My first Big Finish Audio Drama was Storm Warning, it was 2014, and Big Finish had at some point previously put the first fifty main range on sale for $2.99. Charlotte Pollard was my first companion and now, twenty years later, Big Finish are releasing Charlotte Pollard: The Further Adventuressto commemorate India Fisher’s Charley Pollard and taking the Eighth Doctor back to his early days. Paul McGann is clearly having a blast in all four stories, giving life to an Eighth Doctor unblemished by the loss of friends or the Time War, something which we haven’t seen since Big Finish revisited the Lucie Miller era in 2019. Whenever they decide to revisit this version of the Eighth Doctor, McGann breathes a new life into the character and reuniting him with India Fisher helps the nostalgia of that era bleed into the tone of each of the stories. None of the stories are particularly dark or disturbing, they all at least reference the arc of the time that Charley Pollard should have been killed on the R-101, but most importantly they allow two friends a chance to perform together for the first time in nearly a decade since the 50th Anniversary in The Light at the End.
The Audio Novels range is the newest Doctor Who range from Big Finish Productions, essentially taking over from their original printed short story collections which ran until 2009 when they lost the license to print Doctor Who books. Several of the short stories would find their way as Subscriber Short Trips, four released a year, but with the ending of The Monthly Range and the normal Short Trips range being moved to box sets 2021 saw the introduction of The Audio Novels with Scourge of the Cybermen, essentially released every six months in January and July. The second installment is also an interesting contribution as it isn’t from an established writer, but an actor. Matthew Waterhouse wrote Watchers, a seven-hour audiobook set after The Keeper of Traken and exploring the final days of the Fourth Doctor, in universe, bridging the gap to Logopolis. It is an interesting look at the end of the Tom Baker era from a meta-textual standpoint as Waterhouse uses it to ultimately comment on how each of the three producers during the run produced the show, and especially how stark a contrast Season 18 was in respect to the end of the Graham Williams era. Gone was the previous era’s characteristic humour, brought into stark contract as Season 17 was script edited by Douglas Adams and was an out and out comedy.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic making time feel incredibly compressed, it is now 2022, and with 2022 comes Big Finish Productions’ new format for release, something that had been slowly introduced throughout 2021. Everything’s a three-disc box set and the first release of the year, like the first release of 2021, is a celebratory anniversary set, this time celebrating Peter Davison’s 40th anniversary as the Fifth Doctor with the first of two box sets under the umbrella label Forty. The premise of what is essentially the Fifth Doctor’s consciousness being catapulted across his timeline in no particular order, both forwards and backwards from his second story, Four to Doomsday, to Season 20, and as the brief for the second set implies, Season 21. Unlike last year’s Masterful, Forty isn’t a single story, but a series of interconnected stories with this volume containing the four-part Secrets of Telos and the two-part God of War with the second not currently having all of its story details announced (only one story has a title, The Auton Infinity). The story arc of the sets doesn’t actually get close to an explanation, ending with the Doctor still being catapulted around his timeline. There is a nice thematic through-line for the first set with the Doctor being taken in the first story to a time after Earthshock where he finds out Adric’s fate while going back in the second story to several stories below the young companion’s demise meaning the Doctor has to face the fact that he knows where Adric is going and actively has to move him towards that fate.Continue reading →
The latest ‘behind-the-scenes’ release from Koch Media – The Doctors: The Tom Baker Years Behind the Scenes Volume 1 is available now on 2-disc DVD and is described as the definitive set of interviews with the production team who brought the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who to life.
It’s most definitely a coincidence that Big Finish Productions would have two releases within a week of each other that tells its story in a non-linear fashion, but it is interesting that it’s happened so soon after Stranded 3’s What Just Happened? inspired my review to be told backwards. The War Doctor Begins: Warbringer is presented as non-linear in the way each of its episodes are presented, beginning in media res, going to a conclusion, and then flashing back to the beginning to deal with a character’s amnesia. This decision assists in making the themes of Warbringer come front and centre with each of the three episodes having single word titles: Timothy X. Atack’s Consequences, Andrew Smith’sDestroyer, and Jonathan Morris’sSaviour. These titles make the set feel much like three episodes of a complete story. While Forged in Fire also acted as a miniseries, Warbringer is a three-part story. It feels like Atack, Smith, and Morris all had the time to communicate with each other in telling the same story.
Stranded as a miniseries ended its second set with the Doctor being thrust into the future with companions Liv, Helen, Tania, and Andy where the Earth has come under a fascist dictatorship run by Divine Intervention. Stranded 3 picks up where Stranded 2 left off and with any of the multi-set series from Big Finish, and especially for the Eighth Doctor Adventures, this is not going to be a set aimed at newcomers. It continues the character driven nature of the other sets and the general Earthbound nature of the previous two sets, but the TARDIS is now working enough so the Doctor can actually travel in time, none of the episodes being set in a normal 2020/2021, the closest we get being John Dorney’s finale dealing with some of Divine Intervention and setting up the final box set. As with the final story having the gimmick of starting at the end and going back to the beginning, that is how this review will be structured. We will be starting at the end and working our way back to the beginning as Stranded 3 brings something very different to the standard box set, even by the standards of Stranded making it some of the more interesting sets from Big Finish.Continue reading →
The Third Doctor Adventures for 2021 were announced as two sets exploring essentially every part of the Third Doctor’s run; with Volume 7 exploring the Season 7 team and the space faring version of the Third Doctor during the later half of Season 11, and now we have Volume 8 exploring the Doctor and Jo as well as a UNIT story post-The Three Doctors which much like The Time Warrior and Planet of the Spiders. Volume 8 takes two very different stories and makes them work together in a package much like Volume 7 had to do with The Unzal Incursion and The Gulf.
With each installment in Dalek Universe, the scope and tension has been building to unravel the mystery of just what’s happening with the universe that the Tenth Doctor is now before the Time War and with Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven. The initial promotion as a full fourth series for the Tenth Doctor was perhaps the most accurate description of the three box sets as a whole, all taking place right after The Waters of Mars; and Dalek Universe 3 sets up The Day of the Doctor, and actually helps transition the Tenth Doctor towards the end of his life. Like the first set, Dalek Universe 3 is only two stories, a single episode and two parts, essentially echoing the structure of one of his televised series (without the third two-parter to fill in the usual thirteen episodes as this is only nine episodes). And with any finale, this set is built around wrapping everything up from the heartbreaking installments at the end of Dalek Universe 2. This review will contain spoilers for Dalek Universe 2, so it is highly recommended to at least be caught up with the stories to this point before continuing. This is also a set which cannot be listened to in isolation, despite its high quality.
The ‘Doctor Chronicles’ is one of those ranges that exists out of necessity, despite what certain corners of social media would have you believe. With the acquisition of the Doctor Who license up to Twice Upon a Time, but only David Tennant officially coming back to the role of the Doctor (and even then not as much as Big Finish would like due to his busy schedule), the types of stories with New Series characters that could be told became limited. Essentially there had to be spin-offs such as Torchwood and The Paternoster Gang, or Short Trips like The Jago and Litefoot Revival. But with The Companion Chronicles being one of Big Finish’s more highly acclaimed ranges, adapting the format to the Ninth through Twelfth Doctors with one narrator and one guest, beginning release in 2017. After one release for each Doctor, the BBC intervened and suggested that the series move away from the initial format and into a full-cast audio format, making this range the only full-cast adventures for the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors (as Eccleston has returned to the role and Tennant has increased his output). This change begins with The Eleventh Doctor Chronicles: Volume Two which stars Jacob Dudman in the role as the Doctor. While Big Finish use Dudman for the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctors it is actually his Eleventh where his performance excels. Throughout this set he captures the voice of Matt Smith’s portrayal, while adding a depth that many of Smith’s episodes seemed to lack, an emotional core rarely seen during that period of the Moffat era. Each of these stories are set in between The Angels Take Manhattan and The Snowmen, and there is this something that Dudman can coax out of the character, it was seen here and in his cameo in Thin Time/Madquake last year. It is also perhaps important to note that this review is coming from the perspective of someone who is not the biggest fan of the Eleventh Doctor.