Published on December 20th, 2011 | by Meredith Burdett
Big Finish 2011 Review Round Up
But only within the capacity of your ears!
You may have heard of a little company called Big Finish, dedicated to bringing you the bold and exciting audio adventures of the first eight Doctors and their various friends and enemies. It’s been a huge year for the company, not only have they been releasing monthly adventures for Doctors five to eight, there’s also been two series of Lost Stories and a steady release of Companion Chronicles as well.
It wouldn’t be your fault if you missed some of the releases but it would certainly be an almost criminal act if you overlooked any of them. So with that in mind, we at Kasterborous are here to provide you with a “cut out and keep” guide to Big Finish’s biggest releases in 2011, just don’t blame us if you end up spending all your Grotzitz on their website…
The Sixth Doctor trilogy
The first three releases of the year saw the Doctor reunited with old friends, older acquaintances and even older enemies in The Crimes of Thomas Brewster, The Feast of Axos and Industrial Evolution. See what finally happened to awkward criminal/wannabe hero Thomas Brewster as his adventures finally reach a thrilling conclusion. The Crimes of Thomas Brewster is an action packed season opener with a lovely guest appearance from David Troughton as the suitably nefarious Raymond Gallagher. This trilogy also marks the first appearance of Flip, the Sixth Doctor’s newest companion from January 2012. Want to see what makes her so special? Here’s where you start…
The Fifth Doctor trilogy
You wait for ages for a Tegan Jovanka trilogy to come along and then two turn up within the space of a year. Heroes of Sontar, Kiss Of Death and Rat Trap continue the adventures of the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and an older post-Terminus Nyssa. Hear friendships grow and feel the heartbreak of betrayal as this TARDIS team continue their uneasy alliance through the Universe. Heroes of Sontar is a particularly engaging tale, the much-anticipated debut of the Sontarans in a Big Finish audio is a long overdue affair and will leave you not only satisfied but also very amused with some of the Sontaran “banter”! Add into the mix a scared and cowardly Turlough, played with amazing conviction by Mark Strickson and you’ve got yourself a belter of an Alan Barnes story.
The Seventh Doctor trilogy
A lonely and darker seventh Doctor takes on VOC Robots, Nostradamus and his own worst nightmares in Robophobia, The Doomsday Quatrain and The House of Blue Fire. Continuing his solo adventuring after Mel, Ace and Hex have all gone their separate ways. The Doctor once again encounters Grimwade syndrome (of sorts), prophets hunted by aliens-that-could-be-cousins-to-the-Judoon and his greatest fears. But who will be there to help him when he needs it the most?
This trilogy of stories finds the Seventh Doctor at something of an impasse, with a slightly different outlook on life now that he’s on his own. The House of Blue Fire is a particularly engaging tale which not only twists and turns the narrative like no other Big Finish Doctor Who adventure but is also perfect winter listening to scare the pants off you!
The Eighth Doctor trilogy
The trilogies come to a close this year with the full introduction of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley as the travelling companion for the Eighth Doctor. Talked about since 2001, first introduced last year and now finally stepping up for TARDIS adventures. It’s the most Byronic Doctor with surely his greatest match in The Silver Turk, The Witch from the Well and Army of Death. This trilogy really feels like a completely new start for the Eighth Doctor and also manages to create a nostalgic link to the TV movie. This is not by any direct reference but more due to the brilliant new theme tune arrangement, which evokes memories of the good half human Doctor and his series that might have been.
The Silver Turk in particular is not only a fine adventure for the Doctor and Mary to start with but is also one of Marc Platt’s finest scripts to date. Never thought that you’d feel sorry for a Cyberman? This will get the waterworks going. This is a strong first series of stories for Mary Shelley to start with, as she comes to term with time travel and some of the consequences that it can have. If you’re new to the world of the Eighth Doctor, this is a perfect jumping on point for you. These stories are fresh and original, just the jump-start that this incarnation needed.
Lost Stories and Companion Chronicles
Alongside these regular releases there are The Lost Stories to consider as well. Long forgotten tales given new life by the good people at Big Finish. Last year, we discovered what Colin Baker’s lost season might have been like if it had not been cancelled. This year we finally find out about the aborted Season 27 and what would have really happened to the Seventh Doctor and Ace had the BBC not decided to give Doctor Who a rest for the best part of 16 years. We’re presented with the story of Raine Creevy (including her father) and her journey to becoming a fully-fledged TARDIS traveller.
It’s an interesting look at how the series was starting to formulate new and original ideas that eventually took a further sixteen years to get to the small screen. Kasterborous particularly recommends Animal. Written by Andrew Cartmel, this eco war story features the long overdue return of Angela Bruce as Brigadier Winifred Bambera. Last seen in 1988’s Battlefield, Bruce picks up the character like she never left the role behind and even adds a few lighter lines in to give the good Brigadier a bit more of an approachable personality. If we don’t see a return of Brigadier Bambera to the Big Finish Whoniverse, it’ll be a crime…
There’s also another set of lost adventures for the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa (this time before her departure in Terminus) as we are treated to some of the era’s scripts that never made it to screen for various reasons. These stories better recapture the era within which these characters belonged, where the new audio adventures for Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough give modern scripts to classic characters, these Lost Stories open up a long forgotten treasure chest of extended TARDIS scenes and larger than life villains for the Fifth Doctor and his ragtag crew. Rest assured, each story will leave you wanting more!
Finally, you wouldn’t want to neglect the first four Doctor’s and their adventures now would you? Bearing that in mind, you can lost yourself in some of the Excellent Companion Chronicles that have been made available this year. Including the last half of season five and the first half of season six, you might want to pay special attention to Peri and the Piscon Paradox - a wonderful tale that includes Doctor’s five and six with Colin Baker making a special appearance rather than having his part read by someone else.
You may also have heard the name Oliver Harper being thrown about the Companion Chronicle world; this enigmatic character turns up in a trilogy of plays alongside the First Doctor and Steven which climaxes in The First Wave - a tale that features the return of the Vardans! You might be more in the mood for a sequel however and if that’s your cup of tea, may we recommend Beyond the Ultimate Adventure, a sequel to the 1980’s stage play featuring Colin Baker and written by the legendary Terrance Dicks. It’s a vast improvement on The Ultimate Adventure and there’s not a sing-song to be heard! The story also gives us the long-awaited return of a certain Terrance Dicks monster not seen or heard from for nearly thirty years and it’s a real surprise to find out that the creature actually works well in an audio format.
For a feisty tale that moves at a quick fire pace, try Tales from the Vault which features Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso (Grace and Chang Lee from the TV movie) and sees the two re-cast as UNIT operatives in a very secret storage area recalling tales from some of the Doctor’s companions. Jo, Steven , Zoe and Romana all make cameo appearances (played by the original actors) and make this particular story a lot of fun.
So there you have it, a mini guide to some of the releases at Big Finish over 2011. Now is the perfect time to treat yourself or someone you love (or like, or adore, or worship) to a Doctor Who Big Finish audio. Maybe just the one CD, maybe a subscription for multiple releases, the choice is yours and also plentiful. Either way, whatever you choose from this year’s Doctor Who releases, you will not be disappointed!
Certain subscriptions taken out in 2011 will get you a copy of The Five Companions, a Fifth Doctor tale featuring Nyssa, Steven, Polly, Ian Chesterton and Sara Kingdom which pits the TARDIS travellers against the Daleks and the Sontarans.
To hear the trailers and to find out pricing of all the Doctor Who adventures from Big Finish visit www.bigfinish.com.