Assassin in the Limelight (2008)

Assassin in the Limelight is the third script to come from the mind of Robert Ross. In 2004 he came up with Medicinal Purposes which was a truly superb effort with everything you could possibly want from a Doctor Who story. Then in 2006 he bought Pier Pressure to us which wasn’t as good but still enjoyable. This story sees the return of Leslie Philips who plays Doctor Robert Knox from Medicinal Purposes and also the aliens that were in Pier Pressure. What was a surprise in this story is that both elements were used in this story, the return of Knox wasn’t a great surprise since his face was on the cover but the elements from Pier. I wasn’t quite sure about the setting of this story, April 14th 1865 was when US President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at the Ford Theatre in Washington. To me it wasn’t a particular smart thing to do because it was an event in history where someone was murdered. Thankfully it takes a back seat in the story telling and it is dealt with in a dignified manner. Essentially the story centres around the fact that the Doctor and Evelyn have to put history back as it was and allows the events of Friday 14th April 1865 take place, but being Doctor Who its never that simple.

Colin Baker is on good form in this story which isn’t a massive revelation. Baker has a whale of a time when he is trying to get to Knox. In the TV series, Colin Baker had the Rani as his intellectual even and in these audio plays it is Knox that gives Baker the best chance to have a great set of scenes with. Maggie Stables puts in a good performance as Evelyn. Its been a long time since she was last in a Big Finish play. Her relationship with Colin Baker is one of the highlights of this range and is always a joy to listen to.

It was brilliant to have Leslie Philips back in Doctor Who. I thought he was one of the best things about Medicinal Purposes and so the thought of his return was one of the reasons I was looking forward to it. However saying that there was something of a disappointment because I felt that it was as good as his first appearance. He was ok to begin with but seemed to decline towards the end. I really liked how Knox’s TARDIS seemed so much…well better than the Doctor’s. It had a lift which to my knowledge the Doctor doesn’t have. Eric Loren who plays John Parker also has the distinction of being the second actor to have appeared in new Doctor Who and also Big Finish Who. He played Mr Diagoras and also the Dalek Sec Hybrid in Evolution of the Daleks/Daleks in Manhattan. The role of John Parker was a well written one because in the events of the assassination, it was Parker who was one of the Abraham Lincolns bodyguards on that fateful day. Other roles in this story were well written including Clara Harris who was played by Lysette Anthony. Harris was an important character in this because she accompanied Abraham Lincoln and his wife to Ford’s Theatre. Lysette Anthony puts in a good performance that stands out for me. Madeleine Potter was very good as Lizzie Williams which was another good character that worked well with the rest. However there was a weak link in this otherwise fairly strong chain and that was the role of Henry Clay Ford who was the proprietor of the Theatre. I just found the voice of Alan Marriott. Some of this blame must be placed at Marriott’s feet because it just irritates and grates me.

The main issue with this story is the use of American accents. Even with the use of genuine American accents its hard to not cringe at them. They seem like they have to exaggerate the accents in order for the listener to create the impression of 19th Century America. I found the American accent that was used in Renaissance of the Daleks an annoying one that ruined the character in that for me. Another issue I have is that it just doesn’t seem to have a threat to it. They spend four episodes just making sure that history gets back on track and that an assassin happens as it should. It would have been better if it had taken place on another planet and sees Knox trying to change the events of a war on another planet with grander things at stake. Robert Ross seems to have just plucked an idea out of thin air and run with, to his credit he makes good use of it but to me it just seemed like the wrong choice for this story. Barnaby Edwards was ok as director but I think that he did the best that he could. The opening scene was well done and the scenes Knox’s TARDIS are well done.

Overall this is an ok but nothing amazing. It seems a far cry from Medicinal Purposes in terms of standards. The characters are all well acted and well written but they just don’t gel to me on this.

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