Did The Power of the Doctor pay tribute to Sarah Jane?

With so much going on in The Power of the Doctor, it was hard to keep on top of all the Easter eggs, returning stars and nods to classic Who in the feature-length episode that said goodbye to Jodie Whittaker with an enormous twist, but also beckoned in a new age for the show under returning showrunner Russell T Davies.

The fan-praised episode not only saw the incredible regeneration sequence where Jodie Whittaker regenerated into David Tennant (who is the Fourteenth Doctor now not the Tenth, making Ncuti Gatwa the Fifteenth! I Know!) but also celebrated the long history of the show as part of the 100th birthday weekend celebrations for the BBC.

There were familiar faces in the form of classic Doctors including Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann, but also many of the classic companions made a return to the show.

It had been advertised that Sophie Aldred as Ace, Janet Fielding as Tegan and Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart would all appear in the show, and although there had been reports that Bonnie Langford could also be in the show as Mel, no one was prepared for the huge gathering of classic companions that occurred.

Yaz (played by Mandip Gill) attends a support group for former companions of the Doctor, which includes Dan (John Bishop) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) alongside Ace, Tegan and Mel. They were joined by Kate Stewart, and surprise returns from Katy Manning (who played Jo Jones) and the 97-year-old William Russell, who played Ian Chesterton opposite William Hartnell in the very first episode of Doctor Who, An Unearthly Child, in 1963.

But eagle-eyed fans spotted something in this poignant scene, a clue that they believe was a tribute to Sarah Jane Smith, the former companion and star of The Sarah Jane Adventures played by Elisabeth Sladen, who sadly died in 2011, aged 65. Smith was a companion to both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker in arguably some of the golden years of classic Who.

It wasn’t specifically said that the empty chair in the room was there for Sarah Jane, one of the most famous and well-loved companions to the Doctor, but many are sure that it was.

Others believed it may have more generally represented all of the companions who have since passed on in the show’s long run as one of the most successful sci-fi shows.

Whether for Sarah Jane or for everyone, the empty chair offered yet another poignant moment in a brilliant episode.