Born: 28th June 1951 (as Sarah Jill Ward)
The Honourable Sarah Ward was the daughter of Edward Ward, the seventh Viscount Bangor (and the half-sister of William Ward, the eighth Viscount Bangor), and was raised in Marylebone, London. As a child, her attempts to pronounce “Sarah” sounded like “Lalla”, and the nickname stuck. Ward detested formal schooling, and completed her O-levels via home schooling from the age of fourteen. She also began painting, and gained considerable notice for her artwork while still a teenager. However, Ward decided to train as an actor as a means of overcoming her severe shyness. She had grown up knowing a number of performers, by virtue of both her father's wartime career as a BBC correspondent, and her mother's job as a producer and writer for the Corporation.
Despite never having acted before, Ward gained admission to the Central School of Speech and Drama, where she was a student from 1968 to 1971. She also won a role in her first play, The Coral King, in Canterbury, Kent. Ward's television debut came in a 1969 episode of Dr Finlay's Casebook. Shortly after her graduation from Central, she won her first film role, as a bloodsucker in the 1972 horror Vampire Circus. Ward could be seen in several other movies during the Seventies, most notably a star-studded 1977 adaptation of The Prince And The Pauper, which featured the likes of Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch and Ernest Borgnine.
On television, Ward was a regular on the sitcom The Upper Crusts, and made guest appearances on programmes such as The Protectors, Van Der Valk, Who Pays The Ferryman? and The Professionals. In 1977, she had a recurring role on The Duchess Of Duke Street, which brought her to the attention of director Michael Hayes. The following year, Hayes was directing The Armageddon Factor, Doctor Who's sixteenth-season finale, and he cast Ward in the prominent role of Princess Astra. Ward struck up a good working relationship with series star Tom Baker, who was engaged in a power struggle with producer Graham Williams. With Mary Tamm making a late decision not to return for a second season as the Doctor's Time Lord companion, Romana, she suggested that Baker would be mollified if Ward replaced her as a regenerated version of the character.
Ward's first broadcast serial as Romana was Destiny Of The Daleks, broadcast in 1979. Her next adventure, City Of Death, had been partly filmed on location in Paris, France and, while there, she and Baker's camaraderie had evolved into a full-scale romance. However, this was to prove to be a double-edged sword for the programme; Baker and Ward's relationship was to experience a number of peaks and valleys over the coming months, resulting in a sometimes glacial working environment. Indeed, Ward would later remark that her favourite Doctor Who monster was Tom Baker!
After Season Seventeen came to a premature end with the cancellation of Shada due to an industrial dispute, Ward played Ophelia for the BBC Shakespeare version of Hamlet, Prince Of Denmark, while also illustrating several books. She approached new Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner about leaving the programme before the end of her contract, but he refused. As such, Ward remained until 1981's Warriors' Gate, midway through Season Eighteen. By now, however, her romance with Baker had been rekindled and, on December 13th, they were wed at the Chelsea Registry Office. The marriage was short-lived: realising that they had little in common beyond their roles in Doctor Who, Ward and Baker divorced in April 1982.
Professionally, Ward was to find Doctor Who an albatross around her neck. Beyond her appearance in the twentieth-anniversary special The Five Doctors -- by virtue of material originally recorded for Shada -- her rare televisions roles during the Eighties included the telefilms Schoolgirl Chums and Riviera. Although Ward had more success on the stage, she became increasingly known for her work in textiles and ceramics. In addition to numerous exhibitions and commissions, she published several books starting with Beastly Knits in 1985; her artwork often concentrated on animal subjects.
In 1992, Ward was introduced to the eminent scientist and writer Richard Dawkins by their mutual friend, Douglas Adams, who had been the script editor during Ward's first year on Doctor Who. A whirlwind romance followed, and Dawkins and Ward were married six months later. This was the point at which Ward decided to largely wind up her acting career, although she did appear in the Doctor Who thirtieth-anniversary special Dimensions In Time to support the Children In Need charity appeal.
Nonetheless, Ward still performed occasional voicework, including for audio versions of several of Dawkins' publications. Her first experience of Doctor Who audio drama came in 1999, when BBV released the unofficial spin-off series Adventures In A Pocket Universe; to keep the BBC's lawyers at bay, Ward played an unnamed Mistress to the robot dog K·9. A fully-fledged reprise of Ward's role as Romana came in the range of Doctor Who audio dramas from Big Finish Productions, beginning with the Sixth Doctor adventure The Apocalypse Element in 2000. Eventually, Big Finish would even reunite Ward's Romana with Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor -- albeit by recording their performances separately.
In 2016, Ward and Dawkins agreed to an amicable separation. For many years, Ward has been deeply involved with the Actors' Charitable Trust, maintaining a particular focus on the redevelopment of the Denville Hall retirement home.
|Updated 2nd May 2021|
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