Review: Doctor Who: Big Finish Audio 191: Signs and Wonders

DWMR191_signsandwonders_1417The Doctor takes Hector home, but Liverpool isn’t the place that any of them remember…

This final story of the trilogy has a great deal to accomplish: it needs to round off Philip Olivier’s time in the TARDIS in a satisfactory manner, deal with all the questions about Hector Thomas and Hex, repair some of the damage done by recent events to the relationship between Ace and the Doctor, and tell a good story in its own right. What I didn’t expect from it was a real feeling of the end of an era – right down to a certain famous quote (one of my favourite lines from the series ever, courtesy of Andrew Cartmel) getting a reworking. The last half of the final episode has the same feel as some of the very late New Adventures, as the Virgin Book authors prepared for the regeneration.

I was a little surprised at the ending of Gods and Monsters when it was revealed that Hex wasn’t actually gone, and there have been times that the continuation of his storyline with the whole new personality has felt a bit stretched out (and I do seriously wonder if the need to make this recent set of stories a whole trilogy of adventures to fit the usual Big Finish release pattern might have artificially extended the plotline). I’m therefore very relieved that there is a most definite ending to his travels in the TARDIS (at least for now, I guess…) and for once it’s not got a major downside.

There are many clever moments in Matt Fitton’s story, which is based in part on people being given insight into their futures. There’s a rare incorporation of the actual events of the 1996 TV Movie, and the idea that the Big Finish stories exist in a different universe to the other iterations of the Doctor and Ace’s story is repeated with a mention of many different possible futures for Ms. McShane. I’m not totally convinced by the explanation for why invasions are always in the Home Counties – like Paul Cornell’s precise account of the TARDIS’ travels in Goth Opera, it’s rather too limiting on future writers – although it makes for a good gag.

Philip Olivier is giving a rousing send off with plenty of meaty material, and it’s good to have Amy Pemberton back for his finale. Her scenes with Sophie Aldred work as well as ever (and it’s good to have the older Ace back after a couple of throwback stories), and Jessica Martin and Warren Brown are also provided with a strong storyline and characters.

Verdict: A fitting end to this very long-running part of the saga, with a coda that I hope doesn’t indicate a lessening of 7th Doctor stories in the immediate future. 8/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order Signs and Wonders from Big Finish

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