Heroes of Doctor Who: Romana

By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues

Once again we comb the massive history of Doctor Who and focus not on the man himself but one of the massive support chacracters who’ve made him the Timelord he is today…

Photo copyright BBC

Romana, full name Romanadventrulaundar, was the first Time Lady we ever encountered ( if you don’t include Susan who we really knew little about).

Posing as the high president of Gallifrey, the White Guardian assigned her to help the fourth Doctor and K9 mark II  in the search for the six missing fragments of the Key to Time. Played by Mary Tamm, later of Brookside fame, the first incarnation of Romana had spent her life in the safety of the capitol with no experience of the outside universe. Hence she was a typical Time Lord; aloof, condescending and looked down her nose at the Doctor and his old-fashioned type 40 time machine. There was no doubt she was stunning in her first appearance, regally dressed in a flowing white gown, but needed fashion tips from the Doctor – eg never wear high heels when you land on muddy moors as in the stones of Blood.

It wasn’t long before Romana discovered that life wasn’t all black and white and the universe was filled with terrors. In her first adventure, the Ribos Operation, she was nearly eaten alive and danger after danger came after that.

She was a strong lady who came to understand why the Doctor loved this way of life despite the life and death situations and she fell in love with K9. During the search she faced the stone Ogri, giant monoliths that drained the blood out of their victims and were servants of the Calliach, found her doppelganger on the medieval world of Tara where android doubles of people were rife in a political attempt to gain access to the throne, faced the Captain whose pirate planet consumed other worlds and his deadly robot parrot sidekick, the giant swamp monster Kroll where she was almost sacrificed before the battle with the Black Guardian’s agent the Shadow as the fate of the universe literally hung in the balance. With every story Romana gained a sense of humour and a new way of looking at the universe.

When Mary decided to leave, Lalla Ward took over the role in Destiny of the Daleks. This incarnation was so fashion conscious she was literally a walking wardrobe, regal and elegant in one breath and casually gorgeous in the next. She had a great sense of humour. love for this wandering life and could hold her own. Over their next series of adventures she battled Nimons, Minotaur parasites and I vividly remember being terrified when Romana was transported to another universe that had been devastated by the Nimon, all alone and with no way back. She wore one of her most famous costumes, the school girl, in the classic City of Death against Scaroth of Jaggaroth played by Julian Glover. The chemistry between the Doctor and Romana was such it spilled over into real life and she married Tom Baker which was not to last.

She is also the only companion to have a story cancelled on her. Shada had been partly filmed before being wiped out by industrial action. An audio adventure later saw this resolved as the eight Doctor picked her up because they had unresolved business. Shada was later completed in various mediums like animtion.

Her final season saw both Romana and K9 written out but not before the fantastic E space trilogy which saw the introduction of Adric, vampires, the lion like Tharils and the marshmen and possessed by marsh spiders. Romana didn’t want to go back to Gallifrey despite being ordered home so she stayed in E space to help free the Tharil slaves who were also time sensitives along with K9.

But of course that wasn’t the end of her. She returned in the Big Finish range alongside the sixth Doctor and Daleks where we discovered she had become President of Gallifrey. This turn of events was further explored in the acclaimed series Gallifrey which saw many TV Time Lords return and teamed her up with both Leela and K9 Leela became a great friend. They have really put these two characters through the mill ad managed to bring back Mary Tamm in an alternate universe. So the first lady of Gallifrey is alive and well and thriving, her life as adventurous and danger filed as ever.

And after all these years isn’t a bad thing. Long may she reign.

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