Why Elisabeth Sladen Vomited On Edwina Currie…

… and 34 other facts we learnt from the sorely-missed actress’s autobiography

Elisabeth Sladen’s autobiography is released by Aurum Press on Monday, and it’s a fascinating read for any Doctor Who fan. Here’s 35 things we gleaned from reading it.

  1. Why was Elisabeth Sladen’s name spelt with an “S”? Whenever asked, her mother would explain, “the ‘S’ is for ‘star’”.
  2. One of Lis’s legs was longer than the other.
  3. As a girl, Lis’s heartthrobs were Elvis Presley, Errol Flynn and (slightly bizarrely) Emergency Ward 10 actor Ray Barrett.
  4. Lis once threw up on Edwina Currie. It happened at junior school, when both girls were appearing in a production of Alice Through The Looking Glass, because she’d eaten too much ice cream. (You can see photos from this production at the Liverpool Echo website)
  5. She also threw up – behind a market stall – while making Who/EastEnders Children In Need cross-over “Dimensions In Time” (thanks to dodgy prawns at a buffet the night before…)
  6. Lis’s first on-screen appearance – which she kept quiet afterwards – was on a TV talent show called Search For A Star. She read Portia’s speech from Julius Caesar, and was voted back for a second week!
  7. She once went on a date with Warren Clarke (Dalziel in Dalziel And Pascoe). They went to see a John Wayne film.
  8. Carry On Star Jim Dale once nearly ran her over in his sports car.
  9. She once saw a ghost – or perhaps a doppelganger. She saw the director of the Manchester theatre she was working at walk past; the next day, she found out he’d died in hospital.
  10. As many people know, a mystery actress was originally cast as Sarah Jane before Lis, but “didn’t get on with Jon Pertwee” and was replaced. According to Sladen, the woman in question was “very busty”. Well, that narrows it down a bit…
  11. Two inspirations for Sarah Jane’s character were a young cousin of Sladen’s with “an indomitable attitude” and Who producer Barry Letts (for his “honesty and straightforwardness”).
  12. On her first story, “The Time Warrior”, the camera crew convinced her that you needed to wear “special pants” for scenes involving CSO…
  13. The second time she met Jon Pertwee (who was still distraught about Katy “Jo Grant” Manning leaving) was in a hotel bar. He accidentally said, “What would you like to drink, Katy?”… then burst into tears!
  14. Pertwee would often rub Sladen up the wrong way by suggesting, “How about saying that line like this?”
  15. Working with Pertwee, Sladen felt that she was “at his beck and call”.
  16. Sladen reckoned Pertwee was the sort of man who needs to be in control and who likes to “impose themselves physically on smaller women”.  While filming “Death To The Daleks”, he said “Let’s go meet the Daleks”, then grabbed Lis’s neck, as if to steer her!
  17. Pertwee once smacked her across the face after she referred to one of the bawdy tales he used to tell while drunk. She slapped him straight back!
  18. In his last season, Pertwee’s back pain meant that he had to wear a corset to keep everything in place.
  19. When the time came to replace Pertwee, Tommy Steele was seriously mentioned as a possible successor at one point.
  20. During filming of the Pertwee/Tom Baker regeneration, the outgoing actor refused to be in the same room as his successor. The two didn’t exchange a single word.
  21. Lis found Paddy Russell (director of “The Time Warrior” and “Pyramids Of Mars) very difficult to work with: “Paddy didn’t care who or what she trampled on”.
  22. Sladen and Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan) had a spooky experience in Wookey Hole filming “Revenge Of The Cybermen”, while sitting beneath a stalagmite called The Witch. Both were convinced they had a scene together composed of “unfathomable” dialogue, but when they looked at the script later, the page was blank – the scene had never existed.
  23. Lis and Tom watched “The Android Invasion” episode three in a complete stranger’s living room, after Tom just knocked on the door and asked if they could come in.
  24. Lis was so appalled by her farewell scene in “The Hand Of Fear” (as originally scripted) that she scrawled obscenities all over the script! She later gave the script to Russell T Davies, as a farewell gift when he left Doctor Who.
  25. One of her leaving gifts was a key to the TARDIS. Years later, she passed it on to David Tennant when he left the show.
  26. After leaving Who she had offers of work from “established sci-fi projects”. Hmm, wonder what they might have been?
  27. She fell out with Pertwee for several years following the birth of daughter Sadie, after he got the hump about not being invited to see the baby.
  28. On Jon Pertwee’s original Who coat: “I could have sworn I’d seen it at auction half a dozen times. It was almost as if he’d had a whole bunch of them run up just to sell…”
  29. While filming “The Five Doctors”, Jon Pertwee kept making catty remarks about Tom Baker, until Lis told him off.
  30. According to Sladen, “with [‘80s producer] John Nathan-Turner on set you were never far from a potential conflict… he did like to throw the cat among the pigeons from time to time.”
  31. Tom Baker brought the house down at John Nathan-Turner’s memorial service by saying, “What would John, looking down, be thinking now? Well, I can tell you… He would be thinking, ‘I would rather it were Tom up here than me!’”
  32. Anne Widdecombe adores K-9.
  33. Lis was in terrible pain throughout the filming of “School Reunion” after tearing a quad muscle. “If you look really closely, you can see one of my thighs is twice the size of the other!”
  34. The production team wanted The Brigadier to give Sarah Jane away in “The Wedding Of Sarah Jane”, but sadly Nicholas Courtney was too ill to take part.
  35. Lis was diagnosed with cancer in February 2011. The first person she told was Russell T Davies – she rang him on the way back from the hospital.

You can donate to Meadow House, the hospice where Elisabeth Sladen was cared for, via their JustGiving page.

Read our review of Elisabeth Sladen: The Autobiography.
Read our review of The Sarah Jane Adventures series four.