is considered the show’s Golden Age, the height of its popularity, and she remains one of the best-loved companions of all time.
The book itself is a delight, rich with her voice, with her opinions good and bad, with her modesty. As a meta fan I adore hearing about her co-stars and the rest of the eternal Who family. I grieved with her at the passing of Jon Pertwee and Barry Letts, original Sontaran Kevin Lindsay and fellow companion Ian Marter, among others. I laughed at Jon’s melodrama and Tom’s antics, the tumult of her career, the steady chaos of her personal life. It’s a wonderful read for fans. Elisabeth Sladen – or Miller as she preferred to be called when not at work – is a different person from the character she’s most famous for, but no less a joy to be with.
Having read her words and her family’s, I’m left with something else she said, written by her devoted friend and fan Russell T. Davies:
“Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it’s a world, or a relationship, everything has its time. And everything ends.”
Sometimes, much too soon.