Beyond the TV Series: Audio Arcs
Gustaff Behr continues his guide to the Big Finish audios.
- Catch up on the first instalment here
- Catch up on the second instalment here
- Catch up on the third instalment here
As most of you know, arcs weren’t really part of Classic Who. It featured sometimes, but not nearly to the extent that the New Series goes at it with every season having at least one to explore. Since they received their license, Big Finish have gone out of their way to tell intricate and enticing story arcs and in this installment, I’ll be introducing you to some of the most entertaining storylines Big Finish has done over the years.
10. Richter’s Syndrome Cure
The Fifth Doctor audios normally don’t do story arcs. True to Davison’s era, his audios are mostly standalone. Even with this arc, which is actually similar to Series 7 in being arc light (very arc light actually), it starts in Cobwebs when the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough meet Nyssa again. The events of Terminus only occurred a few days ago for them, but for Nyssa it has been fifty years. The saga stretches twelve stories in total, ending in Prisoners of Fate. The RSC journey is very light in arc status. In fact, it’s almost pushed to the background with only a handful of episodes dealing with Nyssa trying to find a cure for the Richter’s sickness.
9. The Headhuntress Chronicles
The first Eighth Doctor Adventures features six stories dealing with Lucie Miller travelling with the Doctor. She’s been placed on a witness protection scheme by the Time Lords after seeing something she shouldn’t have. To this end, the Headhuntress – a bounty hunter – is paid to take care of Lucie Miller…permanently. As with the Richter’s Syndrome Cure arc, these stories are mostly linked together by cameo appearances by the Headhuntress in each story, similar to RTD’s arc words that only show up as teases before finally culminating in a huge free-for-all fight at the end of the series. The arc begins in Blood of the Daleks and mostly ends in Human Resources.
8. Black TARDIS/White TARDIS
A very Series 6 style arc surrounding the Seventh Doctor as he attempts to pull one of the most complicated machinations of his lives. It all starts by cloning his TARDIS and taking it out for a spin in Robophobia and The Doomsday Quatrain before starting his mission which involves acquiring some tougher companions in House of Blue Fire. From there, things get timey-wimey. Really timey wimey as the Doctor and his new associates attempt to take on the Elder Gods, which includes the Great Intelligence among others. Ace and Hex, the Doctor’s previous companions get dragged into the mess inside the white TARDIS, learning that the Doctor’s scheme has somehow gone wrong and it’s up to the companions to save the day. The arc is very confusing, with events occurring out of sequence, which forces listeners to listen to the whole thing in rapid succession as to not lose track of what’s going on. This specific arc forms part of the Hex storyline and concludes in Gods and Monsters.
7. Six and Charley Adventures
Patient Zero was the first Sixth Doctor story I ever listened to. It also was the first Charley Pollard adventure I ever listened to so this arc did exactly what it was meant to – bewilder and mystify me. Most people know Charley Pollard as a companion of the Eighth Doctor, but for this range, Charley ends up in the company of the Sixth Doctor and has to be extremely careful about not letting him know what’s happening in his future. Being the Sixth Doctor, the Doctor quickly grows suspicious of the young lady in his TARDIS and sets out to uncover what she is keeping from him. This arc spans 6 stories, starting with The Condemned and ending in Blue Mysterious Planet and features one of the most gut-wrenching goodbyes I have ever had the misfortune to “see”.
6. Six and Jamie Adventures
Going from a companion from his future to a companion from his past, the Doctor meets Jamie McCrimmon, now an old man in City of Spires and convinces him to help investigate a strange black ink coming out of the ground that has everybody interested. Interestingly about this arc is that Jamie doesn’t remember the Doctor after the events of The War Games, so the two have to become best mates from scratch. An interesting notion that is made even harder since this older Jamie is less trustful than his teenaged counterpart, more suspicious of the Doctor and his stories about how the two of them used to travel together in the past. This tale concludes in Legend of the Cybermen.
5. The Key 2 Time
A short sequel to the original Key to Time season, this time featuring Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, who is separated from Peri and asked by the White Guardian (the real one this time) to reassemble the Key because assembling it the last time using a fake sixth piece has now caused the Key to disintegrate and take the whole universe with it. His tracer for this assignment is a naïve newborn woman named Amy, who is just so adorable in her gullibility that deceiving her in anything should be punishable by death. Together, she and her assistant – the Doctor – travel to the most bizarre locations trying desperately to find all six pieces before the universe blows up. And to make matters worse, the Black Guardian has sent some of his agents to find the pieces as well. This arc spans The Judgment of Isskar, The Destroyer of Delights and The Chaos Pool. It also features a special appearance by a very special companion the Doctor hasn’t seen in quite some time.
4. Dark Eyes
What do a WWI medical volunteer’s dark eyes have in common with a whole fleet of Daleks, a grieving Doctor and a mysterious individual only ever referred to as ‘X’? Well, that’s what this box set is all about. The Doctor, still suffering from the losses in his previous adventure, is offered hope in the form of Molly O’ Sullivan, a normal person whom the Daleks have taken a special interest in. If he can somehow save her life, then maybe things will start to make sense again. The Dark Eyes series features perhaps the closet reference to the Time War as we’re going to get if Big Finish don’t upgrade their license. The conflict between the Time Lords and the Daleks are escalating and the only thing that’s keeping the Last Great Time War from starting is one last ditch effort by the Daleks to completely eradicate their enemies using the Time Lords’ most controversial child.
3. The Burning Prince Tragedy
A multi-Doctor arc if you like. This arc doesn’t feature multiple Doctors in one story, but deals with an adventure that continues into multiple regenerations afterwards, linked by something that happened in the previous story. In a lot of ways, these kinds of arcs are the most fun for me to listen to in Doctor Who. The idea that something that should’ve been over and done with in a previous incarnation coming back to bite the Doctor in a new body is simply masterful of the art of time travel. In the first installment, the Fifth Doctor finds himself on a spaceship with a pyro-kinetic prince and his fiancée. Afterwards, the Sixth Doctor returns to find the prince an outcast and ruler of a powerful species on a primitive planet. The Seventh Doctor becomes the target for a ruthless bounty hunter name Vienna Salvatory who has just accepted an assignment to capture the most wanted man in the twelve galaxies. Her client? Spoilers! If there is one thing I want more of in Doctor Who, its cross regeneration light arcs like these. This arc spans The Burning Prince, The Acheron Pulse and ends in The Shadow Heart.
2. The Forge Saga
Another cross regeneration arc that starts with the Sixth Doctor, but is left in the hands of the Seventh Doctor as they confront a shadow organization called the Forge. The Forge is more powerful than both UNIT and Torchwood put together and their morals fell into a bottomless pit some time ago. Unlike Torchwood who merely scavenge alien tech, the Forge go out of their way to obtain alien hardware, using it to further their own experiments. Apart from mentions in other stories, the Sixth Doctor encounters the Forge for the first time in Project Twilight where it has been trying to create super soldiers in the form of vampires. The Hex Story arc featuring the Seventh Doctor companion also finds its roots in this story, continues in Project Lazarus before being carried over to the Seventh Doctor as he does battle with the Forge and its director Nimrod in a temporal confrontation that doesn’t even take place in linear fashion for the duo. The Seventh Doctor returns to the Forge in 2022 during an alien invasion in Project Destiny, decides in his old age to go back and blow up the Forge once and for all in Project Lazarus and offers to put Nimrod out of his misery in Twilight’s End. The Forge Saga has been one of the most interesting journeys Big Finish has told in its fifteen years of service.
1. The Klein Series
Probably the best storyline Big Finish has ever produced, along with the most controversial and entertaining character ever to step foot inside the TARDIS – Elizabeth Klein! Elizabeth Klein is a Nazi from an alternative timeline in which the Germans won the war and killed the Doctor and Ace during a visit to Colditz castle. They confiscated his TARDIS and ordered Klein to go back in time and kidnap the Doctor while he was still alive so that he could teach them how to fly his ship. This leads to one of the most interesting and psychological confrontations I have ever seen. Tracey Childs portrays Klein with such passion that I actually started to dislike Childs as an actress, confusing the line between reality and fiction. Klein is just an evil person, you literally want to reach out and strangle her. She is powerful, confident and as ruthless as you’d expect a 1940s Nazi to be. What’s also nice about this series is that like the Silence, it spans through different parts of the Seventh Doctor’s life. It starts in Colditz in the company of Ace, carries on into A Thousand Tiny Wings, Klein’s Story, Survival of the Fittest before dropping one of the cruelest (Sherlock jumping off the hospital kind) cliffhangers in Doctor Who history and concludes in The Architects of History which also features another extremely cool and complicated scheme by the Doctor as he tries to fight against a Nazi reign that has become so powerful that forces such as the Daleks and Sontarans are nothing but ants to be stepped on.
Well people, what are you waiting for? As you can see it’s not just the Eighth Doctor who gets the story arcs. There is an arc out there for everybody and now you have a blueprint to selecting which one you’d like to listen to first. Light or soft? Dark or edgy? Five? Six? Seven? Eight?