1 October 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Writer: Matt Fitton

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: September 2014

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

 

“The end of the world is nigh. That’s what everybody is seeing in their nightmares. That’s why they are congregating in Liverpool for the party to end all parties, hosted by Rufus Stone, a celebrity turned doomsday prophet. He claims he’s the only one who can save them when the day of judgement comes. Because he’s on the side of the angels.

The Doctor, Ace and Hector arrive to find the city in the grip of apocalypse fever. There are lights in the sky, earthquakes and power cuts. The Doctor is determined to investigate, while Ace is more concerned about finding a way of restoring Hector’s lost memories.

Meanwhile, in the river Mersey, hideous, slug-like creatures are stirring...

 

***

So, here we have it, then: the absolutely-definitely final story for Hector/Hex we-promise-this-time-honest story.  I don’t think I need to put into words here the amount of scepticism I had going into this play, though I was comforted by the knowledge that the other two in this trilogy have been damn good.

I’ve been growing a bit… tired of the trilogy format for the monthly releases recently as it has perhaps grown a little stale, and you have to wait a long time between releases to encounter favourite Doctors or companions again, which can be a tad frustrating and stifles any real growth in affection towards said characters, but thus far this one had bucked the trend by giving us two strong releases back-to-back for the first time in a while.

I was also very, very wary of listening to yet another story in which they should get rid of Hex.  He should have gone in A Death in the Family, no doubt about it, but this was put on hold and, in fairness, there was some nice trickery going on with the Black and White TARDIS plot thread, and Protect and Survive was an incredible play.  And then Hex should absolutely definitely have gone in Gods and Monsters, and when he failed to then, I must admit that I just gave up.  It hasn’t diminished the quality of plays following, but was a really, really silly thing to do.  So then, exit point number three: does it make good on it?

I am pleased to say that Signs and Wonders does indeed, and also ends this strong trilogy on yet another strong release.  Set in Liverpool, a mysterious preacher man is foretelling the end of the world, people are having premonitions about their deaths, and Hector/Hex is fed up with not knowing who he is, and wants to return to his home, or the closest he has to one, to try and gain some perspective.  Throw in the return of Sally Morgan, some gods and slug monsters, and the scene is set for something final with a lot of explosions along the way for good measure.

At first, I feared that this story was simply going to replicate the big bangs and Elder God-related techno-guff of Gods and Monsters, but it quickly shows itself to have more heart and a plot two steps away from manipulation and ensuing confusion.  It’s also got Jessica Martin being wonderful in it as a Reverend who enjoys brass rubbing, which is nice.

As with the other plays in this trilogy, Matt Fitton gives us a good, strong story for Hex/Hector across four episodes, one which makes use of the plot developments for him without them getting in the way.  There is also plenty to do for the other characters, with the Seventh Doctor in particular having some fun with his brolly and Amy Pemberton excelling once more as Sally Morgan, one of my favourite additions to Big Finish in recent times.

I do not want to give much away here, but the play concludes with a very definite ending for Hex/Hector and a nice nod to the future for the Seventh Doctor and Ace, tying in to events we’ve already glimpsed in adventures such as UNIT: Dominion.  It’s a neat step forward.

The ending for Hex/Hector itself is absolutely perfect, and Fitton should be given full credit for pulling it off.  It’s a far, far more satisfying ending than Gods would have been in hindsight, though I still maintain it was where he should have gone if not in Death, which was every bit a natural conclusion to his character as this play is.  You couldn’t wish for a better ending to his story though, so colour me satisfied.

What is frustrating though is that it ever even got to this stage.  This is indeed the perfect ending (a Big Finish, if you will), so why didn’t we get this before? Why did we not get a trilogy as strong as this earlier? I’m glad that Big Finish got it very right ion the end, but disappointed that it took so very long to reach this destination.  It shows a lack of confidence in direction and an unwillingness to let go of actors and have the stories suffer accordingly.

The future is definitely looking brighter now, but please: have the courage of your convictions and know when to stop.

 

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