Lis Sladen was very important to me, you know. When I joined the little world of Doctor Who, Lis was already a star. She had an enormous success with Jon Pertwee. She was good pals with the Brigadier, our beloved Nicholas Courtney; she knew all the regular directors….
So when I replaced Jon Pertwee, it must have been an anxious time for Lis; it was a very anxious time for me. Following in the big footsteps of Jon was daunting. Tom Baker? Never heard of him. And so we started on the first story under Barry Letts as director. We did the location stuff first and I just obeyed orders; running about, with the Brigadier and that silly car Bessie Trotwood, I think it was called: too small for me, but also in its own way a “character”. Jon loved cars.
But back in the rehearsal room things were quieter and there was time to put in little details, time for Lis and me to get acquainted, time for me to try and make a little mark, so to speak. And Lis laughed at my silly antics; yes, she did, she laughed me to success. We both came from Liverpool, that small detail helped. We both loved old movies. And quite suddenly Lis and Ian Marter and Tom Baker were a trio. It is so consoling when one is sad and bereft to remember the good times, the laughter, the glamour; yes, the glamour: we three switched on the lights at Blackpool! A very great honour. We performed a little melodrama directed by (guess who?) yes, David Maloney! And now Lis was adored by Ian Marter and Tom Baker too.
What struck me about Lis was her grace. She welcomed me, educated me, and delighted me with her tales and adventures on Doctor Who. And she also seemed to have a quality of youth that not many people retain as they go through life. Her grace and kindness will stay with me because she had such qualities in abundance and shared them freely. I will miss her, as will the world of Doctor Who and all the Doctors that had the good pleasure to work with Lis Sladen and travel the universe with Sarah Jane.
And David Tennant:
I just can’t believe that Lis is gone. She seemed invincible. The same woman who enchanted my childhood, enchanted my time on Doctor Who and enchanted generations who have watched her and fallen in love with her – just like I did. I feel very honoured to have shared a TARDIS with Sarah Jane Smith, and I feel very lucky to have shared some time with Lis Sladen. She was extraordinary.
UPDATE: David Tennant speaks about Sladen’s place in the Doctor Who fan consciousness: