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“You Were the Noblest Romana Of Them All”

British actress Mary Tamm passed away at the age of 62 after a long fight with cancer. Tamm appeared in a number of films and TV series, but to me she will always be Romanadvoratrelunder (Romana for short) on Doctor Who, the Doctor’s only other fellow Time Lord (Time Lady?) companion after his granddaughter Susan. Romana was assigned to the Doctor (then played by Tom Baker) to assist him when the White Guardian sent him to collect the six pieces of the Key to Time in one of the classic series’ few season-long story arcs.

(Romana, seen here with K9 Mark II. The orginal K9 stayed on Gallifrey with Leela when she married Andred. K9 Mark III was gifted to Sarah Jane Smith in the failed series pilot, K9 and Company. If you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, you led a much more eventful childhood than I did and probably got outdoors a lot. But anyway, that’s Mary Tamm in the photo.)

After one season, Mary Tamm decided to leave Doctor Who because she thought Romana was becoming just another traditional companion rather than something special, and that the character couldn’t be developed further. (John Nathan-Turner, true to form as a controlling megalomaniac, started a rumor that she left the show because she was pregnant instead, which she was not.) However, she was wrong about the character not being able to develop further!

At the start of the next season, Romana regenerated. Not because her body was injured or dying, but because she simply wanted to. She even went through a selection of possible new bodies (including the first completely alien body a Time Lord had occupied on the show, and, if I’m not mistaken, the first black body, too) before settling on the charming, pixieish form of Lalla Ward. (Continuity hounds have been arguing over this for years. Can female Time Lords control their regenerations? Can all Time Lords, and the Doctor is somehow different? Nobody knows the answer. Probably because there isn’t one.) Lalla Ward’s Romana went on to be the best companion since Sarah Jane Smith, in my opinion. Part of that, of course, was due to the chemistry she shared with Tom Baker, whom she went on to marry a few years later. (And then divorce. Shut up, haters!)

Not to be reductive, but Mary Tamm was possibly the most glamorous actress to play one of the Doctor’s companions. Sure, there were cute companions and beautiful companions along the way, but there was something truly regal about Tamm. Couple that with her obvious talent as an actress and she was a real powerhouse of a performer. The world of acting, and the world of Doctor Who, has lost one of its greats.

The cast of classic Who seems to be dropping like flies these days. I suppose it was only a matter of time, but still. If anyone is listening, I’d appreciate a reprieve.

Also, as always, cancer can go fuck itself.

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