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Doctor Who star passes away

Last updated 12:05 20/04/2011
Elisabeth Sladen and David Tennant
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FAREWELL SARAH-JANE: Elisabeth Sladen with former-Doctor David Tennant.

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Beloved Doctor Who companion and star of spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Elisabeth Sladen has died, aged 63.

The BBC reports that Sladen, who performed the role of intrepid reporter and companion to the Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith in the classic Doctor Who series between 1973 and 1976, passed away today from cancer.

"It is with much sadness that we can announce Elisabeth Sladen, the much-loved actress ..., passed away this morning," a BBC spokesman said.

CBBC controller Damian Kavanagh added that he was "deeply saddened and shocked by the news of Lis's untimely death.

"Lis brought joy, excitement and a sense of wonder to her many fans in her role as Sarah Jane Smith. She was adored by our young audience and I know all of them will miss her as much as I will," he said.

Sladen had been battling cancer for some time.

"Sarah Jane Smith was everybody's hero when I was younger, and as brave and funny and brilliant as people only ever are in stories," Current-Doctor Who producer/writer Steven Moffat said in a statement.

"Many years later, when I met the real Sarah-Jane - Lis Sladen herself - she was exactly as any child ever have wanted her to be."

Sladen first played opposite Jon Pertwee, the third Doctor, and then Tom Baker - the fourth - before leaving the series after three-and-a-half seasons.

But the Liverpool-born actress returned to the role of Sarah Jane numerous times over the years, and when the series was resurrected in 2005, she was brought back as well - as the star of her own alien-busting television show.

"I left Sarah Jane a great many years ago, but she never left me," Sladen said in an interview when the series was launched.

Sladen was praised for playing the role with humour and warmth, but she never warmed to science fiction, telling a television audience a couple of years ago that she found the genre was too complex.

In an admission sure to shock Doctor Who's die-hard fans, she joked that she never even bothered to learn the meaning of the TARDIS, the Doctor's iconic telephone box-shaped time machine (it stands for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space.)

"I only learned that after I left," she said, explaining that the drama in science fiction didn't come from the aliens or the gadgets.

"It's about relationships," she said. "It's about a body of people banding together to overcome adversity."

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Sladen is survived by her husband, actor Brian Miller, and daughter, Sadie.

-Agencies

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