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Romana II (1979 - 1981)

By Phillip Gray

This article was written as a commemoration of the tenth anniversary of Romana's departure from the TARDIS.

The second incarnation of Romana, played by the pretty and talented Lalla Ward from 1979 to 1981, was considerably different to the first persona, as played during Season Sixteen by Mary Tamm. Romana became less independent, more vulnerable and her reliance on the Doctor was accentuated. This led to a certain loss of some important aspects in the character of Romana. She became a more traditional companion; not resorting to screaming and running (well, not often), but instead became an effective partner to the inquisitive Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor. Romana became a means of exploring stories in greater depth, rather than the superficialities of Leela or Sarah Jane. This resulted in the generally excellent last two seasons of the Fourth Doctor (apart from some exceptions).

Romana's regeneration sequence in Episode One of Destiny of the Daleks has caused great controversy, as there did not seem to be any urgent need for it. It cannot be totally explained away, but it was an effective means of highlighting the differences between the two manifestations of Romana (such as the dresses, like the Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit in Meglos, or the pink copy of the Doctor's costume). The rather "immature regeneration sequence, where Romana chose her new image rather like choosing a new dress" (Doctor Who - The Companions), does reflect two things: the beginning of a more light-hearted dimension to the show, and it echoes the fact that following his regenerations, the Doctor has made remarks as to the pleasure, or otherwise, of his new appearance. "Mind you, I think the nose is an improvement - but the ears now, frankly I'm not too sure about the ears." (Tom Baker, Robot).

Romana excelled in her performance in the following ten stories, although several things were working against her. To begin with, her character was slightly neglected in such stories as City of Death and Destiny of the Daleks, possibly because her new character was still establishing itself. Secondly, although Seasons Seventeen and Eighteen were generally excellent, she suffered from the misfortune of the unfinished story, Shada, and the awful stories Nightmare of Eden and The Horns of Nimon, all within 1979. Romana was underdeveloped, seeming to become merely an extension of the Doctor. It seems a terrible shame that a character with such enormous possibilities could be so badly treated. In The Horns of Nimon she is simply a means of showing more of those awful creatures and their travel capsules. Romana is, after all, supposed to have graduated Triple Alpha from the Academy on Gallifrey, and although limited certainly in practical experience, her intelligence could have been used to better ends.

Her relationship with K9 was less developed than under her first life, and there were only rare occasions where a glimpse of her feelings for him would emerge (such as in The Leisure Hive and Warriors' Gate). In a similar vein, although obviously fond of Adric, not enough was revealed to make any kind of analysis of their relationship.

Romana's character gained interest when it became known at the beginning of Full Circle that she, too, was opposed to returning to Gallifrey. "I want to go on learning, Doctor. Life on Gallifrey is so static and futile." She thus revealed her longing for the same apparent freedom that the Doctor seemed to enjoy, and her belief that life on Gallifrey lacked fulfilment. However, a sudden regression seemed to occur to Romana during her travels in E-Space; after being taken over by spiders on Alzarius, and nearly sacrificed to the Great Vampire in State of Decay, her role seemed to be slipping back into the helpless female assistants of the 1960s, such as Susan and Victoria Waterfield. This was despite the fact that Romana was a sophisticated, articulate and highly intelligent Time Lady. Instead, in State of Decay, she twists her ankle!

The high point in the characterisation of Romana was the excellent Warriors' Gate, which became her last story. Already summoned to Gallifrey before entering E-Space, Romana chose to stay with K9 and help reconstruct the Tharil society, the slavery of which had angered and revolted her. This decision was one which befitted the inherent nobility of Romana (and it also had a parallel in 1983 when Nyssa left the TARDIS for similar reasons in Terminus) and at the end of the story the Doctor called after her, "You were the noblest Romana of them all!" - a sentiment with which I am in complete accord.

This item appeared in TSV 22 (April 1991).