Logging into my site today, I noticed that traffic had spiked around one particular page: a short piece about the day in October 2007 when I made a special journey to Collectormania, Milton Keynes, to meet Elisabeth Sladen, aka Sarah Jane Smith from Doctor Who. In that blog, I recounted our brief chat, though reading it afresh it’s noticeable to me that I missed out a key detail – most likely because vanity got the better of me.
You see, despite enjoying signing events and conventions, I occasionally struggle with over-the-desk conversation due to my stammer. And this was one such occasion. Lis was one of the chattiest people I’d met, and I quickly hit a bump, my words tangling into a solid block. When I explained what was going on, she said: “Oh, don’t worry – you take your time.” To date, she’s one of only two people I’ve met at a signing who’ve helped put me at ease when I’ve got myself in a pickle (the other is Rob Shearman). I loved her for that.
Of course, like thousands of others, I also loved her for her positive contribution to my childhood. I started watching Doctor Who as a young boy during the Jon Pertwee era, and I came to adore the show when Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen made the TARDIS their home in the mid-1970s. The on-screen spark they had really was something special – I could see it when I was five, and it’s even clearer today.
Sarah (as I first knew her) is one of the most real characters that Doctor Who has ever had, and that’s largely down to Lis’s performance. She played it as honest drama, and this made it very easy for people to believe in her character. In October 2009, Lis earned the top spot in Doctor Who Magazine’s ‘favourite companions’ poll, with double the number of votes Billie Piper got – some feat given the heights of popularity that Billie reached. Thirty-three years after The Hand Of Fear, who’d have thought it?
I’ve mentioned (in that old blog post) my attempt to rescue Sarah from the clutches of my infants’ school teacher, who’d confiscated my collectable Weetabix card and put it in her desk drawer. What I should perhaps add is that such a daredevil feat was out of character for me; I was a good boy, but I was darned if I was going to let Sarah suffer until hometime.
Suffice to say, if I could bring Sarah Jane Smith back right now, I would. From me and the five-year-old me: goodnight, Elisabeth, and thank you.