The Assassination Games is the final part of the 1963 series and perhaps the most anticipated by some people because it sees the Seventh Doctor and Ace reunited with Group Captain Gilmore, Rachel Jensen and Allison Williams who they previously encountered in the 1988 story ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’. Since that story of course, Counter Measures has arrived and we’ve had two series of their adventures and I’ve listened to the first of those stories but I’m not really fully versed in the Counter Measures world. To be honest though I don’t think you really need to know to much before pressing play for episode one. The events of this story seems to have happened because of a book that the Doctor and Ace read a book in 2013.One of the early scenes seems to try and mirror the scandal that surrounded the War Secretary John Profumo back in 1963.
There is a murder during a press conference within the first five minutes which seems to have come out of nowhere and no sooner after he is caught than he jumps in front of a train and its quite the early start to the adventure. The character is only given a name of David Ritchie (played by Alisdair Simpson). It’s a short but effective character that shows that the characters are all good. The first time that Gilmore meets the Doctor again is done just before David Ritchie jumps in front of the train is done is a rather odd but slightly intriguing manner. Though its not until the end of episode one before his identity is revealed and the build up was quite good even though everyone would have known who Sir Toby Kinsella was referring to.
The Doctor is pretending to be John Rutherford MP who has been in this position for six months and has tried to remain undercover. It seems like this is a good position for him and the inevitable line comes during the second episode which is a famous quote from the BBC series ‘House of Cards’ when he says “You might very well think that, I couldn’t possibly comment”. If I wasn’t as involved in the story as I was then I would really have taken against it but I just thought that it was a nice bit of humour in this story.
Like early seventh Doctor stories for Big Finish, it seems that the Doctor and Ace have integrated themselves into the surrounding. Ace is a maid which is quite interesting because its how we first met her in ‘Dragonfire’ and It’s about forty minutes before Sophie Aldred gets to be Ace as opposed to Dorothy the maid. It was a welcome relief when she gets to be herself as it sees odd to see Ace in the maid role. The Doctor gets to share scenes with Gilmore and Ace gets to share scenes with Rachel so its Allison that seems to draw the short straw. The scenes between Gilmore and the Doctor are very amusing and that’s due to Sylvester McCoy and Simon Williams. Whilst the first cliffhanger might have been ok the second one was much better as it was effectively a start of the build up to a war and the final cliffhanger was really good as it was the Doctor about to come to the rescue and it was at this point where it really got into its stride.
There is an assassination in the first episode and in the second the Deputy Prime Minister’s office is blown up and is killed. This is when it becomes clear that the wrong sort of people are getting into positions of power and it feels like the political situation in ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’. That was just a brief moment in this story that I thought that but I thought it was an interesting comparison. There are some great lines in this story which is where John Dorney should get some great credit. He’s done a sound job in bringing the Counter Measures group and the Doctor back together whilst making this story feel like part of the 1963 series of adventures.
The Light are the secret rulers of the universe according to the Doctor. When it becomes clear that their plan is to restore the empire to its former glory, I realised that I really liked this story. I don’t know what it was that made me feel like this but I think that I’ve enjoyed it up until this point that it was the perfect explanation to the reasoning about what was going on. It seems at the end of the story that this wont be the last time that we will have heard from the light and I am quite glad because I get the feeling that there are some more good stories to be had and this could be the beginning of a new story arc for the Seventh Doctor.
In terms of performances, Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred are on fine form and though its weird to not have Hex it’s a partnership that always produces a good story and they have both been working together for so long that its become second nature to them and due to the script they are given some good things to do. In terms of the Counter Measures group, both Simon Williams and Pamela Salem are really good and work well with Sophie Aldred and Sylvester McCoy but I cant help but feel that Karen Gledhill didn’t have quite the involvement in the story and it feels like the character of Allison was just one too many. That is perhaps my only critiscm with the story.
There was a concern before listening to this that this would let the side down. That after two enjoyable stories, that this one would disappoint by not being as good and also the return of the Counter Measures group with the Doctor and Ace could have gone badly but I’m relieved to say that this wasn’t the case. I thought that it had a slow (ish) build up and then after it had introduced all the different characters and the setting of the story, it went up several gears and the final episode was fun from start to finish.