So you’re new to Big Finish and want to know how to get started, especially with the Doctor Who lines? Friend, have I got something great for you. My essential guide to Big Finish audios.
Now this isn’t a comprehensive list, and it only includes those titles I’ve actually listened to. How many is that? Hard to tell. Close to two-hundred of the main range of Doctor Who along with others scattered around throughout. And Big Finish themselves have a nice little guide of where to start with their titles. But I think my list of essential audios holds up well.
For the sake of convenience, all the Doctor Who titles are grouped by Doctor. Beyond that, you’ll find each non-Who range has its own entry. Enjoy!
The First Doctor
Of course William Hartnell, who played the First Doctor all those many years ago, is long dead. This means that he’s not available for appearances in…well, really much of anything, honestly. So in order for Big Finish to do stories featuring him, as well as the Second and Third Doctors, they created the Companion Chronicles line. This line enables them to tell stories of these Doctors without having the actors who played them. So while you might see Companion Chronicle titles turn up for Doctors 4 – 8, with 1 -3, they’re going to be most of what you get.
The Companion Chronicles
5.06 – “Quinnis” – This story features Susan and the First Doctor and takes place before the start of the TV series! It features the TARDIS landing on an alien planet and actually disguising itself! It also winds up tying into the fourth season of the Eighth Doctor stories, and therefore is very essential listening!
*** NEW *** 3.05 – “Home Truths” – One of the great strengths of Big Finish is their ability to make something big out of something very little. In this case, the First Doctor companion character, Sara Kingdom. She was only in one story, “The Dalek Masterplan”, which is now missing. During that twelve-part (!) story, her character was killed. But Big Finish managed to find a way to bring her back, played once again by Jean Marsh. This is the story that features her return, and it’s quite interesting.
5.08 – “The Perpetual Bond” – This story, narrated primarily by Peter “Steven Taylor” Purves, who does an excellent job recreating the First Doctor, takes place in London in 1966. It’s a fascinating tale about aliens, slavery and secrets. It also introduces a new companion for the First Doctor in the form of Oliver (Tom Allen), an accountant who is on the run from the law. This was the first Companion Chronicle story I listened to, and it remains one of the best.
5.12 – “The Cold Equations” – Part two of Oliver’s journey with the Doctor finds him and Steven facing life or death in an odd bit of corridor floating in the cold vacuum of space. It’s a weird situation, but it’s a great story, and features not only the reason Oliver was on the run from the law, but also gives Steven a chance to be a space pilot, something which he never really got to do on the show, despite being…well, a space pilot.
6.05 – “The First Wave” – The conclusion to the unofficial “Oliver trilogy” finds our heroes stuck on a planetoid named Grace Alone, where they face alien invasion and death. This is something of a downbeat story in some ways, but very much essential listening for anyone who likes good drama.
*** NEW *** – 8.03 – “Upstairs” – This is a really creepy little story featuring the First Doctor, Steven and Vicki. They arrive on Earth and find themselves wandering around in a strange attic, where each room seems to exist in a different time period, but all at the same location: Number 10 Downing Street.
*** NEW *** 8.05 – “The Beginning” – The Doctor and Susan have their first adventure off of Gallifrey! Yes, this is the first story, and it begins with the Doctor stealing the TARDIS. Unfortunately, there’s someone else inside it; a man known as Stoyn. He’s a technician who was working on the ship when the Doctor stole it, and this is the first part of a three-part adventure featuring him as the main antagonist. The other parts are “The Dying Light” and “Luna Romana”, both of which I also recommend.
The Lost Stories
These are stories that were at various stages of production, but never quite made it to the TV screen. With Big Finish you can now get a taste of what those would have been like! For the First and Second Doctor, these Lost Stories are in a form not unlike the Companion Chronicles line.
2.01 – The First Doctor Box Set – “The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance” is a decent enough story, but the real gem here is “Farewell, Great Macedon,” which has the TARDIS crew arriving in Babylon just in time for a visit by Alexander the Great. But is this the first time he’s there, while on the way to India, or is this the second time, where his next stop was the afterlife? While Carol Anne Ford’s performance isn’t perhaps all we might ask for, the story itself is really excellent and William Russell’s take on the First Doctor is every bit as good as that of Purves.