Aurum Press, paperback out now
The lives of Elisabeth Sladen, actress – and Elisabeth Miller, wife and mum…
Towards the end of the 1990s I was coming back by train from a convention at which I’d been interviewing, along with Lis Sladen and her daughter Sadie. In the course of that journey, Lis confided various stories about her time on Doctor Who, which were quite clearly and specifically off the record. In particular, her description of her first season made me reassess a lot of what I thought I knew, and ever since has made me suspicious of some of the “histories” of the show that have appeared.
I don’t know whether Lis ever went public with those stories at conventions in the intervening years – our paths only crossed during promotional appearances for The Sarah Jane Adventures – but reading the chapters about her time working on the show is like reliving that train journey. Here is Lis being very honest about the way she felt about Jon Pertwee’s attitudes, about the exact date of her decision to move on from the show (a lot earlier than you’d expect) and how she felt manipulated by some of the BBC Powers That Were.
It’s not just a Sarah Jane memoir. Her work either side of the show is covered in equal detail, with her love for theatre and her family shining through every page. Working with Keith Barron on a children’s show, getting drunk at conventions, coming down hard on herself (sometimes it seems justifiably, on other occasions, much less so) for some of the career decisions she made…
It might make uncomfortable reading for some people – and I really do wonder if this book would ever have been published in her lifetime (as is hinted at in the tear-jerking farewell chapter written by Brian and Sadie Miller) – but you get the definite feeling that this is the unadulterated Elisabeth Miller. There’s one paragraph towards the end of Chapter 15, talking about the DVD commentaries, that slams those who think they know what happened during the filming. Certain elements of Sarah Jane’s adventures aren’t just glossed over – they’re ignored in their entirety.
Midway through her recounting of Season 13, Lis remarks on the death of Planet of Evil author Louis Marks, announced as she was writing that chapter. “It’s very sad seeing those faces from my past just fade away,” she writes. “At least with DVDs and videos a bit of them lives on.” And with the publication of this book, rather more of the true Elisabeth Sladen, and what we are assured by her family is the true Elisabeth Miller, lives on.
Verdict: Absolutely not to be missed. 10/10
Read our 2007 interview with Elisabeth Sladen here