British actress Elisabeth Sladen died this morning, according to a statement issued by the BBC. Sladen was best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in the long-running BBC sc-fi show Doctor Who.
The actress first played Sarah Jane in 1973 and returned to the part on numerous occasions, becoming a favorite of Doctor Who fans. Starting in 2007, Sladen starred in a spin-off show, The Sarah Jane Adventures.
In the BBC statement, current Doctor Who head writer and exec producer Steven Moffat pays tribute to the actress. “’Never meet your heroes’ wise people say,” Moffat is quoted as saying. “They weren’t thinking of Lis Sladen. Sarah Jane Smith was everybody’s hero when I was younger, and as brave and funny and brilliant as people only ever are in stories. But many years later, when I met the real Sarah-Jane — Lis Sladen herself — she was exactly as any child ever have wanted her to be. Kind and gentle and clever; and a ferociously talented actress, of course, but in that perfectly English unassuming way.”
Sladen, who was 63, had been suffering from cancer.