Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Jane Smith’

Elisabeth Sladen (1990)

October 17, 2009

With the third series of ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ having just started on the BBC, here’s Elisabeth Sladen back in 1990 talking about how she upset Jon Pertwee by getting her hair cut, how she helped Tom Baker and Ian Marter with the script for the aborted 70’s movie ‘Doctor Who Meets Scratchman’, and how she felt she couldn’t play Sarah Jane again after ‘The Five Doctors’.

“I really wanted to act. It was just what I wanted to do when I left school. I didn’t go to stage school – I went to an ordinary grammar school, then drama school for two years, then to the local repertory theatre. We based ourselves in Manchester, although Brian (Miller, her husband) went into the West End with a production. We always knew we’d have to move to London, but it was so different. I didn’t have the contacts. I didn’t have an agent. In the end, I got one who had seen me in Manchester, and to my surprise, I got quite a bit of work.

“Someone else was offered Sarah Jane before me, but they decided to reconsider. I don’t know if she recorded any – it was all a bit of a rush, which was to my advantage. I only found out afterwards. They tagged ‘The Time Warrior’ onto the end of the season when Jo Grant was leaving. I did that, then we finished and started again after Christmas. I remember going out and doing a lot of publicity shots. I got my hair cut very short and came back for the first production of the new season, the dinosaur one. Jon Pertwee hated my hair, just hated it, which was a wonderful welcome!

“I felt very strange that they weren’t giving me more notes, that I wasn’t being pressed into a mould more. I saw ‘The Time Warrior’ a long time after making it, and I was quite amazed at what a strong role they let me take. She was never so strong again. I remember Tom Baker later brought up a point: ‘If the people the Doctor chooses to be with him are stupid, then it makes him out to be stupid’.

“The chemistry with Tom was the chemistry each actor bought to it. I saw Tom once in Regent Street and I couldn’t cope with reality. ‘Come and have a drink’, he said. ‘No, Doctor, I can’t!’. It worked very well and it was always a pleasure to work with Tom – it was just like shorthand. In the end, you just knew what we needed at a certain point. I helped with some of ‘Doctor Who Meets Scratchman’ (the proposed 70’s film). The British Film Finance Corporation were very interested about that. I put in some ideas, but I didn’t do any writing. They told me I’d been written in – but they might have written me out, too!

“I really didn’t like the script for ‘K9 and Company’, but I loved the idea and I thought John Nathan-Turner was very brave to actually go for it. He wasn’t given enough time to set it up, and I was concerned that there were things in it that weren’t really Sarah. I would have loved to have made it really work, but I just think there were so many disadvantages when we started off.

“The Five Doctors was like a command performance. Everyone came back to it. The story had moments in it that really worked well, but I feel in the end it didn’t kind of reach anything. I doubt very much that I could do another one – I don’t really think I’m that person now, and I don’t think you can play Sarah Jane so many years on. I’m different, and unless the script accommodated that, I don’t think I could make it work.”

Elisabeth Sladen (2002)

September 13, 2009

Here’s a transcript of Elisabeth Sladen talking about the changeover between Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. She says she felt left out, at first, because TB and Ian Marter seemed to be getting on so well, but the interview ends with a great story about TB and some fairy lights, so enjoy:

“First of all, I knew Jon was leaving before he actually left. Even when I joined. All these names were mentioned, Alan Dale, Ron Moody, and then Barry Letts, the director, came rushing in one day and said ‘Wonderful, we’ve got Tom Baker!’. In my ignorance, I didn’t know who Tom Baker was. And the first time I saw Tom was when we were filming ‘Planet of the Spiders’ and we were filming Jon’s demise and it was the take-over, so it wasn’t a time to really say so much. Jon was in his own little box of ‘I am leaving’, Liz as Sarah had to be upset because she thought Jon was dying, and it was just ‘Hello’. That night I had to go to the studio to film with them, with Tom, and I think if things work well you get that extra frisson on screen.

“Ian Marter was there with Tom when I got there and they seemed already to have a really lovely relationship and I actually felt very excluded, and I felt I had to sit back and wait on it. From the word go it was a very very new Doctor, which was lovely because you’re only as good as the people you work with. And the Doctor makes the running. It’s like in a George Formby thing, you can’t have ten George Formby’s, it wouldn’t work, so all I could do was wait to see what Tom gave me. And whereas Jon’s Doctor had been very protective, arm around the chick, Tom’s Doctor was ‘You can do it’, and it was wonderful. Tom comes from Liverpool, and I do, and Tom’s so generous and disarming. It was great.

“By the time we came to do ‘Planet of Evil’, we knew we were really flying. You just knew it was really really good, and that’s a very rare feeling, and when something is really good you dare to be brave, you dare to make mistakes, and by that you get better results because you’re braver. You trust the people around you. We didn’t have to finish sentences. We’d rehearse, and Tom would say by the time we got to the studio we had to know exactly what we were doing, exactly where the marks were, exactly how many seconds to pause, because the special effects were so important. You could do twenty, thirty takes and be brilliant, but if the stun gun didn’t work you’d got nothing. We knew they’d take the one where the stun gun worked, so we were on the ball, and Tom used to say to the director’s box ‘Sir, Liz and I have just thought of -‘ and the director would say ‘Lovely idea, Tom, but we haven’t got time’. Tom would say we’ll do it but we have to get it right.

“An example is ‘Pyramids of Mars’. There’s a Marx Brothers film where they walk in, turn and walk out, and we did that in ‘Pyramids of Mars’ when we saw something in one of the tunnels, Tom was supposed to say ‘Quick, Sarah, hide’, and he said ‘I’m not saying that again’ so it was in, turn, out. It was very good, it was accepted, but if he’ got it wrong we wouldn’t have been very popular because the clock was ticking. You only had until ten o’clock in those days. We used to record from seven thirty at night until ten o’clock at night, so it was rather like being live.

“And I remember we were going filming one day, I never used to know where we were going, I just got on the bus, and it was six o’clock at night, we were going down the motorway, we came to a whole load of houses and Tom sat back and said ‘You know, Liz, if we stopped and I knocked on the door or one of these houses and said Do you mind if I come in and watch myself?, there’s no-one who’d say No’.

“It’s so simple, ‘Doctor Who’, but if you mess around with it you’ve got nothing. I wish we’d had more money. Tom was always having ideas. He’d say ‘Shall we try it this way’, they’d say ‘No, Tom’, he’d say ‘Alright, but I’ll have another idea in a minute and that one might work’, you know, you could be wrong a hundred times but if you’re right just once, it’s worth having your input. We’d camera rehearse and the make-up girls would run after Tom and say ‘Tom, can I just comb your -‘ and Tom would say ‘Darling, I’m too busy, I’m saving the universe’. Wonderful. Fantastically professional irreverance.

“When we were doing ‘The Hand of Fear’, I think they were a little anxious that we mustn’t film the last scene as the last scene, in case it got a little too, whatever, maudlin. We used to often record out of order, but this particular time we recorded the end halfway through, but I remember one of the last scenes we did, it was where Eldred was injured and we were climbing up this slippery slope, and it was in the studio so it wasn’t desperately slippy but we had to sort of pretend to slide back. Tom thought it was quite funny, and we kept doing it and going up and sliding up and we just couldn’t stop laughing. It really was very sad leaving, but I needed to go because I didn’t ever want to be asked to leave, and I wasn’t Philip’s choice, he inherited me. Tom gave me a party at his house, and he put fairy lights in the trees in the garden, and as a joke I said ‘Tom, it’s lovely, do you always have it like that?’, he said ‘No I bloody don’t, I did it for you!'”