2010 – My Year with Big Finish

How Much Dr Who can you absorb in one year?

Big Finish New LogoOnce upon a time there were some Dr Who fans who started a popular series of Dr Who stories under the banner of Audio Visuals. These ran during the 80s and later some but not all of those involved went on to form Big Finish who produce many things but for my purposes the most important are the Dr Who audio adventures that provide an outlet for fans, every actor (almost) who was ever in the TV adventures and helped keep the flame alive before the resurrection of the TV series.

Meanwhile yours truly was blissfully unaware until a work colleague gave the potted history and mentioned that BBC 7 were transmitting various stories featuring the Eighth Doctor.

Curiosity was piqued…

What Happened

Max WarpWell, BBC 7 was broadcasting some adventures of the Doctor with Lucie Miller. I didn’t get many episodes but those I did I enjoyed. I also picked up a couple of Charley stories (Sword of Orion and Chimes of Midnight). These led me to buying a few more season 1 and 2 adventures from Amazon before I wised up and took out subscriptions to season 3 and now season 4 (which I may review in 2011 when it finishes). Through this I became impressed with the overall product quality and the great service from the team at Big Finish. I still was locked into the McGann Eighth Doctor stories (for me the best Doctors were Troughton and Pertwee as I don’t remember earlier and went to college for much of Davison and Colin Baker).

Two things then happened in 2010 to cause me to pass the tipping point and become a more serious fan (and now less wealthy!).

the_wreck_of_titanFirst was a sale that let me start to flesh out the Eighth Doctor and Charley stories (still playing it safe) and this led me from Storm Warning to Zagreus. I then got into the Big Finish podcasts and happened to win a competition on the first time of entering to collect the Sixth Doctor + Jamie trilogy. This tipped me over the edge and I moved through the Sixth and via various offers, short subscriptions and car journeys allowing me to listen to a whole double disc adventure in a day I have now become a Big Finish addict, topped up with November sales allowing me to collect even more episodes at £5 a pop.

This then is my brief take on most of the discs I have heard this year. I daren’t count them for fear of working out how much I have spent!

My favourites of 2010

First of all these are in no real order other than that in which I read them. And yes any BF fan will quickly spot that I haven’t by any means listened to them in the correct order. I have also probably overlook many others that I have enjoyed.

Stones of VeniceStones of Venice: a random Eighth + Charley story that doesn’t rate highly on the forum but I really enjoyed as I believed I was in Venice and thought the sound and McGann’s delivery were sensational. And all this despite not generally liking Paul Magrs work!

Update 2012 – I also like the Eleventh Doctor Vampires of Venice, so I am obviously biased!

relativedimensionsEighth Doctor: Situations Vacant (reviewed here) / Book of Kells / Relative Dimensions. Well the Eighth Doctor separate adventures are finishing off in grand style. So far (and with three to go) we have had surprises, re-unions, ice warriors and a tribute to the Apprentice! So far the three listed are my absolute favourites, but I am expecting still more before the season’s end. Update – Relative Dimensions has since become my must play Christmas story

A Death in the FamilyDeath in the Family:
although I am less keen on the Seventh Doctor even I can tell that this is one of the best productions that Big Finish have ever produced. Everyone on the forums is citing this as a candidate for best ever; whereas I have only heard around 40 of the output so far, it is clearly brilliantly conceived, acted, written and with more that stays in the memory than any fan has a right to expect. Professor Dorothy to get her own series I says!

Update 2012 – this is still my favourite though there is some very strong competition in 2012!

if you ask the question ‘what is worth buying from the back catalogue, this story comes up a lot along with Spare Parts (talked about below). Of the two this Sixth Doctor story is my clear favourite as it is very dry in its humour, puts characters in some difficult situations, has one of the most memorable Daleks of all time and is just bloody brilliant really.

Given how far it pushes the boundaries it just about gets away with its inevitable ending

Angel of ScutariAngel of Scutari:
another Seventh Doctor story which I read out of sequence (should be heard after Enemy of the Daleks and before Project Twilight; I did it the other way round). This is a great bridging story that is very strong in its own right and lets Hex shine as a character.

Despite some gripes (white TARDIS anyone) this is a shining example of production and Big Finish at its best. Update 2012 – and of course this shows the birth of the white TARDIS!

2010 – Honourable Mentions

And now the stories that could have been contenders but for me are not quite up there with the ones I mentioned above. This is very subjective and I am sure would move around with more listens.

the_four_doctors_cover_mediumFour Doctors, Zagreus, Project Trilogy (Twilight, Lazarus and Destiny). A mixed bag of Doctors and a mixed set of titles. Four Doctors is too new to really judge, but works for me (maybe a bit short); Zagreus is the sprawling monster celebrating 50 Big Finish stories -brave, epic, huge cast and like the Queen’s Speech it gets respect even if you don’t listen to it.

The Project trilogy works well over the vast number of episodes it encompasses – Twilight needs another listen, Lazarus was let down by the second part and Destiny works well.
judgmentofisskar-cover.jpg_cover_mediumThe K2T Trilogy (Judgement of Isskar, Destroyer of Delights and The Chaos Pool), Spare Parts and Stockbridge 3 (Plague of the Daleks). Now the Fifth Doctor is not my favourite, but I do quite like these; the Key 2 Time trilogy broadly works (and it has Ice Warriors + the Grace girls) making a decent fist of following up from the original Key To Time, Spare Parts is on many peoples ‘best’ list – I like it, but preferred Jubilee.

Not being a die hard fan of every book and comic Stockbridge was new to me so of the Stockbridge Trilogy the only one I liked was Plague of the Daleks with some great insight onto the long term effects of time, i.e. decay and change.

b057_arrangementsforwar_big_cover_mediumArrangements for War, Brotherhood of the Daleks, Patient Zero and Blue Forgotten Planet. The Sixth Doctor has had some good episodes, and even with my not really liking Evelyn (at the time of listening) I did enjoy Arrangements (despite it stomping all over the Web of Time); Brotherhood is mad – drugged fuelled singing commie Daleks no less; Zero set up the trilogy that said goodbye to Charley and Blue Forgotten waved her off (or did it?).

Update 2012 – I now realise I do like Evelyn and wait until you hear the sequel to Arrangements!

Forty FiveForty Five, Enemy of the Daleks, Mousetrap and Klein 2 (Survival of the Fittest). I am beginning to think I actually do like the Seventh Doctor, Forty Five is four short stories out of which I really like the third and fourth (the introduction of the Word Lord); Mousetrap should have been brilliant but wasn’t quite; I didn’t really get the whole Klein thing (I have yet to hear Colditz) but the Survival was saved by the appearance of a variant Eighth Doctor in the back story portion. Update 2012 – just wait, Klein is a grower and Colditz is excellent!

Seasons of FearSeasons of Fear, Neverland, Girl Who Never Was and Earthly Child. So now on to the Eighth Doctor. I really enjoyed Seasons mainly for the Edward the Confessor part of the story; Neverland sets up Zagrues and Girl Who Never Was allows Charley to leave and yet not leave.

I also suspect that having been to Raffles Hotel persuaded me to like this story; topping it all the wonderful Earthly Child with Susan and the Doctor’s new great-grandson!

deathinblackpool_cover_mediumDeath in Blackpool, Deimos and Resurrection of Mars. In the world of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, we started off thinking we’d seen the last of Lucie Miller in Death in Blackpool; we later had a pair of stories Deimos (and we had Phobos in the first series) and Resurrection of Mars that gave us two companions, Ice Warriors and a great part from Tracey Ann Oberman.

There were also some new angles to some old relationships!

2010 – The Others

So now the list of other titles that I didn’t like, didn’t quite work or failed to make enough impression to put higher up

Davros, Master. As Big Finish made it to 50 stories, it brought out these two (and Omega). Ambitious though they were, they didn’t make it for me. I suppose on reflection I could make a case for Davros but in the end I will leave it down here.

Stockbridge 1 & 2 (Castle of Fear and Eternal Summer), The Gathering. For the Fifth Doctor I failed to ‘get’ Stockbridge and thought these two both failed in many places which was a shame for Eternal Summer but not the cod Python of Castle; Gathering was too confusing to listen to at first, then I realised once again I need to hear other stories.

Bloodtide, The Condemned, Doomwood Curse, Raincloud Man, Return of the Krotons and Paper Cuts. A lot for the Sixth Doctor to improve on, Bloodtide was an abuse of the chance to meet Darwin; Condemned I liked only for DI Menzies (same for Raincloud); Doomwood was nonsense in my view; Krotons was free and worth every penny (pure formula); and Paper Cuts added nothing to my life.

Klein 1 (1000 Tiny Wings) and Lurker at Sunlights Edge. To the Seventh Doctor, I don’t like Klein so Wings had no chance; Lurker was always going to struggle coming where it did after Death in the Family.

Company of Friends, Minuet in Hell and Nevermore. Finally (I hear you say) the Eighth Doctor. Company failed except for the Mary Shelley story for me (I have no background in the comic adventures); Minuet was worse than the Audio Visuals story despite the Brigadier and some other twists; Nevermore was the duff Adventures tale – no development of Tamsin Drew and too much Poe.

So there it is, if my brain survives I will do the same again for 2011!

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