Monday, 22 December 2014

DW Companions as PCs: Peri Brown

Tegan leaves part way through the twenty-first season. Her player hasn't quite given up on the idea of playing a colonial, instead of yet another Brit, but evidently feels that her next character should do a lot more screaming and a lot less of anything useful, bringing back some of the flavour of the campaign's early days.

The result, on the basis of what someone has assured her is an entirely typical name in the US, is American college student Perpugilliam "Peri" Brown.

In the actual show, Peri's primary functions are to look pretty and scream at the monsters. Neither, it has to be said, is a really sound basis for a player character. Indeed, with the recent departure of Turlough, we're back once again to the "Doctor plus one female companion" model, which also doesn't fit wel with the metaphor of an RPG. It's a model that the show will stick with, more or less, from here on in, but for our purposes, we're going to brush that aside and try to look at Peri as she might fit into a more typical group.

This isn't easy, not least because if the writers had any clear concept of her personality traits beyond "she's American", they made a poor job of fleshing them out. Granted, this is more of a concept than they had with Dodo, but that's damning with faint praise.

To be honest, Peri isn't a very proactive character, and she's often getting lost (she certainly doesn't have Sense of Direction), getting captured, failing to run away from things, and so on. Presumably, she's gaining Story Points from this, retreading the 'Peril Monkey' role of '60s companions like Victoria. To make her more than that we have to, as we did with some of those characters, look at what she's supposed to be good at, rather than what skills she effectively demonstrates on screen.

The problem is, there isn't much to go on there, either. But we'll do what we can.

Peri is majoring in botany, which is one place to start. Indeed, while it doesn't crop up very often, she actually appears to be quite good at the subject, at least as much as we would expect a college student, rather than a professor, to be. For instance, in The Mark of the Rani, she appears to have at least a basic knowledge of herbal medicine, something that could potentially come in useful. Although such a speciality would seem to imply a reasonable grounding in science, we don't see much evidence of a broader scientific skill set - although it might be argued that this is merely the show being more plausible about scientific specialities than it normally is.

Beyond that, she seems reasonably physically fit, if not always strong-willed, and rather prone to moaning. In Revelation of the Daleks we also discover that she's strong enough to beat a very ill man to death with a big stick, so long as he doesn't see her coming until it's too late. As a science student, she's presumably quite intelligent, and likely has good social skills. It's entirely possible that she has some trait such as Empathy, although, to be fair, almost anyone would look empathic next to the Sixth Doctor. We know that she can swim, if not as well as she thinks she can, and... well, not much else. Despite her high stats in the  DWAITAS Sixth Doctor Sourcebook, she seems to me to be a good case for the Inexperienced advantage, with the extra Story Points that that implies.

Most obviously, perhaps, she has the Attractive trait. Indeed, if your system-of-choice has multiple levels of Attractive, Peri's probably just about the single best bet of all the DW companions to have one of the higher ones. As usual, I'm trying to avoid basing this on subjective opinion, but rather on the way that other characters on the show react to her: quite a lot of NPCs lust after her, and this is more of a recurring theme with her than with any other companion.

Which, in fact, illustrates a mild limitation with most RPGs. "Attractive" is almost always regarded as an advantage, on the not unreasonable grounds that it makes around half of the human population more positively inclined towards you. In The Caves of Androzani, for example, Peri benefits from her looks in that they persuade Sharez Jek to do his best to protect her, even though he's the main villain. But, equally, there can be a downside to the supposed advantage, which, in this case is a maniac in a gimp mask leering over her and fondling her hair.

Mind you, it's not helping that her taste in clothing runs to shorts and tight lycra tops. On the occasions when she wears a shirt she seems to have an aversion to doing all the buttons up, or wearing more than the minimum necessary beneath it. On only a couple of occasions is this obviously because it's hot, although, to modern eyes, the effect is often somewhat dented by colours that only look muted in comparison to what the Doctor is wearing.

As to her background, this isn't entirely clear from much of what we see on screen, either. It's implied in Planet of Fire that she was about to start her senior year in college when she first met the Doctor, suggesting she's about 21. According to the spin-off media, however, she was born in 1966, making her, since the story is set in 1984, only eighteen. (For what it's worth, Nicola Bryant was 23 at the time, but Peri is almost certainly younger than that, so this doesn't prove much).

Nor is it entirely clear where in America she comes from. Her passport, seen in Planet of Fire, says that she lives in Pasadena, but her accent suggests New York (arguably not very well, but that's what Bryant was aiming for), while the spin-off media place her in Baltimore. Perhaps her parents moved around a lot.

Speaking of which, when we first meet her, she is living with her mother and a surprisingly young stepfather. What happened to her biological father is never revealed, although there's no reason to suppose that it's anything worse than a divorce. She is apparently estranged from her mother, which probably explains why Peri never seems to give her family a second thought once she's on the TARDIS. Her family also seems to be fairly wealthy, although not extravagantly so.

If Peri's background is a little muddled, it's nothing compared to her future. She is apparently murdered in Mindwarp, but a couple of stories later, in The Ultimate Foe, we're told that this was all faked, and she actually went on to marry the savage warrior-king of the planet Krontep. Goodness knows why, but there you go. She's not mentioned again in the TV series, but the licensed audio plays have created a terribly convoluted future history for her that involves five different copies of her existing as of 2009, thanks to various people mucking about with her timestream until it broke.

It's hard to imagine why an older Peri would join up with a group of adventurers after she's settled down and married King Yrcanos. But, if we go with all the time meddling, that's not really an obstacle, and two of the copies aren't described at all, so they could be absolutely anywhere.

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