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Within the world of Doctor Who, there is something extra special about those companions who are there to see a regeneration take place. They get to share a special bond with the Doctor, partly because regeneration must be quite an intimate moment and partly because there are so few of them. Ben and Polly, Sarah Jane and the Brigadier, Tegan, Nyssa and Adric, Mel, Rose Tyler, that’s about it, apart from Miss Perpugilliam (mercifully shortened to “Peri”) Brown.
Poor Peri had to overcome a lifetime with a name which sounds like the latin term for part of the digestive system, and y’know what, it does rather seem to have left her with a bit of a chip on her shoulder. Perhaps as a result of a lifetime’s teasing, she’s a little pompous, a little priggish, a little… oh what’s the word, ah yes! Obnoxious.
She has a voice that could slice bricks, she dresses like she’s on Spring Break from a ballet school, and, in stark contrast to Tegan’s no-nonsense bullishness, she’s a bit wet. However, she does possess the ability to think fast and act decisively, if a little sulkily.
Here she is being threatened by the Master in her first adventure, Planet of Fire, and reacting in typically bratty fashion. Which serves him right, really. Fancy spending all that time talking when he could just shoot her and take the compariter straight away. What’s she gonna do, hold her breath?
After nearly 15 years in which the role of women in the show had been tailored to suit the changing times, Peri had the misfortune of appearing to be a bit of a throwback. A student where most of her predecessors had been professionals (or hunters, same thing), an American (albeit played by the very British Nicola Bryant) wearer of revealing hot pink holiday clothes, in short, a bit of a dollybird, only without Jo Grant’s training at UNIT to back her up. This did not endear her to everyone at first, especially with the Fifth Doctor treating her as an indulgent father would treat his spoiled daughter.
(This is probably a bad example. There again, anyone irked by Peri’s Veruca Salt-isms might well have wished the Fifth Doctor had swallowed the bat’s milk himself)
It’s fair to say that after the regeneration, Peri’s relationship to her travelling companion changed. The bickering got worse, for starters. Here she is getting along famously with the newly-regenerated Sixth Doctor, who clearly finds his own outfit just as shocking as we do:
For some reason, the Sixth Doctor seems to enjoy trying to kill Peri. And for the record saying “don’t breathe it in” during a self-inflicted mustard gas attack in an unventilated room is just useless. Just as well she’s got her wits about her, eh?
And yet when someone actually goes ahead and does the job for him, he acts surprised. Strange man.
In the end, Peri remains the companion they brought in to sex the show up a bit, who then turned out to be less visually distracting (and more clear-headed) than the Doctor himself. And a lot more charming at times too.
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic