The third Big Finish story in the main range anniversary sequence is 1963: The Assassination Games by John Dorney. This is a Seventh Doctor story including both Ace and the Counter Measures team. The story is slotted in right between Remembrance of the Daleks (which is most people’s idea of the 25th anniversary story) and the first Counter Measures boxset (which I reviewed here – Counter Measures Series 1). With all this goodness to fit in how well does the story work? Does it capture the mood of the time and deliver a cracking tale to boot? Come on, it’s John Dorney – what do you think?
The first port of call is the Big Finish product page:
London. The end of November, 1963. A time of change. The old guard are being swept away by the white heat of technology. Political scandals are the talk of the town. Britain tries to maintain its international role; fanatics assassinate charismatic politicians and Group Captain Ian Gilmore is trying to get his fledgling Counter-Measures unit off the ground.
When his life is saved by a familiar umbrella-bearing figure, he knows something terrible is going on. Whilst Rachel investigates an enigmatic millionaire and Allison goes undercover in an extremist organisation, Gilmore discovers a sinister plot with roots a century old.
The Doctor and Ace are back in town. A new dawn is coming. It’s time for everyone… to see the Light.
In terms of story this is a tale of two discs. Disc 1 is very much a Counter Measures tale of 1960s Cold War politics, a Profumo like scandal and the murky backwaters of Whitehall. There is a also a CND theme and an extremist organisation intent on countering the deployment of atomic weapons. Enter the Starfire – an advanced nuclear missile developed in Britain and a shadowy cabal of politicians eliminating all in their way. There is also new MP John Rutherford with his own agenda to take into account.
Disc 2 is more of a Seventh Doctor plus Ace story threading in the strands that the Counter Measures team have been pursuing which include brain washing, alien technology, private armies and a plot to reshape the world with nuclear fire. The enemy is revealed to be a hitherto unmentioned organisation – The Light – which rule the universe. They have a secret hospital at which they genetically alter babies of the rich and powerful to make their own ruling elite. All very grim and fortunately the day is saved, the missiles do not destroy America and history proceeds unabashed.
The Counter Measures team work well in this story and could easily have not had the Doctor involved though it did add to the mix and allow for The Light to be explained in a way that might have been a challenge for the team to work out. Plenty of historic colour and for me more than a touch of James Bond and John Wyndham both of which are good things.
The dialogue even has Pamela Salem (who was Miss Moneypenny in Never Say Never Again) mention that Bond films aren’t her thing! As to the Wyndham elements (which are core Doctor Who in my view) the way that the light infiltrate humanity is a subtle version of Midwich Cuckoos and John Dorney did a good job blending all the elements.
The overall story is a chimera to me – in being both Seventh Doctor and Counter Measures I felt short-changed that it wasn’t one or the other though this is a minor gripe against which is a very well written and atmospheric story.
The 1963 stories
For me the favourite of the three stories is 1963: Fanfare for the Common Men for reasons I covered in my review (1963: Fanfare for the Common Men reviewed) that is not to say that the others are without merit – far from it, this has been a very interesting and thankfully unconnected sequence of stories showing plenty of affection and respect for the historic birthplace of the show that we all adore.