I didn't get introduced to the work of this amazingly likable actress until she had a guest roll in an episode of the new Doctor Who, even though she is probably the most well known of the classic Doctor Who companions. However, after her guest appearance, she was able to reprise her character into a new series, The Sarah Jane Adventures.
It is the Sarah Jane Adventures that brought Elisabeth Sladen to be a well recognized actress in our house. The show is slightly less scary than Doctor Who (which the writers insist is aimed at 8 year olds). It is, however; less scary enough for my daughters to enjoy, so when we do watch TV (doesn't happen a lot we are always so busy), this is one of the favorite shows. We don't get it on TV, but the local video store carries it so we rent it - usually when I'm on one of my binges.
Sarah Jane is the cool Mom, who knows all sorts of amazing things, and defeats monsters with the help of some kids and her sonic lipstick (think sonic screwdriver - the ultimate multi-tool!). At the beginning of the series she isn't a Mom, but while she's investigating an alien run soda factory she rescues a boy who was made to infiltrate the Earth and adopts him. Together with her new son and two of his friends they work together to keep the Earth safe from casual alien threats, like Slithean taking over the schools.
The Doctor also calls on Sarah Jane, with her appearing in episodes periodically, all the way to last year. She was there when the Doctor's most terrifying enemy was created and she helped destroy them at least once that I saw (haven't seen last year's episode yet.) And while my kids recognize the Doctor, they really recognize Sarah Jane.
It is rare when an actress can take the world of Science Fiction Television and make it into her own empire. Elisabeth Sladen was one of those women. More so, she introduced the strength, beauty, and intelligence that makes such recognition in science fiction possible. We will continue to enjoy her work, and miss her loss. It's hard to believe that there will be no more new Sarah Jane.