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Doctor Who Companion Profile: Peri

Doctor Who Companion Profile: Peri

Nicola Bryant as Doctor Who Companion Peri


Portrayed by: Nicola Bryant

Doctor(s): Fifth Doctor, Sixth Doctor

Tenure: 11 stories, from Planet of Fire (Feb, 1984) to Mindwarp (Oct, 1986)

Background: Perpugilliam Brown is an American college student on holiday with her stepfather when she nearly drowns and is saved by Turlough. Having been rescued and taken into the TARDIS to recover, Peri is aboard when it takes off, whisking her away with the Doctor, Turlough, and Kamelion to face off with the Master. Peri is studying botany in school, which comes in handy during her travels with the Doctor, and her parents are archeologists, giving her a solid background in that subject as well.

Family/Friends: Peri has a strained relationship with her mother and friendly relationship with her stepfather (though one account, unsupported by other discussions of the character, claims she was sexually abused by him). Her father isn’t discussed in the series, but in the extended canon is said to have died when she was a child.

Personality: Peri is friendly, inquisitive, and good-natured. She adapts quickly and happily to life aboard the TARDIS, though she did not choose it (a contrast to Tegan), and enjoys the adventure it brings. She is brave and determined, coping well with the numerous attempts on her life and unwanted amorous advances she is faced with (Peri is the Companion by far the most frequently romantically desired by creepy villainous aliens) and despite the Doctor’s traumatic regeneration (he tries to strangle her), she comes to be close with both incarnations with whom she travels.

Special Skills: Knowledge of botany and archaeology, positive attitude, determination

Best Stories: The Caves of Androzani is one of the all-time great stories, with Peri playing a significant role, Vengeance on Varos is one of her best stories with the Sixth Doctor, and seeing her interact with Jamie and the Second Doctor in The Two Doctors is a lot of fun.

Worst Stories: Mindwarp, the second story in the Trial of a Time Lord season, culminates into a bit of a confusing mess, given the Valeyard’s manipulation of the footage being shown, one of the show’s few attempts playing with unreliable narration, but it has nothing on Timelash, one of the most unfortunate stories in the show’s entire run

Highlights of tenure: Making the best of her Damsel in Distress role in The Caves of Androzani and her gruesome death in Mindwarp (her mind is overpowered by an alien being, leaving her body intact but destroying everything that made her herself). Of course, this is retconned only a few episodes later, in The Ultimate Foe, so it loses its punch upon rewatch.

Lowlights of tenure: There had been many Companions whose appearance had been highlighted in the past, from the frankly gorgeous Victoria and Romana I to the beautiful and specifically-costumed-to-highlight-this Zoe and Leela, but Peri is the first Companion (and until recently, the only Companion) to be significantly sexualized. She is dressed in ridiculously low-cut outfits for an adventurer and filmed in a leery, distractingly male gaze-y way. Peri (and Nicola Bryant) makes the best of it, but it’s a rather unfortunate chapter in the show’s history of gender politics. Also, her American accent and vocabulary choices are pretty bad- some Brits may have accepted it, but to the show’s American fans, this half-hearted attempt at an American Companion was not well received.

Memorable quotes:

“S-so what! I’m Perpugilliam Brown, and I can shout as loud as you can!”  Planet of Fire

[re: the Doctor] “Well, I’ve more reason to find him than you have. Otherwise I’m going to spend the rest of my days prancing around in these ridiculous skirts.”  The Mark of the Rani

Other notes: Peri’s fate is one of the more complicated on the series. Her death in Mindwarp was originally intended to be the final word on the subject, but the producers decided it was too dark of an ending for her (and there was some fan backlash), so it was rewritten in The Ultimate Foe. Rather than dying due to her travels with the Doctor like Katarina and Adric (though her fate was arguably worse, as both Katarina and Adric had some agency in their self-sacrifice, whereas Peri was a powerless victim), she joined the ranks of Susan, Vicki, Jo, and Leela as a Companion who fell in love with a character introduced in her final story and decided to stay behind (though her lack of chemistry with Yrcanos, played by Brian Blessed, puts her much closer on the spectrum to Leela’s very abrupt and random True Love than Susan, Vicki, and Jo’s more explored relationships).