So why did the passing of Elisabeth Sladen effect me on such a massive scale? What did she mean to me? Well, to answer those questions I have to go back even further to my childhood and when I first fell in love with "The Madman in the Box" or The Doctor as I've always known him.
Saturday tea time, when Doctor Who was on, was always the same in my house. Dad and I would gather on the sofa to watch the latest gripping episode and then enthuse about it afterwards. Now I have to admit I am a little too young to remember Sarah Jane's adventures on their original television airing (I joined around Full Circle - Tom Baker time, and Lis had already left by then.) But I did have the Target books and a rather excellent Audio dramatisation of Genesis of the Daleks. The Target books were so well written that Sarah, and by default, Elisabeth's performance just bounced off the page. So I kinda fell in love with Sarah Jane through my reading and listening rather than watching.
As time went on I'd watch the repeats that were shown on BBC2 and later UK Gold but by then I knew she was something special. Here is a girl who is feisty, not afraid of giving her opinion or arguing with The Doctor but it was so so much more than that. Both the Third and Fourth Doctor loved her and clearly had a strong affection for Sarah. This was no acting, EVERYONE loved Elisabeth Sladen and what's not to love?
I seriously can't think of a moment where she ever annoyed me and even when she got stuck in the air ducts during Ark in Space it wasn't annoying, it was sweet. She had no flaws and loved human kind, a fact that was so central to The Sarah Jane Adventures. When she was brought back for School Reunion I cried several times. Lis played Sarah as a heart warming and emotional lady who had more than a few issues with the way she was left by The Doctor. Even now writing this and thinking of those final scenes with David Tennant "My Sarah Jane" - sob.
I strongly suggest any fans that haven't already seen any or all of her Classic stories, that they should do so. There isn't a bad one amongst them. I love all of them but I will share my favourite Sarah Jane moment.
Genesis of the Daleks - With the Doctor about to commit genocide and kill the Daleks for ever, he suddenly has an agonising moment of doubt. Enter Sarah Jane, "We're talking about the Daleks, the most evil creatures ever invented, you must destroy them! You must complete your mission for the Time Lords!"
"My Sarah Jane" Yes, but also "My Elisabeth Sladen" and don't I miss you.
Rest in Peace, Elisabeth Sladen 1st February 1946 to 19th April 2011