Sunday, 20 September 2015

191 - Signs And Wonders

Ten years is a very long time, in fact, it’s a really long time. Thinking back to how things were ten years ago, no smartphones, no tablets, music still mainly CD, Tony Blair was Prime Minister. A lot has changed in the intervening decade. We have been through a recession, had the first coalition government and the way people watch television has changed beyond all recognition due to PVR’s and online viewing. Big changes, little changes but all now part of daily life.
Ten years ago, Doctor Who was back in production, Eccleston and Piper in the lead roles and Russell T Davies at the helm, did they ever dream that their daring and brave reboot would now be a staple of Saturday night viewing and would last so long? Ten years later we are four new Doctor’s down the line and the show is as popular as ever. Why am I obsessing about ten years, the decade from 2004 to 2014? Despite all these changes, Big Finish have been a constant, and in 2004 they introduced a character called Thomas Hector Schofield. His story has been ten years in the making and in the latest story from Big Finish – Signs and Wonders it comes to an end.
I know, I know, “spoilers” but I feel they are justified, like Rose Tyler saying “this is the story of how I died”. I won’t tell you how it ends, but it’s really worth the effort, the pay-off is wonderful.
So, Signs and Wonders. Not for the faint hearted, it has ten years worth of continuity and what you get out of it depends on how much you have invested in the “Hex arc”.
Potted history (spoiler-phobes may wish to skip) Thomas Hector Schofield played by Philip Olivier was a nurse working in St. Garts Hospital London, he meets Ace and the Doctor during a Cyberman Incursion and joins the TARDIS, through many adventures Hex is the compassionate corner of the Ace, Doctor, Hex triangle, he meets his hero Florence Nightingale and just wants to help people. Turns out Hex and the Doctor are being manipulated, Hex is actually Waylan’s shield, a weapon created by Elder God Waylan in his battle against Fenric. Hex is killed but on a trip to Liverpool where Ace makes the Doctor apologise to Hex’s Nan for putting him in danger, they meet Thomas Hector Thomas, a local villain who is the image of Hex – also played by Philip Olivier – it turns out he IS Hex with his memories stripped out, he joins the TARDIS and Ace vows to get his memories back. Which brings us once again to Liverpool…
Hector wants to go home, but in Liverpool is a man, a charlatan to many, a messiah to others called Rufus Stone prophesying the end of the world. Everyone is having bad dreams foreseeing their death – Rufus Stone is telling everyone that the North of England is the chosen land, miracles happen at his command, signs and wonders to awe his followers but are they being duped, and is he?
It’s very apocalyptic, think RTD’s The Second Coming, real Old Testament end of the world stuff and it really is my sort of Who – I like the contemporary setting, the familiarity of the location, the real characters, grounding it in reality makes the threat all the more real to me. Jessica Martin is great as Vicar Janet Green and Amy Pemberton makes a welcome return as Sally Morgan who has been living with Hex’s Nan Hilda until Hilda died and now wants to rejoin her army unit.
A truly epic story tying up threads woven over ten years and like all the best TV shows that are losing a beloved and long term character, the actual plot ends about ten minutes before the episode does. What a lovely ending Hex is given – up there with Jo Grant, Sarah Jane and Rose Tyler, worth the price of the CD for this scene alone, and then we have the Doctor and Ace musing on their own mortality, because all the Doctor got in his dream was Puccini…
So there you have it, Hex’s story done and dusted, a story ten years in the making with laughs and many many tears along the way. Is the story perfect? No, but it’s quite close. Maybe a bit too long, maybe just a little confusing in the resolution but well worth the entry fee a wonderful epic emotional roller coaster ride and a fitting ending for one of the most human and long term companions.
I sign off on Signs and Wonders at an epic 9/10.