Posts Tagged ‘Romana’

Mary Tamm (1985)

October 9, 2009

Mary Tamm was the first Romana, appearing in the ‘Key to Time’ season. Here, she tells DWM about getting the role, her time working with Tom Baker, the attempt to bring more humour to the show, and her annoyance at not getting a farewell scene.

“I wasn’t particularly keen on going for the part of Romana, but my agent suggested it would be a good career move. The producer Graham Williams and my first director, George Spenton-Foster, saw me and I was told it was planned to be something of a radical departure from the usual companion mould, with Romana matching up much more to the Doctor’s intelligence and skill. It was supposedly goign to be more of a challenge, as well as more of a starring partnership. Anyway, I read for it and then Graham and George screen-tested six actresses for the part before they contacted me and asked me to play Romana.

“The press are so funny. One of them reported me as saying that playing a ‘Doctor Who’ girl was like being a ‘James Bond’ girl, which I never said at all! I suppose there’s an element of truth in it, but I never said it! They’ll pick up anything that smells of behind-the-scenes tension and blow it out of all proportion, but fortunately with ‘Doctor Who’ that was never a problem.

“I didn’t really like the script for ‘The Ribos Operation’. For a start, I thought ‘Hold on, what’s happened to this incredible starring part?’, and then I realised that I was there to fill the traditional role of cipher to the Doctor. I still had to do my share of the screaming and the bungling that tends to go with being a companion. Looking back, the format doesn’t actually allow for much else. It’s only a half hour show. I did enjoy the year I had with the show, but it was a bit of a disappointment once I realised the truth about the character I was playing.

“Tom Baker’s a fascinating man in many ways, and very refreshing to work with, if occasionally a bit difficult. He was just so different, he suited the part down to the ground and in a rehearsal room he made everyone feel ‘this is my show’. We got on very well, which was nice because, as with everything an actor does, those first few days of rehearsal can be really nerve-wracking. He made me feel welcome quickly, and so we got down to thte work without any real hassles.

“In ‘The Androids of Tara’, we had to do this scene using an antique fishing rod worth literally hundreds of pounds. Tom was supposed to be casting it off, which, when he came to the take he did – throwing the thing into the water at the same time. It was awful, really, he felt so guilty, but it was very funny at the time.

“The worst filming experiences I had were when we did ‘The Power of Kroll’ in a dreadful marsh somewhere. Tom and I got totally stuck in the mud, we just couldn’t move until we were rescued. We were miles from anywhere and it was so bleak. There was absolutely nothing to do between takes, because if you wandered off you’d probably have been swallowed up!

“The Pirate Planet was written by Douglas Adams, and it was great fun to work on. I really enjoyed its inventiveness and humour, and the whole production glowed. Pennant Roberts was my favourite director, but that’s not meant as a slight on the others. They were all fine, but Pennant was something special, and he was wonderful on that story. As a whole, we didn’t have any difficult directors which, in a schedule like that, was a distinct blessing.

“I liked the humour element very much. In fact, Tom and I put a lot of comedy into our relationship which I think worked quite well and was certainly very popular at the time. I think there’s room for a lot of comedy in ‘Doctor Who’. If it concentrates too much on the frightening and more serious aspects of the situation, it can become too intense. The humour was a nice contrast to that, and we tried harad to work it into the scripts wherever possible. Tom and I were also very keen on the love / hate relationship (between the Doctor and Romana), and we would both have liked to have seen that develop even more than it did. I think, though, that both our producers and our writers were a bit scared of going any further into that set-up because it was deviating from the established and successful formula. It was a shame, but it’s typical of the limits of TV.

“John Leeson (as K9) was just as inventive as Tom and he was super to be with in rehearsal. He did everything as if he actually was the dog we had on screen, down to wagging an imaginary tail! The character of K9 took off with viewers very rapidly, and I think it’s easy to see why. I liked him, but one did have to suspend one’s disbelief when acting with him. He was fine because he was usually on Romana’s side in an argument, as well as the fact that, because of the sheer mechanics of working him, he wasn’t in every episode.

“We had some nice location stuff to do for ‘The Stones of Blood’, and I was rather impressed with the story. It was quite creepy. Because the cast was so small and so good, I got a larger part and it was a closer team. Susie Engel and I got on very well indeed, and Beatrix Lehman was a tremendous person to work with.

“The Androids of Tara was the one where I got to play two parts, which was fine in one sense but which meant that I had more than the usual number of lines to learn! It was a nice idea and it offered me a bit of the scope I had been promised by the part, and which had been somewhat lost along the way. There was a scene where I was being crowned or something, and I had this great big speech, something of a rarity in ‘Doctor Who’! I had a really heavy crown and my costume was so complex that even the slightest sharp movement would descend into disarray. On the first take, I had just about got to the end of this long speech when I forgot the last line. I was furious and we had to start all over again. On the second take I lost my balance and the crown went cascading off my head. Everyone – including myself – absolutely fell about.

“I’d very much have liked a leaving scene. I was rather annoyed that I wasn’t properly written out. I’d said to Graham Williams when I accepted the part, ‘You have to know, I’m only going to do the one year’, and he’d said ‘Yes, yes, fine’, hoping, I suspect, that I’d change my mind. And sure enough, when the time came and I said this is my last story, he said how much they wanted me to stay on. The character had been highly popular with the viewers, and I think to try and persuade me into doing extra time, I didn’t get a proper leaving scene. But I had made my position perfectly clear and so I felt rather annoyed by it all.”

Lalla Ward (1985)

September 30, 2009

Here’s Lalla Ward talking about her time as Princess Astra and Romana, as well as her marriage to Tom Baker, the loss of ‘Shada’ and her decision to leave the show in ‘Warriors Gate’:

“I must have been the most unusual entrant into the series. My audition was, unwittingly, a six-week story! Naturally, at the time I had no idea it would blossom into the offer of a regular job. I was fortunate because when I joined, I knew everybody, so the first-night nerves, so to speak, were not so concentrated. Everybody had been so surprised at Mary Tamm’s decision to leave. It was all so quick, before I knew it there I was – the new Romana!

“The director of ‘The Armageddon Factor’, Michael Hayes, had worked with me on ‘The Duchess of Duke Street’ and also noted my work in ‘Shelley’. He contacted my agent because he saw me as right for the past of Princess Astra. I think one of the reasons they asked me to take over from Mary was that my original character had received a favourable response from the viewers. I’d got on so well with Tom – and with Mary – that I was suggested and I certainly had no qualms about taking it on.

“I just couldn’t be the same as Mary. It wouldn’t have worked. I had to approach it differently. I kept thinking that I was in somebody else’s shoes and they didn’t quite fit. So it was weird – but a challenge. Besides, when Time Lords regenerate, they don’t stay the same, do they? None of the Doctors have, and I’m sure Romana wouldn’t have either. It was never easy to do ‘Doctor Who’ – it was very hard work, very taxing at times for all sorts of reasons.

“We used to have the most awful problems with our writers. Tom and I used to have the rewrite most of our dialogue with the director, usually because it wasn’t right for the parts we were playing. And it happened from the very st art. Our actual rehearsal time, which was incredibly tight, was reduced still further as a result. So the programme was always a heavy workload – we had this responsibility for the show and we were doing so many a year against the problems of a small budget and scripts that we wouldn’t have done without at least an element of rewriting.

But our writers were under pressure too. They had to work with severe limitations, and in making it adventurous the characters were often neglected. And in some ways, I felt the show was more about people than adventure situations.

“The schoolgirl outfit was my idea – so was the riding look in ‘The Horns of Nimon’. I took the whole thing to its limits because I knew I’d probably never have such a chance again. In ‘Destiny of the Daleks’, we came up with that smashing idea – a joke on the Doctor, really – of having a version of his costume for Romana. She was an individual charaacter and her clothes had to show this – a fantastic mixture of all the different worlds at her disposal. I’m ashamed of the way I bossed my poor designers around. They’d suggest something, which might be alright, but then I’d see myself in something else, so I’d insist on that. They were always letting me have my own way, so I had a tremendous time. I always bore n mind what would appeal to the viewers and make them laugh. It was all fantasy and I enjoyed every minute of it.

“City of Death was very challenging. For a start, we had to film loads of scenes in the rain and cold and as quickly as possible because we only had a few days – there was no glamour at all! Then we had tov irtually rewrite the whole thing, because it just wasn’t working out. Luckily the excellent cast helped and it was stimulating, but very difficult. In retrospect, it was different from the ordinary stories too, and I liked the finished result.

“My favourite was ‘State of Decay’. It had the most amazingly real designs – the sets made me feel so eerie, it wasn’t difficult to act. I think perhaps the horror element was over-played, but it was a powerful script, one of our beset, and beautifully directed.

“Tom works incredibly hard, too hard. He’s a perfectionist at heart, and with ‘Doctor Who’ we often didn’t have time for perfection. He love the fans he got through playing the Doctor – especially the children – and he always kept up an incredibly conscientious role while he was in the series – he never smoked or drank in public. That was something he saw as his responsibility. He is a superb actor and his popularity reflects this. The trouble is our careers came to be just as important as each other, and we grew apart. I was angry at suggestions that it didn’t work because I was too young – or that Tom was unreasonable to me. It was a decision we discussed and felt was for the best.

“On ‘Shada’, we had stupendous problems for a while. We shot the series out of order anyway, and because of delays and over-running we got steadily more and more behind schedule. The team were all working at breakneck speed to complete it all in time. Tom was a hopeless punter, so that scene on the gondola took hours! We lost everything we’d done – which was a lot, unfortunately. As I remember, the filming in Cambridge was superb, but overall I wasn’t happy with it. Douglas had written a superb script, but it just coincided with a time when I felt fed up with everything. To have worked so hard and got so far advanced was heartbreaking when all that happened was its cancellation. Morale sank very low.

“I know it’s a cliche, but it’s best to get out on top. I’d had my era – it was time for a new look and the programme never keeps its cast for too long anyway. I’d made up my mind before the start of recording for the new series that I’d like to go halfway through. John Nathan-Turner had exactly the same feeling, so we had no conflict over the decision – it was entirely amicable, and a relief, because I’d been dreading telling him – and vice versa, I think. I absolutely loated ‘Warrior’s Gate’ because it was my last one. I felt particularly regretful, I’d become so very close to the show. The story itself was a good one – a fine leaving story – with a sufficient air of mystery to it. I hadn’t wanted to be killed off or fall in love or anything tame and silly, so I was pleased that I got a nice open-ended departure. I was also delighted I got K9 as company. It somehow eased the break. An excellent story – good for Romana – but terribly sad for me.

“I discovered quite early on that a camera never lets you down. Your acting is unrestricted by its presence, whereas an audience will react in different ways. I love the theatre and I do like to work ‘live’ every so often, but my first loyalty is to television. I’d done so much there – I feel a sense of attachment. The atmosphere of television is right for me.”