Great Big Finish News!


Two rather nifty announcements from my favourite British company! First off, UNIT Assembled. It’s going to feature Kate Stewart and Osgood, as is expected, but will also have Jo Grant, Mike Yates, and Sgt. Benton. Plus Sea Devils! Excellent.

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I’m not that into the new UNIT crowed, but I certainly like the concept of this story. I hope it’s good!

The other bit of news features volume two of the “Classic Doctors, New Monsters” concept. The first story they announced was the Fifth Doctor against the Racnoss; an alien species that interests me so little I keep forgetting they’re the ones in it.

But today’s announcement is that we’re also getting the Fourth Doctor up against the Vashta Nerada, previously seen in the first River Song episodes, “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”. I wasn’t crazy about them, either, as they seem wildly over-powered. But we’ll see what Big Finish does.

Either way, pretty neat stuff!

Yay, Confirmation!


I wrote last month that there was a story that Big Finish had inked a deal with David Tennant and Catherine Tate to bring back the Tenth Doctor and Donna in audio form. Well, today came confirmation from Big Finish that this is, in fact, happening.

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David Tennant portrayed the Doctor on screen from 2005 until 1 January 2010, returning to play alongside Matt Smith and John Hurt in the 50th Anniversary special The Day of the Doctor in 2013. Catherine Tate made her debut as Donna in December 2006, and after a series and two festive specials she made her last appearance alongside David on 1 January 2010. Their on-screen partnership is generally regarded as one of the great high-points of the enduring science fiction phenomenon.

‘I still remember the sense of joy I had when I heard that David had been asked to play the Doctor,’ says Big Finish executive producer Jason Haigh-Ellery. ‘We were all so pleased for him — as we knew how much Doctor Who meant to him. And now David comes full circle, back doing Doctor Who with Big Finish — except that this time he’s playing the Doctor! It’s the same but different — it’s wonderful to have him back!’

I really am extremely happy about this news. Donna was the best of the Tenth Doctor’s companions. Rose during their voyages was terrible, and Martha was just sort of “there”, being vaguely punished for not being Rose. But Donna…Donna was a lonely, insecure woman, who had no real direction in her life. She grew and changed during her time with the Doctor, often acting very much like an ordinary person would when thrust into extraordinary circumstances. This made her eventual fate at the hands of Russell T Davies all the more irritating.

But ignoring that ending, I’m very much looking forward to this. Big Finish has proven time and again that they have some of the best writers Doctor Who has never had, and hopefully they’ll correct some of the flaws with Tenth’s characterization that sometimes made him so frustrating to watch. But even if that doesn’t happen, I’ll at least get some more stories with one of my favorite characters, and that’s no bad thing!

Doctor Who in 2015: The State of the Series


52 years from its first airing and Doctor Who continues to attract fans. It remains the most popular science fiction series airing on TV today. Millions of people around the world watch the new episodes, read the comics and novels, listen to the audios, and attend conventions.

But…but…

Not all is well in Whoville. Let’s take a look at the series as a whole and see where it is in 2015.

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Television: Series nine has started and the ratings have, frankly, been terrible. Part of this is the Rugby World Cup, which has often been airing directly against the series. Now the powers that be at the BBC have known for ages that the RWC was coming. This is not just some surprise massive sports event (though that would be kind of interesting). They could have scheduled Doctor Who so it wasn’t running right up against it, but they didn’t. When it comes to watching an event live, pretty much no sports fan will DVR the sport and watch the drama live; they’ll do it the other way around.

Now it is true that the BBC do track when people watch via time shift, like through a DVR, but even with those numbers added in, we’re still in a situation where the ratings are significantly lower than they were just three years ago.

There are reasons for this beyond the RWC. First off, audiences, especially younger ones, want the new. They tend to be fickle. Very few shows maintain really high numbers over an extended period of time.

But secondly, one cannot help but acknowledge that Doctor Who just isn’t very good anymore. The season premiere was quite decent, but episode three was fairly meh and episode four was better than that, but not great. There hasn’t been a truly excellent episode since the Tenth Doctor’s era. Oh, there have been good ones, and certainly great specials like “The Day of the Doctor”, but nothing at all on the order of the best of Tennant’s era.

I mean, just look at last season. Several ok episodes (“Into the Dalek”, “Mummy on the Orient Express”, the season finale), one really good, solid episode (“Time Heist”), and then several others that varied from merely bad (“Deep Breath”), to outright terrible and insulting to the audience (“Kill the Moon”, “In the Forest of the Night”).

Compare this with season four, which gave us “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead”, “Midnight”, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, “Turn Left”, and a season finale that, yes, was a bit bloated, but still quite good. Compare this with any series from the Ninth or Tenth Doctor’s era and there’s a distinct lack of quality. Hell, even up against the Smith era it’s just not there. The best episodes from series eight aren’t nearly as good as the best from the previous seasons, and the worst are at “Love and Monsters”-level terrible.

It doesn’t help that the Doctor isn’t very likable anymore. Now, to be fair, that’s not something I blame Capaldi for, and previous Doctor, such as the First and Sixth, were also quite unlikable at first. But in the case of the First Doctor things changed quickly, and in the case of the Sixth, well…he got carrot juice.

No, I blame the writers for this, and for the overall decline in episode quality. And I therefore must also blame the captain of this Whovian Titanic, Steven Moffat.

I’m not a Moffat-hater. The guy can and does do some really amazing work. All the truly excellent episodes of the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s era were written by him. He also cast Smith and Capaldi as Doctors, and while I don’t much care for the Twelfth Doctor, I do like Capaldi quite a bit as an actor.

But Moffat is one of those writers who clearly needs someone standing over his shoulder saying, “Steven. Are you sure this is a good idea?” He’s not alone in this. George Lucas and, yes, previous showrunner Russell T Davies both have the same problem. They’re all gifted and creative people, but really need someone around who can veto their less-than-excellent tendencies.

Ultimately Moffat bears responsibility for the current state of the series, and I think it’s time for him to go. Not because he’s bad, but because he’s very clearly burned-out at this point. He’s still doing Sherlock, is now planning a Who spinoff called Class, because the world needs Buffy with Daleks, and he’s become too much of a lightning rod for fans. Frankly, old series fans like me are starting to get a certain familiar feeling about him. It’s time for him to declare victory and go home.

That’s not what’s going to happen, at least not immediately. He’s already signed on for series ten (which means we’re getting one, so there is that), which means we have him for at least 2016. But it would be nice if he would just retire before then, or at the very least not stick around for series eleven. Move on.

In summary, the new series isn’t doing well, and there is little chance of recovery before 2017. That said, it’s unlikely that the BBC will cancel it, but I do expect the budget to get cut. That might end up being a good thing, because maybe it will force the series to concentrate on story and not spectacle.

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Audio Stories: Big Finish has had a banner year. First off, they have, at this stage, released eleven of their planned thirteen main range titles for the year. This includes the 200th story, which tied into the end of The Eighth Doctor Adventures, which was a nice surprise. Further they concluded the Dark Eyes series, which…hasn’t been great, honestly. But it ended well. Also, the Fourth Doctor series continued strongly, with eight new stories featuring him and Leela.

The spinoff series also continued to be quite excellent, with new Jago and Litefoot, new Iris, more Gallifrey, and other amazingly neat things to enjoy.

The big news for the year? Well, until recently it would have been the recasting. They’ve recast Ben, Barbara and the Third Doctor. All of this was not without controversy, but with the first story featuring the new Ben and the Third Doctor box set both out, I can say that it was a good move. The new actors are quite good in their roles.

That would have been the big news had it not been overtaken by another piece of news that also ended up not being the big news. That other piece was “The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure”, which finally gave ole Sixie a proper regeneration story. It was rather odd in patches, but overall excellent, and really gave Colin Baker a chance to shine.

But, ok, the big news is Big Finish finally getting to wade into the shallow end of the new series. First off we got an announcement about an upcoming UNIT series, starring Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart. Then we got an announcement about Torchwood audios.

Then things got a bit crazy. Big Finish announced the arrival of River Song, who would appear alongside the Eighth Doctor in the upcoming “Doom Coalition” series. We also got announcements about a Churchill audio series starring Ian McNeice and a box set featuring old series Doctors up against new series villains, including the Sycorax, the Judoon and the Weeping Angels (and I’m really puzzled as to how they’ll work out in audio format).

The really big announcement happened just the other day, when Big Finish told the world they’d signed on John Hurt to do a series of War Doctor audios, and a prequel story featuring the Eighth Doctor in the early days of the Time War.

In summary: Big Finish continues to churn out the best Doctor Who, with some excellent old series stuff, and the promise of some really good new series products. Even if the new series goes to shit completely on TV, we’ll still have Big Finish to fall back on.

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Paper Media: I’m less familiar with the paper media (books, comics), than I should be. That said, I understand that sales of both are quite good currently, and that Paul Cornell’s series, “The Four Doctors”, is being quite well-received. Further, we got the above-referenced Big Bang Generation, which features not only the Twelfth Doctor (minus Clara, who while better this season, still isn’t very good), but also features Bernice Summerfield and the Legion crew. Hooray! Further, for the audio book fans out there, you can get not only this story, but the original novel Human Nature in audio book form read by Lisa Bowerman. Nice!

In summary: yeah, the show’s doing fine in printed form.

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Toys and games: Character Options has returned, at least somewhat, to the five inch figure format (though oddly, labeled as “5.5 inch”, and visibly a bit larger than previous figures). They’ve released new versions of the Twelfth Doctor, the Curator, and Missy, with more to come. This pleases me, as the 3.75 inch figures were just bad.

Even better, Lego managed to acquire the rights to do at least a couple of Doctor Who sets. The current ones are just collector’s sets, but should be quite neat. With luck, it will result in more sets down the line.

Concurrent with that, they’ve also released a game called Lego Dimensions, which is a “toys-to-life” video game that’s sure to put a serious dent in ones wallet. Among other licensed franchises, it also features a Doctor Who level with the base game, and another level coming out in November. They’re paying much attention to detail with it, and it should be lovely.

in summary: All is well among the toys and games, and hopefully will get even better!

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Overall Summary: I don’t think we can deny that the series is, at least on TV, going through a rough patch. But with 35+ seasons, that’s to be expected. The show has weathered worse, and we’re at least not likely to end up with a cancellation anytime soon.

But if we ignore the TV series, the state of the show in general is quite strong. The novels, audios, toys, and video games all continue to be of very high quality, and the sort of thing that would make a fan in 1990…well, you can use your imagination for how happy and excited they’d be.

So if the TV series never recovers, at least we collectively have the rest to fall back on. And if it does recover, well, happy days are here again!

Amazing, if True!


So Blogtor Who is reporting that Big Finish has signed-up David Tennant and Catherine Tate to reprise their roles as the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble, respectively, in an upcoming set of Doctor Who audios. I believe there’s only one correct response to this.

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Now this hasn’t been confirmed by Big Finish, but currently I have no reason to doubt Blogtor Who, which is generally regarded as a fairly reliable website. Time will tell, of course, but I will say that if this is true, I’m very excited. Donna was easily the best new series companion, and I’d be very, very happy to have her back.

Hello, Sweetie!


Spoilers!

Spoilers!

Massive congratulations to Big Finish for getting as close as they possibly can to making new series Doctor Who stories without actually doing so. I mean, ok, they are, but without a “main range” new series…series. But still!

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Here’s what they’ve announced today, and I couldn’t be more excited. While I’m unsure how well the Weeping Angels will work in an audio-only format, and while I don’t much like the Sycorax or the Judoon, I’m remaining confident that Big Finish will find a way to make this work. They’ve seldom disappointed in the past. Plus a series with Eight and River is all sorts of exciting all on its own!

This is nothing but a win for Big Finish, and on several levels. First, most obviously, it’s going to lure in some new series fans. Hopefully, most of them will actually pay for the audios instead of stealing them.

But in a larger view, this is good news because, frankly, no one involved with the old series is getting any younger. For Big Finish to continue as a company, they need to be able to access new series elements, even if they can’t yet do full-on new series Doctor stories. And while this isn’t that, it’s as close as we’re going to get until Eccleston, Tennant and Smith really get hard-up for cash.

So bring it all on! I’m really quite excited about this. 🙂

Exciting Torchwood News!


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Doctor Who spinoff series Torchwood is, at last, returning, though not in the expected manner. It was last seen on our TV screens during the less-than-stellar, largely American-based series “Miracle Day”. Since then the future has been up in the air. Now, however, Big Finish Productions, who have had a license for Doctor Who audio stories for over fifteen years, have announced via their website that the series is returning in audio form.

Torchwood, the intrepid team of alien investigators, returns in a series of six audio productions, as part of a licensing deal with BBC Worldwide.

Once again, the Torchwood team will be led by the irrepressible Captain Jack, as played byJohn Barrowman – who broke the news of the series return on his radio show on Sunday evening.

Conceived as a spin-off from Doctor Who, Torchwood was created by Russell T Davies (Doctor Who, Cucumber, Banana, Queer as Folk) and made its debut on television in 2006. The top secret organisation Torchwood saved Cardiff (and often the world) from alien menaces and terrifying forces, trying to keep the city safe from the inter-dimensional rift that ran through it. In charge of Torchwood was Captain Jack, a man who has been called: “A companion to the Doctor, a rogue Time Agent, an immortal, a dangerous con-man, and very good at parties.” Captain Jack can’t be exterminated or trusted, and there’s just no stopping him.

This is pleasant news all around. The “Miracle Day” series left a bad taste in the mouth of many fans, and was generally regarded as a financial and critical failure. Fans have waited several years for the series to retunr, and it looks like they’re finally getting their wish.

But in what form? Listeners to Big Finish know that the company prefers to do full cast audio stories. Indeed, that’s what most of the Doctor Who range, as well as other ranges, like The Avengers, Blake’s 7, and the upcoming series, The Prisoner, tend to be. But in this case, it looks like, for now, they’re going to take a different track.

The new series of audio dramas will each focus on different members of the Torchwood team, exploring the impact that a mysterious event has on them. Starting off the range will be John Barrowman, who stars in The Conspiracy, a deadly thriller by David Llewellyn, which is released September 2015.

This sounds like something similar to the Companion Chronicles series that Big Finish have done with Doctor Who. In those stories, you have one main cast member acting and narrating alongside one or two other actors. It’s a somewhat limiting format, but not without its merits. It is also hopefully a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

To fans of Torchwood, this is extremely welcome news. It’s also something that Doctor Who fans can be cautiously optimistic about. Big Finish is, in addition to Torchwood, also releasing a series focusing on the new Who version of UNIT, complete with Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart. Can a full-on new series range be on the horizon? One can but hope.

Great News from Big Finish!


Literally just yesterday I was scanning around on Big Finish’s site, noting that they had nothing available for pre-order past late 2016, which was the last date their license had been extended to. I found nothing, but figured I’d hear some sort of announcement in time.

Well, “in time” turned out to be a lot sooner than I had expected, as just today Big Finish announced that their license has been extended to 2020!

This pleases me greatly. They’ve been turning out a consistently high-level product for fifteen years now. Very seldom do a I listen to a story that disappoints me, and the overall quality is much greater than that of the new series, or even of the classic series TV stories. So I’m pleased to hear that we’re going to get several more years of this.

So congrats to Big Finish! Keep up the good work, guys!