Romana Who?

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Guest contributor Shona Beattie revisits Romana II’s era on Doctor Who starting with Season 17.

When Mary Tamm decided to leave Doctor Who, Graham Williams needed to find a replacement to play the Time Lady Romanadvoratrelundar, or Romana for short. They chose Lalla Ward who had recently been in Mary’s last episode, The Armageddon Factor. Nobody knew if it would work, but it most definitely did…

Destiny Of The Daleks

Lalla Ward’s first episode to be broadcast. It began controversially with her regeneration in which she went through bodies like clothes. The thing is, in 2005, we found out that Time Lords have 15 hours of regeneration energy left, so we must assume that is how she did it. Her regeneration is also explained in the audio book Gallifrey: Lies as being a way to stop Romana from remembering Pandora, an evil being on Gallifrey. When finally settling on a body, whilst donning a fun pink version of the Doctors costume, we go outside to have a look at the planet, which just happens to be Skaro.

This is where Romana becomes rather unlucky. First, she begins suffering from radiation, then she falls down a shaft, giving us our first experience of Lalla Wards ear-splitting scream (which is a lot better than Mary Tamms). To make matters worse the Daleks then suddenly crash through the wall, scaring the poor Time Lady out of her skin. She is cornered and then taken away to be interrogated (this scene is especially heartbreaking, as is the scene to follow, once you have listened to The Apocalypse Element. Romana certainly has a history with Daleks). Whilst she is being questioned, she breaks down into tears, and then becomes a slave of the Daleks, in which the only way to escape is to fake her death by stopping her hearts (“One for casual, one for best!”). She then escapes to join the Doctor. Throughout the next 2 episodes she is placed inside an airtight container, is rescued by a Movellan and then she and the Doctor save the universe by playing Rock, Paper, Scissors. All in a day’s work.

City of Death

Running around Paris holding hands, 7 Mona Lisa’s. Duggan -- all the ingredients for a legendary story in Doctor Who’s history. This story is famous for being the most viewed episode in Doctor Who’s time on air (16 million viewers in total!) but it is also historical for being the first episode of the show to be filmed abroad (the next one being Arc of Infinity, with the 5th Doctor and was filmed in Amsterdam.)

This episode is fun and cheerful. It was co-written by Douglas Adams, and his humour pours through, with many hilarious and unforgettable moments (“What a wonderful butler, he’s so violent!) Lalla and Tom are adorable in this episode. Their off screen relationship was blossoming at this time, and it seeps through on screen, which has led many fans (including myself) to think that the two characters were in love. Lalla’s, er, unforgettable, school uniform costume fits in perfectly here, as it is fun and adds to the feel of this story. City of Death was certainly one of the highlights of Season 17.

Creature From The Pit

This is quite an interesting serial. This is the first one they filmed of Season 17, and you can tell. Romana wears a floaty white dress and she acts quite out of character. She is a lot more haughty (“I am a Time Lord and I am not used to being assaulted by a collection of hairy, grubby little men!”) and resembles her first incarnation a lot. But given the material she had to work with, Lalla Ward does a good job.

The monster is interesting and one of the more controversial scenes from the history of the show is from this episode (Teach Yourself Tibetan, of course). The Bandits are rather useless, and seem to be there for the laughs. Tom Baker is, as always, on top form and there is a rather lovely scene at the beginning of the first episode (I love the idea that Romana has found time to read Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin and Mrs Tiggywinkle). This is also the first time we here David Brierly as K9. He does a good enough job, but it just doesn’t feel right. Yes, the best way to describe this episode is “interesting”.

Nightmare of Eden

For the time, this episode was extremely controversial. The episode revolves around the dark world of drugs, and the effect they can have. The drug (Vraxoin) was originally going to be called Zip, but Lalla shared her concerns of it sounding too attractive to young fans, so they changed it.

I personally think that Lalla’s costume is one of her worst. The grey does not compliment her, and in the first part, her arms magically disappear (no, really they do)! But it is quite a good episode. The main reason it is thought to be so bad is because of the conflicts between Adam Bromly (the director) and the rest of the cast and crew. He was reportedly very demanding and bossy. The whole crew hated him and the whole experience was extremely stressful. They soon ran out of time when it came to filming, and there are noticeable mistakes when it comes to lines. Eventually he left (Nobody knows if it was on his own accord or if he was fired) and filming ended rather calmly. Della’s line at the end of episode 4 pretty much summed up the whole casts thoughts, “Thank goodness that nightmare is over.”

The Horns of Nimon

This episode was supposed to be the penultimate of Season 17, with the last episode being Shada. But due to strikes at the BBC this never happened and Horns of Nimon ended up being the last episode. Often compared to a pantomime it is actually not that bad. OK, so the Nimons aren’t the best monsters that Doctor Who has ever had, but there have been worst. Also, there is Soldeed. Graham Crowden was born for the role and fits right into the character of the mad leader of Skonnos.

This is one of Lalla Ward’s best performances. You can clearly see how furious Romana is at the co-captain for abandoning the Doctor and it reminds me of Romana when she is President in the Gallifrey series. There is also the infamous ‘How Many Nimons’ scene. As much as I love this episode, it is literally impossible not to laugh at this scene, especially when Crowden runs out of the room screaming “MY DREEAAAMS OF CONQUEST!” Lalla also has some lovely scenes with John Bailey, who play Sezom which are heartwarming and shows the Time Lady’s kinder side. The last scene of this episode is cute as well, with the Doctor teasing Romana and then going onto their next adventure.