If you don’t know this, I have a YouTube channel called Filmmaker Kenny and i advertised this blog in one of my previous videos. To those people it’s no secret that I’m a fan of the show Doctor Who. However what they don’t know about me, is my opinions on the audio dramas produced by the company Big Finish Productions.
Big Finish is a British company that produces audio dramas, that was founded in 1996. They produce many different series such as: Blake’s 7, Dark Shadows and a series of Sherlock Holmes. However they’re mostly known for their Doctor Who audio dramas along with spin-off series to many different characters; this has gained the company a lot of popularity, mainly due to how many cast members of old and now new Who have been regularly featured; but also due to their success with fans and critics they’ve been so popular.
Since getting the rights to make stories using these classic characters (as New Who wasn’t out at the time) they’ve been writing stories featuring classic doctor’s since 1999 with the first story they made called ‘The Sirens of Time’; later they moved onto giving the Eighth Doctor Paul Mcgann his own series, with new companion Charely Pollard in 2001; along with multiple spin offs of other characters. They’ve been doing this mostly through their monthly range of Doctor Who stories. In which each month a classic Doctor and his companion (from the classics or original) would face an old or original monster, and would need to defeat it. With each month having a different Doctor and adventure.
While they were doing well throughout that time, they’ve gained more attention with the release of the new Doctor Who in 2005; since old and new fans were watching, people learned about Big Finish and their fame continued from there. Not to mention how ratings of the new series went higher when Matt Smith replaced David Tennant as The Doctor. More publicity for the company. Hell some fans even claim that Big Finish has produced some of the best Doctor Who stories ever written.
So how did i get introduced to Big Finish? Honestly the most that i knew about them, was from the publicity shots of their next upcoming story Dark Eyes back in 2012. See the Eighth Doctor series has been majorly successful; lasting to this day. Given the large amount of new viewers Matt Smith’s era brought to the show; Big Finish naturally pushed a new start for The Eighth Doctor in their new epic story line called the Dark Eyes series. A four volume Dalek story that marketed itself as an epic start for new listeners. New story, new companion, hell even his costume was different. Seriously look up Paul Mcgann’s costume from the Doctor Who TV Movie, then look at the costume of the cover of Dark Eyes. As interested as i was… i didn’t buy on release; mainly due to the cost of the four parts it featured (Four volumes, each a four-part story) which totaled to £40 per volume. Yeah given how i was in my mid teens and didn’t have that much money; £40 for something i didn’t know about, along with three other parts to get, seemed like a royal piss take.
So years later, I decided to look upon reviews of Big Finish’s catalog, and looked at which stories people seemed to like the most, and which ones sounded cool. My first story i listened to was a multi-doctor (a story featuring more than one established version of The Doctor) story The Light At The End; Big Finish’s way to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary. I wanted to check out Big Finish for ages, and given how some people have claimed this story to be better than Day of The Doctor (the show’s 50th anniversary special) And I was impressed; it was well acted, tense, dramatic and i highly recommend it to any fan of Doctor Who. Hearing these actors i grew up with watching the show, speaking new lines in a new adventure with all the classic doctor’s interacting with each other was such a thrill to listen to for the first time.
From there I’ve now brought quite a few Big Finish stories since then; not exactly a huge collection, but enough to say that i like their work. “OK” you may say, “but what makes them stand out in terms of being a franchises expanded universe?” Aside from the well written story’s, to put it bluntly; the stories felt like an episode of classic Doctor Who. I mentioned how many actors from the shows past have returned to retain their roles. Doctors, companions and even villains have had their actors come back to reprise the role. This has also happened for Big Finish other times as they’ve made dramas based on shows like Terra Hawks and The Prisoner.
What’s great about the returning actors is that the characters they play still feel like the ones from the show. It’s easy to hear that from the performance and the way their written, we as fans still identify that specific character. Plus the new (and often continuous) stories allow the characters to grow and develop further as characters. The Sixth Doctor as played by Colin Baker is an excellent example of this. Through out his short time as The Doctor he played him as smug, mean and self-centered; this has left fans split in opinions with some like myself being fine with that direction and thought Colin played the part well; while others claim Colin to be the worst TV doctor. What changed? Over time with many new companions acting as the person bring him back to reality and smack some sense into him. We’ve seen (or rather heard) a transition into a more humble and kinder person. That’s not to say a cynical character can be enjoyable, but Big Finish thankfully tamed the character to no long be a flat-out jerk. Stubagful on YouTube has made excellent video on the topic.
Along with the use of sounds and music from the old series and the length of the episodes in the monthly range, the overall experience feels like watching an episode of the classic series. Repeating an old formula is all well and good, but what new elements did they bring? Well given how it’s all done on audio there is no real limitations to what can be done; the writers can create what ever adventure they want, and won’t be tied down due to the lack of money in order to make real props. Thus the characters can face enemies in epic battles in extraordinary and surreal locations every month; with the details of such being left to your imagination. This has paved the way for any new monster and villains to be created as well as villains that never appeared much; such as the shape Shifting Viryons and The Eleven.
I’ve mentioned the developing characters; as many of the listeners are adults who watched the show when they were kids; the stories matured and yet darker to match the adult nature. Not to have the characters swear of the sorts. But rather the tone was darker and more adult themes were included along with often violent outcomes. Stories like Master, Protect and Survive and Live 34 show case this point with violent scenes and harsh out comes for the unlucky characters who don’t make it to the end.
There is also the new types of story’s they put out. Whether it’d be the pure historical stories, a typical Doctor Who time travel to historical event; only this time there’s no monsters or sci-fi elements. Just the two leads interacting with the people of the time and getting caught in some sort of problem. The Wrath of the Iceni being a good example of this; in which it’s a political drama queen Boudica in her fight against the Romans. One plot they like to use is the ‘two time lines plot’; let me explain. The story will feature two sets of characters in two different points in time; their actions will lead into the furthering of the other story, and then meet up again to finish the story. Many Big Finish adventures such as The Girl Who Never Was and The Last of the Cybermen used this plot in very clever ways in order to link both story’s into one narrative.
Experimenting is the word that can describe them best. There’s always something new with each adventure: multiple established characters meeting each other, new ways of tell the story. Which is a good thing as since they’re doing a new story each month, why not experiment with new things and see what works and what doesn’t.
So if I’ve interested you, you’re probably wondering,where do i start? Well where ever you want. There are many blogs and YouTube channels that talk about this stuff, so can find recommendations. However i find it best to look at Big Finish’s web site or any store that sells their content, read the back of the case of a story, and decide whether that sounds good, if you did that ad the plot sounds interesting; then you may be in for a good time.
So here are some of my favorite Big Finish dramas:
- Blood of the Daleks: An excellent way to start the first of the 8th Doctor’s official series with his new companion Lucie Miller; one of my favorite companions. A very interesting mystery surrounding the events of the planet, great performances all around; and the chemistry between Lucie and The Doctor from absolutely having each other to getting along is just so fun to listen to.
- Spare Parts: Who would’ve thought a Cyberman prequel would work as well as it does. One of the best examples of Doctor Who doing dark and dramatic and nail the hammer on the head. You become very attached to the characters as they have to go through flat-out horrifying events in order to stay alive. A bleak story that will shock you and will keep you on the edge of your seat while listening.
- Live 34: This political thriller is told from the perspective of a news show broadcasting to a human colony, as The Doctor and his friends take on a corrupt government. This ingenious way of telling the story paints a well detailed picture of what our heroes are doing, while showing how bad the planet has gone. Showing what our leads are fighting for as we route for them to put things right again. Go buy this, if you’re a fan of political dramas like House of Cards you’ll love this.
- The Light in the End: What a perfect way to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary. As we see all eight classic Doctors take on The Master. The chemistry between the doctor’s is excellent as well as the pacing as each Doctor is given their own segment of the story before their paths meet; and yet none of it feels rushed to get to the next part. An epic adventure for anyone who loves these versions of the character.
Here are some more for you to look out for:
Dark Eyes, The Last Adventure, Terra Firma, the I, Davros series, Brave New Town, Human Resources and finally Lucie Miller/ To the Death.
If you’d like to buy any of these please visit their website here: http://www.bigfinish.com/
Have I missed any story you like, let me know.
Thank you for your time.