THE BLOG
05/11/2013 07:42 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Not Romeo and Juliet, but Romana

No doubt there's frenzied fan speculation regarding The Day of The Doctor, the 50th anniversary Doctor Who special set to air on 23rd November, and endless debate about how John Hurt (Doctor 8.5?) will fit in to the Time War which preceded Who's return to TV in 2005.

Fans are also asking: will a future Doctor regenerate into a female?

With Peter Capaldi confirmed as the Twelfth Doctor unless they decide to kill him off quick (sorry, Peter!), it doesn't look like this will happen any time soon; but to swerve sideways into another epic storyline, Lawrence of Arabia completely lacked any female love interest and I never even noticed.

To misquote Shakespeare a little, "the play's the thing," and if you care about a character, their gender is not the be-all and end-all. So once the surprise of seeing a Doctor with reproductive organs on the inside had subsided, it might well be business as usual except that painted fingernails would now be pointing that sonic screwdriver.

But whose fingernails?

Every screenwriter usually puts a back door into their script. A gesture, a comment, a mindmeld (see the originalStar Trek II) or a trapdoor, either literal or metaphorical. A means of advancing the plot, viewed from an angle few might see.

So, whatever happened to Romana, a Time Lady and the Doctor's companion between 1978-1981?

Well, while all eyes were on BBC's The Day of the Doctor, Big Finish Productions was preparing a Companion Chronicles audio trilogy to celebrate Who's anniversary. The last part of the trilogy was called Luna Romana, and cast as the third regeneration of Romana was none other than my dear Miss Landau, Juliet Landau.

If one concurs with Big Finish's arguably canon continuation of Romana's tale, she ended up as president of an alternate Gallifrey before returning to and possibly perishing in this universe's Time War.

Or possibly not.

So could and should Juliet Landau become the first female Doctor?

I am obviously vulnerable to accusations of bias, but to quote from a neutral source regarding her recent performance in John Patrick Shanley's play Danny and the Deep Blue Sea:

"As Roberta, Landau gives a performance so breathtaking, it will be hard for any actress to top hers as best of the year"

(StageSceneLA, 27th November 2011)

So, based on the fact that a review written near the end of 2011 pretty much confirmed it, I'd say Miss Landau is one of the best actresses in the world, and also one who recently resurrected a much-loved companion.

How, then, to get another Rose (Miss Landau's middle name) into the TARDIS?

Many characters return from the dead in sci-fi/fantasy series. 'Nuff said. And as one of the Doctor's former companions, Romana would hardly be out of place in the TARDIS.

But how could Romana actually become the Doctor?

I'd probably better throw out drastic and/or convoluted ideas like:

1) Peter Capaldi's Doctor gets gratuitously killed off, Romana has to take the controls and as such inherits his mantle of do-gooding!

2) According to the article linked to in my seventh paragraph, in the Who novel The Shadows of Avalon, Romana regenerated for a third time and ended up looking worryingly like the Doctor's mother... Well, no stranger than River Song, perhaps, but a touch incestuous and a tad tricky for the audience to take.

So how to square an impossible circle and produce a convincing storyline?

Why me, O Lord? Why do I fix myself up with vampires for flatmates, steal ships, chase Rose's across America and find film stars on Sunset Boulevard?

Tough job, but someone's got to do it.

One chink of clear-as-canon light: when Mary Tamm's original incarnation of Romana turned into Lalla Ward's likeness, the regeneration process took an unexpected turn as Romana tried out several bodies before settling on Ward's look. If all Time Lords and Ladies can do this (and why not?), what if Romana reached the TARDIS, died tragically, and the Doctor himself took the emotional decision to regenerate into her form?

Maybe this would work and maybe it wouldn't, but stranger things have happened, and many of them did so on Doctor Who.

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James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.