The purpose of this series of posts is to talk about the things that were important in my childhood that have been forgotten for many years.
Some of these childish things we put away, others are taken away from us. Very rarely they are given back. I am old enough to have watched Doctor Who right from the start, from the very first appearance of a black and white Tardis standing in a junkyard. I watched it through the good times and the not so good times, from Hartnell to McCoy: and then it was taken away from me because the powers in the BBC no longer wanted to make it.
Of course it came back but that wasn't what I was thinking of when I said that sometimes things are given back. It came back but it wasn't the same. I watch it now but it's bigger and flashier and it isn't the same program. I enjoy it but not for the same reasons that I enjoyed it in the past. In a way it's too adult, too clever and too slick.
But we were given the real Doctor Who, the old Doctor Who back in the form of the Sarah Jane Adventures. All fans of Doctor Who have their own ideas of which of the actors to take the role is best. Usually it's the one they grew up with. For me it wasn't, for me it was Sylvester McCoy who I always felt had some great storylines that wer sometimes let down with weak scripting.
That's by the way though. The interesting thing is that if the question of who was the greatest companion is raised, there's little doubt that it's Sarah Jane Smith. She was different to all the previous companions, more of an equal partner in the adventures, less of a simple foil for the Doctor. She lasted a long time but as is inevitable in the series eventually she wasn't there any more, though she did pop up from time to time with subsequent incarnations of the Doctor.
And then the timelord's own adventures went from our screens. Abandoned by the BBC apart from one brief attempt to bring it back with a TV movie, it was gone for a long time. The new super-duper all-singing, all-dancing version that we eventually got is pretty good, but somehow it isn't the same.
And then the Sarah Jane Adventures arrived. The Doctor himself was only an infrequent visitor to the series. Sarah Jane was the lead and she, like the Doctor before her, had her companions. It was squarely aimed at children and shown in a children's TV slot. And it was great fun. Much more than the parent program it was the heir to the spirit and style of the original. There were fast-paced episodes with great villains and stories. There were hiding-behind-the-sofa scary bits. There were entertaining companions. It was fun again in a way that Doctor Who hadn't been for a very long time. And there was Sarah Jane Smith.
Elisabeth Sladen walked back into the role as if she had never been away from it. Other actors have cropped uo from time to time reprising their roles - Nicholas Courtney as Brigadeer Lethbridge-Stewart, Katy Manning as Jo Grant for example - but the characters never seem quite the same. Elisabeth Sladen did. The Sarah Jane in the Sarah Jane Adventures was exactly the Sarah Jane we all remembered. We had been given back one of the put-away childish things.
This week Elisabeth Sladen died, aged 65 and with her Sarah Jane Smith died. She was one of the cornerstones of the Doctor Who Universe and she gave us back the old-style Doctor Who. Gave us all back a slice of our childhoods. It won't be the same Universe without her.