Fandom: Doctor Who, Eighth Doctor audios
Character: Charley Pollard
Spoilers: Storm Warning, Minuet in Hell, Seasons of Fear, Embrace the Darkness, Neverland, Zegreus, and general stuff for C'rizz.
Notes: Two weeks late. I really have no excuse and I apologize. Also due to technical difficulties I was forced to write in WordPad so sorry for any errors I wasn't able to catch. Also for those who don't know Big Finish does a series of audio stories for Doctor Who. They are fantastic and you should go listen to some of them.
I've written about fifteen versions of this essay in the last two months. None of which I was truly happy with, so the question still remains: Why do I love Charley Pollard? My simple answer is, of course, because she is awesome. Only that doesn't really explain anything about why I like her. It doesn't delve into her relationship with the Doctor and C'rizz. It doesn't tell about her interactions with the other people they encounter. It certainly doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of her love for the Doctor and her belief that sometimes he needs to be saved from himself. Because she's awesome also doesn't express her many flaws, her temper and sense of self-righteousness or her selfishness. Yet, all of these things are reasons why Charley is awesome.
I think the best way to discribe why I think that Charley is awesome is to discuss my first encounters with her. The first Doctor Who audio I ever listened to was Seasons of Fear. This is not actually an audio I would suggest starting out with it, but I didn't really know anything about them and just grabbed one. I was utterly confused by what was going on, but by the end I knew two things: the Eighth Doctor was fascinating and that I really wanted to know more about this Charley person. I didn't really get the plot line of the story until much later, but Charley was intriguing. I think in retrospect what really drew me in was that before this the only companion I had known was Rose, not to bash Rose but not all companions are created equal. I knew about other companions, but I hadn't ever seen any. And here was a girl that yelled at the Doctor, managed to work the TARDIS to a very small degree, and wanted to keep the sword. At the same time though she was excited about getting to wear a new dress and had fun acting like she was in a Jane Austin novel.
The first Doctor Who audio I listened to and actually understood what ws going on was Embrace the Darkness which scared me silly. It in fact made me wish I had a couch at the bus stop to hide behind. This was the story that really drew me into the character of Charley Pollard. Here was a girl from 1930 (as I had recently learned) and she was using the TARDIS systems to look up information, something she learned to do by watching the Doctor. During the course of this story she spent a significant time away from the Doctor, something I was to learn was almost a staple in the audios, and during her time away from him she managed to do stuff. Not just make friends with people stuff, but figure out what is going on stuff. Something that I would learn is also common in the audios. Also in this storyline she is blinded and deals with it remarkably well all things considered and in the end she refuses to let the Doctor's overdeveloped guilt get him killed. She does this mainly by forcing him to take her with when he goes to turn himself into the aliens and face his punishment. Charley knew that he wouldn't let anything happen to her if he could help it, so he would have to do everything he could to get out the situation alive if she was there. By the end of the story I was officially a fan.
That is the story of how I came to love Charley. Would I have loved her as much as I do if I'd had more companion experience? Maybe, maybe not. I do know thought that having Charley be my first competent companion played more than a bit of a part in my loving her. Also by this point I was more than a bit amused by the way she always introduced herself as Charlotte Pollard, my friends call me Charley and then insist that who ever it was call her Charley.
I was to later learn all sorts of fun things about Charley that would turn her from a character I loved to a character I adored. In Storm Warning she was already headed out to find adventure when she, quite literally, ran into the Doctor. She'd run away from boarding school, got a boy drunk and stole his clothing, and then pretended to be him so she could sneak aboard the R101 (an airship destined to crash on it's maiden flight) and go to Singapore. In Minuet in Hell she orchestrates a mass escape from the Hell Fire club despite having no memory about how she got there. The audios are full of these moments of Charley being awesome and working out how to to Get Things Done. She is most definitely someone who knows what she wants and goes out to get it.
Charley's story is a build up to the Zegreus story, this is the storyline that made me think Charley is awesome. So some more explanation of her story is needed. When the R101 crashed in 1930 Charley was supposed to be on it. History records that there were no survivors, yet the Doctor saved Charley and as a result created a small paradox. Charley is not supposed to be alive. In Neverland the Time Lords come to get Charley. Rather predictably the Doctor tries to run away and it's Charley who stops him. Charley understands that she shouldn't be alive and that the Time Lords were after her, the Doctor doesn't need to tell her that. She's the one who stops him and tells him that it's time she faced facts. She has a rather fantastic speech that in essence says that the Doctor is like Peter Pan and she is Wendy and just like Wendy eventually she has to leave Neverland and return to the real world. She tells the Doctor that she's lived far longer than she ever would have if she hadn't met him, but that it was time to face the consequences of her life, something that the Eighth Doctor is very big on. So Charley hits the fast return switch and turns herself in.
Of course the Time Lords don't kill her. Instead they use her to access the antiverse in a storyline that is rather too complex to summarize here. Instead you can go read this Outpost Gallifrey summary instead it is far more detailed then I would be able to do. Suffice to say the story climaxes in a scene where the Doctor is faced with the choice of kill Charley or let the universe die. Charley tells him to kill her, she's not in a position to be able to kill herself or else she would have, and the Doctor pulls a solution out of thin air that manages to save both Charley and the universe but almost destroys him. Again this is kinda complicated but the Doctor is infected with anti-time and becomes a being called Zegreus. In the course of the story Zegreus, whose Outpost Gallifrey summary can be found over here, Charley travells throughout time and discovers Rassilon's evil eugenics plot to control the universe and bonds with Leela. At the end of Zegreus in order to insure that the Web of Time doesn't unravel the Doctor has to be exiled to the divergent universe that Rassilon created and tells Charley that she can't go with him.
Charley though has always been good at seeing that the Doctor is really rather bad at taking care of himself and is likely to get himself killed, besides as much as she misses her family she wants to go with him. After discussing the issue with Leela while the Doctor and Romana say their goodbyes Leela shows Charley the back door to the TARDIS. Charley stows away on the TARDIS and goes to the divergent universe with the Doctor, because despite what he may think he does need someone to make sure he doesn't do something stupid and get himself killed. And Charley does do that. During their time in the divergent universe Charley saves the Doctor at least as many times as he saves her. There are a lot more stories and a lot more examples of why Charley is awesome in them, but that could go on for a long time.
In a nutshell in the divergent universe they meet C'rizz who decides to travel with them. Charley and C'rizz get along for the most part but they do almost come to blows on more than one occasion. This is usually caused by Charley not wanting to share the Doctor with anyone else, something she eventually admits to. A lot of her more selfish tendencies come out with C'rizz because it really is the first time she's had to share the Doctor. Sure when she first met Romana there was a bit of jealousy, but Romana didn't stick around, C'rizz did. Before they got everything sorted out Charley was more then a bit vicious and made more than a few mean comments. Yet, Charley and C'rizz work well together because Charley can joke with him about the Doctor and have fun explaining the Doctor's weird quirks. Charley also has an on running problem with C'rizz not calling her Charley and instead insisting on calling her Charlotte. Something she eventually breaks him of, but not for quite a while.
I'm not sure if I've managed to express all of the reasons I love Charley, but hopefully I at least hit a few of the major key points. As far as Charley related links go, there aren't a whole lot. There is eight_love for all things concerned with the Eighth Doctor and zegreuswaits for the audio in particular. There is Charley fic over at who_otp and Edwardian Adventuress the Charley Pollard fanlisting.
Zagreus sits inside your head
Zagreus lives among the dead
Zagreus sees you in your bed
And eats you when you're sleeping
Zagreus at the end of days
Zagreus lies all other ways
Zagreus comes when time's a maze
And all of history's weeping