Doctor Who Companion Profile: Romana I

Mary Tamm as Romana I, Doctor Who

Mary Tamm as Romana I, Doctor WhoRomana I

Portrayed by: Mary Tamm

Doctor(s): Fourth Doctor

Tenure: 6 stories (the Key to Time season), from The Ribos Operation (Sept, 1978) to The Armageddon Factor (Feb, 1979)

Background: Romanadvoratrelundar (the Doctor dubs her Romana) is a Time Lady who is foisted upon the then-Companionless Fourth Doctor (and vice versa) by the White Guardian* to help him in his search for the Key to Time, a highly powerful item broken into six parts and scattered throughout the universe. She’s fresh from the Academy and incredibly intelligent, more so even than the Doctor. Romana is also much younger than the Doctor and, having just left Gallifrey for presumably the first time, he’s a far more experienced adventurer.

Family/Friends: Aside from hearing a bit about Romana’s teachers at school, we know little about her family or past. It’s implied she had very few friends at school. Despite her beauty (which even the Doctor comments on), she was picked on by peers jealous of her intellect.

Personality: Romana I is elegant, refined, and at times haughty. She’s a direct contrast to Leela, her predecessor, and is particular about how she looks, preferring fashionable clothes and occasionally checking her appearance in a hand mirror. She’s brilliant and proud of it, happy to knock the Doctor down a peg or two if he gets something wrong, and not at all impressed by his shenanigans. Romana I also has a dry wit and can arch a sarcastic brow with the best of them, something she does not infrequently early in her time with the Doctor.

Special Skills: Intelligence, intuition, and deduction. Plus as a Time Lady, she can fly the TARDIS.

Best Stories: The Ribos Operation, which features her highly memorable introduction to the Doctor, and The Androids of Tara, which lets Romana I (and Mary Tamm) have some fun playing multiple characters.

Worst Story: The Power of Kroll is pretty terrible, particularly given how strong the season is prior to it.

Highlights of tenure: Constantly one-upping the Doctor, throughout her season. As the only Time Lord (/Lady) Companion, Romana has a unique relationship with the Doctor and her first incarnation’s outspoken nature, quite different than the more laid-back Romana II, highlights the duo’s parity.

Lowlights of tenure: For the Doctor’s equal, Romana I does spend a disappointing amount of The Androids of Tara and The Power of Kroll being kidnapped and saved.

Other notes: After being disappointed in Romana’s development (or lack thereof) in the latter part of season 16, Mary Tamm opted not to return to the series. Lalla Ward, who guest starred in the Armageddon Factor, was brought on to play the regenerated Romana II.

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