Elisabeth Sladen

It was the nineties. The early nineties, to be as precise as my memory will allow at this distance. Doctor Who had been off the air for several years, having limped through the late eighties fighting as many battles off screen as on. I was young back then, barely into my teens and struggling with all the usual angst and acne that accompanies that age. It didn’t help that I was a committed fan of a TV show which most people thought of as pretty ropey. I certainly wasn’t old enough to be allowed to go on any long journeys unsupervised. So when I saw a flyer for an Elisabeth Sladen autograph signing event in London, I somehow persuaded my Mum to chaperone me for the day. (Actually, knowing Mum, she probably suggested it.)

We eventually got to Hammersmith and joined the back of a very, very long queue. The organisers clearly hadn’t anticipated a turnout this large and the weather was warm. I was quite happy talking to the fellow fans around us in the queue although I think Mum felt the time drag somewhat more slowly, despite the comedy Dalek roving up and down the queue and the armed arrest which took place in the bus station over the road. (Yes, really.)

By the time we reached the front of the queue, Elisabeth had been signing autographs for several hours longer than planned and must have been exhausted. Flanked by her dress from Masque of Mandragora and promotional posters, she was the centre of attention. I’ll admit I was slightly overwhelmed despite, at this point in my callow youth, not having seen that many of her Doctor Who stories. Aware that she had been signing autographs all day I must have tried to rush through, but Liz seemed to purposely slow down, taking time to chat and pose for a photo. She chatted to my Mum, understanding the sacrifice involved in standing in a queue full of Doctor Who geeks all day. Liz was so gracious and polite that she has had a special place in my affections ever since.

This wasn’t the only time I met Liz Sladen, but it’s the one that I immediately recalled when I heard the devastatingly sad news this evening that she had died. May she rest in peace.

Elisabeth Sladen

Elisabeth Sladen

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