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Happy Birthday, Big Finish! 15 Picks for 15 Years

Gustaff Behr celebrates 15 years of Big Finish audios with a look at 15 of the best.

light-at-the-end-art

I’ve noticed that as Doctor Who fans in general, we are a pretty greedy bunch. Not greedy in the sense that it’s sinful or selfish (well…maybe a little), but we always want more Who. More episodes! More minis! More Doctors! Earlier airdates! Longer seasons! We want multi-Doctors for New Who Anniversaries, Classic Anniversaries – Classic/New Bridging Anniversaries. We want it all! That is something I can’t really see in a negative light as it’s something very specific to this fandom and more importantly – we get what we want! Doctor Who has one of the largest, most diverse set of mediums of any franchise. Books! Audio dramas! Comics! Yeah, okay, that was only three, but try counting every Doctor Who story (both short and long, written and spoken) from every Doctor in every medium and you get a lot of adventures.

Fifteen years ago today, Big Finish released their first audio drama entitled The Sirens of Time. It was a fairly ordinary day I imagine. Doctor Who hadn’t been on since 1996. But of course the wilderness years played host to the rise of the novels. Most of them featured the Seventh and later Eighth Doctors, but that just wasn’t enough. Fans wanted more! A big part of Doctor Who is brought to us by Big Finish, who, as you’ve read from other articles I’ve done, have succeeded in telling the stories the lost/cancelled eras couldn’t.

Big Finish have done huge justices to a lot of Doctors and at the same time, supplied greedy fans like myself, who require Big Finish audios to function properly when the TV series isn’t on, with some of the best classic Doctor format combined with 21st century storytelling. They have over 400 titles in their Doctor Who category alone! Yearly, that’s almost double what we get on the TV series! Forgive me if I don’t mention your personal favorite, but selecting fifteen titles, one from each year that stands out as the best to represent and celebrate Big Finish’s success from more than 400 is almost impossible! Let’s see…

fearmonger_big_finishThe Fearmonger (1999-2000)

After The Sirens of Time, Big Finish started telling stories about Doctor 5-7 for the first year. The Fearmonger stands out as it sort of exemplifies what Seventh Doctor stories need to be about. Still finding their feet, the Seventh Doctor was the only one whose stories felt a little too simplistic. The Fearmonger puts Seven and Ace combatting an alien that breeds fear and hatred and violence by hiding in the voices of certain people. Hiding in someone’s voice? That is the type of stuff we expect from Seven. As mentioned, The Fearmonger was also one of those early, intricate Seventh Doctor stories that featured a lot of plot twists and script changing in the sense that just when you think you’ve found all the answers, Seven goes ahead and changes the questions.

Special mentions: Whispers of Terror

holy_terror_big finishThe Holy Terror (2000-2001)

The Holy Terror comes up with arguably one of the most bizarre ideas, bordering on pantomime actually, that Doctor Who has ever done. But it also featured a character from the comics teaming up with the Doctor – Frobisher the Shape shifting Penguin. The premise of The Holy Terror is one I often struggle to describe to people because if you’ve listened to it yourself, you’ll understand my plight. Not only is doing a comedic, pantomime-like story new for Doctor Who, but turning the concept of tradition into playwright and treating it like a sort of stage performance is a very smart, albeit unusual thing to do and put into words that do it justice.

Special mentions: The Fires of Vulcan

chimesofmidnight_big_coverThe Chimes of Midnight (2001-2002)

Put the Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard in a Groundhog Day loop, throw in a murder mystery and combine it with black comedy and the end result is a story that jumps from punching you in the gut with continuous slapslick hilarity that’ll make you tear up from laughing to listening in silent suspense as the plot unfolds. Not only one of the best Eighth Doctor stories out there, but best Doctor Who in general.

Special mentions: Project: Twilight, Colditz

pirates_big finish_coverDoctor Who and the Pirates (2002-2003)

A lot of people expect Spare Parts to take up this slot. Cybermen origin story is one thing, but doing a Doctor Who musical with Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor and setting the story on a pirate ship and having Six sing Gallifreyian Buccaneer is an entirely different thing. A better thing! It’s the polar opposite of Spare Parts by being very soft and comedic as opposed to the dark and mature tones of Spare Parts, but that’s what it takes to stand out. Plus, don’t think Sixie can carry a note? You’d be surprised!

Special mentions: Spare Parts

flipflop_big finish_coverFlip-Flop (2003-2004)

Big Finish’s take on wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey. Arguably the most intricate, complex, mind-screwy title they have ever done; featuring the Seventh Doctor and Mel in not only a predestination paradox, but putting that paradox in a multiple-world line plot featuring another Seventh Doctor and Mel experiencing the same adventure at the same time. Stop reading a moment and try to wrap your head around it. I know it hurts. The script is simply fantastic. In fact, part of its charm is that parts 1-2 & 3-4 can be listened to in any order and still make sense. No beginning or end, just mindscrewy!

Special mentions: Davros, Master, The Wormery

thenextlife_cover big finishThe Next Life (2004-2005)

Fans in general weren’t all that thrilled with the Divergent Universe Arc the Eighth Doctor had been thrown into. It was very marmite with you either loving it to death or hating it with all your heart and soul. The finale featured a much longer story that brought back familiar ‘faces’ in Daphne Ashbrook who played Grace Holloway, as well as a new incarnation of Rassilon. Set on an island with various plot strands running through, The Next Life managed to end a very controversial story arc on a very satisfying end.

thekingmaker_cover big finishThe Kingmaker (2005-2006)

Audio aficionados know that Peter Davison stories are usually very back-to-basics. It’s lighter and softer than other Doctors, but The Kingmaker not only subverts that tradition, but explores the question of ‘what would happen if you got left behind by a time traveler – stranded in the past’. That is a very real and serious question that is taken both seriously, but also mangled by injecting humor into what is otherwise a grim tale. Plus, bonus points for having the Fourth and Ninth Doctors cameoing.

Special mentions: Terra Firma, Other Lives, Night Thoughts

reaping_bigfinish_coverThe Reaping (2006-2007)

Cybermen stories are like the lottery – you rarely hit the jackpot. They are supposed to be on equal footing with the Daleks, but a lot of Cybermen stories end up in the mediocre bin. The Reaping subverts this by giving us probably the darkest Cybermen plot you’re likely to ‘see’. There is no way in hell the production team would’ve gotten this script past the BBC back in the 80s. It’s dark, it’s properly grim that not only explores Peri’s family, but also puts the Doctor in a timey-wimey situation that will come back to haunt his past.

Special mentions: Blood of the Daleks, Human Resources

the_girl_who_never_was_bigfinish_coverThe Girl Who Never Was (2007-2008)

After being a companion for +/- seven years, Big Finish needed to send Charley Pollard off with a bang and they did by exploring the aftermath of a very real event that just proves too much for even the dazzling Edwardian Adventuress. Combining timey-wimey with what feels like a very selfish and insensitive Doctor in some parts, this story definitely stole the year by opening the door to a brand new arc and creating more turmoil than before, instead of closing things down like is custom at the end of a companion’s journey.

Special mentions: Dead London, Grand Theft Cosmos

forty-five_big-finish-cover45 (2008-2009)

A year that truly belonged to the Seventh Doctor, 2008-2009 saw three Sylvester McCoy stories dominating the year, but nothing stood out more than the 4-part anthology that is 45. More specifically – The Word Lord – the last story belongs in the Doctor Who Vault of Most Imaginative and Creative Monsters. I’d put it near the top because of the sheer originality used to create the villain for this tale. That’s not even touching the plot!

Special mentions: Enemy of the Daleks, The Magic Mousetrap, Vengeance of Morbius

big-finish-kleinThe Klein Trilogy (2009-2010)

A bit of a cheat here, but again Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor dominated the year by introducing the most controversial companion in the history of Doctor Who – Elizabeth Klein – a Nazi who hails from an alternative timeline in which they won WWII. The 3-story arc, using The Klein Trilogy as an umbrella title, took the Seventh Doctor into new territory, but what it mostly did was torture fans by zigzagging who had control of the situation by continually raising the stakes and giving listeners cruel cliffhangers that left us wanting more. In fact, when people ask about the Klein Trilogy, most fans tend to give the advice of ‘buy them all in one go’.

Special mentions: Patient Zero, The Eternal Summer, Death in Blackpool

four-doctors-big-finishThe Four Doctors (2010-2011)

Let’s be honest: Multi-Doctor specials are like Whovians’ version of The Avengers. You have to dig freaking deep to beat it. Celebrating ten years of Big Finish, the crew decided to give us a very unusual Anniversary Special by dedicating one episode in a 4-part story to each of the four Doctors (5-8) and throwing in some Daleks, timey-wimey balls that felt lighter and softer than previous anniversaries, but still a showstopper of a romp.

Special mentions: A Death in the Family, To The Death, Lucie Miller

curse-of-davros-big-finish-cover.jpg_coverThe Curse of Davros (2011-2012)

Body swaps are overrated in my opinion! They are a lazy way for generating cheap laughter and shoving life lessons down children’s throats. There have only ever been two titles that have done body swap fiction correctly that I have respected for taking a clichéd concept and treating it seriously: Kokoro Connect and The Curse of Davros. In the former’s case, having the guts to put androphobic in a male body and sorting through very real-world and mature issues rather than finding out how hard the other half lives, for the latter, it was asking the audience the question of: “What does it feel to be Davros?” What does he go through? How does he cope with the pain surging through his body? What goes on inside his mind?

Special mentions: The Emerald Tiger, The Witch From The Well, House of Blue Fire

wrong-doctors_big-finish-coverThe Wrong Doctors (2012-2013)

What’s better than listening to one Colin Baker? Listening to two of them running around Pea’s Pottage: One from just after being put on trial and one who is planning to meet Mel for the first time (from her POV). Is it that simple though? Never! You have two Sixth Doctors and two Melany Bush’s in a story that serves as a prequel, mid-quel and a sequel all in one. Let the confusion begin! The only things distinguishing the dual Doctors are their attire and their volume control. It’s fun listening and trying to keep track of which Doctor is speaking and voicing two distinct versions of himself proves just how Colin Baker has mastered the ins and outs of his incarnation. A fun romp that doubles (no pun intended) as one of those stories that can be listened to over and over again in rapid succession without tiring you out.

Special mentions: The Shadow Heart, The Great War, ‘X’ and the Daleks

The Light at the End (2013-2014)

the-light-at-the-end-cover-artOh come on! What else could it have possibly been? Nothing beats Multi-Doctor Specials and nothing on the 2013-2014 rosters was going to. Eight Doctors? In one story? With the Master and a dozen and a half companions? In the 50th year of Doctor Who? Not on your life!

Special mentions: Breaking Bubble, Scavenger, Eyes of the Master

If I didn’t mention your favorite, apologies, but as I said, Big Finish has done such a fantastic job that even selecting these couple was quite a challenge. Celebrating fifteen years of audio, here’s hoping to another equally whimsical fifteen! Happy Birthday Big Finish!

Step back in time...

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81 comments
mandyb61
mandyb61

i know its not who related but as a big fan of Lis Sladen i throughly enjoyed the stories that she did nice interval before she came back to our screens in school reunion. wish though they could some how find a way in resolve the series and find out who was really behind the crimson chapter and who Sarah saw when she was looking at the comet. mabie get Sadie to repreve her role as Nat writing about her time with Sarah and Josh.

floppy_who
floppy_who

Interestingly, an increasing number of these recommendations are appearing in the Big Finish 24 hour £1 download offers...I'm filling my boots!!!

BazHood
BazHood

Gulp....No Spare Parts (best Cyberman story ever)or Jubilee (Inspiration for 'Dalek') or The One Doctor (Comedy Who done brilliantly) but an otherwise fabby list!

AztecsDaleksAndCavemen
AztecsDaleksAndCavemen

Only listened to Lucie Miller/ To the Death, Blood of the Daleks, Dark Eyes 1, Human Resources, A Thousand Tiny Wings and Protect and Survive but I enjoyed them all.

Charlotte Pollard
Charlotte Pollard

I absolutely recommend Omega, Circular Time (a real tearjerker), and the Key2Time trilogy (Romana returns!!), from Five's stories, as well as Cuddlesome, which tells a disturbing parody of the old Furby toys that always creeped us 90's kids out. The AudioGo stories with Four are fantastic too (and they include good ol' Captain Yates for plenty of nostalgia). Trial of the Valeyard, of Six's, definitely makes my list and adds a ton of lore to the whole Valeyard plot that I just love - fascinating stuff. Anyway, I'm REALLY glad to see The Light at the End on this list. I love that story so much, it's easily my favorite.



Yurix2
Yurix2

I love the inclusion of 'The Kingmaker', my personal favourite Big Finish audio, but I question the assertion that the story is about 'what would happen if you were left behind by a time traveller - stranded in the past'.

That certainly is part of the story, but not the main thrust of it. I don't want to spoil the plot as the many twists are so delightful and funny, but I would suggest that 'The Kingmakers' is one of the cleverest pieces of writing I've heard from Big Finish and caused me some embarrassment when I burst out laughing on a crowded train.

MetamorphmagusWho
MetamorphmagusWho

I've got to admit I've not listened to any Big Finish audios yet, not because I don't want to, but because I feel I should buy and watch more Classic Who instead.

OzzyDenman
OzzyDenman

happy birthday to big finish! (its my birthday too lol)

Version 3.0
Version 3.0

Happy birthday BF. One day, I shall listen.

Iris Wildthyme
Iris Wildthyme

Good choices; I especially agree with Fearmonger, Chimes, Pirates and The Kingmaker. I feel that The Next Life is a tad continuity-heavy (i.e. the Divergent Universe arc) to be chosen, and I really disliked TLATE. Regardless, this is pretty much all MR picks, and my top 15 would probably include some 1st Doctor Companion Chronicles as well.

The Finn
The Finn

Out of these I own Doctor Who and the Pirates, The Girl Who Never Was, Grand Theft Cosmos, Lucie Miller/To The Death and TLATE.

thribs1
thribs1

Doctor Unbound (their "what-if" range) is pretty good as well, especially the the David Warner Doctor stories. 

thribs1
thribs1

Curse of Davros is awesome. One of my favourites.

Yurix2
Yurix2

Some honourable mentions granted, but why no Eighth Doctor - Lucy Miller recommended directly? The whole saga is worth investigating, a great jumping on point for people new to Big Finish and Sheridan Smith is the best companion we never got on the TV show. She's very proto-Rose, but without the mooning over the Doctor and the hubris many didn't like in season 2.

I would recommend working through her entire saga with the Eighth Doctor starting with 'Blood of the Daleks'. In 2010, the year of the Tenth Doctor Specials, the weekly release of their adventures helped me through the drought.

Castrovalva
Castrovalva

Wonderful, some more to keep an eye out for.  So pleased with the recommendation of the Pirates.  Once I got my head around it I truly loved it!  But reviews I read where a bit dismissive.  

MrThorfan64
MrThorfan64

Big Finish Doctor Who is great and it is wonderful it has reached 15 years. I only really started listening last year and I now have quite a collection. I think special mentions should have been given to The Natural History of Fear and Jubilee, which inspired Dalek.

Who is the Doctor
Who is the Doctor

I had never heard of Big Finish until late last year and bought my first audio download from them to see what the big deal was. I fell in love with them right away and started to spend lots and lots of money with them. Now I have the entire main range collection, the entire 4th, and 8th Doctors collections and now working on the companion chronicles. Also have the 50th Anniversary collection. Being retired gave me the time to listen to them.

I have enjoyed most of them, there are always ones that I enjoy more than others, but it have found that BF always put time and effort into each and everyone of there productions. They never tried to take the easy way out.

ilyootha is back in home Universe
ilyootha is back in home Universe

It’s always great to read your articles, Gustaff, we need more Big Finish propaganda on this site!



I've listened to over a hundred audios by now (including many CCs, LSs and FDAs), but I still consider myself new to Big Finish, because it looks like I’ve barely scratched the surface of any major arcs yet! 


Of these 15, I’ve only listened to six, all of which I enjoyed. However, I think I would have squeezed Storm WarningSeasons of Fear, Neverland, Zagreus (yes, I loved it, perhaps even more than Light), Scherzo - basically anything with Charley! - also The Apocalypse Element, Omega, Singularity, The Butcher of Brisbane and Prisoners of Fate somewhere, at least as special mentions. And that’s only assuming that we don’t include Companion Chronicles...



TheDreamer
TheDreamer

More for my list! I only recently started Big Finish and I don't have any of those lol.


I only have patient zero, project lazarus, the dark flame, sirens of time, neverland, zagreus (all of which i have listened to and enjoyed), and i just got leviathan, the 1st sontarans, the guardians of prophecy, the children of seth, the song of the megaptera, earth aid, the nightmare fair, jubilee and the harvest, but have yet listened to them. I'm saving them for our trip to cardiff next month lol. I also have the time machine, but even if the plot itself appealed to me and jenna did a good job narrating, i'm not a fan of narrated stories; i much prefer the full cast audios.


I want to get scherzo and a few dozen others too, but need to slow down or i'll drain our bank account lol.



Temporal Tomato
Temporal Tomato

I pride myself on having listened to most of these. :P Happy B'day, Big Finish! 

gwylock1
gwylock1

This is a unique list, that's for sure! I've read scathing reviews of half of these, though the ones I've listened to I definitely enjoyed! Dr Who and the Pirates in particular is a staunch favourite of mine, managing to be simultaneously absurd, serious, hilarious, and heartbreaking at the end. 

Clara Laurinda
Clara Laurinda

Yaaay! I've just added more to my list of must-hear stories! Thanks Gustaff!

Gustaff
Gustaff

Ah! Happy birthday Big Finish. Hope everybody enjoys this list. It was hell choosing. Lots of ties in each year.

Liana21
Liana21

I have just give audios right now, but you can bet I'm goig to buy more. I love them, and I'd like the, going modern and writing adentures for Nine, Ten and Eleven.

Next target for join my Doctor Who collection: Colditz

MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

While Big Finish got off to a REALLY bad start with The Sirens Of Time, they improved and have produced some of the best Doctor Who stories ever written.


My favorite would have to be The Holy Terror, which starts off as a supposed comedic pantomime as you say, but then becomes one of the best and darkest and most horrifying stories ever written.


Happy birthday, Big Finish!

sontaran17
sontaran17

Also I will just fangasm over a Frobisher Mention - Indulge me - FRRRROOOOOOOBISHHERRRR

sontaran17
sontaran17

Brilliant Gusty! Absolutely Ecstatic that you included Light, Curse and TGWNW -- Three of my Favourites!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY BIG FINISHHHHHH

SephoraNeedSeries8
SephoraNeedSeries8

Is there an article on this website about how to start Big Finish ? I wouldn't know where to start.

Gustaff
Gustaff

@Who is the Doctor So true, I'm about 40 titles away from owning everything there is regarding Big Finish Doctor Who (and spin-offs). Not really a fan of the non-Doctor Who stuff they do. I'm sure it's brilliant, but DW is where my heart (and my wallet) is at.

Gustaff
Gustaff

@ilyootha is in the Divergent Universe I limited myself to selecting one standout story for each year Big Finish produced so that's why some choices seemed odd. These titles are what I consider the highlight story of each of the 15 years of Big Finish

Gustaff
Gustaff

@Clara Laurinda my pleasure. Quite the range of powerful titles Big Finish has managed to set up.

FreddieC
FreddieC

It must be, there are so many great titles to choose from!

thribs1
thribs1

@Sephora36 This should help.

www.bigfinish.com/ranges/released/new-to-big-finish

DWTV
DWTV moderator





Try this series (by Gustaff & Connor):

www.doctorwhotv.co.uk/beyond-the-tv-series-part-1-to-listen-or-not-to-listen-52419.htm

www.doctorwhotv.co.uk/beyond-the-tv-series-part-2-diving-into-audio-dramas-52450.htm

www.doctorwhotv.co.uk/beyond-the-tv-series-audio-companions-61967.htm

www.doctorwhotv.co.uk/beyond-the-tv-series-audio-arcs-62312.htm

www.doctorwhotv.co.uk/beyond-the-tv-series-jago-litefoot-63132.htm





Clara Laurinda
Clara Laurinda

@Sephora36 I would start with this list OR ask Gustaff himself  right here, about where you should begin. He got ME started with "45" (mentioned above).

ilyootha is back in home Universe
ilyootha is back in home Universe

@GustaffI understood that, hence I wrote "a least as special mentions". What I wanted to say is that my picks would probably be different, e.g. for 200-2001 I would probablly chose Storm Warning, with The Apocalypse Element listed in special mentions.



Gustaff
Gustaff

Ok. Sorry about that. Looking forward to a particular title this year?

gwylock1
gwylock1

@MeglosProductions @gwylock1 I will agree that the cliffhangers were weakly handles, but I personally had no trouble following the story :P Now if there's one that was hard to follow, that would be The Hollows of Time!

ilyootha is back in home Universe
ilyootha is back in home Universe

@GustaffTo be honest, I don't pay much attention to current and upcoming releases, more to the past ones, as I still have a lot to catch up with. But I can say I'm dying to listen to those upcoming Four/Romana FDAs and novel adaptations! FDAs were somewhat a disppointement in the past, but Series 4 and 5 sound like fun. And I'm looking forward to these Early Adventures, becasue I loved the First Doctor CCs.

By they way, they've just announced RTD's Damagd Gods to be adopted to audio!