The Actor Speaks Volume 2 - Elisabeth Sladen

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For this volume, Mark J. Thompson (sounding rather like a Stellar Network Radio DJ at times) turns his attention to Elisabeth Sladen, who is most famous for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who.

During the lengthy opening track, the actress discusses what she thinks Sarah would have got up to since the Doctor all but abandoned her at the end of The Hand of Fear. She acknowledges that her own ideas about Sarah's fate will probably differ from what writers might envisage for her. It is certainly true that several Doctor Who novelists have depicted an older Sarah still being accompanied by K-9, whereas Sladen insists that she would have palmed the metal mutt off on to Brendan or else given the robot back to the Doctor at the first opportunity!

It is interesting to note that although she buys into the events told in **K-9 and Company**, Sladen does not regard The Five Doctors as a "true" Sarah Jane Smith adventure because her role in that story could have been fulfilled by any old companion. However, both interviewer and interviewee fail to mention Sarah's appearance in the Reeltime spin-off video Downtime. Perhaps she feels the same way about that story, too.

Whereas Gareth Thomas' "guest star" during Volume 1 was his acting colleague Nicholas Courtney, Sladen is accompanied by one Sadie Miller - her daughter. Sadie's face, shown on the CD sleeve, may seem familiar, and not just because she looks a lot like her mum. She appeared, eight years ago, in the Doctor Who anniversary documentary, Thirty Years in the TARDIS. This student and budding writer has contributed a short story and a witty poem to this CD, both of which are read by her mother. Sadie is also briefly interviewed, discussing her writing and her career plans, but sadly Thompson neglects to enquire as to whether she still holds any interest in Doctor Who.

Elsewhere, Sladen performs a couple of monologues written for her by Thompson, featuring a character called Anne. The actress takes the opportunity to exercise her native Liverpudlian accent as Anne describes a couple of peculiar anecdotes, one of which ends with a particularly effective twist.

The penultimate track, in which Thompson and Sladen discuss with Andrew Beech the background to this very CD, initially seems rather self-congratulatory. However, it is a good opportunity for Thompson to explain what he is seeking to achieve with this series, in which he allows his interviewees more creative input than they would have been permitted on a straightforward interview CD. Sladen also airs her thoughts on the format, and explains why she chose to involve her daughter.

The final track, a trailer for MJTV's comedy drama CD series, Soldiers of Love, which includes new narration by Sladen, is a more blatant bit of self-promotion. I can understand the need to advertise, but why try and shoehorn this promo into the subject matter of the CD? The actress has no involvement in Soldiers of Love, other than narrating this trailer. Why not just bung a bog-standard advert, unlisted, at the end of the CD, as Big Finish do?

That gripe aside, this CD passes an entertaining 70-odd minutes.

Richard McGinlay