Gordon (baron_waste) wrote in doctor_four,

Doctor Wha-hoo!

Watching the Classic Who episodes where 'Romana' is introduced (“The Key to Time,” &c.), it occurs to me that the producers of Dr Who missed an amusing opportunity. That they would have passed it by even if it had occurred to them - that indeed they might not have been allowed, even if they'd wished it - is, for the purpose of my idle speculation, irrelevant…

On Mary Tamm: “If my travelling companion were this smokin' hot Baltic beauty with that BBC accent, I might have real difficulty in concentrating on what the Atomic Mole People of the planet Florwaks were up to…”

And since they were British, and since her eye-catching appearance is of course no coincidence, if the producers had the courage of their convictions… they'd have based 'Romana' on the WWII comic character “Jane.”

Jane, as the article points out, had shall we say an adversarial relationship with clothes. Her own, particularly. Her closet was Death Row; unless she was, as she often was, clad only in a hastily-wrapped and hazardously slipping bath towel, any dress she bothered to put on was doomed. For one reason or another - the more wildly implausible the better - her outer clothing would be shucked or simply ripped completely off.

“I don't know why I even bother to get dressed in the morning,” she said at one point.

The application of this concept to Dr Who is obvious. I mean, come on, is this an adolescent fantasy show or not? Go for it.

“Whatever she happens to have on is good enough” - because there's really no point to getting geared up, not when the first natives she encounters are going to react to her appearance with such hands-on enthusiasm that she'll come away looking like Racquel Welch in One Million BC anyway…

Jane even had a pet dog named Fritz. The Doctor and Romana had K-9. Whaddya want, a road map? 1

[I'm reminded of Callahan, the pilot for a never-launched series starring Jamie Lee Curtis, where this was worked in with good effect. She played a new-hire secretary whose boss, it turns out, is an Indiana Jones type pulp adventurer (the movie had just come out), and she's swept up in his harum-scarum adventures - and though she HAD been all spiffed up for the office in dress and heels, all these Saturday-morning-serial goings-on just disintegrate her outfit; it becomes a running gag, a source of her increasing peeve (at one point she's about to be shot by a Chinese firing squad, and they yank her into position, rip, “You tore my DRESS!” she screams, though by now it's just hanging rags anyway…) The first shot of the show was her getting out of a New York cab, all spiffy. The finale was the very same shot - the 'after' of that 'before' - barefoot in the remains of her nylons and the cavegirl-castaway remnants of her dress - I think it tore getting out of the cab… She was furious; he said, “You want the job?” and she thought about it… “Okay.”] 2


Unfortunately, this opportunity for ratings bonanza passed them by… which is just as well, for it would undoubtedly have changed the character of Dr Who permanently, and perhaps fatally.

As it is, I don't recall Romana even using available resources, which would otherwise seem odd…

Indeed, Tom Baker disliked the character of 'Leela,' the knife-wielding leather-swimsuit-clad barbarian chick, considering her too sexy and too violent for what was after all a kid's show. He didn't much like the actress either, though I don't know why; but as they were both professionals, you'll never see this in their performances. (Olivia DeHavilland vividly detested Errol Flynn also. Yet they were paired romantically in movie after movie, and worked it, because that's what they did for a living!)

1 I had something of the same idea for 'Lady Elizabeth Willoughby,' in my as yet unfinished radio play “The Iron Hills.”

EW: Oh, no. Sergeant Moody - can you hear me? Let me get unfastened here...


EW: Oh, blast.

JOHN: Whoa! Don't do that.

EW: My skirt was caught - on that flange - never mind. Sergeant? ...He's alive, John.


That FX was going to be her signature sound; you can get away with a lot on radio…

2 The screenwriter had perhaps read John Varley's Titan, where the main character, having been through all kinds of Lost World adventures of danger and exhaustion, was asked by the Big Boss at the end, “Was it fun?” and she opened her mouth in outrage - and closed it again. Yah, actually - it had been the adventure of a lifetime!
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