Fans of the Doctor Who audio production company Big Finish were faced with some bittersweet news yesterday as it was announced on social media that the Monthly Adventures series would conclude with its two-hundred and seventy-fifth instalment in early 2021, marking the end of the mainline series of high-quality audio productions created in the style of Classic series episodes that have delighted Doctor Who fans for the last 20 years.
The Monthly Adventures, also alternatively called the Main Range or Monthly Range, started in 1999 with The Sirens of Time, a multi-Doctor story starring Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, and has continued with one release each month, with each release consisting of four 25-minute episodes that are identical in format to Classic Doctor Who episodes, even down to the cliffhanger and theme music at the end of each part. The setting of each audio story in the Monthly Adventures varies dramatically, much like in the televised series, although the audios take the opportunity to experiment with greater deviations from the standard format of the show such as the reintroduction of ‘pure historicals’, stories that do not feature any aliens or non-humans and focus more on the time-travel element of Doctor Who.
Initially a niche ‘expanded universe’ audio series, the Monthly Adventures (and Big Finish itself) began to gain more popularity with the return of Doctor Who to TV in 2005 and the audios have been elevated to a unique position of ‘B canon’ for many fans due to their genuine nature and care taken for the show’s lore and continuity. Fan-favourite releases from the Monthly Adventures series include Jubilee, Davros, Master, The Chimes of Midnight, The Kingmaker, Spare Parts, The Silver Turk, The Holy Terror and many, many more, with some audios featuring returning villains like the Daleks, Cybermen, Davros but others featuring completely unique villains.
Starring the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors with occasional appearances from the Eighth Doctor, the Monthly Adventures has continued to grow Big Finish’s popularity as a company, though newer fans had begun to voice their concern over the lack of a distinctive jumping-on point, particularly as the vast range had begun to incorporate story arcs that not only spanned multiple releases but also multiple Doctors.
Big Finish has also announced changes to the subscription system to account for the range ending mid-month, for full details you can read Big Finish’s post on their official website.
What’s Next for Big Finish?
Fans of Big Finish need not despair, as the announcement of the end of the Monthly Adventures was tempered by a concurrent announcement that the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors will be receiving their own independent ranges, presumably similar to the fan-favourite Eighth Doctor box set series like Dark Eyes, Doom Coalition and Ravenous. Essentially, it means releases are being rescheduled to four episodes every few months instead of one episode every month, though this is currently speculative. This announcement also extended to every Doctor from William Hartnell up to and including Matt Smith, even the late John Hurt, a considerable reshuffle of releases for Big Finish.
Nicholas Briggs, creative director and executive producer for Big Finish is quoted on the Big Finish website: “As well as making our ranges much less confusing for Big Finish beginners, these changes will allow us more exciting new possibilities and creative freedom.
By freeing the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors from the constrictions of the Monthly Adventures schedule, and giving them their own distinct ranges, we will be able to introduce more surprising cast combinations, different story lengths, and more story arcs.”
The Monthly Adventures Finale
Another silver lining to this apparent grey cloud is the idea that the Monthly Adventures will finish with release number 275, currently listed as ‘TBA’ on the Big Finish website. In theory, this release could serve as a ‘finale’ to the Monthly Adventures series – perhaps it will feature long-running enemies of the series like the Daleks or Cybermen, or Big Finish original villains like the Viyrans or the Eleven. With such a huge range to draw ideas from, there are hundreds of potential story ideas, so it will be interesting to see what direction Big Finish takes the de-facto ‘finale’ of the Monthly Adventures.
Fans speculating on social media appear in favour of the idea of a multi-Doctor story, which would be fitting considering the very first Monthly Adventures audio was a multi-Doctor story with the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors that release number 275 could revisit. Perhaps the Eighth Doctor will make a triumphant return to the Monthly Adventures, or we will be treated to the first appearance of the Fourth or Tenth Doctors – although they are likely more occupied with their recently announced multi-Doctor special, ‘Out of Time 1’, which gives fans some high hopes for the future of the Doctor Who audios. With Big Finish, the possibilities are almost endless. As a wise Ood once said, “This song is ending, but the story never ends.”