Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Thursday, April 21, 2011


As a kid at my school, we played at Dr Who en-masse. I was usually the third Doctor or sometimes the fourth. Other kids would play the Brigadier, Benton, Yates or other members of UNIT. Other kids would be Sea Devils, Autons, Yeti, Axons (spaghetti men, we called them), Daleks, Zygons, Krynoids or Cybermen. But the girls; they all wanted to be Sarah Jane Smith.

Sarah was the companion to many people. She was beside the Doctor in many of his most memorable adventures. Never just a yes-girl or a helpless shrinking violet, Sarah was often just as instrumental in saving the day as the Doctor himself. When she came to the role, Liverpudlian actress Elisabeth Sladen was relatively unknown, having had small roles in Some Mothers Do Ave Em, Doomwatch, Coronation Street and Z-Cars.

When the brilliant Katy Manning bowed out of Dr Who, Z-Cars producer Ron Craddock recommended Elisabeth to Berry Letts who was Dr Who’s producer at the time. She proved an instant hit with both Letts and Jon Pertwee.

Her character was one of the most fondly remembered companions in the history of the series. Especially fondly remembered is the team of Tom Baker, Liz Sladen and the late Ian Marter as the fourth Doctor, Sarah and Harry Sullivan.

Such was her popularity that the character was brought back time and again, firstly in 1981 for the ill-fated spin off K9 And Company, then in 1983 for the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors.

With Dr Who’s triumphant return Sarah Jane teamed up with David Tennant in the story School Reunion. Finally - perhaps inevitably - Sarah Jane got her own series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, aimed at younger viewers, but still intelligently written and well acted.

She was brought back for a showdown with Davros and the Daleks in Stolen Earth and Journey’s End, again with David Tennant. She had last encountered them in the 1975 epic Genesis of the Daleks. Davros even comments on remembering her face. Liz worked alongside the new Doctor, Matt Smith, and her predecessor Jo Grant in Death of the Doctor.

I met Katy Manning shortly after and she eulogised on what a joy Liz had been to work with.

It was great for many of the old fans who recalled Sarah Jane as a heart throb from the ‘70s to see her back, now like an eccentric, lovable favourite aunt. Liz died suddenly on April 19th. She had been suffering from cancer but few fans knew; she looked so well and had carried on with her acting regardless. It feels as if a part of the universe has fallen away leaving a bottomless void.

1 comment:

RR said...

Great post Richard. Such a very sad event. I was a massive Sarah Jane/Dr Who fan growing up, and have very fond memories of Lis Sladen and K9. First the Brig, and now Sarah Jane :-)
Vale Lis.

Some might be interested in this BBC TV story that recounts Lis' Whovian career...