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RIP Time Lady

- July 27th, 2012

Romana_(Doctor_Who)

Long before the debate over whether a woman will or should ever play the Doctor, the iconic space and time traveler from BBC’s Doctor Who, we already had a powerful Time Lady whose wit matched his own.

Mary Tamm, who played the first incarnation of Romana, a hyper-competent and by-the-books Time Lady companion to contrast Tom Baker’s carefree portrayal of the Doctor, died today of cancer. She was 62.

The news comes just over a year after Elisabeth Sladen, who played investigative journalist Sarah-Jane Smith on the series, died of cancer at 63.

Here’s what Whovians are saying about the Time Lady’s legacy.

Romana isn’t awesome because she’s oh-so-much more intelligent/competent/feminist than other companions. She isn’t awesome in spite of the “campy crappyness” of her source text, or because she’s like some New Who character. Romana is awesome because she’s well-characterized—clever, arch, over-precious in a realistic way, eminently watchable—and within Tamm’s season she makes strong beginnings on an arc of growth. Her background is similar to the Doctor’s, but her worldview and ultimate goals are different than his. That provided an interesting counterpoint to and subversion of the Fourth Doctor’s bombastic monopolization of the narrative. She’s part of a series of very solid scripts. She’s part of Doctor Who’s tradition of excellent female characters. And Romana is awesome because Mary Tamm, whose well-pitched portrayal absolutely made Romana, was awesome. — Erin Horakova, Tor.Com

Her character made an effective foil for Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor, contrasting against his bohemian, devil-may-care personality with an icy sophistication of her own, and matching his arrogance and high-wattage charisma with often-superior intelligence and competence—not to mention a healthy disdain for her older colleague’s eccentricities. — Christopher Bahn, AV Club

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.) — Charlie Jane Anders, Io9

Romana I was one of my all time favourites. She was created very much as an equal to the Doctor, indeed as an intellectual and academic superior, though he tended to win out when it came to street or “planet” smarts. — Tansy Rayner Roberts, Doctor Her

She was a darling companion and wonderfully witty and kind. — Tom Baker, for Doctor Who star.

I remember Mary Tamm’s first appearance so vividly – the ice queen on the Tardis. The Time Lady who thought the Doctor was HER companion. Perfectly brought to life by Mary, with such style and wit, you always thought she could have kicked the Doctor out of the time machine and got on with the adventure herself. A generation of little girls threw away the idea of being an assistant, and decided to fly the TARDIS for themselves.” — Steven Moffat, current Doctor Who showrunner.

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