Steven Moffat, Doctor Who‘s showrunner, commented: “‘Never meet your heroes’ wise people say. 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.
“There are a blessed few who can carry a whole television show on their talent and charisma – but I can’t think of one other who’s done it quite so politely. I once showed my son Joshua an old episode of Doctor Who, in which Lis appeared. ‘But that’s Sarah Jane,’ he said, confused, ‘In old Doctor Who. From years ago. How come she always look exactly the same?’ It’s not a comfort today, of course, but children will still be saying that 50 years from now.”
Russell T Davies, former Doctor Who showrunner and the creator of The Sarah Jane Adventures, said: “I absolutely loved Lis. She was funny and cheeky and clever and just simply wonderful. The universe was lucky to have Sarah Jane Smith; the world was lucky to have Lis.”
Current Doctor Who star Matt Smith said: “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.”
We were fortunate enough to interview Lis on three occasions and I came away from every interview with a massive grin on my face, telling everyone how overwhelmingly lovely she was. Despite each 20-minute interview being a year apart, Lis somehow always remembered us from the previous time – something I can’t imagine any other actor doing. Each chat was such a pleasure and so relaxed that I’d often forget it was supposed to be an interview, trying to steer the questions back on to Lis and the show. She will be hugely missed.