Doctor Who Had A Wonderful Sarah Jane Tribute In Its Companion Support Group

The companion support group scene in Doctor Who centenary special « The Power of the Doctor » paid a wonderful tribute to the legendary Sarah Jane Smith. « The Power of the Doctor » brought back several companions from Doctor Who history, most notably Sophie Aldred as Ace and Janet Fielding as Tegan, though a few others would appear in the closing moments as members of a post-TARDIS support group put together by Thirteenth Doctor companion Graham O’Brien. Iconic characters Melanie Bush, Jo Grant, and even Ian Chesterton returned, representing Doctor Who through the ages.

First appearing in 1973’s « The Time Warrior, » Sarah Jane Smith served as companion to Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor and Tom Baker’s Fourth, eventually leaving the TARDIS in 1976’s « The Hand of Fear. » Elisabeth Sladen revived Sarah Jane in 2006 opposite the Tenth Doctor, making her character one of the most tenured, popular, and beloved companions in Doctor Who. Sladen’s death in 2011 meant the character would never appear again, but « The Power of the Doctor » paid the perfect tribute by leaving an empty chair around the circle at Graham’s Doctor Who companion support group – a space reserved for one of the Doctor’s most memorable partners in crime.

What Made Doctor Who’s Sarah Jane Smith So Legendary?

Upon her introduction to Doctor Who in 1973, Sarah Jane Smith quickly proved a perfect match for the Doctor. An adept investigative journalist, ardent feminist, and supreme quick-thinker, Sarah Jane took life with the Doctor in her stride, staying after his regeneration into the Fourth Doctor and facing off against the Sontarans, Daleks, and Cybermen in quick succession. After departing in 1976, Sladen and Tom Baker were widely considered the best partnership in Doctor Who until that point, both lauded as reaching the pinnacle of their respective roles as companion and Doctor.

As well as starring in Doctor Who itself, Elisabeth Sladen received two separate spinoffs as Sarah Jane Smith. 1981’s K-9 and Company never made it past the pilot, but The Sarah Jane Adventures, created by Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies, ran for five seasons until her 2011 death. Sarah Jane redefined what it meant to be a Doctor Who companion, veering away from the helpless damsel and toward a feisty, opinionated, steadfast equal to the Doctor, sending a powerful message to young girls in the 1970s.

Why The Empty Chair At Doctor Who’s Companion Support Group Meant So Much

Elisabeth Sladen’s death came as a tragic shock, especially since she appeared in the Tenth Doctor regeneration episode, « The End of Time, » the year prior. Many tributes poured forth in the wake of Sladen’s passing, proving how important she had been to Doctor Who past and present. Had she been alive, Sladen would almost certainly have appeared as Sarah Jane Smith in « The Power of the Doctor, » so an empty chair left for her at Graham’s companion support group acts as a subtle but incredibly touching tribute.

The empty chair in « The Power of the Doctor » could be interpreted as a mark of respect for each and every face missing from Doctor Who’s ex-companion support group. « The Power of the Doctor » does, however, nod to Sarah Jane Smith when Yaz mentions Croydon, best known to Doctor Who fans as Sarah Jane’s hometown. This subtle reference could indicate who the meeting’s empty chair is truly meant to symbolize. Doctor Who continues long after its companions are gone, but the empty chair left in Sarah Jane’s memory proves they are never forgotten.