Peri and the Piscon Paradox

Posted in Audio by - April 17, 2019
Peri and the Piscon Paradox

Released January 2011

As companion to both the Fifth and Sixth Doctors, Peri carries with her an immense potential for storytelling opportunities which Big Finish has wonderfully explored over the years. With ‘Peri and the Piscon Paradox,’ however, writer Nev Fountain offers a truly unique story for both The Companion Chronicles and Doctor Who in general as two Doctors and two Peris collide in the most unexpected fashion in 2009 Los Angeles when the evil Zarl looks to ravage the Earth by whatever means necessary.

It’s no secret that Peri has been one of the companions best served by the audio medium, allowing her character to develop in a much more natural and nuanced manner than her televised tenure ever allowed, and here Fountain looks at her past, present, and potential future to offer one of her more fascinating character studies yet. With her mother and stepfather both trying to guide her life and with her decision for her future hinging on exploring the world or staying at home to make a life with the rather ambitionless Davey Silverman, she justifiably chose the former. However, when she comes upon her future self in 2009 and learns that she came back to Davey and now has the three children she always dreamed of, it’s nearly cause enough for her to leave the Doctor’s company straightaway. The younger Peri is still her helplessly optimistic self who still wears heels on her adventures, but she quickly comes to question just how much she has already changed while aboard the TARDIS- and whether that change is for the better- when she sees her older self assert herself as an equal to the Doctor and even threaten to kill Zarl when given the opportunity.

While ‘Peri and the Piscon Paradox’ is a multi-Doctor story, it absolutely does not unfold in the traditional sense, instead following the Fifth Doctor and the younger Peri in the first half with no indication of the Sixth Doctor being present until the second. Through some rather cheeky backstory of the Piscons believing their race to be reincarnated on Earth and certain people trying to return to their fish-like roots through interesting plastic surgery choices, this is certainly not a story that takes itself too seriously, and the revelation that the Sixth Doctor has accidentally killed his Fifth incarnation’s adversary before they met for the first time is a stunning development that culminates in the Sixth Doctor being forced to wear an unimpressive fish costume to fool himself and ensure the web of time remains intact. The loss of an innocent life may be glossed over far too easily here, but the stories stemming from Zarl’s inability to kill himself despite wanting to reunite with his deceased and reincarnated love as well as of the Fifth Doctor getting to know and testing the older Peri who claims to be working in defence of the planet are brilliant nonetheless.

Of course, despite the insanity at the story’s core, it’s the genuine emotional turmoil of the elder Peri that makes ‘Peri and the Piscon Paradox’ all the more impactful. Especially when paired alongside her younger counterpart, it’s clear that she is acting with much more than simply the maturity of age. This is a woman who has survived domestic abuse, and although the younger Peri’s innocence as she repeatedly proclaims she wants to begin a family may be a bit too pointed, it serves as a satisfying counterpoint to the disillusionment and turmoil this version of her in the future has come to know. Strangely, though, this genuinely fascinating route of drama is somewhat undercut by both Peris being at their snarkiest, quick to pass judgment and make a quick joke at another’s expense. While this could be played off as a coping mechanism for the older Peri, having the younger Peri just the same does unfortunately make her a little less sympathetic. Given that jokes do occasionally pop up during moments of genuine emotion throughout, there is a somewhat unsteady tone even within scenes let alone between scenes, and the assertion that the Fifth Doctor’s regeneration into the Sixth parallels Davey’s own change is a bit too brutal given where these two Peris are placed in relation to that event.

This is unquestionably one of Nicola Bryant’s strongest performances as Peri, and the nuance she inserts to distinguish the two beyond just vocal pitch is superb. With an amazing supporting performance from Colin Baker and strong direction and sound design, ‘Peri and the Piscon Paradox’ makes the most of its companion and the full span of her time on the TARDIS. While some may not be wholly satisfied with the continuity twist that allows the older Peri to reside in this time and place, it nonetheless satisfactorily respects what has come before without totally changing what can be considered fact just to suit this story. There’s a tremendous amount to love about this story, and it absolutely hits some comic heights that will assuredly highlight the annals of Big Finish forever, but there are just enough oddly placed tonal shifts to prevent this from being a certified masterpiece.

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