Dr. Bob's minions tire away endlessly to help the good Doctor in the name of science,
but with what little downtime they get they would like to share with you fine people! 

Big Finish Audios: the hardest working men in geekery


Allow myself to introduce...myself: I'm Abby, a.k.a. Dr. Wilma Westinghouse.

I begin this musing following the official announcement of Big Finish audio series starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate to be release in May 2016. Whovians, particularly of the New Who ilk, get excited! The guys at the Big Finish have been producing intelligent, well-written audio plays since the wilderness years, so its nice to see some well-deserved buzz generating.

If you aren't familiar with them, Big Finish has began producing Doctor Who audio since 1999 featuring the 5th, 6th and 7th doctors, and has quietly been grinding out a new story every month since then, for a total of 220 announced episodes in their regular season (known as a "range"). Audio dramas would be easy to re-cast, but the mark of quality remains: to date, every surviving doctor that has been featured in Big Finish audios has participated in his original role.  Unit stories with Nicholas Courtney listeners can look forward to River Songs' range being narrated by Alex Kingston, and the Churchill tales star Ian McNeice. New stories with the 2nd Doctor are voiced by Frazer Hines, who played Jamie McCrimmon, a popular companion to the 2nd Doctor.

They are especially close to my heart as a fan of an obscure doctor, which brings me to a small introduction into how I got sucked into the time- and money-consuming chaos of Big Finish Productions. I am an Eighth doctor, um, enthusiast. The TV movie is generally regarded as more than usually silly and many fans questioned whether there even was an Eighth doctor. I am glad that this perception has been roundly bludgeoned to death by both RTD (in Human Nature/Family of Blood) and Stephen Moffat (in Eleventh Hour and many times after that) but during the wilderness years, it was common to hear fans lump Paul McGann in with Peter Cushing as Dr. Who and Richard E. Grant as the Shalka Doctor. Now, my house is full of Eighth doctor novels, Eighth doctor comics, the eighth doctor's sonic, and eighth doctor themed cocktails, but I'll let you in on a little secret: the squee I get from listening to Paul McGann's rich sexy voice is unmatched in any of these other media. Since 2001, Mr. McGann has recorded hours and hours of stories as the Eighth doctor, and without them, my life would be meaningless.  Well, I'm exaggerating slightly, but the quality of the 1996 TV movie pales in comparison to the three-dimensional stories produced by the gang at Big Finish. I've laughed and cried and had my fandom itch scratched time and time again. In fact, Paul McGann is still recording superb and satisfying Big Finish stories.

They can also be especially poignant for fans of the Sixth doctor. Colin Baker's characterization of the doctor is often derided as being too glib and gruff. His turn as the Doctor was cut short by a format change and conflicts on-set. Like Paul McGann, Colin Baker's Sixth doctor has been given a hard-earned second chance in the form of an extensive library of new full-cast audio stories.  If you harbor a secret affection for the Sixth Doctor, you must immediately make yourself familiar with the Big Finish. 

The BBC charter dictates that they cannot require viewers to buy supplemental materials in order to understand their TV programs. At the same time, they have legally licensed the Doctor Who brand to the Big Finish. The solution to this problem at Big Finish productions is “The Web of Time.” Loosely translated: wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey; rather than the Doctors story existing in a straight line line of television, its more of a web of multi-media content (Have you ever wondered how many different Doctor Who stories take place on, say, December 31st 1999 with no apparent conflicts?). So, fans of the audios can stand by them as authentic to the story but it is not necessary to listen to them to follow the main narrative thrust of the show.

The Big Finish makes it a joy to obsess over the littlest details.  Do you miss the Mad Monk, or the Sisterhood of Karn? How about Ian and Barbara? Jago & Litefoot, anyone?! (They have their own regular range.)There's something for everyone, from the most elitist classic series fan to the newest teenage Torchwood obsessive.

They warm geeky glow even extends past the Whoniverse. Big Finish is well-respected across the pond as one of the finest producers of genre fiction. The stable includes stories featuring cult TV shows (Stargate, Blake 7, Dark Shadows, Sapphire & Steele, The Avengers, based on lost episodes of the 1961 series and comic strips published in 1966), comics (2000 AD's Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog, voiced by Simon Pegg) and games (Pathfinder and WarHammer).

So, if after 50 years, you still can't get enough Doctor, check out the Big Finish audios. I would recommend The Light at the End, released October 2013. It's delightfully meta, and features all the classic doctors and a large smattering of companions. If you enjoy it, great! If you don't, I'll comfort myself with the New Eighth Doctor Adventures. TTFN!


Previously on Minion Musings...