After reading Elisabeth Sladen: The Autobiography, I felt obliged to review it and share my thoughts on it, and you will understand why below:
Elisabeth Sladen was a great actress, who we all knew as Sarah Jane Smith. But she was also a wife and a mother. So who really was Elisabeth Sladen off set? This book really does what you would expect it to do, it reveals her life story. It delves into the thoughts of Lis, who reveals many things never before heard of (such as how she uses an S instead of a Z in her name as it stands for "Star", or the fact that the media has been listing her as two years younger than she really was since before she can remember!).
Lis started out going to drama classes at a very young age, like most actors. She describes her time as a theatre actress who aspired to be successful, with a brief mention of the possibilty of appearing in Broadway, an ambition which faded away when she became a television actress. A big section of the book focuses on the build up to her becoming a television actress. Some moments to look out for there is when she describes how she burst out laughing when she played a corpse on stage, or how she vomited on her co-star!
One of the overall highlights for me is her recollection of when she and the wonderful Tom Baker knocked on a random house one evening asking the woman who answered if they could watch themselves on TV, as it was the first episode Lis was going to miss as it went out live on the BBC, and back in those days if you missed an episode, there was no catching up.
I won't spoil anymore of the highlights, but her stories of the time she spent with Jon Pertwee have, at times, some great laugh out loud moments. She depicts him in the way most others have, as completely crazy, but in a very good way of course. She was evidently very fond of Jon, and maybe even more so his successor, Tom Baker.
The way in which Lis goes about her daily life is very gentle, she goes about everything with a caring approach. She is also very down to Earth, throughout the book she references her turning down of offers on huge roles that could continue her success after Doctor Who, because she doesn't like how it's being filmed or doesn't like the story, something other actors may jump at the chance of, no matter what the working conditions. She always remained a down to Earth character, who at the end of the day liked to switch off from being Elisabeth Sladen, the actress, to Elisabeth Miller, the wife.
If you learn just one thing from this autobiography, it is that Elisabeth Sladen is one of the kindess actresses you will ever hear about. At the end there is a foreword from her husband and daughter (Brian and Sadie Miller), which is quite heartbreaking, because for a somewhat great deal of time during my reading of this book, I completely forgot that poor Lis had passed on, you just forget somehow when it feels like she is talking to you through the book. But when you look back on Elisabeth Sladen you will feel like you knew the woman a whole lot better, fondly remembering the wonderful life she lived.
If there's any book you should be reading over the Christmas holidays, it's this. For Ashleys take on the book, see TARDIS Base Magazine issue 2.
You can purchase Elisabeth Sladen: The Autobiography from any book shop at the RRP of £18.99, or order it from Amazon for £10.53 here.