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R.I.P. Mary Tamm, Doctor Who's Original Romana

Illustration for article titled R.I.P. Mary Tamm, emDoctor Who/ems Original Romana

Mary Tamm only appeared on Doctor Who for one season, but she established the character of Romana — a member of the Doctor's own race, who travels around with him on the quest for the Key to Time. And even though most people are more familiar with Tamm's replacement in the role, Lalla Ward, it was Tamm who gave Romana many of her most memorable, brilliant moments.

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Tamm died aged 62, after an 18-month struggle with cancer.

Romana was the Doctor's first traveling companion who could lay claim to being his intellectual equal — even if she didn't have the same level of real-life experience. And Tamm had the unenviable task of going head to head with Tom Baker, challenging the authority of the most authoritative of Doctors. There were smart, independent companions before Tamm's Romana — but she was the first who could accuse him of flying the TARDIS the wrong way. (Just watch the opening scenes of "The Pirate Planet," and it's obvious how Steven Moffat drew on Tamm's version of Romana for River Song.)

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And as Alun.Vega points out on Twitter, Tamm also livened up Doctor Who quite a bit, adding a twinkling, knowing sort of humor. Her version of Romana was often capable of laughing at the situation just as much as the Doctor — just in a more dry, sardonic fashion. (Another "Pirate Planet" sequence worth rewatching: Romana going up against the blustery, psychotic Captain on her own, and completely overwhelming him with her poise and intellect.)

As writers like Douglas Adams and Robert Holmes pushed the show in a more whimsical but cerebral direction, Tamm was a crucial ingredient. When Romana regenerated into the somewhat softer Lalla Ward version, it took quite some getting used to — just as much as it always does when the Doctor regenerates.

Doctor Who fans everywhere should take a moment to remember Mary Tamm, the original Time Lady companion. [via Alun.Vega]

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DISCUSSION

James Whitbrook

Such a shame, so soon after Caroline John too. Her, Lis, Nick, now Mary... all gone far too soon. 62 is no age.

The Key to Time is an (overall, sorry Kroll!) fantastic run of stories, but they're made by Tamm's Romana. She was absolutely terrific in the role, a perfect foil to Tom Baker's madcap antics, and they worked so well together. Before she died, she recorded a season of audio plays alongside Tom for Big Finish - altogether more poignant now knowing how much pain she would've been in doing them - that are due out next year. So even though Mary has sadly gone, her Romana will live on forever.