For me growing up, the archetype for this character was Sarah Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen. She was there just as I got into the show. The innumerable repeats of 70s episodes in Australia during the 80s and 90s, as well as her repeat visits (right up to David Tennant’s final scenes in 2009) just cemented her position.
As Doctor Who Executive Producer Steven Moffat said:
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?”
Overnight it’s been announced that Elisabeth Sladen passed away from cancer.
A couple of months ago we lost Nicholas Courtney, The Brigadier. So this is the second childhood icon of mine to go this year.
Sarah Jane returned in her own TV show, Sarah Jane Adventures. In this clip from last year, just after farewelling Jo Grant, she name-checks other Doctor Who companions who are apparently still fighting the good fight.
RIP Elisabeth Sladen, 1948-2011.