Following the announcement earlier this year that Big Finish is concluding the Monthly Adventures in March 2021 with the 275th release of the long-running series, there has been much interest in the future of the Doctor Who audios, as the company is seeking to streamline its ranges of upcoming releases to encourage new listeners who feel intimidated by the large back-catalogue to begin with a new set of jumping-on points for the various Doctors.
In light of this, we are looking back at some of Big Finish’s earlier releases to determine what the ideal listening order for Big Finish could be, and show newer fans to the audios the most accessible ways to enjoy Big Finish’s previous releases. The best place to start for this would be the natural jumping-on points that Big Finish have created in the past, as these are designed to be accessible for new fans and contain their own self-contained story arcs.
The Eighth Doctor Adventures
This series is a popular suggestion for new listeners, not least because it is formatting in a very similar way to the New Series of the TV show, meaning there are 45 minute long episodes, some of which are two-parters, instead of 4 25-minute episodes that make up the majority of Big Finish releases in the Monthly Adventures.
As such, these episodes are often shorter and more fast-paced, in much the same way that the New Series is compared with the Classic era. This series of audios ran from 2007-2011, so there is a complete story arc spread across 4 seasons, and although the series takes place between the Eighth Doctor stories from the Monthly Adventures and the newer Eighth Doctor box sets, no knowledge of the prior Paul McGann audios is required to understand the Eighth Doctor Adventures.
Alongside Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, Sheridan Smith plays the companion for this series, Lucie Miller, who is a unique take on the companion role and doesn’t fit into any preexisting companion archetype, making her a great addition to the series and a driving force behind many of the stories. There is also a range of recurring supporting characters who help to define this set of audios as its own ‘era’ of Doctor Who, much like Steven Moffat’s era of the TV show did with its cast of new recurring allies and enemies of the Doctor.
The Best of the Monthly Adventures
Since the Monthly Adventures (then called the Main Range) began in 1999, Big Finish have created hundreds of stories set during the eras of the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors, all of which are full-cast adventures produced to a very high quality. Even their earliest audios are of the upmost quality, and one of the most common ways that fans get into Big Finish is by finding a story that they think is interesting and give it a listen.
These are usually Monthly Adventures stories, as many of the most commonly suggested ‘first Big Finish audios’ are Monthly Adventures stories like Spare Parts, Jubilee, The Chimes of Midnight or The Harvest as these are well-known among the community and have acquired a reputation over the years for being excellent stories. The best candidates for the ideal ‘first audio’ to listen to are ones that are either standalone stories that require no other stories for context, like Spare Parts, or ones that begin their own narrative arc, such as The Harvest.
Every Doctor Who fan loves the show for different reasons, and you can guarantee that there is something for every kind of fan in Big Finish’s backcatalogue. Whether you love pure historicals, you’re a huge fan of the Daleks or if you have a specific Doctor or companion in mind who is your favourite, for some people the best way to find a good listening order is to start with the first audio of a Doctor – companion pairing and listen to them in order. For those who want to try out the audios starring audio-exclusive companions, here is a brief guide to their opening stories:
- The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) begins his adventures with new companion Evelyn Smythe (Maggie Stables) in an early Monthly Adventures story called The Marian Conspiracy, a pure historical featuring Mary I. This audio begins a series of adventures with 6 and Evelyn that includes The Spectre of Lanyon Moor, The Apocalypse Element, Jubilee and Doctor Who and the Pirates.
- The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) begins his first official series of adventures with Storm Warning, an audio that also sees the debut of his first audio companion Charley Pollard (India Fisher). Subsequent audios featuring this pair include Sword of Orion, The Chimes of Midnight and The Time of the Daleks.
- The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) meet new companion Hex (Philip Oliver) in The Harvest, a Cyberman story set in the future. The informally named ‘Hex arc’ then continues with audios like Live 34, Enemy of the Daleks and Protect and Survive.
Big Finish Box Sets
In recent years, Big Finish have focused more on box sets than individual releases, particularly for the Eighth Doctor. However, almost every Doctor has received a box set in some capacity. The Sixth Doctor recently received a box set simply titled ‘The Sixth Doctor and Peri: Volume One’, which could be an example of the future formatting of Big Finish box sets, releasing a series of adventures focusing on a particular Doctor-companion relationship.
There are pros and cons to buying a box set as your first release, on the one hand the sets usually contain a series of audios with their own self-contained story that spans across several stories, but on the other hand if you are new to the audio format in general or new to the specific Doctor featured in the box set then it usually seems like it isn’t worth the investment until you’re sure that you will actually enjoy the product you’re paying for.
New Series Content from Big Finish
Another attractive jumping-on point for new fans is the range of audios that Big Finish have produced relating to the New Series, an aspect of the fandom that the vast majority of Doctor Who fans can relate to. So far Big Finish have produced several series of Tenth Doctor Adventures starring David Tennant, Billie Piper, Catherine Tate and other actors from the Tenth Doctor era, and it has recently been announced that Christopher Eccleston is starring in a series of Ninth Doctor Adventures set to be released in 2021, so there is no shortage of New Series content from Big Finish for fans to enjoy.
There are also many Big Finish audios and box sets that are set during the events of the Time War, which in the absence of any televised series depicting the conflict are the closest the fanbase will get to a series set during the Time War. The two most significant Time War-related audios are the War Doctor box sets starring John Hurt and the series of Eighth Doctor box sets revolving around the Time War, these are completely self-contained story arcs that are fully accessible to those seeking to learn more about the events of the Time War and enjoy more content starring the late John Hurt.
The Best of Big Finish
If you are still unsure of where to start with Big Finish, we have a convenient list of posts discussing our favourite Big Finish audios in no particular order.