Greetings fellow Earth units, and welcome back to Big Finishing Move. For the uninitiated, this is the lil’ ol’ section of the site I’ve whittled away to talk about the works of audio drama powerhouse, Big Finish. I give their stuff a listen and then give you my two cents as to if they are worth a damn. Today you best strap yourself in because we’re looking at Signs And Wonders, a story that brings several plot-lines stretching all the way back to the Seventh Doctor’s TV run to a close. Can this story soar or will crash and burn?
Let’s find out!
TARDIS Team: The Seventh Doctor, Ace, Hector Thomas, and… Hex?!
Hector Thomas has not been having fun and despite all of Ace’s pleading, he looking to get off Mr. Doctor’s Wild Ride and has asked to be dropped off back in Liverpool. His gangster persona was a fraud and Ace keeps trying to make him Hex again despite their being no known way of doing that, so Hector understandably wants to move on and figure out just who the hell he actually is now. Arriving back on Earth, our group finds that the apocalypse is once again in season, and lucky them, since Liverpool is going to be ground zero. Add Space angels/eagles, mad prophets, crazy slug creatures, an ancient threat or two from before time began, and the return of Sally Morgan, Hex’s love interest and you can tell that our crew is in for one hell of a day.
One of the first things I noticed upon reflection of this story is the Doctor doesn’t have a plan at any point in the story. The Seventh Doctor is known for having plans within plans within plans, but this time the good Doc is caught off guard and has to play catch up. We aren’t used to seeing this version of the Doctor flying by the seat of his pants and I think it is something that should be expanded on in future stories. I enjoy the master planner side of the Doctor as much as anyone else, but I also see the storytelling potential of taking this Doctor out of their comfort zone.
Sally Morgan’s return once again throws a wrinkle into the usual team dynamic as Hex and now Hector appear to be sweet on her, much to the annoyance of Ace who has a this love/hate thing when it comes to Sally. I’ve always liked Sally as she was an extremely capable professional soldier, but also knew not to let the military go to her head and remained not only levelheaded, but extremely pleasant and amiable to be around. To put it another way, Sally is exactly the kind of person I want wearing a uniform. Total competence tempered by compassion and an understanding when to turn the soldier on and when to turn it off. I wish the would have done more with this character, although that seems very unlikely going forward.
For once I don’t have much to say on the performance front other than all of them work well enough. No one stands out, but then this isn’t really the type of story where you’d expect that kind of thing. The story moves at such a clip so our leads do not get the time to do anything all that special and the side characters such as the soldiers don’t have anytime to establish themselves so they opted to use rather stereotypical military sounding voices to solidify to the listener who they are.
Look folks, I wanted to like this one, I really did. The problem here is they are trying to tie up all these story-lines in one nest bow by stuffing them into a tale that is insufficient in size and scale to accommodate them all leaving everything rushed and half baked. Sometimes you go for the big finish (pun entirely intended) and fall short, and that is exactly what happened here. Hector is Hector until the plot says he needs to be Hex again, the true villain appears totally out of left field almost randomly after taking out what everyone thought was the main threat easily, and the Doctor vs the Elder Gods story comes to to a big conclusion we don’t get to see (well, hear really, but you get my point) and are only told about afterwords. There’s too much content and not enough time to properly develop any of it.
Afterlife, a story I praised the hell out of (and still do) was a chance to grow and expand big Finish’s Seventh Doctor stories in new and exciting directions. This opportunity however, was never fully realized (for reasons beyond me) as we had a few stories that ultimately lead nowhere leading to this less than satisfying conclusion. Aside from all my complaining, justified as it may be, this does wrap up loads of stuff from the Seventh Doctor’s run, including being the final Hex story, there are some entertaining exchanges, and exciting teases of events to come are sprinkled at the end. Nothing here is ghastly or offensive, just mediocre and underwhelming. Hardcore Seventh Doctor fans will have to pick this up to see how all these things finally shake out, but I warn them to temper their expectations going in. For those who are more casual fans of the Umbrella Man I say save your cash and go find one of his better stories instead.
Purchase Doctor Who: Signs And Wonders Here:
And if your looking for even more audio treats to listen to, remember we here at One of Us have our own audio drama series Infinite Variations, as well this being the home of the spin-off from The Intergalactic Nemesis that goes by the name of Salt. Now, all this is stuff happens to be FREE here, so open your ear-holes and give them a listen!
Screw Thunderdome, next time we are headed to the: