Luna Romana blindsides you with its first few minutes, as it briefly explains how Juliet Landau’s later incarnation of Romana (as introduced in the Gallifrey series – and if you haven’t heard it yet, then you really should!) can narrate the story that clearly was meant originally for Mary Tamm. And then there are some clips and a tribute (think of the way that Tennant’s incarnation talks to Davison in Time Crash to get an idea) which you may well find more than a little choking. We had a touching tribute to Mary Tamm on the first of her new adventures with Tom Baker from the actors; this is its fictional counterpart. (There’s a matching sequence towards the end, but because of the story structure, it’s not quite as effective.)
Matt Fitton’s complicated script gives Terry Molloy plenty to do, particularly when he’s playing a load of different characters on stage. I’m sure I heard more than the odd tribute to the Carry On cast (and even Call My Bluff’s Patrick Campbell at one point?) and, without spoiling the tale, there’s a lot of onus on him to make sure we know where we are in the story by the way he’s playing Stoyn. Molloy’s performance here lifts Luna Romana considerably.
If you liked the middle story in the Back to the Future trilogy, you’ll enjoy this, as there are a lot of similar crossing of timelines and characters in more than one place at once. At one point we seem to have four Romanas on the loose, which is a real embarrassment of riches. The story’s Roman setting also provides an excuse for some of the near-misses which characterised the William Hartnell story set then.
Both Landau and Lalla Ward’s performances are enjoyable, the former for its tribute to Tamm’s Romana (Landau doesn’t mimic her, but you never forget that this is Romana I during the Key to Time season), and the latter particularly for the way she gives the little asides which you can just see Romana II acerbically making if she were telling a story.
The Stoyn trilogy has been an interesting experiment in storytelling, and on the whole it’s worked. One side effect has been to fill in a few gaps in Doctor Who continuity – listen to this carefully for an explanation of how the Doctor has much better control of the TARDIS in the John Nathan-Turner era and beyond. But with only five more Companion Chronicles left, there are a few loose ends to tidy up…
Verdict: A convoluted but never confusing tale that highlights the strengths of the Romanas. 8/10