Character Review - Pet Simpson
Pet is introduced at the start of the second series in Birth of a Hope when Greg visits Whitecross to catch up with Charles Vaughan, with a view to trading some animal skins . She immediately warms to Greg and is eager that he should join the settlement to boost the dwindling numbers there. Circumstances soon dictate that Greg and the surviving members of the community at the Grange transfer to Whitecross and Pet is delighted. After their arrival she sets about making everyone comfortable and takes particular care of heavily pregnant Jenny, nursing her at her bedside, assuring her that everything will be okay. In this way Pet takes on something of a maternal role, however she is far more nurturing than her predecessor Emma Cohen had been with her similar status at the Grange.
The character of Pet also has the added interest of a romantic relationship with Charles. The pair are obviously very close, emphasising that Charles has left behind for now his obsession with repopulating the planet, that had frightened Abby, Jenny and Greg away in Corn Dolly. Pet appears to stabilise Charles more agitated and unreasonable side, by calming him down or talking things through when he is stressed. She is therefore a vital member of the Whitecross set-up.
Pet acts quite out of character in her next 'big' episode, The Witch, in which her distrust of the eccentric Mina leads to hysteria when she begins to believe that the herbalist is a witch. She is abetted here by Peggy, who seems to have an influence over Pet's usual firm grip on reality. When Charles eventually discovers what Pet suspects and that she and Peggy have kidnapped Mina's baby for safekeeping he is appalled. However Pet immediately defers to Charles and his correct judgement of the situation when he attacks her actions. She realises that she has been foolish and is ashamed. [Pet may appear to act out of character here as this episode was filmed first, before she had been developed sufficiently].
In the next few episodes Pet is criminally underused, so it is a pleasure when she and Charles take the limelight together in The Chosen. This episode once again sees her nurturing the unwell, in this case the 'termies' who have mercury poisoning. Here she is seen to be extremely uneasy about the regime at the community they visit. This time her suspicions are to be partly born out as they learn that the committee who run the place, believe that they have been chosen by God to survive, adopting eugenics and other radical policies to create a new order.
On her return to Whitecross Pet is given several interesting subplots for the remainder of the series. In Parasites she is sure that she knows the criminal Kane and takes some time to place him. In New Arrivals she stands by her man, supporting Charles as he fends off opposition from newcomer Mark Carter. In Over the Hills, she memorably discovers from Greg that it is she, not Charles who is infertile. In the final episode, New World, she questions Charles and Greg's conviction that they are the only people in England who can hope to organise the country by federating the communtities and mapping resources. Her fears that the Whitecross community's days are numbers are well-founded as Greg departs for Norway.
The final series emphasis on the search for Greg and later for electric power sees Pet rarely get a look-in. She is more often that not on the end of a crackly phone line at Challoner, the new base for some of the Whitecross members. She is now filling the role of surrogate mother to John, Lizzie and baby Paul, thanks to Jenny's absence.
She features most heavily in Reunion, in which she witnesses John's reunion with his mother and Jenny's with Paul, and in The Last Laugh, in which she, Jack and Agnes are threatened by a man who believes he has killed Greg. As the episode nears its end she once more sees Greg, learning from Agnes after his departure that he now has small pox. We last see Pet as she once more talks to Charles by phone in Long Live The King. We can only assume that after the events of Power Charles is reunited with his beloved Pet.
Lorna Lewis gives a remarkably natural performance as Pet and one suspects that there was a lot of Lorna in the character. Lorna's retrospective assertion that the viewers may not have been interested in meeting new characters every week in the final series, rather than the well-known regulars, is a fair criticism. The series certainly feels more disjointed and uncomfortable because of the absence of characters like Pet. I am certainly one viewer who would have liked to have seen Pet in far more episodes as the series drew towards its conclusion.
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Page last updated: 22nd November 2002 All text © Andy Priestner Screen Captures © BBC