Doctor Who actress Mary Tamm (22 March 1950 – 26 July 2012)

When Graham Williams took over as series producer for Doctor Who, he soon had the task of casting a new leading actress to take over from Louise Jameson who had played the popular Leela for two years. In sharp contrast to the ‘noble savage’ Leela and the ‘lovable girl next door’ Sarah Jane Smith, a new kind of companion was introduced. A regal young woman, newly graduated from university, Romana was a wonderful foil to Tom Baker’s Doctor.

The Key to Time series remains iconic for many fans of Doctor Who. As a child, I was very familiar with the wide range of varied stories such as the comedic Ribos Operation to the high adventure Androids of Tara. The character of Romana was somewhat difficult for the writers to work with. Robert Holmes seemed to grasp the character’s young upper-class attitude and his stories played up the intelligence and sharp wit quite well whereas some other writers simply treated her as a damsel in distress. Feeling somewhat restricted, Tamm moved on after her first year but nonetheless acted as an ambassador for the program at conventions in the years to come.

Mary Tamm and Tom Baker

A strikingly beautiful woman, Tamm’s character juxtaposed the buffoonery of Tom Baker on screen. A self-conscious actor, Baker nonetheless grew quite fond of Tamm and even later in life received her friendly affections with great appreciation. The pair gelled so well, they were a joy to watch on screen.

Big Finish recently finished releasing a full series of audio adventures starring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson. Baker and Tamm were intended to team up for the follow up series which will be released posthumously next year, starting with The Auntie Matter by Jonathan Morris.

After a long battle with cancer, Tamm passed yesterday at the age of 62.

Tributes (via DoctorWhoNews)

Her agent Barry Langford said:

She had a great zest for life. She was a fantastic actress – she played stage parts of such range, parts that would take your breath away. She could play any role, and do so wonderfully.

Tom Baker, who played the Fourth Doctor alongside Tamm, said:

She was a darling companion and wonderfully witty and kind. I’m so sorry to hear of her death.

David Richardson, producer for Big Finish, told us:

Such a sad day. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing – everyone is so deeply upset by the terrible news. Mary was just brilliant to work with – and such fun, with her infectious laugh and naughty sense of humour. I feel honoured to have had so many opportunities to work with her over the past year.

Dexter O’Neill, whose company Fantom Films published her autobiography, said:

As you can imagine, Paul and I are devastated to hear the news. Our condolences go out to Marcus, Lauren and Max. We will miss her sense of humour, her emails (affectionately known to us as Tamm Spam) and above all the gossiping. We won’t half miss you xxx

Ian Fraser, Mary’s photographer, told us:

I will always remember Mary’s honesty, down to earth approach and I have to say the dirtiest laugh I’ve ever come across in a Doctor Who girl, so opposed the perceived image of ice-queen and aloof. The hours we spent working together in the studio, and her genuine kindness to me as her photographer… photographing such a beautiful woman – not just in looks but in her heart, and hearing her talk of her husband Marcus, daughter Lauren and how much she adored her time with Max her grandson, well you know there was goodness running through her.

My thoughts are with Marcus, Lauren and Max and the big wide Doctor Who actor family, who are missing Mary so badly already.

On Twitter

  • Colin Baker (The Doctor): Shellshocked to hear Mary Tamm is gone. A funny, caring, talented, lovely and down to earth lady. My heart goes out to Marcus and Lauren
  • Nicola Bryant (Peri): Just heard the terrible news that Mary Tamm has died. Completely shocked. Very sad. Thoughts go to Marcus & Lauren. RIP Mary.
  • Anneke Wills (Polly): Mary Tamm – How sad! A brave, beautiful woman, she will be greatly missed. I’m grateful to have known her. Love Anneke x
  • Frazer Hines (Jamie): I’m still reeling from the shock of Mary passing away!always a smiley friendly person whenever we met at cons.
  • Edward Russell (brand manager): My condolences to Mary Tamm’s family. As a companion, Romana was my hero when I was 8 years old. So very sad. Guess we’ve reached that point in Doctor Who’s history where it’s time for many of its rich cast to say goodbye. Thank you for taking part.
  • Nicholas Briggs (actor, Big Finish): Very sad indeed about the death of Mary Tamm. She was so much fun and lovely to work with. I shall miss her.
  • Barnaby Edwards (actor): Very sad to hear of the death of Mary Tamm. A lovely actress and a sharp, witty person.
  • Nicholas Pegg (actor): Raising a glass to the beautiful, talented, funny Mary Tamm. So young. What sad news.
  • Paul Cornell: I’m so sorry to hear about Mary Tamm. It’s an obit every month in DWM these days. How terrible.
  • Andy Pryor (casting director): Sad times. Caroline John and now Mary Tamm. We salute you both.
  • Mark Ayres (composer): Sad news to wake up to: RIP Mary Tamm, Doctor Who’s first Romana, aka Fred. She was of the few Doctor Who girls I never met properly, though I did “music” her Myth Makers, which she played as Alice in Wonderland.
  • Gary Russell (script editor): Mary Tamm, funny, sweet, smart and utterly outrageous. Will miss her so much RIP xxx
  • Toby Hadoke (performer): Reeling from the news that Mary Tamm has passed away. RIP. And what?!
  • Kai Owen (Rhys): Sad news indeed. RIP Mary Tamm.
  • Benjamin Cook (DWM): Such sad news about Mary Tamm. I interviewed her once, in 2009. (Couldn’t believe she was old enough to be a grandmother.) RIP. “I never, ever thought of Romana as a sex symbol,” she said. “Glamorous, but not sexy… An old-fashioned, movie star style.”
  • Gary Gillatt (DWM): Mary Tamm now. Another tragedy. What an awful year it’s been to be a Doctor Who fan. This terrible silence, slowly rolling over it all.

2 thoughts on “Doctor Who actress Mary Tamm (22 March 1950 – 26 July 2012)

  1. Thanks for posting this Jameson. It’s so sad, I was incredibly shocked when I read this news on BBC Teletext. I thought I’d pop into the Daily POP in the hopes that you’d have something up, and I’m glad you have.
    It’s certainly touching to see the Doctor Who community come out in appreciation of this appealling lady. I just can’t believe that Elisabeth Sladen, Caroline John, and now Mary Tamm are all *gone*.
    In Mary Tamm’s case it just seems unbelievable that this striking, sardonic, elegant woman has passed away – from the ravages of cancer, yet – she remained as glamorous as ever with that sense of something more outrageous underneath even as she became more mature. Only *62*, this world is so depressing…
    On a lighter note we can remember her for Doctor Who and other work. I remember being so disappointed when her character was killed off in the Jonathan Creek episode, she was excellent in it, if you haven’t seen it get hold of a copy. As regards Doctor Who, I’ve said this before but I really liked her Romana, like Sarah and Leela before her she contrasted greatly with her predecessor; Romana’s haughty beauty, cool irony, and stylish sensual glamour was something totally fresh for Doctor Who while doubtfulness about the Doctor’s knowledge and/or sanity could be very funny. It’s only a pity that the scripts sometimes failed to make the most of her. However, The Ribos Operation, The Pirate Planet and Androids of Tara all used her pretty well. I hope that you post a review of one of those in the future (hint!), tho’ I seem to recall you may have done The Key to Time or Ribos in the past.
    Mary, gorgeous and witty, will be remembered, by those who knew her and her fans.


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