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What is Big Finish?

I have mentioned Big Finish in a previous post but some of you may not know what Big Finish is and what they do.

They make (incredibly good) audio dramas. They have a number of different series but as this is a Doctor Who blog, I shall limit myself to those (note that limit is in italics as the number of Doctor Who releases and tie-ins is far from limited).

Doctor Who monthly range

As the name suggests, these are monthly releases. In the past year or so, they tend to be 3 story seasons featuring one of the Doctors from 5-7 [Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy]. Paul McGann [8th Doctor] will be re-joining this range soon. These “seasons” have been enjoyable and can bring a story arc that sometimes can be lost when having a different Doctor each month. The companions are a combination of classic Who companions (Janet Fielding has returned as Tegan, alongside Mark Strickson as Turlough and Sarah Sutton as Nyssa) and brand new characters. The stories are usually split into 4 episodes of about 30 minutes and end (as the classic series did) with a cliffhanger. Over the past few years, there has been one release featuring 4 short stories which have been entertaining and a great starting point if you want to try them out.

The 8th Doctor Adventures

There have been four series (of 8 stories, except the 4th which had 10) of adventures featuring Paul McGann as the Doctor and the excellent Sheridan Smith as his companion, Lucie Miller. These have been single disc releases and are similar in style to the new series. Series three was a high point for me as it was released as a download over consecutive weeks in the year when David Tennant was in his final year as the Doctor with no regular television series on air. The feeling of excitement during these weeks reminded me of when I was looking forward to seeing Doctor Who on a Saturday night in my youth as they were released in 30 minute 2 part stories ending with a cliffhanger. Some of these stories have been broadcast on the digital radio station BBC 7, if you have access to this station, keep an ear out for this entertaining series and think what could have been had the tv movie led into a series. 

The Lost Stories

Now this series is rather special.

During Colin Baker’s turbulent time as the Doctor, the series was put on hiatus for 18 months. When Doctor Who returned to our screens, the Doctor was on trial but what of the missing year? If you have seen the special features on the Trial of a Time Lord box set then you may have heard about the stories that were planned but never made. The early stories of this lost season obviously had the most development with other stories being in the idea stage. Now they have been adapted for audio and released. The first season features Colin Baker as the Doctor and Nicola Bryant as Peri. The stories are entertaining and see the return of some old enemies. There are also stories by P. J. Hammond (creator/writer of the excellent Sapphire and Steel*) *side note, Big Finish have also produced 3 series of Sapphire and Steel featuring David Warner as Steel and Sussanah Harker as Sapphire. Other writers include 2000ADcreator Pat Mills and Hammer Horror Queen, Ingrid Pitt (can you name the two Doctor Who stories in which she appeared?)

A second series of lost stories followed in 2010 with two box sets featuring stories written for the first and second Doctors. These have been adapted so that they are reminiscent of the Companion Chronicles (see below). The second Doctor box set also contains the proposed Daleks pilot story. This  story was very close to going into production but alas it fell through. This was Terry Nation’s attempt to get a Dalek series made for American tv but the structure and ideas were set up in the Doctor Who story, the Daleks Master Plan. The remaining stories of this season feature Sylvester McCoy in the stories that would have followed had the show not been cancelled.

The third series will feature some stories featuring the fifth Doctor, details of which can be found here.

The Companion Chronicles

These are enhanced audio stories told, as the name suggests, by the companion. These are quite intimate listening, usually with only two voices in the story. This is a wonderful way to include stories of Doctors who are no longer with us (or hadn’t yet agreed to do Big Finish audios) although more recent companions have had a chance to tell their stories too. These stories are wonderfully written and performed with some amazing vocalisations of the Doctor (especially by Peter Purves and Frazer Hines).

Gallifrey

I am looking forward to hearing the fourth series which is released this month (March 2011). This series features Lalla Ward as President Romana [Mary Tamm also makes an appearance too] and Louise Jameson as Leela and John Leeson as K-9 (both of them!). Lynda Bellingham reprises her role as the Inquisitor (a part that she played in Trial of a Time Lord) and is given a chance to flesh out the role. There is a great cast of characters and gets better on each listen.

I, Davros and Dalek Empire

I, Davros charts the rise of Davros from boy to man (leading to events prior to those seen in Genesis of the Daleks) Terry Molloy plays Davros for the most part (he also played Davros in Resurrection, Revelation and Remembrance of the Daleks) but Rory Jennings (who was in the 10th Doctor episode, The Idiot’s Lantern) is fantastic as young Davros.

Dalek Empire is the story of the Daleks as they continue their progress of conquering other worlds. The first two series run concurrently then the third takes a leap into the future (and stars a certain Mr Tennant). The fourth series is set during the time of the first series but focuses on different characters.

Jago & Litefoot

This series features two characters created by the incredible Robert Holmes and only appeared in one story, the excellent Talons of Weng Chiang. There have been two series so far with a third series due this summer (with a rather special guest star) with a fourth series to follow. Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter give wonderful performances and this series is especially wonderful on audio. If you’re unsure as to whether to invest in the box sets, they have done a companion chronicle called the Mahogany Murderers which will give you a taste of things to come.

There are a couple of other Doctor Who related spin offs including UNIT, Sarah Jane Smith (made before the Sarah Jane Adventures appeared on our screens), Excelis (featuring Anthony Stewart Head) and Unbound (a sort of what if? selection of stories, e.g. what if the Doctor was a woman? or what if the Doctor hadn’t been UNIT’s scientific adviser?

To sum up, these are excellent audio stories and I would highly recommend them. The stories are available as downloads too so you can listen straight away. Oh and by the way, the head honcho at Big Finish is also the voice of the Daleks (Nicholas Briggs).

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4 Responses

  1. Wow? So let me see if I understand: the Big Finish has a few Doctor Who ” spinoff” audio stories? That is cool. I will have to remember this for my hubby. I am sure when he has time he would love to listen to them all! Thanks for answering my question ( What is the Big Finish.)

  2. […] Listen here and please check out my own Big Finish Guide here. […]

  3. […] John reprised the role of Liz Shaw for the Companion Chronicles, produced by Big Finish. She got to meet with an iconic monster that was noticeably absent from the third Doctor’s […]

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