3 February 2011

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Nev Fountain

RRP: £12.99

Release Date: 31st January 2011

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 3rd February 2011

Perpugilliam Brown, or as we all know her: Peri.

Companion to both the Fifth and Sixth Doctor, her importance in Doctor Who history should not be summarized as that annoying American who wore inappropriate clothing in life threatening situations. There is far more to Miss Brown than you would think and we finally get to see who she really is and, incredibly, who she will be in this very complex and rich release from Big Finish.

The second double length release for the Companion Chronicles since The Suffering, you may be forgiven for thinking that to dedicate two CDs to Peri Brown was mere indulgence on Big Finish’s part. You couldn’t be more wrong, because what we have here is a Companion Chronicle that not only pushes the format in a new and interesting way, but for my money is one of the best audio plays Big Finish has ever put out.

The story begins with young Peri, arriving wi th the Fifth Doctor in Los Angeles in 2009, to track down a Piscon by the name of Zarl, intent on causing mischief as only a Fish relative of the Pescatons would do. But the Doctor and Peri are joined unexpectedly in their hunt by a future version of Peri, claiming to work for a government division that protects the Earth from Alien invaders.

So far rather intriguing but what grabs your attention is that the future Peri is not only older, but she is not very likeable. In fact she is so cynical she could give Lauren Bacall a run for her money.

But as with the best of the Big Finish audio plays, not everything is a simple as it seems.

The very nature of the Companion Chronicles is to allow the listener an experience of travelling with the Doctor through the eyes of his companions. It is their perception of him and his actions that make them compelling listening, and here Peri’s perception of the events that unfold are the key to the whole story, but rather incredibly, we get the story not from one Peri, but by future Peri too. This is a simple but brilliant device, as certain heroic events related by the younger Peri, become not so heroic, in fact rather farcical when told by her future self.

Peri, played brilliantly as ever by Nicola Bryant, makes for a very engaging narrator. Shes funny, surprisingly open about her hopes and dreams in life, such as her desire for motherhood, and warm. One of my favourite moments in the play is where she addresses why she is always wearing high heels, referring to them as “Optimism Shoes”, that by wearing them, she hopes the next planet she and the Doctor land one will be a nice one with no danger. It is little moments such as this, which make you fall in love with her character, making the sombre and cynical narration by the future Peri all the more intriguing.

Not only do we get two Peris, we also get two Doctors, with one, unusual for the Companion Chronicles, played by one of the actors himself and not impersonated by the companion.

Colin Baker’s presence in the play as The Sixth Doctor is not there for the sake of it, for he plays a rather important role in events and to say anymore would be a spoiler too far.

This release rather boldly gives us the answer to really happened to Peri after we last saw her in Mindwarp? Did she really go off and marry Brian Blessed? Well we finally get our answer, and it is devastating.

Throughout the play, the madness of the adventure gives way to some heart wrenching moments as we learn of Peri’s fate and it is a credit to writer Nev Fountain that with all the mad comedy and emotional drama going on the tone of the play does not jar, but flows beautifully between the two.

If any criticism could be brought up is that some of the running jokes, particularly those about plastic surgery wear a bit thin early on and some of the supporting characters are merely plot devices, but they are rather small issues when, as a whole, this audio play is a triumph.

 

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