Remembering Sarah-Jane Smith on International Women’s Day.
Remembering International Women’s Day reminds me of International Women’s Year – 1975. And 1975 reminds me of Sarah Jane Smith. Sarah Jane Smith was the best Doctor Who companion ever. She was also the best feminist role model available to any child in 1975.
Sarah Jane Smith was the big sister I never had. She was courageous, resourceful, and completely loyal. She was not a three hundred year old patrician time lord, or a forest warrior trained to kill in seventeen different ways. She was a journalist from Croydon. She was utterly amazing and completely plausible. She wasn’t a Utopian feminist fantasy, but she never compromised or “settled” either.
She was also an avowed and proud feminist at a time when most feminists on television were either cartoon stereotypes who incinerated underwear for no apparent reason or were confined to very late night and very adult discussion programmes. Even the word “feminist” was rarely used and Sarah Jane had to make do with that strange sounding term “women’s lib” instead.
When she first met the Doctor (the 3rd Doctor), she was sent back to the Middle Ages where she immediately attempted to introduce the twelfth century to second wave feminism. She went on to foil a plot by eco-fascists to erase the twentieth century. She dodged bullets during the Thal-Kaled war. Perhaps most memorably, she crawled up that narrow vent in order to save sleeping humanity from the Wrrn.
She refused to be patronised or marginalised. She stood up for herself and others. There accepted no barriers or limits to what she or anyone else could do. It turns out that 1973-1976, Letts-Dicks-Hinchcliffe-Holmes years – golden years in the life of the franchise were also the years when a truly admirable and dedicated feminist lived in The Tardis. And I was just old enough to be decisively influenced by her. I feel blessed.