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.
Lavinia Smith had two brothers, Eddie (TV: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith) and Africana. (PROSE: The Curse of Kanbo-Ala). She may have had a third brother, Hubert, who was an uncle of Sarah Jane. (AUDIO: The Ghosts of N-Space)
Raising Sarah Jane
She reared her niece, Sarah Jane Smith, after her brother Eddie and his wife Barbara died in a car accident during Sarah's infancy, either on 18 August 1951 (PROSE: Playtime, TV: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith, The Day of the Clown) or in 1962 after the crash in 1961. She constituted a "strong female figure" who was a strong influence on Sarah Jane's later feminist views. (PROSE: The Roving Reporter)
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, including a clown marionette that young Sarah Jane found terrifying. (TV: The Day of the Clown)
When Sarah Jane was about eight years old, she and Lavinia were living in Wolfenden. Lavinia was a good friend of Eddison Clough. They worked together and were both very important scientists. Newspapers and magazines published many articles about their work. The alien Mrs Hendrick stole some of Sarah Jane, Lavinia and Eddison's memories. They did not remember that they had been in Wolfenden, and Lavinia and Eddison also forgot about each other. Eddison later found some pictures and newspaper articles about their time there. The articles and pictures helped him to get to know a little about what had happened during his time in Wolfenden. Lavinia, however, never found out that some of her memories were missing. (AUDIO: The White Wolf)
Lavinia published a paper on the teleological response of the virus. As a young journalist, Sarah Jane impersonated Lavinia in order to investigate a mysterious UNIT base while a journalist, 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, as he realised that Sarah Jane must have been five years old when it was written. (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.
Lavinia was not widely liked in Moreton Harwood, as she was intolerant 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).
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)
Death and legacy
According to one account, Dr Smith died in late 1998. (PROSE: Millennium Shock) Another source placed her death in 2001 or 2002. A tree was planted in her honour in Moreton Harwood, and her wake was held at Juno Baker's house. Brendan was unable to attend the funeral as he was working in San Francisco. (AUDIO: Comeback)
Lavinia was very wealthy. She left Sarah her house and share of the market garden as well as the royalties from all of her patents. (AUDIO: Comeback) 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: A Girl's Best Friend, Invasion of the Bane, Sky)
Behind the scenes
- 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 friends 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.
- In a November 2016 advertisement for the fourth series of Sherlock, a book written by Lavinia Smith was depicted on a bookshelf in 221B Baker Street.