The practice of animating lost episodes of early Doctor Who has evolved significantly since the DVD release of The Invasion in 2006, which had its two missing episodes fully animated with simple flash characters. Since the release of the first fully-animated reconstruction of a classic Doctor Who story, The Power of the Daleks which was released in 2016, the reconstruction of missing Second Doctor stories has intensified both in scope and popularity, with several lost classics like The Macra Terror and The Faceless Ones receiving full animated reconstructions following its success.
The Power of the Daleks even received a full Special Edition release this year featuring updated animation and more special features, and the animated Fury from the Deep is scheduled to be released in September of this year. Both releases have been marketed heavily on the promise of more advanced animation for these two stories in particular that will set a new standard for Doctor Who animations to follow, and fans are eagerly anticipating the announcement that other missing classics like The Daleks Master Plan, The Wheel in Space and The Evil of the Daleks will receive the animation treatment. What was once a quirky substitute for missing content that often yielded inconsistent results is now being considered its own art form, and a potentially profitable endeavour by the BBC.
One has to speculate, therefore, whether the BBC intends to limit the practice of animating Doctor Who stories to simply missing episodes. Whilst the show does have nearly 100 missing episodes, if the rate of episode animation and reconstruction continues then it won’t be long before all of the missing episodes have received the animation treatment. This is without a doubt excellent news for fans, though it presents a potential problem for the BBC and the animation studios commissioned to animate the stories, as there are only a finite number of potential releases.
One solution that many fans have suggested online is that the BBC should work with Big Finish to create animated visuals to accompany the full-cast audio dramas that the company have been producing consistently since 1999. The main reason why these audios could work just as well with the animation is that, in theory, the soundtrack of an audio drama – characters talking, incidental music and sound effects – is similar to the surviving audio tracks from the missing episodes that are used as the basis for the animated reconstructions, so the team could use the same techniques of approximating a character’s position, movement and interaction with the environment from the soundtrack.
However, this notion assumes that a Big Finish Doctor Who audio is essentially just an episode that lacks the visuals, which is rarely the case – Big Finish audios are created specifically with the audio drama format in mind, and there are some Big Finish audios that simply would not translate to a visual medium at all, such as Scherzo or The Natural History of Fear, as adding visual elements to these kinds of stories would detract from the episode.
That is not to say that there are no Big Finish audios that could not be animated, however, and there are some that have been commonly suggested by fans as prime candidates for a ‘prototype’ Big Finish animation – stories that are of a high quality, that would not be undermined by the addition of visuals and that are consistent with the tone of the show itself. These include:
- Jubilee, which has essentially been adapted to screen already in the form of Dalek from Series 1 but is distinct from that story and lends itself to some very striking visuals. The Sixth Doctor and Evelyn work so well together as a Doctor-companion pairing that an animated Jubilee could make significant progress in improving the reputation of the Sixth Doctor in the eyes of the general fanbase.
- Blood of the Daleks, a natural jumping-on point during the Eighth Doctor’s timeline as the first story in the Lucie Miller arc, that also includes Daleks and is formatted in the same style as a New-Who two-parter. This could also lead to a series of animated versions of the Eighth Doctor Adventures series, as there are some other strong stories in that series including The Zygon Who Fell To Earth, Human Resources, Lucie Miller / To The Death, the list goes on.
- The Innocent, the first instalment of the Time War audios set starring the late John Hurt. This would theoretically allow for a War Doctor series, though some fans have argued that a visual depiction of the Time War would diminish the sense of incomprehensible mystery surrounding the conflict.
- Spare Parts, the Fifth Doctor audio that depicts one account of the origins of the Cybermen of Mondas, and is well-known among the community for being a popular first-time audio for new listeners of Big Finish, not least because of the thrilling tale it tells but also because of the accessibility of the story.
- Davros, a popular candidate for fan-made animations based on Big Finish audios, this story is easily one of the best Big Finish has produced and it has a nice balance of action and character moments, making it a prime candidate.
However, there are also some other Big Finish audios which, although not as accessible to new listeners, would still make excellent candidates for the animation treatment later down the line. These include:
- The Sixth Doctor – The Last Adventure, a box set containing several stories spanning the Sixth Doctor’s era that have a story arc running throughout, which eventually culminates in the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration story, The Brink of Death. This box set requires a fair bit of background knowledge of the Sixth Doctor’s audio adventures, but it would be nice to have visuals for every regeneration story.
- Order of the Daleks, another Sixth Doctor story that lends itself well to a visual medium, particularly due to the striking Stained-Glass Daleks that are present in the story.
- Hour of the Cybermen, yet another Sixth Doctor story that is among the most recent outings for the Cybermen and features the return of the classic Cyber Leader voice actor David Banks and Cyber Lieutenant voice actor Mark Hardy.
These are just some of the incredible audios from Big Finish’s back-catalogue that could make excellent animated adventures in the future, and as the company has recently prompted fans on Twitter to post suggestions for the first animated Big Finish audio it is clear that the idea isn’t completely outside the realms of possibility.
This is an exciting notion for fans that cannot be ignored. Big Finish has a reputation for creating exceptional Doctor Who content, and making that more accessible to fans who are not accustomed to audio stories who require visuals is an interesting prospect. Creating animated versions of Big Finish audios would certainly not work for all of their releases, though it is possible that adding animated visuals could enhance some audios that depict large-scale conflicts such as The Enemy of the Daleks, Patient Zero or Last of the Cybermen.
So, to answer the question posed by the title of this article, yes, Big Finish audios should definitely be considered for animation in the future, regardless of whether or not the BBC chooses to animate all of the remaining lost episodes. However, the decision as to which Big Finish audios should be animated should not be taken lightly, as many Big Finish audios intended specifically for the audio format and choosing a story that can also serve as a jumping-on point for fans will help to set up a good long-term strategy for future releases. Animating a few initial stories will also encourage fans who were on the fence about listening to the audios to give Big Finish a try, as the quality of the stories speaks for itself.
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