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Sarah Jane Smith (Third, Fourth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors)

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/sarah_jane_2532.png
First appearance: "The Time Warrior" (1973-74)
Played by: Elisabeth Sladen (1973–76, 1983, 1993, 2006, 2007-2011), Jessica Ashworthnote  (2007), Jessica Mogridgenote  (2008)

"Maria, there are two types of people in the world. Those who panic, and then there's us. Got it?"
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A journalist from South Croydon, who one fateful day while investigating missing UNIT scientists. found herself swept up with a madman with a box... and found herself imprinting herself on his hearts. And ours.

The most archetypal companion (many older fans grew up with her as their companion), and the longest-serving if you count by number of serialsnote . So popular that she got two spinoffs: the didn't-go-anywhere K-9 and Company pilot, and eventually the very successful Whoniverse tie-in spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007-2011), in which the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors also appear. Still the only classic series companion to show up in the new Doctor Who TV series played by the original actress.

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Also known amongst the Fandom as the boss ass companion.

Tropes associated with the television continuity

Doctor Who

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Quite a few episodes ended with her unable to keep from giggling at the Third Doctor's quips and antics. Fans have said this was key to the character's success—by laughing, it was clear that she was in on the joke and a willing participant, as opposed to the victim of what could easily be taken as sexist, rude behavior by the Doctor.
  • Affectionate Nickname: See Insistent Terminology: The Doctor is the only person in the universe who she allows to call her "Sarah".
    • Harry calls her "Old Girl", something which she's... not exactly... fond of.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Kind, sweet Sarah Jane has, among other things, blown up a rocket by sniping an explosive the Doctor planted there, and almost convinced the Doctor to commit genocide against the Daleks and was prepared to do it herself but for getting interrupted. In the revived series, hurt her friends and family, and she sinks well and truly into the Mama Bear trope. On some occasions this makes her downright dangerous.
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  • Bound and Gagged/Brainwashed/Tap on the Head: In the classic series, one (or more) of these would happen to Sarah Jane in each story she appeared in. Holds the companion record for most times hypnotized. Lampshaded in "The Hand of Fear" and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
  • Break the Cutie: She's been through a lot during her tenure.
  • Breakout Character: She gets two spinoffs.
  • Brick Joke: One that took around 30 years to land. When we last saw her in Tom Baker's day, he'd dropped her off in a place he assured her was Croydon. We find out in David Tennant's time that it was actually Aberdeen, Scotland... 408 miles (657km) apart. For those of you unwilling to brave Google Maps (or a normal one - can't say I blame you!) it's a very long way.
    Tenth Doctor: Right. That's near Croydon, isn't it?
  • The Bus Came Back: Did it ever. Notably, she's the only (human) Classic Who companion to show up in the revived series.
  • Conveyor Belt o' Doom: Is put on one in "The Seeds of Doom", but to be fair she also (later in the story) rescued the Doctor from said same fate.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: After she starts getting used to the lifestyle, she can go almost toe to toe with the Fourth Doctor in terms of making jokes and quips in tense situations and happily reels off nursery rhymes along with him, although she much more obviously uses Casual Danger Dialog to release stress than the Doctor.
  • Character Outlives Actor: The Eleventh Doctor mentioned to a fan in a parallel universe that Sarah Jane lived beyond her actress' death. Hammered in by The Sarah Jane Adventures ending on, "And the story goes on forever...."
  • Chickification: While the companion of the Third Doctor, she was intended as a tough feminist career girl who saw herself as the Doctor's equal (or even superior) no matter how condescending he was to her, and her relationship with him was quite prickly, serving as The Lancer. The Third Doctor had been nearing the end of his tenure around the time of her introduction, and the original plan was to regenerate him into a physically feeble but mentally formidable old man character; so a male companion, Harry, was introduced to serve as a Nerd Action Hero character and fight for the Doctor when required. However, the decision was instead made to cast a young, strong man as the Fourth Doctor, who was more than capable of doing the action scenes intended for Harry, and so to rebalance the dynamic Harry took over the role of The Lancer and Sarah Jane was relegated to Damsel in Distress. This also coincided with her relationship with the Doctor taking on a romantic tinge - her relationship with the Third Doctor had felt paternal due to the big physical age gap and the power dynamic, but her relationship with the Fourth Doctor, who looked younger and saw himself as equal to her, oozed Unresolved Sexual Tension to Implied Love Interest levels. Once Harry left and Sarah Jane was the sole companion, she returned closer to her original characterisation again, finding a kind of middle ground of badass and added romantic dimension (not to mention respectful treatment from her Doctor) that many fans feel is the most entertaining version of her character.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: The gentle and compliant Jo was replaced with a bright and hot tempered journalist who would shout back at the Doctor.
  • Cool Car: In her spinoff, she has a 1991 Nissan Figaro from Japan.
  • Cool Old Lady: After "School Reunion". Don't ever actually call her old though. Even the Doctor doesn't dare to call her old — either that, or he doesn't see her as old given that Ten describes has as looking "good".
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: She has a penchant for screaming... a lot. And for getting captured. Or brainwashed. However, the second she believes her Doctor to be in more trouble than he can handle, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that will keep her from getting to his side and (with quite a frequency) rescuing him.
    • In The Sarah Jane Adventures, Sarah Jane is seen as an old lady or a frigid, lonely neighbour. This does not mean, however, that she cannot kick all of the arse if she must (or if the aliens become too dangerous to keep alive) - "kicking all of the arse" includes threatening the Blathereen with a gun and "crashing a bus into the side of the building."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Just about the only kind of combat we see her in is Snark-to-Snark Combat. She's equal to her mentor, the Doctor, in this respect.
  • Depending on the Writer: She is a feminist, and she was featured at a pretty chaotic time for feminism, so the character completely changes depending on the current author's attitude to women and/or feminism. She varies from a Straw Feminist to a Plucky Girl to The Load to Adorkable (like the author is saying feminists are sooo cute with their silly little ideas!) to You Go, Girl!. That she continually came across as intelligent, able to take care of herself, and able to stand up to the Doctor, points a lot to Lis Sladen's skill. Sometimes there would even be a more feminist-friendly script editor contrasting with a more antifeminist writer - see "Robot", where fun is poked at Sarah's hypocrisy in making an Actually, That's My Assistant blunder between a man and a woman, but a later scene shows her getting justifiably angry with a nerdy male political crank who thinks that in an ideal world Sarah would dress to his tastes.
  • The Everywoman: One of the best examples in the series.
  • Expanded Universe: Has more Expanded Universe appearances than anyone can list sensibly (though here's a good attempt). She notably appeared in the direct-to-video release Downtime together with Victoria and the Brigadier, and had her own Big Finish spinoff for a while.
  • Expy: A snarky, eager reporter who can't stay out of trouble while having epic Ship Tease? Yup, she's the Doctor's Lois Lane.
  • Friendly Sniper: Though it doesn't come up much because (like most companions to the Doctor) she doesn't usually even touch a weapon, in "Pyramids of Mars" it is established that she is a crack shot with a rifle.
  • Friendship Moment: The only companion (other than Donna Noble) the Doctor has called his best friend.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: She typically runs into danger in order to get the story, especially early on.
  • Implied Love Interest: For many a decade, one of the most heated debates has been whether the Doctor is capable of romantic (and/or physical) love. It all started here; the chemistry between Tom Baker and Lis Sladen was so strong that as mentioned above, once Ian Marter left, the relationship between Sarah Jane and the Fourth Doctor took on this dimension.
  • Insistent Terminology: Frequently called just Sarah in the classic series, but insists on "Sarah Jane" by The Sarah Jane Adventures series 2.
    • Except for where the Doctor is concerned. He frequently switches between "Sarah" and "Sarah Jane". Three, Ten and Four use Sarah Jane, Ten and Eleven also use Sarah.
      • Lampshaded in The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith, where it's implied that she hates being called "Sarah"-by anyone except the Doctor. Gita also calls her Sarah, which annoys her, but there doesn't seem to be much she can do about it.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Who actually reports on things during her time at UNIT.
  • Lady of Adventure: Jumps at the chance for space/time travel.
  • Not So Different: Both Ten and Sarah Jane do exactly the same thing. They see something suspicious in a school and decide "Right, I'm going in, unarmed, to see what is going on. Maybe, in the process, I'll fuck shit up." They do, and, unlike some companions, she comes out unscratched.
  • Older and Wiser: She's become increasingly Doctor-like in her later years.
  • Opt Out/Rage Breaking Point/Rage Quit: By "The Hand of Fear", she's had all she can take from the Doctor and decides to leave. And then she changes her mind at the worst possible time.
  • Pintsize Powerhouse: She's tiny but extremely dangerous if necessary.
  • Plucky Girl: Starts out as this.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: The Andy Pandy outfit from "The Hand of Fear."
  • Ship Tease: Tom Baker and Lis Sladen themselves said Four and Sarah "shagged on every square inch of the TARDIS". Fans tend to agree.
  • Silver Vixen: Decades after leaving the Doctor, she's still fantastic.
  • Straw Feminist: In her early appearances; this got toned down later.
  • The Watson: Gives a very human perspective to the very alien Fourth Doctor.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: She calls the Doctor out on his callousness in "Pyramids of Mars".

The Sarah Jane Adventures

  • Action Mom: She's Sky and Luke's adoptive mother and saves the world just like the Doctor did.
  • Badass Normal: She confronts aliens and monsters without Time Lord biology, immortality, or even a secret agent infrastructure.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Just a kind woman who lives down the road, and is genuinely glad to help and befriend the odd alien who isn't trying to invade. But you come to her planet looking for trouble, then you don't stand a chance.
  • Brainy Brunette: Brown hair and smart as a whip. Good enough to outsmart Sufficiently Advanced Aliens that think they're better than her.
  • Cool Old Lady: What did you expect? Older than she looks, Sarah Jane spends her time being generally awesome.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Her parents' death is a fixed point in time, and they died to preserve the timeline.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Starts out a bit distant to the kids, and isn't much for motherhood when she takes in Luke. She tries to discourage them from endangering themselves by helping her, but she eventually relents.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Had started acting completely like the Doctor in terms of being a Socially Awkward Hero. In the first episode, suddenly having a child to take care of snaps her out of it, and she gradually becomes much more human again.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Something she picked up from the Doctor. It also serves as a convenient reason why she doesn't associate with Torchwood.
  • Fantastic Racism: Averted; unlike certain members of Torchwood and UNIT, she's kind and helpful to aliens who are just here to visit, or who got lost.
  • Immune to Mind Control: In the final story, she has an interview with a man who is actually a hologram being controlled by aliens. One of the things the aliens can do with the hologram is use it to hypnotise people. So they try to use hypnosis on Sarah Jane. However, Sarah Jane has had experience with hypnosis before (when she was still the Doctor's companion), and has learnt to prevent herself from being hypnotised.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Her day job is writing articles for a newspaper, which she uses as a cover for investigating potential alien plots. She's also highly respected among the journalistic community.
  • Lady of Adventure: A surprising amount of adventure happens around town and she'll be the first to jump in and help.
  • Lethal Chef: While there's no indication that her cooking's particularly bad, Sarah Jane has been known to set the kitchen on fire while making scrambled eggs.
  • Little Old Lady Investigates: Not that old, but still investigating.
  • Mama Bear: Do you want to harm Luke or Sky Smith? The correct answer is - no, you do not. His mother - a former Companion, and not of the screaming type either - will stop at nothing to save him. No, seriously. There's no power in the universe that can save you from her wrath. And they've all tried. Needless to say, they failed. Painfully. Particularly explicitly in "The Gift" where she essentially declares, "Screw the world. I'm saving my son." In "Sky," she goes head to head with Mrs. Myers, declaring that Sky is a child, not a weapon.
    • While she's not quite as protective of Clyde, Maria, or Rani - mainly because they can protect themselves and Luke is just socially inept - she's still very much willing to protect them from anyone or anything that tries to hurt them.
  • Never Mess with Granny: She fits this trope particularly in that episode where she stops an escaping biker with her sonic lipstick, and blows into it as if it were a gun that she fired.
  • Older and Wiser: When she was younger she was a companion to the Doctor and was quite a bit more lively. She's not lost her edge since, but is more mature.
  • Parental Abandonment: Sarah Jane was an orphan raised by her Aunt Lavinia.
  • Parental Substitute: There's no denying that Maria and her mother love each other dearly, but Chrissie is, to put it bluntly, a massive flake. Sarah Jane winds up picking up the slack and becomes the mother-figure Maria needs.
    • Played With for Clyde; he already has a loving mother, but it's very clearly shown that SJ is a second parental figure to him. He respects her immensely and (almost) always listens to her advice, while she is very protective and encouraging of him.
  • Rule #1: "I don't put anyone else in danger." Despite this, she picked up some companions of her own.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: The Tenth Doctor implies that he never came back for Sarah Jane after he left her on Earth because she didn't need him anymore. Given how many Alien threats she's managed to defeat on her own, he's probably right.
  • Team Mom: To Luke, Clyde, Maria and Rani.
  • Technical Pacifist: She inherited this trope from the Doctor by the time of The Sarah Jane Adventures. In The Last Sontaran, she not only lets Commander Kaagh go scot-free after trying to destroy the world, she leaves his ship intact. Of course, he comes back and tries to destroy the world again.
  • Too Dumb to Live: She has a habit of marching into villains' offices, etc. and telling them she knows what they're up to, and it never goes well. However, she always manages to get away in the end and thus she avoid the business end of this trope.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Lots of alien invasions target London, as per the norm for Doctor Who. Sarah Jane lives in one of its suburbs, so she's always on hand to thwart them when the Doctor isn't around.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Sarah Jane is terrified of clowns.

Tropes associated with Big Finish

Voiced by: Elisabeth Sladen

Prior to her reappearance on Doctor Who and later, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Big Finish gave Sarah Jane her own two season series in Sarah Jane Smith.

  • Anti-Hero: Arguably. Sarah Jane sometimes comes across as a bit of a Jerkass, puts the greater good ahead of her friends' lives, and in "The TAO Connection," she essentially murders the villain of the episode.
  • Badass Normal: As always, she fights aliens without any powers.
  • Break the Cutie: This being a Big Finish series aimed at an adult, fan audience, Sarah Jane is a lot more downbeat and even cold at times.
  • Left Hanging: Thanks the series being unexpectedly cancelled, Sarah was last seen running out of air in a spacesuit. Presumably she got out of it somehow, but we'll never learn just how.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The creation of The Sarah Jane Adventures meant that Big Finish couldn't use the character any more. When Tom Baker came on board, Nick Briggs received permission from Russell T Davies to use Sarah for the first series of The Fourth Doctor Adventures, but Elisabeth had to quietly drop out after falling ill.
  • Took A Level In Jerk Ass: Sarah Jane herself, after she left the Doctor (see Anti-Hero above). When she's called on it, she says that she basically had to in order to make life-or-death decisions for herself and others when the Doctor isn't there to save the day.
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