Released October 2014
The final Big Finish trilogy of 2014 reunites Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant following the Sixth Doctor’s seeming loss of Flip. Colin Baker, of course, was the standout success of the early years of Big Finish alongside Maggie Stables, the company seemingly going out of its way to revitalize and redefine the caustic and somewhat controversial incarnation. While the Sixth Doctor has since bounced around with other Doctors’ companions, completely new companions, and short-term friends, all of which offered some very memorable moments, there have been very few completely refreshing moments for the character as of late. ‘The Widow’s Assassin,’ however, takes the Sixth Doctor back to arguably his most controversial act of his televised era when leaving Peri’s ultimate fate undecided to give him another momentous outing.
‘The Widow’s Assassin’ revels in Doctor Who continuity, at times stepping on its own toes as it tries to traverse the convoluted history. However, the Doctor battling with demons from his past without negating the events of ‘Mindwarp’ plays out very satisfyingly, and his deep affection for Peri on display feels perfectly natural given the audio rehabilitation of the character. Fittingly, though, ‘The Widow’s Assassin’ is very much just about Peri as it is the Doctor, and the journey she undergoes following being left behind to reconcile when and where she was left on screen is wonderfully written and acted as Nicola Bryant effectively plays four characters exceedingly believably. Peri has grown extremely bitter toward the Doctor after being left to fend for herself, her recurring nightmare being another encounter with the initially-hostile version of the Sixth Doctor who tried to murder her. She initially gives him no chance to get close to her or to explain himself to avoid giving him any modicum of comfort, and the change in personality over five years is brazen but understandable given her true feeling towards Yrcanos and other male suitors and her inability to conceive children due to her Spectrox Toxaemia. Satisfyingly, though, Peri also continually shows off her character’s fierce intelligence when needed, especially when piecing together the Doctor’s cryptic message.
‘The Widow’s Assassin’ veers into much more comedic territory than many Big Finish releases attempt, and the colourful and larger-than-life characters comprising so many different species gives an almost whimsical quality to the very deep pathos that underscores all of the events, at one point the mystery behind events in the court even tying into the Doctor’s own childhood and ‘Mindwarp.’ It would have been all too easy for the writing style and different comedic tones to turn this release into a pantomime in its own right, but the story always stays very firmly rooted in true emotion to create one of the most unique and intricately-crafted tales that Big Finish has released. The Doctor Who main range has been in somewhat of a stagnant patch recently, but the creativeness on display and the ease with which so many disparate concepts all tie together seamlessly by the story’s end is a true testament to Nev Fountain and the potential that any Doctor Who story always holds. This is a story that becomes much more engrossing as the main narrative progresses and shifts, and the depth added to the Doctor and the intimate knowledge both the Doctor and Peri learn about each other as events come to a head are wonderfully handled. While ‘The Widow’s Assassin’ may rely on continuity a bit too much, the end result is a superb piece of drama that provides plenty of answers for questions left lingering at the end of the Sixth Doctor’s trial and tells a thrilling story in its own right, joyously setting in motion another lease on life for the Doctor and Peri together.