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Elisabeth Sladen: An Autobiography

I recently was able to read the autobiography that Lis Sladen finished shortly before she passed away last year.  I’m going to admit something here, that I know makes me a bit odd in the Doctor Who universe; I liked Sarah Jane Smith, but I’m not sure that I would pick her as my favorite companion.  Therefore, I wondered how interesting I was going to find her autobiography.  I can now say that I would highly recommend it to any fan of Doctor Who.

Lis Sladen’s voice comes through clearly and she is full of interesting stories, both about her life while on Doctor Who, and her life before and after.  I wasn’t sure how interested I would be in her life before Who, but, sure enough, I found the whole book very interesting.  It was interesting to read about the life of a regular actor in England in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  She kind of skips over a lot of her life after Who, except to write about the various Who related projects she got involved with after.

Of course, her recollections of working on Doctor Who dominate the book.  I found her recollections fascinating.  She tells of all the good and bad experiences she had while working on Doctor Who.  From the story of her audition for the show (she didn’t even realize that she was being offered the part of the new companion) to being pulled out of retirement for the Sarah Jane Adventures, she is full of interesting details that help paint a picture of what it is like to work on Doctor Who.  I also learned a great deal about the people who worked behind the scenes like producer Barry Letts and the various directors (many of whom also seemed to be somewhat difficult to work with).

Even more interesting to me was the relationship she had with both of her Doctors, Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.  It’s pretty clear in the book that she didn’t much care for Jon Pertwee, but she adored Tom Baker.  She seems to feel that Pertwee expected things to be done his way, while Baker was much more collaborative.  I would say that Baker treated her as more of an equal, while Pertwee had more of a patronizing attitude towards woman, as well as a bit of the ego that his Doctor displayed on the screen.  Of course it probably didn’t help that on her first day on location for Doctor Who, Jon mistakenly called her Katy, then burst into tears because he missed his former companion, Katy Manning.

Overall, I would say that this is a great book for any Doctor Who fans interested in the history of the show.  Lis Sladen is an entertaining writer and she offers a great deal of insight into what life was like behind the scenes.


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