Once upon a time… by Marcsaa
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A young Empress Maria Feodorovna.
- An entire episode with the Doctor himself in Coal Hill without an Ian/Barbara/Susan namedrop? Really? Even though Ian Chesterton is still technical head of the school?
- I’m still not terribly interested in Clara’s personal life even if I like Danny Pink. This whole part-time companion thing has to stop sometime.
-Peter Capaldi is awesome. His character is obnoxious. A man who used to work hand in hand with the Brigadier across regenerations would not have the military this much.
no ian/susan/barbara mention in the care taker
Peri: To hell with the web of time! This is my life we’re talking about here! I’m telling you now girl - run! Run away! Get in that TARDIS and run as far and as fast as you can! Don’t come back home, Davy’s not your answer! He’s only the answer to the question that’s: “who just threw me down the stairs?”. Keep on running, or you’ll find out what I did: cute, blond guys have a habit of turning into unstable, violent guys real quick. And they can do it right in front of your eyes.
The one audio I’ve always wanted to listen to. Now I finally did, and it was just as brilliant and just as heartwrenching as I thought it would be.
Let me just state this right at the beginning: Nicola Bryant is a genius. What she did with the character of Peri is simply fascinating, I dare anyone to have a bad word about her. She was playing two Peris plus the Fifth Doctor and other characters, but mostly her original MIss Brown was the great part. Both of them. It could have been confusing to have the two of them at the same time, but Nicola managed to draw a line between the two, and you just knew which one was talking. The two parts also had a different feeling, it was much lighter and more innocent in the first one with younger Peri still travelling, and the second with older Peri stuck on Earth had a bitter tone with cynical humour that was actually funny and sad at the same time. So more like bittersweet. Especially that we saw - sorry, heard, bit new to it - the story from the young!Peri’s point of view first, and then it was revealed why older!Peri acted like that.
I loved this way of storytelling. You already suspected something was up with older!Peri, but then it all just hit you like a giant emotional stone. We heard how young!Peri looked at her older self (one of them, as it later turns out), and we also heard how an older version, one who doesn’t remember actually travelling in the TARDIS reacted.
The story itself may seem a bit silly, with fish and Six dressing up like one, but as this is The Companion Chronicles, I think the point was the characters and their feelings (at least I hope, because that means I’m going to get a lot more like this). And even then the story itself was not bad at all, and once again the two ways of telling the same story helped to put the whole thing together. There is only one tiny plot hole: if older!Peri does not remember the actual travelling, then why isn’t she surprised that her younger self is travelling with the Doctor? As I said it’s tiny, and it can be explained with something like “she just accepted that she doesn’t remember”.
At the end of the day, this is the story of how Perpugilliam Brown ended up with several fates, explaining one of them in great detail and hinting at the others. Her older self is first viewed as a harder, cynical and later even as a morally questionable person by young!Peri, but even in the first half of the story there’s more to it. Something’s not right, the Doctor, Peri and the audience know it, but by the end Five and Peri just gave up on the older version, and her younger self even goes as far as wanting to change the future so she won’t end up like her. The first real clue that she’s really not that bad is at the end of the first half, when young!Peri shuts the TARDIS door, but older!Peri’s voice can still be heard, shouting: “run as far and as fast as you can!”.
We hear the whole thing when the other self gets to this part (see the quote above). And oh, it is heartbreaking. Even in the first half and especially in the second older!Peri’s discomfort whenever her younger self mentions Davy is obvious. The whole truth comes out when older!Peri gets fed up with the web of time and her younger self wanting to go and marry Davy. Nicola Bryant gives an impressively heavy speech, with some depressing background music. Suddenly, it all makes sense: why she’s so bitter, why she’s not married and doesn’t have kids, why she hides behind her LA fame and TV show and cynical humour. This Peri doesn’t have anything else, she’s been denied her dream of having children and has gone through Doctor Who’s most openly described domestic abuse. It’s not only the fact that they deal with this, but also that they are so open and honest and real about it. Once again I can only praise Nicola Bryant’s performance and Nev Fountain’s script that this speech has turned out so well. It’s pure, raw honesty, and it really is heartbreaking. Peri, the sweet and innocent little Peri who was also in this story has gone through everything that no one’s supposed to, and we’re surprised she jokes just about everything? I know a lot of people don’t take this story and this Peri too seriously, because it’s only one version, and not the orignally official one (that would be the Warrior Queen). But I really do think we have to take this very seriously indeed, even if it’s a story without a happy ending. Yes, it’s depressing, but what Peri also says in her speech about the Doctor not being always there to save the day and the serious issues this story deals with are part of the Doctor Who Universe. We have to take it into consideration that even if this Peri is only one of the many, she is still Peri. And Big Finish dared to introduce domestic abuse through her story, so the least we can do is appreciate its honesty.
The story also has two Doctors in it, Five travelling with younger!Peri and Six trying to fix time with older!Peri. With Colin Baker being part of this audio his Doctor gets more attention than his previous self. Sometimes he’s funny, sometimes he’s arrogant, but other times he’s dead serious. When he’s dressed as Zarl and talks to Peri about his “lost wife” it’s actually almost as brilliant as Peri’s speech, also with fantastic music:
Peri: You’re going through an awful lot of trouble to be with her. (…) You must care for your wife very much.
Six: Yes, I do. The time we had was so precious. It was so painful to hear of her death. Now there is a chance to be with her again once more. (…) The moment I lost her was like dying myself. Now to hear she is alive in some form and on a world apart… I have to be with her. Do you understand?
And why? Because, after it’s revealed that it’s Six talking, you also realize that it’s Peri he’s talking about. It was also stated explicitly at the end, which I don’t like much as I figured this out the moment Six dressed up as Zarl (and went back to listen to this again to confirm). It kind of felt unnecessary as it was pretty much obvious in my opinion, and some things just don’t need saying (though the Tenth Doctor could tell you about that). It was still a sweet and sad moment (as it is with this audio) when you realized who this speech was about. Everything from Mindwarp and Six’s face just come back: "You… killed Peri?" I can actually imagine Six sitting in the TARDIS after his trial but before Mel, and realizing that somewhere in LA there still is a Perpugilliam Brown (who is not supposed to be there, so just he rushes to Peri -
I am shipping it, okay).
Taking another look at Peri’s speech, there’s one more line that is just brilliant, the last: “cute, blond guys have a habit of turning into unstable, violent guys real quick. And they can do it right in front of your eyes”. Now, little did older!Peri know that while she experienced this with Davy, her younger self went through the exact same situation with the Doctor, This parallel is all the more thrilling if you remember young!Peri’s first lines in her half. She talked about Davy, and compared him to the Doctor, not knowing how abusive Davy was and how violent the Doctor would be after his regeneration. Two Peris with different fates, yet the same life-changing experience. Now, Six of course was never that abusive towards Peri, apart from the infamous strangling scene he never actually hurt her. Still, it’s interesting to see the similarity between the two worlds of Perpugilliam Brown. Then who knows, we’ll might discover the other ones one day.
Overall, I listened to every minute of this story with full attention (that’s more than two hours), which means it was incredibly good. Emotional roller coaster, just what I need. I also really enjoyed Nev Fountain’s 50th anniversary story Trouble in Paradise, so I’m already excited about the upcoming The Widow’s Assassin.
Random side notes:
I heard a rumor that Romana was the president who decided Peri’s fate as Warrior Queen was a fate worse than death. Is it true?
Peri and Five left the older!Peri warning her younger self about the cute, blond guy, and then went straight to Androzani Minor, to have the cute blond guy regenerate into an unstable and violent one. Hmm.
One more: have I mentioned the fact that I love Peri Brown?
I really do think is the definitive Peri Brown story. It’s my canon at least. And it gives Nicola Bryant and C. Baker a lot of closure on the way Trial of the Time Lord ended vis-a-vis Peri.