It was reported this morning by her agent, that Mary Tamm had died after a long battle with cancer. The actress best known for her portrayal as the first incarnation of Romana in season sixteen ofDoctor Who, was 62. Tributes have been led by Fourth Doctor actor Tom Baker, who said: “She was a darling companion and wonderfully witty and kind” whilst a “shell-shocked” Colin Baker wrote on twitter that she was “a funny, caring, talented, lovely and down-to-earth lady.”
Tamm was born in Bradford in 1950 to Estonian immigrant parents, and after graduating at RADA, she began her career at the Birmingham Repetory Theatre with Derek Jacobi, Joan Sims, and Ronnie Barker. She moved to London in 1972, and made her television debut in ATV’s Hunter’s Walk. Further TV roles in Coronation Street, and Return of the Saint followed. Then after film roles in The Odessa File, and The Likely Lads, Tamm was cast as the Time Lady, Romana – short for Romanadvoratrelundar.
Tamm was not initially interested in playing a Doctor Who companion, but producer Graham Williams assured her that Romana was not intended as another “damsel in distress” – she was a ‘Time Lady’ who was as capable as the Doctor. However, Tamm left the programme after only one season because she felt that her character had in fact reverted to the traditional assistant function, and a proper transition to her successor, Lalla Ward was never planned.
Tamm later made guest appearances in The Bill, Jonathan Creek, Doctors, EastEnders, and had a regular role as Penny Crosbie in Brookside.
Romana featured in all six stories of the ‘Key to Time’ season, broadcast from September 1978 to February 1979, but Tamm returned to the role for the Big Finish audio dramas in 2005. Her latest recording as the Time Lady, was in Tales from the Vault, released this month, and a new season of Fouth Doctor adventures featuring Tamm’s Romana will be issued next year.
Mary Tamm is survived by her husband Marcus Ringrose, her daughter Lauren, and grandson Max.