An only child, Sladen developed an interest in performing at an early age, beginning dance lessons when she was five and dancing in one production with the Royal Ballet. She eventually turned to acting, and after finishing grammar school, attended drama school for two years.
Following this, she began work at the Liverpool Playhouse repertory company as an assistant stage manager. Her first stage appearance was as a corpse. However, she was scolded for giggling on stage, thanks to a young actor, Brian Miller, Sladen was so good as an assistant stage manager that she did not get many acting roles, a problem she solved by deliberately making mistakes on several occasions. This got her told off again, but she started to get more on-stage roles. Sladen eventually moved into weekly repertory work, traveling around to various locations in England. Sladen and Miller, now married, moved to Manchester, spending three years there. She appeared in numerous roles, most notably asAn only child, Sladen developed an interest in performing at an early age, beginning dance lessons when she was five and dancing in one production with the Royal Ballet. She eventually turned to acting, and after finishing grammar school, attended drama school for two years.
Following this, she began work at the Liverpool Playhouse repertory company as an assistant stage manager. Her first stage appearance was as a corpse. However, she was scolded for giggling on stage, thanks to a young actor, Brian Miller, Sladen was so good as an assistant stage manager that she did not get many acting roles, a problem she solved by deliberately making mistakes on several occasions. This got her told off again, but she started to get more on-stage roles.
Sladen eventually moved into weekly repertory work, traveling around to various locations in England. Sladen and Miller, now married, moved to Manchester, spending three years there. She appeared in numerous roles, most notably as Desdemona in Othello, her first appearance as a leading lady. She also got the odd part on Leeds Radio and Granada Television, eventually appearing as a barmaid in six episodes of the long-running soap opera Coronation Street. Sladen made her first, uncredited, screen appearance in 1964 in the film Ferry 'Cross the Mersey as an extra.
In 1972, Miller was appearing in a play that moved down to London, and they had to move along with it. Sladen found city life a bit of an adjustment, but eventually adapted. Her first television role in London was as a female terrorist in an episode of Doomwatch. This was followed by guest roles in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em and Z-Cars.
In 1973 actress Katy Manning, who was playing the Third Doctor's assistant Jo Grant opposite Jon Pertwee, was leaving the series. Producer Barry Letts was growing increasingly desperate in his search for a replacement when Z-Cars producer Ron Craddock gave Sladen an enthusiastic recommendation.
Sladen arrived at the audition not knowing it was for the new companion role and was amazed at Letts's thoroughness. She was introduced to Pertwee, whom she found intimidating at the time. As she chatted with Letts and Pertwee, each time she turned to look at one of them the other would signal a thumbs-up.citation needed She was offered and accepted the part of investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith.
Sladen stayed on Doctor Who for three and a half seasons, alongside both Pertwee as the Third Doctor and Tom Baker as the Fourth, receiving both popular and critical acclaim for her role as Sarah. When she left the series in 1976, it made front page news, where previously only a change of Doctors had received such attention.
Sladen returned to Liverpool with her husband and did a series of plays. Notable appearances following that include a two-year stint as a presenter for the children's program Stepping Stones, a role as a stand-up comic's spouse in Take My Wife, and a small part in the movie Silver Dream Racer as a bank secretary in 1980, only her second motion picture appearance to date.
The new decade also marked her first appearance at a Doctor Who convention, Who 1 in March 1980, along with Ian Marter, who had played companion Harry Sullivan on the programme. In 1981, Letts cast her as the female lead in the BBC Classics production of Gulliver in Lilliput.
New Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner had asked her to return to the series to ease the transition between Tom Baker and the new Doctor Peter Davison. She declined but accepted his second offer of doing a pilot for a spin-off series called K-9 and Company, co-starring K-9, the popular robot dog from Doctor Who. However, the pilot was not picked up for a series. Sladen would reprise the role of Sarah in 1983 for the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors.
She continued to appear in various advertisements and in another Letts production, Alice in Wonderland (playing the Dormouse), as well as attending conventions in the United States. After the birth of her daughter Sadie Miller in 1985, Sladen went into semi-retirement, placing her family first, but still finding time for the occasional television appearance. She reprised her role as Sarah in the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time, the 1995 independently produced video "Downtime" alongside Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier and Deborah Watling as Victoria Waterfield, and played Dr Pat Hewer in Peak Practice, her last television appearance before the 2005 revival of Doctor Who.
Sladen returned to the role of Sarah once again in several audio plays. Two of them were produced for BBC Radio, The Paradise of Death (Radio 5, 1993), and The Ghosts of N-Space (Radio 2, 1996), together with Pertwee as the Doctor and Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Big Finish Productions has also produced two series of Sarah Jane Smith audio adventures set in the present day, released in 2002 and 2006. Sladen also appeared in a Bernice Summerfield audio drama, Kate Orman's Walking to Babylon, but not as Sarah Jane. Her daughter Sadie has also appeared in the Sarah Jane Smith audios.
Sladen appeared as Sarah in "School Reunion", an episode of the 2006 series of the revived Doctor Who, along with John Leeson who returned as the voice of the robot dog K-9 and David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. In the lead-up to the broadcast of "School Reunion", Sladen was quoted in The Daily Mirror being somewhat critical of the characterisation of Sarah Jane in the original programme: "Sarah Jane used to be a bit of a cardboard cut-out. Each week it used to be, 'Yes Doctor, no Doctor', and you had to flesh your character out in your mind â€” because if you didn't, no one else would."?title=She spoke more favourably of the characterisation in the new series.
In 2007, Sladen starred in The Sarah Jane Adventures, another television spin-off focusing on Sarah Jane, produced by BBC Wales for CBBC and written by Russell T. Davies and Gareth Roberts. A 60-minute special aired on New Year's Day 2007, with a full series commencing broadcast in September 2007. Sladen also read two original audio stories for The Sarah Jane Adventures, which were released in November 2007 on CD: The Glittering Storm by Stephen Cole and The Thirteenth Stone by Justin Richards. This was the first time that BBC Audiobooks have commissioned new content for exclusive release on audio.… Expand
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|The Sarah Jane Adventures: Season 5||Oct 3, 2011||Sarah Jane Smith||4.0|
|The Sarah Jane Adventures: Season 4||Oct 11, 2010||Sarah Jane Smith||4.0|
|The Sarah Jane Adventures: Season 3||Oct 15, 2009||Sarah Jane Smith||5.3|
|The Sarah Jane Adventures: Season 2||Sep 29, 2008||Sarah Jane Smith||5.7|
|The Sarah Jane Adventures: Season 1||Sep 24, 2007||Sarah Jane Smith||8.2|
|Doctor Who (1963): Season 14||Sep 4, 1976||Sarah Jane Smith||8.0|
|Doctor Who (1963): Season 13||Aug 30, 1975||Sarah Jane Smith||8.5|
|Doctor Who (1963): Season 12||Dec 28, 1974||Sarah Jane Smith||9.2|
|Doctor Who (1963): Season 11||Dec 15, 1973||Sarah Jane Smith||tbd|
|Coronation Street: Season 11||Jan 5, 1970||Anita Reynolds||tbd|