Sunday, 16 November 2014
REVIEW - THE WIDOW'S ASSASSIN
Ah! We have been waiting since 1986 for some answers!
A part of me really hated the idea that Peri went on to marry Brian Blessed and become a warrior queen so much that I really truly hoped that The Widow's Assassin would retcon that line from The Ultimate Foe. Unfortunately the line wasn't rectonned, but fortunately I'm still happy with how things turned out.
Without going into too much detail (spoilers!), I will testify that The Widow's Assassin is nothing short of extraordinary. It is silly, barmy, funny, serious and dark - all at the same time. Up till now, Nev Fountain's The Curious Incident of the Doctor in the Night-Time proved to be my favorite of his contributions to Big Finish, but The Widow's Assassin manages to top the short story easily. The bulk of the tale plays out as a story of redemption and two friends who are both hurting trying to forgive one another. This alone is fantastic and unlike Mummy on the Orient Express (which is easily one of my favorite Series 8 stories), the conflict between the two leads feels genuine and it is treated as such for a large bulk of the story.
Touched upon above, this story is also one of those few that manages to perfectly juggle multiple plot ideas. It's very reminiscent of The Chimes of Midnight. To make up for the mature tones dealt with here, Nev Fountain mixes in some much needed hilarity in both the unorthodox supporting characters which ranges from a character changing religions almost as frequently as underwear to having fun with character names. All of it manages to be funny and as an added bonus, none of it ever feels forced or padding.
Nicola Bryant steals the show as Queen Peri, the titular widow in the title, but it's not quite what you expect. Colin Baker manages to put on his usual perfect performance but Nicola just pushed perfection a little further with her portrayal of someone who feels angry and hurt and betrayed. Maybe we should call it Perfection+1? Big Finish has done wonders for these two characters. The TV Series, especially during this season went for a Six/Peri archetype of relationship, but Twelve/Clara just aren't Six/Peri. There is only one Six/Peri pairing and there is nothing wrong with it.
One of the itches that this story managed to create that felt very The Time of the Doctor was playing with the Doctor's perception of time. It's been made clear that 30 years to the Sixth Doctor would feel like a week for him, but it still feels wrong having the Doctor spend x amount of time in one place unwilling or unable to leave. Take Prisoner of the Sun which features the Eighth Doctor imprisoned for six years. We the audience know it doesn't affect him as it would if we had to use up 10 years of our lifespan, but it manages to affect us. I won't say which happens here, but heads-up that if you don't like the whole '900 years on Trenzalore' thing, then you might, like me, be upset in this story. Thankfully though, we are treated to my favorite scene with a certain couple of guards during the above mentioned event so I can easily forgive that.
The Widow's Assassin also serves as something of a tease regarding what happened to Flip Jackson, the Doctor's previous companion. It's mostly dialogue and there is a definitive answer as to if she survived the climax of her last story, but it's also a stealthy confirmation to fans that Big Finish will definitely be showing us what happened before the Doctor visited Peri in this tale. Count on it!
The Widow's Assassin had a very big job to do and it had to do it carefully or risk wasting a perfectly good opportunity to advance Peri and the Doctor to some extent. It was such a pleasure to reach the end and go 'they did it, they succeeded'.
Rating this story: 9/10. Looking forward to the next stage in the Six/Peri relationship!