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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ultimate Geek Fu

Goodbye, Sarah Jane
It is with unexpected sadness that we note the passing yesterday of actress Elisabeth Sladen, better known as "Sarah Jane Smith," perhaps the longest-running character in the Doctor Who universe aside from the Doctor himself. At age 63 it seems much too early for her to have taken her final bow, and of course, her final battle with cancer strikes much too close to home, these days.

After nearly forty years—(good grief, has it really been that long?)—of enjoying Doctor Who, Sarah Jane remains my favorite of the Doctor's many traveling companions. I know other fans who would pick other companions; I even know a couple who named their daughter Tegan. And certainly Louise Jameson's "Leela" had a lot of fans and was probably a prototype for a whole new type of woman's role.

But for me, Sarah Jane was always the very best example of the type. I don't know quite why: forced to verbalize, I'd say it was because she was plucky. Sometimes stubborn. Always inquisitive, sometimes dangerously so, but never a fool. Sometimes in trouble, but never helpless. Quite fetching, in a wholesome sort of way that seems entirely lost in recent decades—or perhaps that's simply further evidence of my obsession with long-haired brunettes.

There's an argument you can start any time two or more geeks are gathered together: "Who was the best Doctor Who?" I think the answer really depends on who was playing the part when you discovered the show. My favorite was always Tom Baker, but I've met plenty of Jon Pertwee and Peter Davison fans, and David Tennant did a marvelous turn in the part in recent years. It even used to be possible to find the occasional Patrick Troughton fan, although age has thinned their ranks, but Sylvester McCoy fans seem as rare as George Lazenby fans, and no one ever acknowledges that Peter Cushing played the Doctor in two otherwise forgettable 1960s movies.

So if you're in the mood to argue, those are today's topics: who was the best Doctor Who, and who were the most unforgettable of the Doctor's companions? Villains would be a good topic, too; Doctor Who always abounded in memorable villains.

But me, I think I'd rather spare a minute today to think kindly thoughts of Ms Sladen, and remember how much I enjoyed watching her work, 35 years ago.

Let the comments begin.
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