Born: 22nd March 1950
Mary Tamm was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire to an Estonian father and a Russian mother, who had come to England after fleeing Josef Stalin's regime. In her native land, Tamm's mother had been an opera singer, and she encouraged her children's interest in the arts. By the time she reached her teens, Tamm was already participating in Bradford's amateur dramatics scene. She graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1971, and spent a year with the Birmingham Repertory Company before moving to London to continue her stage career.
In 1973, Tamm earned both her first film role -- in the horror anthology Tales That Witness Madness -- and her first television appearances, on Hunter's Walk and The Donati Conspiracy. Her work over the next few years spanned both media. On the silver screen, she could be seen in The Odessa File, The Likely Lads and Rampage. On the small screen, her credits included Coronation Street, A Raging Calm and The Girls Of Slender Means. In 1976, she met Marcus Ringrose, who worked in the insurance industry; they married in 1978.
Just after returning from her honeymoon, Tamm was approached about auditioning for the role of Romana, the new Time Lord companion to Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor in Doctor Who. On February 17th, it was announced to the press that she had won the part; ironically, she would be replacing her RADA classmate, Louise Jameson, who had played Leela. Tamm made her debut as Romana in The Ribos Operation, which kicked off a season-long hunt for the six segments of the Key To Time. Tamm had been reluctant to audition for Doctor Who, but had been persuaded by the notion that Romana would be the Doctor's peer rather than his subordinate. As recording for the 1978-79 season wore on, however, Tamm came to feel that her character's potential had not been realised. Although no provision for Romana's exit had been incorporated into the season's last serial, The Armageddon Factor, Tamm nonetheless decided not to return for a second year. Instead, Lalla Ward -- her co-star in The Armageddon Factor -- was cast as a regenerated Romana. As it turned out, Tamm was soon pregnant with daughter Lauren, and may not have been able to carry on as Romana anyway.
During the Eighties, Tamm divided her time between theatre and television. Amongst her stage appearances was a pantomime Cinderella in 1984, directed by John Nathan-Turner, who was then the producer of Doctor Who. Her screen appearances included episodes of Bergerac, Poirot and Casualty, plus lead roles in The Assassination Run and its sequel, The Treachery Game, as well as the short-lived sitcom The Hello Goodbye Man. An increasingly rare movie role came in 1987's Three Kinds Of Heat, which saw her murdered by Sylvester McCoy -- who would soon become the Seventh Doctor.
Tamm's work in the Nineties was highlighted by an eighteen-month run on the soap opera Brookside. Other credits included The New Adventures Of Robin Hood, Crime Traveller and Heartbeat. During the first decade of the new century, Tamm returned to Coronation Street. She could also be seen in programmes such as Jonathan Creek, Paradise Heights and in no fewer than three episodes of Doctors, playing a different role each time. Tamm also began recording Doctor Who audio plays for Big Finish Productions, starting with Lies, part of the Gallifrey range, in 2005. Tamm played both Romana and an evil Time Lord called Pandora.
Tamm's final television role was a week-long appearance on EastEnders in 2009. The same year, the first volume of her autobiography, entitled First Generation, was released by Fantom Publishing. Sadly, in 2010, Tamm was diagnosed with cancer. Chemotherapy was unsuccessful, and she passed away on July 26th, 2012. Fantom issued the second volume of her autobiography, Second Generation, in 2014.
|Updated 12th February 2021|
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