Doctor Who – The Best of Big Finish, Part Four

I have been listening to Big Finish for just over two months now, and yet already I have made my way through swathes of episodes by listening to them daily – whilst out and about walking around the park or to the gym, whilst cooking or doing housework, and also during long car journeys. The series has been very rewarding to listen to as a Doctor Who fan and I would thoroughly recommend any who have not already to check out Big Finish on their website. Many of the earlier audios are very cheap for a digital download and the bundles of the first dozen or so stories for each Doctor periodically go on sale so it is really easy to pick them up cheap.

Following on from my Best of Big Finish, Part Three comes the next installment in my Big Finish reviews series, as I make my way through Big Finish’s main range. Unlike most Big Finish audios, most of these require previous episodes for context and understanding, so to begin:

mutant-phase-e1528990833828.jpg

The Mutant Phase

The first audio on this list is the third in the ‘Dalek Empire’ series, that also includes The Genocide Machine, The Apocalypse Element and the conclusion The Time of the Daleks. Featuring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa as well as a Dalek Emperor and Thals all attempting to prevent a history-altering mutation in the Dalek genome that could destroy both the Dalek race and the universe. The scope of this episode is larger than any in the Dalek Empire arc so far, and it links quite heavily with the 12-part First Doctor story The Dalek Invasion of Earth, but don’t let that put you off.

The Mutant Phase does a great job of maintaining the high stakes due to the temporal nature of it – usually when Big Finish does a ‘the Daleks invade this planet for this reason’ can get stale over time, but having a story in which the Daleks try to change all of history to rid themselves of a plague is fairly interesting, although there are more twists that make the reasoning by this and the Doctor’s motives more convoluted.

invaders-from-mars.jpg

Invaders from Mars

The fact alone that Simon Pegg is part of the cast tells you that this is going to be a fun one, but Invaders from Mars is a contender for funniest audio I have listened to so far in the series, although I am yet to listen to The Holy Terror. The story partly revolves around the 1938 Halloween radio transmission of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds perfomred by Orson Welles, but some comical twists add to the surreal humour of this story. Likewise, as this is an episode that is perhaps meant to be taken less seriously, there appears to be a higher amount of ‘silly voices’ involved in the production of this audio, and not all of them can be Simon Pegg.

In typical Big Finish style, however, there are some dark elements, and the story is not without its fair share of death – but Invaders from Mars is definitely worth a listen for fans of the Eighth Doctor and Charley, and also for fans of historicals. Interestingly, this audio is written by Mark Gatiss, who would go on to write a lot of stories for the new series including The Unquiet Dead and Empress of Mars, so he clearly has a thing for historicals and episodes with Mars in the title.

 

seasons-of-fear.jpg

Seasons of Fear

As far as ‘returning monsters’ go, you don’t really get more obscure than the return of the Nimon to Doctor Who in Seasons of Fear. The Nimon featured in just one episode of Classic Who, and yet still managed to get a return in NuWho in The God Complex (sort of), but that wasn’t before Big Finish had already granted them their glorious return here in a surprisingly standout episode featuring an almost comical relationship that develops between the Doctor and an immortal who serves a legion of Bull-people who want to supersede the Time Lords and become Masters of the universe.

The premise of this story is notable as it uses the time-travel elements of Doctor Who a lot more than most stories might, and the early parts almost give us a new location and time period each episode. The story flows consistently throughout, however, and the development of the character of Sebastian Grayle is both humorous and fascinatingly dark. Overall this is well worth a listen as it provides crucial development for the arc of the Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard.

embrace-the-darkness.jpg

Embrace the Darkness

When Big Finish does creepy well, it does it really well, and and Embrace the Darkness sums up creepy – its essentially a sinister horror in audio form that also features a helping of sci-fi concepts and great characters and voice acting. The story is a basic ‘base-under-siege’ formula, but the execution makes it notable as the aliens in this are by no means as malevolent as one might expect from a sci-fi horror story.

It cannot be understated how good India Fisher is as a companion, particularly as she is able to bring her audio-only character Charley to life, and her chemistry with Paul McGann makes every audio with the pair acting together a treat.

As this is the third Eighth Doctor story on the list, it is important to note at this point that I am on an Eighth Doctor binge, and my next Big Finish Review will feature the next few Eighth Doctor audios as well as the infamous Zagreus.

So that was my list of the Best of Big Finish, Part Four. If you enjoyed then be sure to leave a like, and you can follow Sacred Icon either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

See more:

 

 

Doctor Who – The Best of Big Finish, Part Three

Continuing from my previous articles on both my First Impressions of Big Finish, the Best of Big Finish, Part One and the Best of Big Finish, Part Two I now present the next phase in my review series of the Doctor Who audios. In a similar fashion to my review of the Two Masters Trilogy, I have decided to review some newer Big Finish releases available as both digital downloads and in CD format from the Big Finish website. So to begin:

last-of-the-cybermen-e1528672804893.jpg

Last of the Cybermen

This audio is actually the second part of a loose ‘Locum Doctors Trilogy’, which consists of the previous story The Defectors which sees the Seventh Doctor meet Jo Grant, and the next story The Secret History which has the Fifth Doctor meet Steven and Vicki. Slotting in the middle is Last of the Cybermen in which the Sixth Doctor meets Jamie and Zoe and fights against the Cybermen in the final battle between the Telosian Cybermen and Humanity, and its scale is pretty epic. The characters are likeable and interesting, and Jamie and Zoe pair really well with the Sixth Doctor and it would be great if these two could appear in the monthly range more often.

The story plays on elements from various classic Cyberman stories as well as borrowing a few NuWho ideas to round the whole thing off, whilst also managing to define itself as a brand new story. Previous Big Finish Cyberman stories like Spare Parts and Sword of Orion describe the Cyber-conversion process in detail but Last of the Cybermen depicts Cyber-production on a huge scale, as the Cybermen churn out hundreds of soldiers an hour to battle the human onslaught, and it’s gripping.

we-are-the-daleks.jpg

We Are The Daleks

What is the only race in existence that is more evil than the Daleks? Easy, economically liberal Conservatives. And this audio demonstrates what could happen if the Tories and the Daleks had ever decided to team up in the late 1980s, although some may say that events would have just played out as normal. Regardless, We Are The Daleks is a great romp that is intended as a ‘jumping-on point’ for newer listeners to the main range, and thus consists of a well-rounded self-contained story with few outside references or requirements, and this definitely helps it as a standalone story.

What also benefits We Are The Daleks, like the earlier audio The Juggernauts, is the redeemed companion Mel who in this audio appears alongside the Seventh Doctor. Even for those who have seen very few televised Mel stories her reputation as a fairly shallow and ‘screamy’ companion is pervasive, yet the Big Finish audios do wonders for redeeming her character, making her a stronger character and giving her a more direct role in the story. Like The Juggernauts, We Are The Daleks shows Mel going undercover and expertly blending into a top-of-the-range work environment using her exceptional skill at coding, and with these two audios alone she is quickly becoming one of my favourite audio companions which shows just how effective the audios are at redeeming missed potential from the show…

order-of-the-daleks.jpg

Order of the Daleks

The cover of this audio alone is eye-catching enough, and although the concept of a ‘stained glass Dalek’ may seem odd at first, the context of the story justifies their presence – having crashed on a primitive planet with limited technology, the Daleks have infiltrated an order of Monks known as the ‘Brotherhood of the Black Petal’, teaching them how to construct rudimentary casings for them out of stained glass and lead. The Sixth Doctor and a Galactic Census team arrive to investigate signs of alien interference in a medieval society, and chaos ensues. On the surface, Order of the Daleks is a fairly standard Dalek story, but the concepts it utilises in the narrative context make it stand out, as Daleks that are both unarmed and vulnerable make an interesting twist on the standard formula for Dalek stories.

Another interesting aspect to this story is the relatively new audio-only Sixth Doctor companion Constance Clarke, who appeared initially in The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure, an audio anthology that depicts the lead-up to the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration. Constance originates from the Second World War, originally working as a leading WREN before encountering the Doctor, and in this story she faces the Daleks for the first time and proves her mettle against the Doctor’s ultimate foe. The supporting cast also brings this story to life, as there are a fair few memorable characters with distinctive voice acting and some great moments between the Monks and the Daleks as well as some intrigue within the Brotherhood, as all is not as it seems on the seemingly idyllic world of Strellin…

energy-of-the-daleks.jpg

Energy of the Daleks

Last on the list is the fourth installment of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, a six-part series that saw the return of Tom Baker to the role of the Fourth Doctor for the first time in decades. Energy of the Daleks features the Fourth Doctor and companion Leela facing off against – you guessed it – the Daleks, and for the most part Energy of the Daleks follows the ‘standard’ Dalek story formula. The real draw for this story is Tom Baker, as hearing him face off against the Daleks again after so many years is a real treat. What makes this all the better is that, despite having one of the longest tenures of all the Doctors, the Fourth Doctor only fought the Daleks twice – once in Genesis of the Daleks, which was a definite classic but was mostly focused around the Kaled/Thal conflict and the introduction of Davros rather than being a true Dalek story, and Destiny of the Daleks, which is a universally poor story. Energy of the Daleks therefore gives the Fourth Doctor a chance to really shine in a battle against the Daleks in a way that his TV tenure (for whatever reason) denied him.

Another peculiar thing about Energy of the Daleks is its length – unlike all of the other Big Finish audios I have previously reviewed, this and all other Fourth Doctor Adventures stories use a single-disc format of around one hour, as opposed to the two-disc 4×25 minute format of the Main Range. This makes Energy of the Daleks more similar in length and feel to a NuWho story, meaning that the pacing is much faster and thus this audio is probably more accessible to those NuWho fans who aren’t sure of how to get into Big Finish.

So that’s the end of Part 3 of my Best of Big Finish, I hope you enjoyed and if you did then be sure to leave a like, and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Also, check out the read more tab below for articles related to this one. Thanks for reading!

Read more in this series with the links below:

And check out more of my Doctor Who opinion pieces here:

Doctor Who – Big Finish – The Two Masters Trilogy Review

This might be a bit of a jump forward in time from my previous Big Finish audio reviews, all of which have been focused on their earlier works between 1999-2007, whereas these three audios come from 2016. So what is the reason for this sudden leap? The honest answer is, I’ve been so excited to listen to these audios that I thought the minute I finished the final part of The Two Masters then I would start my review right away before moving on to the next audio on my list, Energy of the Daleks. So without further ado, we start the review of this trilogy at the beginning – sort of.

And You Will Obey Me

and-you-will-obey-me.jpg

Listening to this audio so soon after Master was interesting in that they share a somewhat similar premise – the decayed (or, as we should probably refer to him now, the burnt) incarnation of the Master played by Geoffrey Beevers is trapped on Earth and shows signs of displaying acts of mercy, although this audio does come with a few twists and turns that eventually prove that this and Master are in fact nothing alike. The plot introduces several concepts and characters that play into the wider ‘Two Masters trilogy’ overarching plotline, which in this case involves the cripsy Beevers Master being hunted by intergalactic bounty hunters and crashing his TARDIS in Hexford 1984, only to apparently live out a humble and meagre existence before dying of natural causes and being buried in an unmarked grave in 2016. Naturally, upon hearing this, the Doctor knows that something is very wrong.

Similarly to Master, the Doctor is initially hopeful that the Master may have experienced a sudden change of heart, but in this case the truth is far more complicated and focuses on not only the Master but 4 of his associates, a group of children who initially find him and are influenced by his hypnotic power. The interactions between the Master and his saviours is interesting, and Geoffrey Beevers is as good as always as playing a sinister yet oddly charming character. Overall, And You Will Obey Me serves as both an intriguing standalone adventure as well as a great introduction to the ‘Two Masters trilogy’.

Vampire of the Mind

vampire-of-the-mind.jpg

This audio served as my first introduction to the incarnation of the Master played by Alex Macqueen, and needless to say he did not disappoint. This incarnation is far more jovial then some of his predecessors, and in a way bridges the gap between the ‘classic’ Masters and the initial ‘NuWho’ interpretation of the character realised by John Simm. Usually paired with the Eighth Doctor, this incarnation appears here in a rare example of him facing another Doctor incarnation, in this case, the Sixth Doctor played by Colin Baker. For those who do not rate Baker’s incarnation very highly compared to other Doctors, prepare to have that preconception utterly smashed by his appearance in Big Finish audios – it is the view of many that the Sixth Doctor is the best of all the Doctors audio-wise, and Vampire of the Mind is a great example of a strong and energetic performance from Colin Baker that really brings this audio to life.

In terms of plot and execution, however, Vampire of the Mind is perhaps the weakest of the ‘Two Masters trilogy’ as it lacks the obvious appeal of its successor or the intriguing character interactions of its predecessor. Also, the plot itself is somewhat strung-together – the Master’s plan seems to change somewhat as the story progresses, and even when all the pieces in play are revealed it can be difficult to figure out what the Master’s game was from the beginning. Nonetheless, Vampire of the Mind is a great listen, particularly for those who are interested in the Macqueen incarnation but don’t want to have to listen to all 16 instalments of the Dark Eyes series just yet.

The Two Masters

the two masters

And now for the climactic finale, that ties together the loose ends and cliffhanging plot developments of the previous two instalments and delivers a great 2-hour long multi-Master story that kicks off right into the action and gives some great dialogue between the two incarnations. Essentially, its everything you could ask for from a multi-Master story, particularly since at this point there had never been any others, since World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls wouldn’t air until just over a year later.

The best thing about The Two Masters is how it parallels with multi-Doctor stories that we have seen in the past. Since this story includes two Masters, one might assume that they are working together to achieve some greater goal – the two Masters do team up at one point, but for the majority of the first half the two are at bitter war with each other across time and space, a fascinating concept of a bitter rivalry between two incarnations of the same Time Lord that has never been previously explored.

The Two Masters also contains a few plot twists of its own that explain and explore various plot threads and concepts from both And You Will Obey Me and Vampire of the Mind – although it is not absolutely necessary to listen to these two before listening to The Two Masters, it does help to understand the finer points of the story since both previous stories explain what each incarnation of the Master was doing immediately prior to meeting each other, and how their actions in the previous stories connect and flow into the main story of The Two Masters.

Another fantastic element to this story is Sylvester McCoy, who was the perfect choice of Doctor to facilitate a multi-Master story as only the Seventh Doctor could possess the Machiavellian levels of scheming to out-plot two versions of the Master at once, and Sylvester McCoy plays the devious trickster very well, and particularly here. The only real shame is that he appears here without either companions Mel or Ace, instead taking on a temporary companion for this story.

Overall, the Two Masters trilogy is definitely worth a listen, particularly for those interested in the character of the Master, the idea of multi-incarnation adventures, fans of Beevers or Macqueen or just fans of 80s-themed Big Finish audios in general, as it effectively increases the tension and stakes throughout and offers a unique angle on the Master’s incarnations and history.

So that’s my review of the Two Masters trilogy, I hope you enjoyed and if you did then be sure to leave a like, and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Also, check out the read more tab below for articles related to this one. Thanks for reading!

Read more in this series with the links below:

And check out more of my Doctor Who opinion pieces here:

Doctor Who – The Best of Big Finish, Part Two

Continuing from my previous articles on both my First Impressions of Big Finish and my Best of Big Finish, Part One, I now present the next chapter in my review series of the Doctor Who audios. These are reviewed in the order in which I listened to them, and I find that listening to the Big Finish audios in chronological order eases new listeners into the format, although most of these listed here could probably serve as jumping-on points, particularly since they are all so cheap on the Big Finish website. So, to begin:

juggernaut

The Juggernauts

This story, for Davros, is a directly prelude to the TV episode Remembrance of the Daleks and goes into the detail of how Davros would come to form the ideas for the Imperial Daleks, as well as the first ‘appearance’ of Davros’ white chair (as seen on the cover). The Juggernauts also features the audio debut of the Mechanoids, former mechanical servants of humanity that debuted in the TV episode The Chase. Interestingly, what makes this story so good as Bonnie Langford as Mel, it really shows how much more maturely her character is being handled by Big Finish than it was by the main show in the 80s. She shows her vast intelligence and adaptability as she successfully establishes herself as a leading member of Davros’s team, and even earns the evil scientists’s respect.

The Juggernauts also demonstrates an important point in the Daleks personal history – Davros is pushed closer and closer to abandoning his creations after their constant mistreatment of him, and this lays the groundwork for the formation of the Imperial Dalek faction, a development that is essential for the plot of Remembrance.

master-audio.jpg

Master

Master is a masterpiece, thanks primarily to the fantastic voice work of both Sylvester McCoy and Geoffrey Beevers as the Doctor and ‘John Smith’ – a human who was once the Time Lord known as the Master. Knowing nothing of his former life, the Master gets a chance to live out an ordinary, human life for 10 years, and this plot development allows for some reflective conversation between the Doctor and his old friend, even if the latter has no idea who he is. It may seem odd for those who have only seen him on TV, but Geoffrey Beevers is fast becoming my favorite incarnation. True, I am yet to hear any Alex Macqueen, but for that I’d either have to listen to the Dark Eyes series or the Two Masters trilogy, which is a bit further down the line, but so far Beevers has been perfect as an audio-focused incarnation, since his real strength is in the quality of his voice acting and the silky smooth texture of his voice.

In truth, all of the audios with Beevers are a treat, but Master really demonstrates the versatility of him as an actor. He plays off Sylvester McCoy perfectly, and this audio really goes into detail about the backstory of the Doctor and the Master as children on Gallifrey, and is a great listen for lore fanatics.

the-harvest.jpg

The Harvest

Audio-only Seventh Doctor companion Hex makes his debut in this story, making this an essential for listening to other stories in the Hex arc – Enemy of the Daleks being another great one. The wacky music and interesting framing (from Hex’s perspective for the early parts) gives this story unique character. Sophie Aldred and Sylvester McCoy are, as always, brilliant, and they have great chemistry with newcomer Philip Olivier. This story is part of a trilogy, the other installments being The Reaping and The Gathering, both of which loosely link with this story.

This story is a really interesting twist on the classic Cyberman story, with an added element of subterfuge and deception. This story essentially depicts a small group of Cybermen that are prepared to risk everything to survive, even defy their very nature. Voice acting on behalf of William Boyde gives the mysterious ‘Subject One’ great personality, and I almost felt sorry for it initially. Overall, this story is a classic ‘companion introduction’ story that also doubles as a pretty decent Cyberman story. There’s also a really funny bit of dialogue near the start between the Seventh Doctor and the computer that gets me every time.

marian.jpg

The Marian Conspiracy

Going backwards slightly in the Big Finish chronology, The Marian Conspiracy is another companion debut story – this time of Sixth Doctor companion Evelyn Smythe. What makes this story so interesting is that it is a pure historical, meaning there is no alien invasion to thwart, simply the natural progression of human history. The conflict in this story arises from the tumultuous time period in which it is set – during the reign of Queen Mary I. Despite her reputation, this audio presents a more balanced view of things, with the views of both Mary and Elizabeth’s supporters explained in their context. This is a great one for history lovers, particularly since Evelyn gets to utilize her experience as a history teacher in a time period that she specializes in.  Overall, this is a great listen and definitely adds to my collection of good Sixth Doctor stories.

So that’s the end of Part 2 of my Best of Big Finish, I hope you enjoyed and if you did then be sure to leave a like, and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Also, check out the read more tab below for articles related to this one. Thanks for reading!

Read more in this series with the links below:

And check out more of my Doctor Who opinion pieces here:

 

Doctor Who – The Best of Big Finish, Part One

The world of Doctor Who audios is vast. Following my previous article on my First Impressions of Big Finish, in which I talked about the first few Big Finish audios I listened to and discussed my initial thoughts on the stories and the format in general. To establish a starting point for newcomers, however, I have also decided to list some of the best Big Finish has to offer, by my reckoning at least. Anyone who is new to Big Finish can easily use these entries as a starting point, particularly since they are all so cheap on the Big Finish website. So, to begin:

chimes-of-midnight1.jpg

The Chimes of Midnight

This Eighth Doctor story is a perfect introduction to the writing style of Robert Shearman, who wrote this audio as well as the New Who story, Dalek. The two are nothing alike, however, as The Chimes of Midnight places the Doctor and Charley in a bizarre, temporally-twisted ‘haunted-house’ setting, but the explanation for the odd occurrences is both a refreshing plot twist as well as an interesting development into the character of Charley Pollard, whose backstory is still developing at this point.

What makes The Chimes of Midnight so good is its cast, who fill this story with character to create a genuine Edwardian feel as the setting and atmosphere are actualized perfectly. This is definitely one to check out if you are a fan of the elusive Eighth Doctor, as it provides an essential story in his first plot arc.

spare-parts.jpg

Spare Parts

This Fifth Doctor audio explores a fascinating concept that, at the time, had barely even been touched upon in the main show, and that is the genesis of the Cybermen. The Daleks got their origin story told in Genesis of the Daleks in 1975, but the Cybermen received no such treatment until Spare Parts came out in 2002. It was worth the wait, however, as Spare Parts portrays a grim world on the brink of collapse that is wholly distinct from the barren landscapes of Skaro and gives the homeworld of the Cybermen, Mondas, a distinct character and a cast of unique and nuanced characters to populate it with.

Spare Parts also showcases Big Finish’s ability to tackle dark and heavy concepts head-on, and the story doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to bleak and sometimes downright cruel developments that impact the characters whilst the Doctor and Nyssa stand by, essentially helpless to prevent history from taking its course as the people of Mondas gradually make the horrific transition from human to Cyberman.

jubilee.jpg

Jubilee

Another installment written by Robert Shearman, Jubilee shares some similarities with Dalek, although it is distinctly wacky in its own way,  The concept of an alternate universe in which the Daleks are incorporated into Earth’s popular culture, specifically England’s national identity, despite being real in that universe is both fascinating and well-executed. The Sixth Doctor’s first audio-only companion Evelyn Smythe, played by the wonderful Maggie Stables, really shines in this story as her conventional morality clashes with the ideologies of both the Daleks and the Humans in this story and her dialogue with the Dalek is unique, and somewhat distinct from what we had in Dalek.

Jubilee is also one of those stories which involves a sort of ‘parallel universe’ or ‘splinter timeline’, and some of the ideas that are played around with regarding that concept in this story are quite chilling, and also at times hilarious, particularly the depiction of US-UK relations in a world in which the ‘English Empire’ dominates the world…

davros.jpg

Davros

It’s always fun to see the Doctor and Davros working together, even if only briefly. The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar explored this idea but Davros makes the concept the central theme for its first two parts, and the results are spectacular. A rare example of a Davros story that doesn’t feature the Daleks, Davros gives us crucial insights into the shrouded past of the maniacal creator of the Daleks, and portrays Davros as an almost pitiable character. Colin Baker shines in this story as he does in most, and this story is one of many that demonstrates just how far Big Finish have come to redeeming the Sixth Doctor in the eyes (or rather, ears) of many fans.

Terry Molloy is really on point here as Davros, and it almost makes me wish we had this actualized in TV format instead of the flimsy Revelation of the Daleks. What makes Davros unique is its use of Davros as more than just ‘the creator of the Daleks’, and more in the role of scientist as he works alongside the Doctor.

So that’s the end of Part 1 of my Best of Big Finish, I hope you enjoyed and if you did then be sure to leave a like, and you can follow us either here or on Facebook. Thanks for reading!

Read more in this series with the links below:

And check out more of my Doctor Who opinion pieces here:

 

Doctor Who – First Impressions of Big Finish

Since I have loved Doctor Who all my life, it seems odd that I had never listened to any of the Big Finish audios until now. I first heard of the audio dramas years ago, particularly when researching the more niche corners of Dalek lore, but a combination of the format of the stories and the price of each adventure caused me to consider the Big Finish audios inaccessible, at least if I was going to purchase physical copies. Thankfully, many of the early Big Finish stories are now very cheap, some as cheap as £3 each, and I recently decided that it was time to take the plunge. I initially thought that there was a possibility that the lack of visuals would make the experience less enjoyable, and so I only bought a handful of audios at first – I quickly realised, however, that I had been worrying over nothing, and the audio drama genre is not as hard to get with as it might seem. After listening to my first audio, The Genocide Machine, I knew I wanted to hear more, so I purchased a bundle on the Big Finish website of nearly 40 of their earlier audios, and I even got some of the newer ones in CD form.

genocide-machine-e1526843191408.jpg

The Genocide Machine

Rather than taking advice online on which audios to listen to first, I decided to simply start with the first Dalek story that Big Finish produced, the seventh installment of their monthly range, The Genocide Machine. This story is a real blast, a quirky, funny and occasionally dark tale about an attempt by the Daleks to break into a library of all things, and steal the wealth of data stored inside. Starring one of my favourite Doctors, Sylvester McCoy, alongside one of my favourite companions, Sophie Aldred as Ace, this was definitely a good starting point for me and I would recommend this as a Big Finish starting point for other Dalek fans since this is not only their first appearance but also the start of a loose Dalek story arc that continues throughout their appearances in the early audios. Not only is this the Daleks’ debut in the audios, it is also the debut of Dalek voice actor Nicholas Briggs, who went on to voice the Daleks in the New Series.

Although it may seem a small detail, one of the most crucial aspects to Big Finish’s audios is how they set each scene. Considering the fact that the voice actors and actresses are sat in a booth in front of a microphone, creative and effective use of sound effects, echoing, and positioning make it really feel like you’re listening to the audio of an episode, akin to the surviving audio tracks of the lost episodes of the 1960s. The Genocide Machine is a great example of this, as the varied locations showcase just how resourceful the Big Finish team can be. It is immediately apparent when the characters are in the jungle, the library and the TARDIS, and listening through earphones can be highly therapeutic.

storm warning sword of orion

Storm Warning and Sword of Orion

Another selling point for Big Finish is the inclusion of the Eighth Doctor in their pantheon, giving Paul McGann a much-deserved platform through which he could prove himself after the mixed reception that the 1996 TV Movie. Making his debut in Storm Warning alongside the fantastic India Fisher as new companion Charley Pollard, McGann’s charisma and distinctive character as the Doctor facilitate a strong debut for his Big Finish career that, according to those in the know, went on to spawn some of the best audios and storylines like Dark Eyes and the Time War series. Storm Warning is a great historical about the disaster of the R101 airship, and sets in motion a temporal story arc involving Charley that continues throughout her era.

Just as The Genocide Machine is the debut of the Daleks and Storm Warning is the debut of the Eighth Doctor, Sword of Orion is the first Big Finish audio to feature the Cybermen and references many previous Cyberman stories such as Earthshock, Tomb of the Cybermen and The Invasion, but also divulges vital new information about the Cybermen as a race, including a detailed look at the conversion process itself and how it works. In a particularly morbid scene, the Doctor encounters an ancient Cyber-conversion facility that had lost power while in full production, leaving many half-converted victims trapped, and over time their organic parts have rotted away, leaving only the robotic parts behind. This showcases yet another strength of the format of audio dramas, in that they can explore themes and plot elements that would never be shown on the main show – at least not without invoking the wrath of Mary Whitehouse.

dust-breeding.jpg

Dust Breeding

Returning to the Seventh Doctor, Dust Breeding is another famous first – Geoffrey Beevers, who played the Master in The Keeper of Traken in 1981, brings the character to Big Finish twenty years after his one and only portrayal of the character. It might seem like an odd choice, considering the fact that Beevers is probably the most overlooked incarnation of the Master, but unfortunately at the time he was the only living actor who had played the Master – this was years before Jacobi, Simm and Gomez, and years since the tragic deaths of Roger Delgado, Anthony Ainley and Peter Pratt. Beevers does the role justice, however, and the powerful presence that his distinctive voice gives the character makes me wish he could play the Master on-screen again. Interestingly, the Master presented here is not at a point in his timeline before he steals his Trakenite body, but rather after – establishing the idea that the Ainley incarnation was actually Beever’s Master all along, and having discarded that body, the Master has reverted to his true form. Dust Breeding is a far more subtle presentation of conflict between the Seventh Doctor and the Master than Survival, but it is by no means dull, and an essential for fans of the Doctor’s arch-nemesis.

So that concludes this initial review of my first impressions of the Big Finish audios. My next review will cover The Chimes of Midnight, Spare Parts, Jubilee and Davros, and in the meantime I strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t listened to Big Finish yet to do so – its a fantastic and rewarding experience that opens up a whole new world of Doctor Who media, and whether you choose to listen in chronological order, tour the greatest hits or pick out ones with returning villains as I have, the Big Finish audios will never disappoint.

Read more in this series with the links below:

And check out more of my Doctor Who opinion pieces here: