We didn't meet a great deal in the early years following graduation: she pursued her career, and I mine. It was Dr Who which brought us together again, in 1978: 7 years after leaving RADA. In that same year she married Marcus Ringrose, after the proverbial whirlwind romance (they had met briefly the previous year at a BBC wrap party). They had a daughter, Lauren, and then continued to lead their life in wedded bliss. That could be a fatuous statement in any other case, but in theirs it was true. Marcus & Mary were inseparable, true soul mates, with the same sense of the ridiculous, an ability to deal with pomposity in others (one was wise never to get on your high horse in Mary's presence) and a shared sense of humour. That's one thing she & I had too. If I miss any one thing about Mary (and there'll be many) it'll be her gutsy, salacious, Yorkshire laugh. If I could bottle that and sell it, I'd make a fortune.
I directed her in 2006 in Private Lives, for a Far Eastern tour. She was a wonderful Amanda, a perfect company member, and magical to be with: witty: always interested in others, funny, flirtatious & charming ... a consummate professional. The play toured Singapore, Malaysia & Thailand, and she won hearts & minds wherever she went. At the end of the job, her beloved Marcus flew out and they had a romantic holiday together. He was a lucky man; he knew it, and cherished her accordingly. They were wonderful to watch together ... independent spirits in many ways, but indivisible as a unit. In our business, which is not known for the longevity of relationships, they were a role model of how to do it right. 34 years ain't a bad record.
She had, as Colin Baker says in the foreword to her autobiography: "intelligence, self-awareness, and good old Bradford common sense". Mary had completed one volume of her life story, entitled First Generation, published in 2009 (and which has pride of place on my bookshelves) and was working on the second volume at the time of her death. Colin knew her well, since Dr Who had brought them both the sort of fame & huge fan base which others only dream of. I spent a memorable weekend with her (and Louise Jameson) in Los Angeles about 6 years ago at a Dr Who convention. Mary disarmed everyone with her approachable, friendly quality. You got what you saw with Mary, and what you saw was all good.
For RADA, Mary was a terrific ambassador: a member of the Associates (she insisted that I be one too, and who could turn her down), a member of the Buddy scheme (ditto) and an enthusiast for everything that RADA stood for. She never forgot the chance in life, both personal & professional, which the Academy had given to her, and with immense gratitude was happy to repay some of that debt however she could.
She could be, in spite of her gregarious character, a very private woman too. So when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 she decided to strictly manage that information, and keep it very much to herself. Those few who were informed, including our agent Barry Langford (she insisted I join him too ... you couldn't say no to Mary) were sworn to secrecy. She didn't want, and disliked the idea of, her being identified as a victim of the disease: she was living with it, not dying from it. And so, when she eventually & inevitably succumbed to its ravages, there were many of us who were halted in our tracks, stunned, appalled: you can find the words more easily than I.
She died on Thursday 26th July., at the age of 62: tragically too early, with so much more to give. We, her friends & colleagues, have been in a state of shock ever since. We shall mourn her of course, But we shall also remember the light & life she brought into ours. Mary was special, and her passing leaves a huge gap in many lives.
She is survived by Marcus, their daughter Lauren, and a grandson Max, to whom Mary was utterly devoted, and for whom she somewhat forsook her career in the latter years to take him into her care.
David Warwick - RADA graduate 1971
The dreadful news of Mary Tamm's death amazed me. I had no idea she was ill. We got on terribly well and I admired her wit and style and warmth. We used to meet at different Who conventions and sometimes had time for a little chat. I remember meeting her at Heathrow in the 1st class section: her section, of course. She was flicking through a magazine and sipping a beer: the epitome of cool style.
When we first worked together her tales of her background (she's from Estonia) kept me very amused. I think they spoke Estonian at home. She used to do an impression of her aunt, I think, who had been an opera singer. She had a marvellous trick of rapid asides which often had nothing to do with the main story but which convulsed us. I tried to copy this trick behind her back but it eluded me as most tricks have eluded me all my life. And that she is dead seems incredible.
Fate is capricious and quite indifferent to our fears. Lovely girls: Elisabeth Sladen, Caroline John and now Mary Tamm: all dead. And here am I closing in on eighty and all I've had was whooping cough! It's not fair, is it? Actually, I also have a creaky knee. And probably a creaky brain.
I never met Mary's daughter and hardly ever met Marcus, her husband. But I send them from the bottom of my old heart sincere condolences. To have known her consoles me a little: poor darling Mary, poor us.
Tom Baker - Mary's co-star in Doctor Who
Mary Tamm with Tom Baker as the Doctor in a 1978 episode of Doctor Who (photo: Fred Mott/Getty).
Mary Tamm obituary
The actor Mary Tamm, who has died of cancer aged 62, enjoyed two stints on popular television, first as the glamorous Time Lady Romana in Doctor Who (1978-79), and then in the more down-to-earth environs of Brookside Close in Channel 4's soap opera, where she was Penny Crosbie, the upper-class resident who enjoyed a dalliance with the neighbourhood "bad boy" Barry Grant (1993-95).
Tamm was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Her Russian mother was a former opera singer and her father an Estonian landowner who worked in a woollen mill upon arriving in Britain in 1945. Tamm started acting at primary school and then at Bradford girls' grammar school, before being accepted by Rada in London in 1969, where her classmates included her immediate predecessor as a Doctor Who companion, Louise Jameson.
Upon graduation, Tamm spent 1971 at the Birmingham repertory theatre, appearing alongside Ronnie Barker in Good Time Johnny and Derek Jacobi in Harold Pinter's The Lover. The following year, she appeared at the Roundhouse in London in the rock musical Mother Earth, but, aside from The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant at the New End theatre in 1976, after a breakthrough role in the BBC's The Donati Conspiracy in 1973, it was on screen that she made the most impact.
Notably she had a starring role alongside Jon Voight in the film The Odessa File (1974) and played James Bolam's girlfriend in The Likely Lads (1976 – a big screen spin-off of the popular sitcom). She also had a stint as Hilda Ogden's daughter-in-law in Coronation Street in 1973 and leading roles on television in A Raging Calm (1974) and The Girls of Slender Means (1975) under her belt when the call came to audition for Doctor Who.
Tamm had not been especially interested but was assured that the intelligent and capable character of Romana would more than hold her own against Tom Baker's Doctor. Baker was at the height of his powers and influence, and famously preferred to work without a companion, but he was soon won over by Tamm's professionalism and good humour. The DVD commentaries they recorded 20 years later captured their joyful dynamic, with Baker clearly in awe of his co-star, who gamely spars with him throughout.
Tamm appeared in six stories during her year on the show, and helped design the stunning white dress she wore for her debut, The Ribos Operation (1978). During her time on board the Tardis, she encountered an early script from Douglas Adams (The Pirate Planet), bloodsucking alien stones (The Stones of Blood, the 100th Doctor Who story), and a deadly android double of herself in The Androids of Tara (a delightful Prisoner of Zenda homage in which she played four different characters, two of them robotic).
Despite enjoying the series, she found that the format constrained her character, the fast turnaround was draining, and the challenging role she had envisaged never quite materialised. She left after The Armageddon Factor (1979) in which she and Baker completed their year-long mission to assemble the Key to Time (a space-age McGuffin that, uniquely at the time, spanned a whole series). The character remained in the series however, her Gallifreyan DNA enabling her to regenerate off-screen into Lalla Ward (whom Tamm had suggested should succeed her).
Tamm quickly returned to the BBC for two thriller series, The Assassination Run (1980) and its sequel, The Treachery Game (1981). Steady employment in shows such as Poirot, Casualty (both 1989) and Perfect Scoundrels (1991) was interspersed with regular roles in sitcom (The Hello Goodbye Man with Ian Lavender, 1984), soap opera (Brookside) and the drama Paradise Heights (2002). Later appearances included Rose and Maloney (2005), Wire in the Blood (2008) and four episodes of EastEnders (2009, as Orlenda, a Russian temptress).
She enjoyed variety, always hankering for a stint in the theatre after a run on television. She appeared opposite Gordon Jackson in the West End in Cards on the Table (1981) and particularly enjoyed playing four literary characters, including Miss Julie and Hedda Gabler, in Why Is Here There Everywhere Now? at the Riverside Studios in 1992. She performed in a number of national tours: in Abigail's Party for Chichester Festival theatre (1999), as a memorable Beverly; in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (2000), as Mari Hoff; an impressive turn in Terry Johnson's Dead Funny (2001); in Eric Chappell's Mixed Feelings (2004); and, with a part she had always coveted, Amanda, in Private Lives (2006).
Tamm married Marcus Ringrose in 1978 after meeting him at a wrap party. Then a law student, he became a stockbroker, but as a Lloyd's "name", endured hard times during the 1990s. She was supportive of others, mentoring Rada students through training and beyond, and raising money for their hardship fund. A volume of her autobiography, First Generation, was published in 2009, and Tamm was working on a second volume at the time of her death.
She is survived by Marcus, their daughter, Lauren, and a grandson, Max.
Mary Tamm, actor, born 22 March 1950; died 26 July 2012.