For fans of Doctor Who, last year was a bad year, with the deaths of Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) and Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), two of the most popular of the Doctor's companions (diaried here). This year is turning out to be just as sad, with the recent loss of two actresses who were companions of the Doctor during the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker years, as Courtney and Sladen were. For Doctor Who followers, the title tells you who they were. For those who don't know....
The respective actresses were:
* Caroline John, as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw of UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Team), who died this past June 5, aged 71
* Mary Tamm, as Romanadvoratrelundar (Romana for short) I, the first Time Lady in the history of the program(me), who died last week on July 26, aged 62
Tributes to them from the UK press include:
It's interesting to read in Hadoke's Tamm tribute that one of Tamm's classmates at RADA in London was Louise Jameson, who played Leela, the prior companion to the first Romana during the Tom Baker years. I also didn't realize that she had Eastern European ancestry. Likewise, I had no idea that John had played Estragon in a production of Waiting for Godot.
Caroline John's first appearance, in Jon Pertwee's first season as The Doctor, was in "Spearhead from Space", of course. This was the first Doctor Who serial produced in colo(u)r, but the version that I saw on NJN during the 1980's was in B&W. Somewhere, I'd thought I'd heard that the original color version was lost, but a B&W print somehow turned up. If this is wrong, please correct me on it.
Hadoke, in his article on Caroline John, notes that at the time of the transition from Patrick Troughton to Jon Pertwee:
"The producer of the programme, Derrick Sherwin, decided to eschew spacefaring whimsy for a style closer to the more adult Quatermass serials of the 1950s. Pertwee's dignified Doctor was assisted by the no-nonsense military outfit UNIT, and an intelligent scientist sidekick – albeit a glamorous one who also got involved in action sequences – was an appropriate addition."Hence the addition of Liz Shaw, who, as Hadoke noted:
".... she provided brains, cool-headed intelligence and maturity where once the Doctor's female companions had screamed and asked questions."Likewise, Romana, as a Time Lady, was no intellectual slouch. Romana was sent by the White Guardian to assist The Doctor in the search for the 6 segments of The Key To Time, because of a near tipping point imbalance between the forces of good and bad in the universe. The assembly of the segments of The Key To Time would literally stop the universe in its tracks (except for the immediate environment around those who assembled the segments, of course, as The Doctor pointed out rather vehemently to Romana in the sixth serial, "The Armageddon Factor"), so that they could be assembled to restore the forces in the universe closer to equilibrium.
Fuller noted one general trajectory of Romana's character, as embodied by Tamm:
"Tamm captured perfectly the initial ice queen aspect of Romana’s personality, which thawed as the quest progressed, making her a thoroughly credible Time Lady."By curious coincidence, both John and Tamm left the show after one season. In John's case, a somewhat dark-tinged reason seems to enter into it, per Hayward's article:
"When a new producer, Barry Letts, took over a month into John's run and believed that Doctor Who had strayed too far from the original premise of the Time Lord's companions asking him questions that might be in viewers' minds, he decided not to renew her contract."Given that Letts leaned liberal, as noted here, this would seem surprising (although perhaps he learned his lesson later with the introduction of Sarah Jane Smith). However, Hayward noted that there was an "out", in terms of an explanation for John leaving the show:
"In fact, she was pregnant and would have left anyway."In Tamm's case, I remember reading in a Doctor Who book from back in the 1980's something to the effect that after a season, Tamm wanted to start a family with her husband, Marcus Ringrose, who survives her, as does her daughter Lauren. Fuller's article gives another possible explanation, however:
"But the actress discovered that, like so many companions before, the storylines she was given meant that she would frequently end up as a damsel in distress, in need of rescue by the Doctor, and left after just the one year in the role, presumably tired of it."Granted, the two explanations are potentially compatible, and the word "presumably" is a hedge there.
Overall, I got the sense that Tamm generally moved on from Doctor Who, although I do remember one appearance by her on NJN during fund-raising pledge drives in the 1980's US Doctor Who heyday. However, one comment in Hadoke's salute to her notes, with respect to a DVD release of The Key To Time set of Doctor Who serials:
"The DVD commentaries [Baker and Tamm] recorded 20 years later captured their joyful dynamic, with Baker clearly in awe of his co-star, who gamely spars with him throughout."John was a little more welcoming to future work as Liz Shaw in Doctor Who behind, as she did return for a cameo in the 20th anniversary serial The Five Doctors, as well as work on some other spin-off Doctor Who projects.
You can see some video footage of John and Tamm, respectively, taken from their time on Doctor Who:
Caroline John, selections from her last serial on Doctor Who, "Inferno":
Mary Tamm, tribute video:
So a modest DK salute to two notable British actresses who were part of Doctor Who lore, during the course of their careers. BTW, speaking of Doctor Who and careers, 3 of the Doctor Who companion actresses, Caroline John, Katy Manning (Jo Grant), and Louise Jameson reminisce in this clip:
With that, time for the usual SNLC protocol, namely your loser stories of the week......