AUDIO REVIEW: SIGNS AND WONDERS (DOCTOR WHO) / AUTHOR: MATT FITTON / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: SYLVESTER MCCOY, SOPHIE ALDRED, PHILIP OLIVIER, AMY PEMBERTON, JESSICA MARTIN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
With Signs and Wonders, Matt Fitton rounds off the 2014 Seventh Doctor trilogy of audio releases for Big Finish and returns to the pieces he first set in motion in the 2013 story Afterlife. Without too many spoilers, Hex (OIivier) died and was re-born in Liverpool as Hector Thomas with no memory of time in the TARDIS. Since then he travelled with the Doctor and Ace to outer space, the future, and ancient Greece. Hector, despite Ace’s hopes, is not Hex and insists on being returned back to Liverpool and leaving the TARDIS. This is where the story starts…
This is Liverpool in the 2020s; Hex’s Nan has died and her lodger, Sally Morgan (once nearly Hex’s girlfriend) is moving out. Of course things aren’t simple – cultists Rufus Stone (a brilliant performance by Warren Brown) is gathering for the last day in the middle of Liverpool, his minions having been on the receiving end of dreams of their own deaths. Grim stuff. The only person taking account of Rufus seems to be Reverend Janet Green (Martin, also excellent) and into this Hex is released while Ace bumps into Sally (ex-military) and amidst monsters and unnatural events they end up on an aircraft carrier in the Mersey under the command of Captain Gormley (the again excellent Rory Keenan). There are encounters with enough alien influences to satisfy any fan and the stakes keep rising as the story progresses.
Matt Fitton has produced some of this best writing so far with Signs and Wonders – the device of the dream allows him to both wrong-foot the listener several times and appeal to the fan when he allows the Doctor to also dream of his own fate (hint – think Doctor Who the Movie). As the tension mounts, the listener may begin to second guess the conclusion but even the most hardened fan is likely to brush away at least one tear before the end. As writer Matt Fitton told us, “I’m very proud of it… have to admit a tear or two even though I knew what was coming!”
Not only are the guest cast all on top form (credit to director Ken Bentley) but the main cast of McCoy, Aldred and Olivier are tremendous after a somewhat mixed couple of previous releases. The chemistry between various pairing of characters works to a tee and this is a joy to listen to, made even better by the full-on soundscape.
It is always dangerous to rave too much about something just as you encounter it, but Signs and Wonders is surely destined to be recognised as a classic.