The Fourth Doctor’s (Tom Baker) was also defined by the fact that he had some pretty iconic companions such as Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter), K-9 (John Leeson), Leela (Louise Jameson), and both incarnations of the Time Lady named Romanadvoratrelunder (Mary Tamm & Lalla Ward) or Romana for short.
Romana, who was then being played by Mary Tamm, first joined the Fourth Doctor in “The Ribos Operation”, the Season 16 premiere episode, which also kicked off the “Key to Time” arc.
She later on regenerated into Romana II (Lalla Ward), at the beginning of Season 17, “Destiny of the Daleks”, and continued travelling with the Doctor until “Warrior’s Gate” in Season 18.
Both versions of the character, however, also had Big Finish adventures that either complemented the particular seasons they were in, or continued their story beyond the TARDIS.
Both incarnations, although very different from each other, made an interesting companion for the Doctor as she was a Time Lady, and as she was almost his equal, with the Doctor having the advantage over her in terms of experience.
Both Romanas also had very different relationships with the Doctor. Romana I was the younger student who looked up to the Doctor as her senior, but at the same time, she was also more logical, by the book, and a little bit of a know it all. As Season 16 went on, she started to loosen up, and valued the Doctor’s ability to adapt, solve and get out of situations using unorthodox methods.
Romana II’s relationship with the Doctor was very different. She looked up to him and adored him, like a younger sister adores her older brother, and their chemistry together on screen was off the charts, rivaling only the romantic chemistry that the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) had with Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). However, this was, of course, because both Ward and Baker ended up having a very explosive, on and off relationship, that resulted in a very short-lived marriage.
This Romana was also a little bit more maternal, nagged the Doctor a lot, and was VERY formidable when angered.
To be honest, my favorite Romana is still Tamm’s incarnation, but it can’t be denied that the chemistry between Ward and Baker was electric and they also had a lot of iconic episodes together.
Now, you know the drill, from beyond this point, there will be spoilers!
Romana I’s incarnation was so short-lived that I am very glad that Tamm was able to reprise her role several times for Big Finish before she passed away in 2012.
Her Romana was definitely a high brow aristocrat and a know-it-all, who came to appreciate the Doctor’s ways as she continued assisting him in looking for the Key to Time. She also ended up loosening up a little, which is why Ward’s version, if we are to continue thinking that every regeneration of a Time Lord or Lady is a reaction to the previous one, is a little bit more loosened up and truly enjoys being with and travelling with the Doctor.
Tamm herself was a pretty good actress, however, I do feel that she wasn’t really given much to do to prove her worth. However, she did try her best with what she had, and she was definitely able to challenge herself in “Androids of Tara” as she was able to portray herself, an android version of herself, as well as a princess who looked exactly like her. Based on interviews, she has mentioned that she did relish this challenge as well.
It was always known that Tamm only wanted to be in one season, but she, just like the audience, were unhappy with the fact that she wasn’t given a proper send off in the series. Instead, Season 17 opens with Romana already in the process of regenerating into Romana II. Later on, it was revealed that the reason why she regenerated was because the Doctor had told her that she was too stiff and not fun at all, so just to prove to him that she could also do things on a whim, she regenerated in Romana II. (That scene though, which paralleled the Fourth Doctor’s own post-regeneration scene, was quite hilarious, though.) Now with Ward on board, you can actually tell whether her relationship with Baker was going well or not by the level of their chemistry on screen per episode. Sometimes, on good days, they had spectacular chemistry with each other, and you can see how close they are. However, on days in which they were arguing with each other, they could barely look at each other in the eye during filming.
However, despite that, Romana II was a great companion as she acted as she perfectly complemented the Doctor’s unpredictable nature, and was always on the same page with him. This meant that he could actually leave her alone to help solve one half of the problem, while he took care of the rest.
I also love the fact that she ended up loving travelling so much that she refused to return to Gallifrey, and left the TARDIS in “Warrior’s Gate” by going into E-Space along with K-9.
Of course, we know that later on, Romana returns to Normal Space and to Gallifrey, and becomes Lady President of the Time Lords, with Leela (Louise Jameson) as her right hand woman and personal bodyguard. These particular events are mostly chronicled in the “Gallifrey” Big Finish series.
To be honest, I had a hard time warming up to Romana II as I loved Tamm’s incarnation of Romana, but I would give anything to listen to the “Gallifrey” series, as I believe that Romana II and not Romana I had the right temperament and characteristics to become Time Lady President.
I mean, judging by how formidable she gets when she gets angry, I’d love to see her put the tradition bound Time Lords in their place.
Romana II also had the most iconic episodes during the Fourth Doctor era, which included “City of Death” and the unfinished serial, “Shada”.
Aside from how different they are personality wise, they also had a different sense of style. Tamm’s Romana favored more high fashion and aristocratic looks; while Ward’s Romana had more fun outfits like her iconic Parisian schoolgirl outfit, and looks that took a leaf right out of the Doctor’s playbook with the coats and scarves.
When it comes to the best episodes for both these incarnations, my favorite Romana I episodes are “The Ribos Operation” and “Androids of Tara”; and for Romana II, it’s definitely “City of Death”.
Despite the fact that both Romana I and II are very different from each other, despite being one and the same, Romana was definitely an iconic companion that is remembered fondly by Whovians.
Which Romana was your favorite, Romana I or II? What were your favorite Romana episodes? Let me know what you think in the comments below!