Dr Lavinia Smith was a world-renowned virologist in the mid- to late-20th century. She was the sister of Africana and Eddie Smith, the sister-in-law of Barbara Smith and the aunt of Sarah Jane Smith. She took care of Sarah after her parents died in 1951 and, after Sarah was grown and on her own, she took another orphan, Brendan Richards, as her ward.
Dr Lavinia Smith reared her niece, Sarah Jane Smith, after her brother Eddie Smith and his wife Barbara died in a car accident on 18 August 1951 during her infancy. She may have had help from her brother, Africana. (PROSE: Playtime, TV: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith, The Day of the Clown)
She always told Sarah Jane that her parents had been wonderful, loving parents even though they had seemingly abandoned her in her pram before their death. (TV: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith) Sarah Jane's room at her Aunt Lavinia's was well-stocked with vintage toys – presumably Lavinia's own – including a clown marionette that young Sarah Jane found terrifying. (TV: The Day of the Clown)
Lavinia published a paper on the teleological response of the virus. As a young journalist, Sarah Jane impersonated Lavinia in 1973 in order to investigate a mysterious UNIT base while a journalist with The Metropolitan, unaware that someone at UNIT, namely the Third Doctor, had read and admired the paper. He knew that a person as young as Sarah Jane (in her early twenties at the time) could not have written it, given that it was published in 1956, when Sarah Jane would have been five years old. (TV: The Time Warrior).
In 1978, Dr Smith was still living on Hill View Road in South Croydon when she received a mysterious crate addressed to her niece. Not knowing what it contained, she packed it away and took it with her when she moved to the manor house she purchased in the small Gloucestershire village of Moreton Harwood the following year; she also acquired a half interest in the manor's market garden. At some stage, she adopted a ward, Brendan Richards. Valuing education, she sent Brendan to board at Wellington College. (TV: A Girl's Best Friend)
Lavinia was not widely liked in Moreton Harwood, as she was intollerant of superstitions and the growing practice of witchcraft, and her letters to the editor of the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Standard were frequently published. Her closest friends there were Juno Baker and Juno's husband Howard, and her partner in the market garden, Commander Bill Pollock (whom she was unaware was the high priest of the Hecate Cult and nearly sacrificed Brendan). (TV: A Girl's Best Friend)
Before going on a lecture tour of America in December 1981, Lavinia had the crate brought down from the attic for Sarah Jane to open when she arrived a few days later. The crate turned out to be from the Doctor. It contained a gift for Sarah Jane, K9 Mark III. (TV: A Girl's Best Friend)
Lavinia and Sarah Jane each described the other as "never being in one place long enough to lick a stamp" because of their frequent and extensive travels. (TV: A Girl's Best Friend, The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith)
By 1983, Lavinia was living in Oxfordshire. She liked to think of herself as a Miss Marple type, often sending Sarah Jane to investigate and report on her behalf. She sent her niece to Egypt to cover the story of Dr. Warren Martyn's archaeological digs. (COMIC: City of Devils)
Dr Smith died some time before 1998, (PROSE: Millennium Shock) by which time Sarah Jane Smith had begun her job at Planet 3; (AUDIO: Comeback) neither Africana nor Brendan attended her funeral (Brendan was stuck in San Francisco due to work). Lavinia was very wealthy. As Clyde Langer said, "But Sarah Jane's loaded, right. All this money from her aunt. The house," indicating Sarah Jane inherited a substantial bequeath from Lavinia after her death. This apparently helped support her when she entered freelance journalism and established her "base" at 13 Bannerman Road, Ealing. (TV: The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith)
Lavinia's niece and ward, Sarah Jane, ultimately followed Lavinia's example. Despite being spinsters and never bearing children of their own, they gave loving homes to orphans, each taking in a son and daughter. (TV: The Time Warrior, A Girl's Best Friend, Invasion of the Bane, Sky)
Behind the scenes edit
- The character of Lavinia Smith originated as a bit of throwaway dialogue in The Time Warrior. She was periodically mentioned thereafter, becoming an unseen character. Unlike the revived era, in which companions' home lives are routinely and prominently featured, companions' family and friend were almost never depicted in the "classic era" — aside from the First Doctor himself who was Susan Foreman's grandfather.
- Lavinia was finally portrayed in a brief cameo in 1981's A Girl's Best Friend. The character would have likely been a regular had K9 and Company become a series, as suggested by her appearances in the K9 Annual. Sarah's upbringing as the adopted daughter of Lavinia fits in with the background established in Doctor Who Magazine 1992 Holiday Special, and was further expanded upon in The Sarah Jane Adventures, particularly in The Day of the Clown and The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith.