There wasn’t much to celebrate for those who followed Doctor Who in the 1980s, not least the nadir of the programme’s existence, otherwise known as ‘The Colin Baker era’. But amidst the weekly unveiling of cheap sets, bad acting and piss-poor scripts came a shining beacon in the light, a person whose mere presence made the cul-de-sac plots and, well, Colin Baker, bearable.
Peri, played by Nicola Bryant, was actually introduced as an assistant towards the end of Peter Davison’s tenure in the Tardis, and it’s since been admitted that her casting was to add some sex appeal to the show. It must be true – even Wikipedia agrees. To be fair, the evidence was overwhelming anyway: never in the history of Doctor Who has an assistant been required to reveal quite so much flesh. And who is this writer to argue?
Nicola Bryant’s Peri is the kind of Doctor Who assistant that every teenage boy should get the chance to warm to. In Planet Of Fire in particular, her entirely unjustifiable stripping down to a bikini was a tremendous tactic, diverting all attention from another nonsensical and otherwise forgettable Colin Baker adventure. It’s, for this writer at least, as iconic as Ursula Andress stepping out of the sea in Dr No.
Stunningly, and this is as clear an indicator of everything that was wrong with Doctor Who in the 1980s, the sublime Bryant was replaced by the worst assistant ever in the whole wide world: that’s you, Bonnie Langford. And even more stunningly, they killed her, although not even on screen. During The Trial Of A Time Lord, it was casually slipped in that she’d been killed, and then, at the very end of that most arduous of Doctor Who seasons, that she hadn’t. Tremendous.
Bryant now occasionally pops up on the autograph circuit, and is every bit as dazzling as she always was. And here, by way of proof, is that clip. Readers of similar vintage and mind to me will know exactly what’s going to appear when you press play….