Monday, 9 May 2011

Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane: Andy Pandy outfits in space

There can't be many fictional tv characters who had their own spin-off programme thirty years after they last regularly appeared on television.

And there were even fewer characters that managed to be quite so fashion conscious while battling plastic monsters in a Berkshire quarry half-heartedly disguised as outer space.

Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith, travelling companion to both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker's Doctor Who in the 1970s, was revived for her own CBBC series in 2007, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Off the back of the success of a fresh run of Doctor Who, her programme won a new generation of fans - both for her acting, Sarah's exploits, and, possibly, for what she wore.

And among all of the tributes for Elisabeth Sladen, whose untimely death last month was a shock to many, it became clear just how highly both the actress, and the character she was best known for, was regarded.

Tributes by BBC News, by Granada Reports, by the young viewers of The Sarah Jane Adventures on Newsround, and from fourth Doctor actor Tom Baker or tenth Doctor actor David Tennant, variously mention her engaging acting ability, or her humble beginnings at the Liverpool Playhouse or an early bit-part role in Coronation Street and, of course, her status as the definitive Doctor Who companion.

But elsewhere on the internet there are sites and more sites all dedicated to what she wore as Sarah Jane.

"A very sporadically patterned jumper," writes one fan, lovingly, under a grainy still from the programme showing Sarah in a definition-defying sweater.

"A yellow two piece rain outfit plus woolly hat!", the writer tries again, or, perhaps giving up a bit now, "it appears to be some kind of quilted vest type thing."

And as a tribute to Elisabeth, and to Sarah's fashions, BBC Four is repeating her final regular appearance in her original run of Doctor Who, in a story called The Hand of Fear from 1976, with Tom Baker as the Doctor.

Sarah spends the four-part adventure dressed in an Andy Pandy-style red striped jump suit and is mostly possessed by a strange alien force or roams around a nuclear plant, before abruptly deciding she's had enough of getting chased by monsters and declares an intention to go home.

She doesn't mean it but the Doctor has to let her go anyway, as he's been summoned home.

He drops her off back in South Croydon (which we learn - thirty years later! - was actually Aberdeen) - and off Sarah goes.

It's a poignant, understated and timeless tv moment but this - and all of her other hugely appreciated work on Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures - mean that both Sarah and Elisabeth Sladen will live on, forever.

And as tributes go, that's arguably as good as they get.

Doctor Who - The Hand of Fear, BBC Four, Monday 9 May 7.40pm, Tuesday 10 May 7.40pm.

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