Released September 2014
Big Finish’s Hector extension of the Hex storyline concludes with ‘Signs and Wonders,’ a tale that once more brings the Doctor face to face with an Elder God as the world dreams of an prepares for the impending apocalypse.
‘Signs and Wonders’ starts out very strongly, and the nightmares alluding to the end of the world and an unlikely prophet leading the people with a mixture of celebration and religion are startlingly dark and complex themes upon which to build a story. The story even manages to make the prophet’s angels being aliens battling interstellar leeches seem plausible enough within the confines of the story, but the necessary inclusion of the story arc once more pulls this story down to uneven and middling levels.
‘The Curse of Fenric’ and even ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ are quite highly regarded serials from the Seventh Doctor’s televised era, but the presence of the Elder Gods in each was not necessarily the reason for that. While those beings certainly do provide an immensely dangerous threat for this most conniving of the Doctor’s incarnations, they have been overexposed by recent stories and essentially become just another threat in the long list of threats. It’s understandable to want to up the stakes and to tie Hex’s fate into a more grandiose scheme, but the presence of an Elder God alone does not instantly elevate the story to something more as it may have initially done. The fact that this Elder God is not bent on revenge or domination and simply wants a place to die unnoticed is a clever twist that subverts expectations at least, but the resultant drama stemming from that falls just a bit flat as potential consequences are brought up and discussed with little foreshadowing to give them impactful meaning.
As in the previous two stories, Hector never does anything meaningful to truly separate himself from Hex in action or demeanour. Despite his insistence that he does not want to be Hex again, though, Ace completely ignores him and tries over and over again to get his lost memories to reassert themselves, in the process reverting herself to her more angsty teenage version of the character. Something doesn’t quite ring true about forcing Hector back to his grandmother’s house to try to get him to mourn the loss of a loved one, and this all seems very out of character for Ace who was so affronted by the Doctor trying to get her to confront her own past in ‘Ghost Light.’ Of course, all of the suppositions that Hector’s memories were lost forever are disproven as the Doctor realizes that Hector’s current state puts him in a unique position to handle Rufus Stone and eventually Hex’s memories re-emerge after some bombastic and fatal exchanges. The issue with this is that, as the Doctor and Ace have been pursuing Hex within Hector and finally find the results they were striving for, nobody takes the time to discuss the implications of Hector essentially losing his life in the process. Frustratingly, then, given all of the work Ace did to get Hex back, she then just casually says good-bye to him as she gets back into the TARDIS and Hex walks away with Sally, robbing the story of the emotional impact of Hex having a meaningful conversation with either the Doctor or Ace and of Ace again confronting her inability to exist in the real world. Quite why Hex, who had feelings for Ace, doesn’t try to rekindle something with Ace, who now apparently has feelings for Hex, is also never meaningfully discussed.
This is the third finale to Hex’s travels in the TARDIS, and as enjoyable as Philip Olivier is in his performance, hopefully Big Finish will stop bringing the character back for further adventures set after this point. The entire Hector storyline was fraught with missed opportunities for genuine drama, and the implications of the re-emergence of Hex are likewise missed. ‘Signs and Wonders’ does have some clever moments and revelations, but ultimately it is only an average ending for a confused trilogy that never really found its way. The Seventh Doctor’s TARDIS is in need of a shakeup to inject some new life into his adventures, and hopefully Hex’s departure will be the catalyst for that.