The Widow’s Assassin is not just any Sixth Doctor and Peri story but the one where the Doctor goes back to Peri following the (confusing) events of Trial of a Time Lord. Not only is continuity interesting at this point, Big Finish also added to the complexity with Peri and the Piscon Paradox. If that wasn’t enough, don’t forget that in one timeline, Peri was about to marry Brian Blessed’s King Yrcanos! How can these pieces be assembled into one coherent whole?
At least both stories are written by the talented Nev Fountain; even so a reunion can be a tricky thing…
A rather fairytale synopsis from Big Finish:
Once, long ago, in a land of monsters and corridors, a fair maiden was captured, and placed in a deep sleep.
She was used to being captured, and she had a hero who rescued her on just such occasions. But this time the hero never came.
And the fair maiden slept on.
Eventually, a King rescued the maiden, and made her his bride, which many wise old women might tell you is just another way of capturing fair maidens.
And still the fair maiden slept on.
Then, the hero had another stab at rescuing the maiden from her prison, but he was too late. And, more importantly, he had forgotten the rules of fairy tales.
He didn’t slay the dragon.
So, Flip having been left falling to her almost certain death, the Sixth Doctor goes off to square away leaving Peri in an anomalous dead / not-dead state in Trial of a Timelord. He catches up with her just before her wedding to Yrcanos to then spend several years in prison. He is looked after by career guards Guard One (Dickens) and Guard Two (Banks) who he helps be better guards and in this time Yrcanos is assassinated. Meanwhile a parallel plot centring on another royal marriage gives some scope for several comic performances as the suitors try to woe Princess Dirani.
In the end all ends (sort of) well and there are some surprises along the way and a slightly surreal sequence involving mind/body swapping that is entertaining. Of course Peri rejoins the Doctor though is a bit older than before. As a bonus we also learn Flip’s fate (no spoilers!).
Despite some decent writing, performances and some comedy value this story does suffer from lack of Yrcanos himself – I assume there was no way to work Brian Blessed in without making it a very different story. I also found the running sheep joke got stale quickly and the voice effect irritated rather than amused. The story as a whole seemed an ensemble of pieces that spent more time filling the two discs than being a great tale. On the upside it has got Peri and Sixie together at a different point and was far from the worst story.
For me it failed to hit the spot – thoughts please; what have I missed?