Greetings Time Lords and Ladies and welcome back to Big Finishing Move! This is where we take a gander at output of audio giant Big Finish and let you know what is and is not worth your time and hard earned dollars. It’s taken me almost half a year, but we’re finally back with one of my favorite pairs in all of Who, Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred as the Seventh Doctor and Ace. Is their return to this series a triumphant one or DOA? No more preamble, let’s get to it and find out!
TARDIS Team: Seventh Doctor, Ace, and introducing Mr. Hex
In the year 2021, strange doings are afoot at St. Garts Hospital in London. The Doctor and Ace have gone undercover to investigate what is going on the building’s mysterious and heavily guarded 31st floor. Along the way, and much to the Doctor’s dismay, a young man named Hex ends up involved in their plans. Hex will have to keep up and keep his head down if he wants to come out the other end of this alive.
This entry sees the entrance of a new companion, one Thomas Hector Schofield (Hex to his friends). His presence in this and the stories that follow allows for some personal growth for Ace, as she takes on the role of mentor and friend for Hex as the Doctor did for her, with her own spin on it of course. It allows her to grow naturally into a more mature and seasoned role, a move started at the end of the Classic TV run. Big Finish attempted to continue this growth but their efforts up to this point were mostly unsuccessful.
Speaking of elements that were meant to give Ace depth and failed, this story takes place during Ace’s “McShane” period. In a previous story, Ace had started having people call her by her last name. The idea seemed to be that only kids had nicknames, and since it had already been established she hated her given first name (Dorothy), having her go by her last would make her seem more grown up. Thankfully this boneheaded idea was abandoned soon after this story and she went back to just using Ace, but you can feel them trying to push the silly change on the audience by having her repeat “Just McShane” over and over again. It isn’t anything that breaks the story, but it feels heavy-handed and as this change was ultimately pointless makes it all the more distracting.
Another of the weaker elements in this piece is the music, it just doesn’t seem to fit the overall tone set by the actors and it becomes more grating the longer you listen to it. The music is trying to be disconcerting, but it pushes too hard and hops the rail into the annoying. Perhaps if it had been used in a different kind of story this music could have worked, but it is a bad match for this one.
The villains work wonderfully for the story, but it is a little disheartening because it looks like the story is going to branch out into something really new and different for them only to have them snap back to their old behavior. Everything still works fine, but I can’t help but feel there was a huge missed opportunity here.
What makes or breaks the story here is the listener’s ability to connect with Hex. Philip Olivier’s performance sells Hex’s everyman charm and is easily the highlight of the whole thing. Hex isn’t special, he’s just a really good guy, and interestingly enough that is what makes the character work. Given how over the top both Ace and the Doctor can be, Hex’s “average joe” nature gives the seasoned listener a chance to watch the established characters interact in new and exciting ways and provides an easily relatable character for newer fans to latch onto. Hex’s backstory does hold a few juicy secrets planted across Big Finish’s work, but none of it changes the simple straightforwardness that is Mr. Hex. There are better stories featuring these characters and this isn’t required listening in any way, but what is here is fun and entertaining and serves as a great introduction to a new main character.
Purchase Doctor Who: The Harvest Here:
Keep in mind, faithful readers, that Big Finish aren’t the only people who do audio drama thing, We here at One Of Us happens to have our own show by the name of Infinite Variations!
For next time, we’re going to keep riding this train of mystery and horror with:
Check out my previous reviews: