Sladen portrayed Sarah-Jane Smith during the 1973-1976 seasons of the series, and later returned as the popular character during the modern series, eventually spinning off into her own series, "The Sarah-Jane Adventures." There's been no shortage of fond memories of Sladen and Sarah-Jane Smith shared online over the last 24 hours — including a touching farewell from her former "Doctor Who" co-star Tom Baker that accompanied this classic BBC photo:
According to TVLine, a spokesperson for BBC America indicated that Sladen’s passing will be acknowledged during this Saturday's "Doctor Who" premiere at 9 PM Eastern.
"She can't be dead. But she is: she died yesterday morning. Cancer. I had no idea she was ill; she was so private, never wanted any fuss, and now, gone," wrote Baker on his official website. "A terrible blow to her friends and a shattering blow for all those fans of the programme whose lives were touched every Saturday evening by her lovely heroic character, Sarah-Jane Smith."
Also among those to celebrate Sladen's life was current "Doctor Who" lead Matt Smith, who said in an official statement: "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."
Among those former Doctors who worked with Sladen was The Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant, who took a memorable turn with the actress in a 2006 episode that had The Doctor reuniting with Sarah-Jane and his robotic pal K-9. As someone who grew up with Baker and Sladen's "Doctor Who" adventures, Tennant said he felt honored to have been a part of her return to the "Doctor Who" universe.
"I just can't believe that Lis is gone," wrote Tennant in an official statement. "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."
And these weren't the only people offering their praise for Sladen's iconic role in "Doctor Who" history. Earlier today, we rounded up some of the reactions on Twitter to Sladen's passing — including a sad note from "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" director Edgar Wright. In memory of Sladen, author Neil Gaiman (who penned an upcoming episode of "Doctor Who") tweeted a link to Mitch Benn's "Be My Doctor Who Girl."
Around the blogosphere, there's also been quite a bit of eulogizing for the departed actress, including an analysis of why Sladen's turn as The Doctor's companion was so important to the series' growth over at Newsarama, and this poignant, illustrated goodbye by "Dork Tower" creator John Kovalic.
Finally, as someone who grew up living vicariously through Sarah-Jane Smith's adventures with The Doctor, Sladen's passing is especially sad. For me, her return to the "Doctor Who" universe in recent years served as a wonderful bridge between the modern series and the episodes I grew up watching. To see her received so warmly by today's audiences was icing on the cake — made even sweeter by the affirmation of everything I enjoyed about her original adventures alongside former Doctors Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.
Rest in peace, Sarah-Jane Smith, and thank you.