OK! So the announcement that Alex Kingston will be headlining two new series of Big Finish audios is super huge news for fans of New Who, but seeing River Song (with the 8th Doctor!) stories is the icing of a supremely amazing cake that Big Finish has unveiled over the past few months. This includes other announcements such as:
- A new UNIT series featuring Kate Stewart and Osgood
- A series featuring Winston Churchill’s encounters with the 9th, 10th, and 11th Doctors
- Monsters from New Who battling the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Doctors
- New Torchwood dramas with Jack Harkness
This is an excellent place to start with Big Finish! Here’s everything you need to know about Big Finish:
What is Big Finish? It’s a company that’s been releasing Doctor Who audio dramas since 1999. At first, the stories featured just the 5th Doctor, 6th Doctor, 7th Doctor and 8th Doctor. In 2011, the 4th Doctor hopped on board and now there’s several series featuring him.
In addition to the classic Doctors, all but one of the surviving companions from the classic era (and a few now deceased) have participated in a Big Finish story. David Tennant, Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams) and Bernard Cribbins (Wilf) have appeared in various supporting roles (but not as their on-screen characters). As part of the 50th anniversary, Big Finish released audio stories narrated by Catherine Tate (Donna Noble) and Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald).
Big Finish also has a number of spinoffs featuring the original companions created for its dramas, such as Bernice Summerfield (another kickass time-traveling archaeologist), stories centered just around the companions, an entire 7-series Gallifrey collection featuring Romana, Leela and later-on Ace and more.
Are the stories canon? Your mileage may vary, since Doctor Who’s canon is so debatable but Steven Moffat made at least the Eighth Doctor’s Big Finish adventures canon when he had Eight remember his companions from the audio series during his regeneration. Plus, one Big Finish episode used as the basis of a New Who episode (see recs below) and a lot of the writers for the audio dramas also write for the TV series.
As Moffat was the one to suggest River’s role in the new collections, it’s safe to assume that the River Song audios are part of her story canon.
What are the productions like? They’re fully produced stories, with multiple actors and sound effects. It’s like listening to an audiobook, but better. There are original companions, and they are all amazing. You can get them either via digital download or CD.
Can I try it out before I pre-order? Yes! Here’s the first episode of the first Eighth Doctor series for you to try out.
How much does it cost? Pre-orders are $20 for digital and $31 for audio CD (the Torchwood ones are less). However, Big Finish has frequent sales and is constantly offering various adventures for $5 US for the digital copy and a little bit more for the CD. But if you want to show your support for these series, please pay full price when you can.
There’s so many! Where can I start? This was my problem and kept me from trying Big Finish for years. Personally, I recommend you start with the 8th Doctor. His stories are a lot like New Who stories, and his companions (Lucie Miller, Charley Pollard, etc.) are my favorite. Here’s five stories to start you off:
- The Blood of the Daleks: Part 1: This is the first story with the 8th Doctor and Lucie Miller and is very similar in spirit to series 1 of New Who. Fans of Rose Tyler should enjoy Lucie Miller, who reminds me of a cross between Rose and Donna in all the good ways.
- Storm Warning: The first story with the Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard.
- Shada: The Eighth Doctor and Romana. How can you not love this? This is the episode that never finished filming because of a TV strike during the 4th Doctor’s era.
- Jubilee: This drama was adapted as “Dalek” in series 1 of New Who. It’s one of the best episodes in the Big Finish run and features the 6th Doctor.
- The One Doctor: Another stellar outing with the 6th Doctor, and pretty much Colin Baker gets to be the version of the Doctor he was never allowed to be on TV. It’s also received rave reviews and is only $3 to purchase.
Here’s some recs from other people:
There’s a ton of material out there on Big Finish, so please check it out!