Doctor Who – Where to Start with Big Finish’s Eighth Doctor Audio Dramas

New to Big Finish Doctor Who Audios? If you want to get into the Eighth Doctor’s era but don’t know where to start, this guide to Big Finish 8th Doctor Audios can help!

One of Big Finish’s most popular and most successful ranges among their Doctor Who back-catalogue is their extensive selection of Eighth Doctor audio dramas, and for good reason.

As he has historically been the Doctor with the fewest on-screen appearances, it is great that the Eighth Doctor was picked up by Big Finish – Paul McGann continues to add to the role he never got to play on TV, the writers have free reign to tell whatever stories they want as they are not constrained by a preexisting narrative for the Eighth Doctor, and fans have been treated to some truly amazing stories within the Eighth Doctor range, all told through the medium of audio,

However, as Big Finish have been producing Eighth Doctor audios since 2001, it can be difficult at this point to know where to begin with his series. With literally hundreds of audio plays to his name, the Eighth Doctor can seem a daunting Doctor to tackle for fans, particularly those that are just getting into Big Finish and the audio drama format as a whole.

This guide is designed to assist those who want to listen to the Eighth Doctor’s Big Finish audio dramas but are unsure of how to approach them. To begin, let’s simplify the Eighth Doctor’s era by dividing it into the distinct ‘phases’ that are generally accepted by fans to be the main pillars of Eighth Doctor audio content.

Phase 1 -Charley Pollard and The Early Years

The Eighth Doctor’s early adventures are bold, nostalgic, and stand the test of time – not only do they draw a lot from the best of Classic Who and therefore don’t feel out of place among the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors in the Monthly Adventures, they do an excellent job of firmly establishing the character of the Eighth Doctor post-TV Movie, as well as introducing us to the marvellous Charley Pollard, the Eighth Doctor’s companion for the majority of his Monthly Range appearances.

Rather like the first few Fourth Doctor TV episodes, the early Eighth Doctor stories depict the Doctor exploring the universe seemingly without a care, but hinting at an overarching plot beneath. This means that you can listen to each episode individually without a problem, but it is beneficial to listen to them in order. The saga begins with 2001’s Storm Warning, which introduces Charley, and highlights of this era include Embrace the Darkness, Neverland, Zagreus, Scherzo, The Natural History of Fear, and The Girl Who Never Was.

Although it is not necessary to listen to every single audio in this era, there are very few that could be considered downright bad. As this was an early era for Big Finish, a lot of experimentation was taking place, so this era of Doctor Who audio dramas can be forgiven for its occasional slip-ups as for every dud audio play Big Finish produced, there were three more that were truly excellent. The only audio that should probably be avoided is Minuet in Hell, although it has to be said that Zagreus is not for the faint-hearted.

Phase 2 – Lucie Bleedin’ Miller and the New Beginning

Since the first set of Eighth Doctor audios were part of the Monthly Adventures, they use the Classic Who format of 4 25-30 minute parts that make up a roughly 2 hour story. However, when the Eighth Doctor was given his own standalone series in 2007, Big Finish changed the format of his stories to single 45 minute episodes, some of which having two parts, to match the format that the televised Doctor Who used post-2005. This change makes the Eighth Doctor Adventures with Lucie Miller far more accessible to newer fans.

Not only that, but this series contains a huge amount of excellent content. Although not as experimental as the previous phase of Eighth Doctor audios, the Eighth Doctor Adventures are far more consistent in terms of overall quality. The tone and plots of the audios in this phase feel very much aligned to the New Series, specifically the Tenth Doctor era. Lucie Miller makes an excellent companion – almost like a cross between Rose and Donna, with just a dash of Ace thrown in for luck. Her strong personality and excellent portrayal by Sheridan Smith make Lucie an instantly memorable companion.

The villains of this era are also equally memorable. The notorious Headhunter is an excellent counter to the Doctor and Lucie’s positive outlook on their adventures, and as her character develops she becomes a fascinating anti-hero of sorts as well as recurring villain. There are also strong appearances for both the Daleks and the Cybermen in this era, and there are many returning Classic villains that make this phase feel like a love letter to fans of Classic and New Who alike. Highlights from this era include Blood of the Daleks, Human Resources, Brave New Town, The Zygon Who Fell To Earth, Hothouse, Wirrn Dawn and To The Death, although there are very few stories in this phase that fail to be either enjoyable romps or excellent sci-fi stories.

Phase 3 – Molly O’Sullivan, the Girl with the Dark Eyes

This phase of Eighth Doctor audios marks a significant transition into the format of 4 episode to a box set and 4 box sets to a series. The episodes are usually self-contained stories that connect together to form a 16-part story – think The Trial of a Time Lord but with less Brian Blessed and even more technobabble. This era sees a far more reserved and brooding Doctor team up with new companion Molly O’Sullivan – a World War I Medical Volunteer who possesses the ‘Dark Eyes’ that give the series its name.

Overall, this phase of the Eighth Doctor’s tenure is perhaps the least accessible to most fans, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has its own distinct identity, almost its own universe, and it creates its own galactic conflict to use as the stage for its space-opera-style story structure. Dark Eyes is certainly an immersive experience, though arguably its greatest weakness is that it relies too heavily on the combined story structure, meaning there are few episodes that stand out as individual stories in their own right.

One of the greatest strengths of Dark Eyes, however, is the Master – played excellently by the delightfully charismatic Alex Macqueen. This version of the Master is a treat, and his appearance in this series helps make it truly memorable. Highlights from this phase include The Great War, The Traitor, Eyes of the Master, A Life in the Day and Master of the Daleks.

Phase 4 – Battling Doom Coalition and Ravenous with Liv and Helen

After the intense and plot-heavy Dark Eyes, the Eighth Doctor’s life takes a sudden turn with the Doom Coalition and Ravenous storylines. The format relaxes the overarching plot meaning that the individual stories feel more unique and distinct from each other, meaning that it would theoretically be possible for a newcomer to listen to a random story from this series and enjoy it. However, as previously mentioned, at this point in the Eighth Doctor’s life there is a lot of internal lore and backstory within his stories, meaning characters, events and plot threads from previous phases play more of a part in these stories. There are even some elements of the New Series that are brought into play here, such as Missy, River Song, and the Weeping Angels.

And yet, arguably the best thing about this era is that the Doctor has a wonderful pair of companions in this phase – Liv and Helen, who come from completely different time zones, one from the 1960s, one from the far-future, and yet have perfect chemistry. Although not as dynamic as Charley or distinctive as Lucie, Liv and Helen fit the companion role excellently for this era of the Eighth Doctor’s life. Highlights from this era include The Red Lady, Scenes from Her Life, Absent Friends, The Side of the Angels, Their Finest Hour Seizure and Companion Piece.

This phase also features a character that is arguably the best villain in the Eighth Doctor’s entire era, and is perhaps one of the greatest villains in Doctor Who history – The Eleven. This insane Time Lord suffers from a condition called Regenerative Dissonance, meaning that his previous incarnations live on as multiple personalities inside his head. This leads to terrifying situations in which multiple psychopathic consciousnesses fight to control a single body and argue over the best way to murder their victim, with the primary Eleven personality vying for control.

Phase 5 – Bliss and the Time War

It was inevitable that the Eighth Doctor would have to face the Time War eventually, and Big Finish began producing the Eighth Doctor Time War stories before Doom Coalition had even finished – this represents a fresh start for the Doctor, and he has a new companion and even a new theme (borrowed from the late John Hurt’s War Doctor audios). These stories are often a lot bleaker than many of the previous Eighth Doctor audios, although this is to be expected with the Time War raging.

There are some interesting surprises in this era, as several aspects of the Doctor’s life come back to haunt him during the horrors of the Time War. This series also serves a secondary purpose – setting up the War Doctor audios which chronologically take place after this era from the point of view of the Doctor.

New companion Bliss makes an excellent impression in this series, establishing herself as a character who is just as affected by the Time War as the Doctor is, meaning she understands the nature of the conflict and aligns with the Doctor’s view of wanting to help but not actively fight. Highlights of this phase include The Starship of Theseus, One Life, Planet of the Ogrons, In the Garden of Death and The War Valeyard. Although the last phase in the Eighth Doctor’s tenure is quite disconnected from its predecessors, one must take into account the fact that Big Finish has not finished filling in the gaps as of yet. Still, those who enjoyed the legendary War Doctor audios will also enjoy the Eighth Doctor: Time War stories.

Extra Eighth Doctor Content

But wait, there’s more! The five phases might be the main eras of the Eighth Doctor’s audio tenure, but there are other stories that feature him that do not fit into any of these categories. Overall, the Eighth Doctor’s era is vast and daunting to the uninitiated, but hopefully this guide has helped to break down this enigmatic and elusive Doctor’s era into more manageable phases for those who want to take the plunge and experience the excellent audio adventures of the Eighth Doctor.

Travels with Mary Shelley

There are some audios that were released as part of the Monthly Adventures in 2009 and 2010 that depicted the Eighth Doctor at an earlier point in his life, before he even met Charley, in which he had several travels with Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. This era takes on a distinctly Gothic feel, and every one is worth a listen. The Silver Turk is arguably the best, and features the Mondasian Cybermen in 19th-century Vienna.

The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller

Acting as a pseudo-spinoff series for Lucie that is set between the first and second series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, this box set tells various stories that primarily involve Lucie, although the Eighth Doctor is obviously present. So far only the first box set of this series has been released, but already the Further Adventures of Lucie Miller have given us a hilarious Dalek story in the debut story, The Dalek Trap.

Rage of the Master

The Eighth Doctor also appears in the third box set in the War Master series, which depicts the antics of Derek Jacobi’s incarnation of the Master during the Time War. The Eighth Doctor and the War Master bounce off each other well in their scenes together, and overall the story is highly enjoyable – but to say any more would give away some fantastic plot twists.

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Doctor Who – The Best of Big Finish, Part Seven

Kingdom of Silver

This Seventh Doctor story serves as a fitting thematic sequel to the TV story Silver Nemesis, as not only is it a three-part story featuring the Cybermen, but it also mirrors that stories’ focus on war and peace. Kingdom of Silver is an interesting story that plays on several recurring motifs in Big Finish Cyberman stories, and is unapologetic in its presentation of the Cybermen as ruthless and manipulative. The Seventh Doctor, companionless in this story, meets a mercenary on a primitive planet, both of them having detected a strange signal emanating from the planet’s capital. During a peace conference between the planet’s main ruling parties, the Cybermen make a resurgence. This is a great audio that is a rare example of Terry Molloy playing a role that isn’t Davros, and he gets a chance to play a very different role in this story. Sylvester McCoy is enigmatic and devious as always, and there are some great twists and turns in this story that keep you guessing.

The Wrong Doctors

A Sixth Doctor audio steeped in lore, The Wrong Doctors is a rare example of a multi-Doctor story featuring two versions of the same incarnation of the Doctor from completely different points in their timeline. This story features a version of the Sixth Doctor from fairly early in his timeline, and another that is far more mature and level-headed, meaning it is essentially a clash of the TV and Audio depictions of the Sixth Doctor. Colin Baker does a fantastic job in this story, and Mel actually works really well as a companion, as this story serves as the first chronological story for Mel after the somewhat odd way in which she was inserted into the TV series during Trial of a Time Lord. At least, that’s the idea, although as the story progresses we see that things are more complicated than they first appear – hence the two versions of the Doctor. To sum up this story, it is a treat for Colin Baker fans.

Terror of the Sontarans

A unique and interesting Seventh Doctor audio, Terror of the Sontarans delves into the psychology of the Sontaran race, something that is not often done on Doctor Who. Whilst Sontarans are known for their discipline and reluctance to show fear, this audio shows what happens when Sontarans are confronted with something that makes them go truly insane. What is fascinating to consider with this audio is that Sontarans are all clones, so when one Sontaran berates another it is essentially just shouting at another version of itself. The idea of a group of Sontarans breaking the norm for their race and deciding to show creativity or fear has some interesting consequences, both for them and all others who get caught in the crossfire

Time in Office

This audio is one of a kind. Each part is an individual story that feeds into the overarching plotline that the Fifth Doctor has finally been recruited by the Time Lords to serve his time in office as Lord President of Gallifrey, hence the title. As one might imagine, the meek and affable Fifth Doctor goes on to cause chaos on Gallifrey, not least due to Tegan’s antics as Human-Time Lord ‘Ambassador’. Speaking of which, there is a fair amount of comedy in this story, and it isn’t supposed to be taken all too seriously. The audio plays heavily on the blustering and stagnant representation of Time Lord society that we got in the Fourth Doctor episode The Deadly Assassin, and it is clear why the Doctor was so eager to leave the planet. This audio also pays excellent homage to stories such as The Invasion of Time and The Five Doctors from the Classic Series that were set on or heavily related to Gallifrey, so its a real treat for fans of Time Lord lore.

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Doctor Who – Big Finish Dark Eyes Box Set Review

When browsing the online catalogue of Big Finish audios, either via their site or through some other means like the Wiki, eventually the eyes of the curious will be drawn to the wide variety of Eighth Doctor Box Sets, starring Paul McGann among various other stars. Recent releases like Ravenous and the Eighth Doctor: Time War series are heavily promoted by Big Finish, and with good reason – the Eighth Doctor Box Sets were the pioneers of their kind, and the first four Dark Eyes box sets comprised Big Finish’s first complete four-set story line. So in many ways the Dark Eyes series, the set that started it all, is considered the progenitor for all other box sets. So how does this first box set hold up? Is Dark Eyes worth a listen?

Time and Space

Being the first box set of what would become the first series in what would become a huge range of Eighth Doctor box sets, Dark Eyes has a lot on its shoulders. Interestingly, the premise of the opening story is somewhat humble. Brooding and depressed due to a series of recent Dalek victories, the Doctor decides to take the TARDIS to the end of the universe, to see how things play out. Either the Daleks are stopped, in which case life can prevail, or they are not, in which case the universe would be overrun with nothing but Daleks. During this trip, however, the Doctor’s TARDIS is intercepted by another Time Lord, Straxus, who warns the Doctor not to go to the end of the universe and instead offers him what he wants most – a source of hope, in the form of Molly O’ Sullivan, a Voluntary Aid Detachment nursing assistant from World War One who has the eponymous ‘Dark Eyes’, and also seems to be the key to a Dalek plot to eradicate the universe.

In many ways, Molly’s introduction mirrors that of previous Eighth Doctor companion Lucie Miller, except rather than the Eighth Doctor reluctantly taking Lucie as his companion, in this case the companion is reluctantly recruited by the Doctor. Molly does take some getting used to as a companion – she calls the TARDIS a ‘Tardy-Box’ and is hesitant to believe anything the Doctor says, but throughout their first adventure they get to know each other and inevitably as the scale and stakes of the conflict they are sucked up into get higher, their friendship begins to blossom. Speaking of stakes, the Daleks have teamed up with a rogue Time Lord known as ‘X’, whom the Daleks call Kotris, and are attempting to use retro-genitor particles to wipe out the Time Lords completely. Kotris, having grown tired of the Time Lord’s hypocrisy and meddling in affairs, had made a deal with the nefarious Dalek Time Controller, a truly wonderful character played brilliantly by Nicholas Briggs. The best way to describe his Time Controller voice is as a sane and composed version of his insane Dalek Caan voice.

World War One and the Daleks

The World War One setting of the first story is a brilliant choice for a Dalek story, and the Daleks spend a lot of time creeping around and being uncharacteristically patient, not revealing themselves until very late in the story. The Doctor lands in France and is caught in a gas attack, which incapacitates him while his Gallifreyan physiology heals him. In the meantime, he is picked up by soldiers and taken for medical assistance, meeting Molly in the process. The first story in the box set is a great introduction to Molly as a character, as it first shows her in her time period dealing with the war before catapulting her into the much more threatening Dalek incursion that follows.

Overall, the Daleks are effective not just in the first story but across the entire box set. the Dalek Time Controller, as previously mentioned, is excellent, and the second audio in the set in particular depicts the Daleks at their most ruthless. Unfortunately, the series doesn’t dwell on the idea of Daleks in World War One, as the pacing begins to increase as soon as they appear. It is perhaps telling at this point that Dark Eyes may have originally been set to be eight episodes long instead of four, perhaps even as another series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, and several ideas had to be crammed together into one story in order to condense the series into a four-part box set. Whilst this does allow for some fast-paced action and varied set pieces in the second audio, it also means that none of these ideas are particularly fleshed out.

The Arc and the Eyes

The best way to describe the story arc for the first Dark Eyes box set is as a tentative first step in what would become a long journey. And as first steps go, it makes some great progress. Throughout these first four audios the groundwork for the majority of the Dark Eyes series is laid, although the fact that the series was almost planned as it was being made means that not all of the vital elements of the Dark Eyes series are present here. One of the most iconic things about the Dark Eyes series, Alex MacQueen’s incarnation of the Master, does not appear until midway through Dark Eyes 2, although Kotris is a great antagonist and Toby Jones plays a great villain.

Molly O’ Sullivan gets a great introduction in this box set that not only sets up her character arc perfectly but also gives us a great idea of the kind of person she is, and how she reacts to situations bearing in mind the fact that she is from a time period that is now over one hundred years ago. Like the first series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures did for Lucie Miller, the first Dark Eyes box set presents Molly with a diverse array of challenges and testing situations to overcome, and as such the listeners glean a lot about her character early on. Although her demeanour takes some getting used to, Molly is an empathetic and charismatic character who pairs well with the Eighth Doctor.

So, is Dark Eyes worth a listen?

Absolutely, there is no doubt about that. The first Dark Eyes box set not only serves as an excellent introduction to the incredible Dark Eyes series, but each story is exciting and interesting in their own right, and not one of the four hour-long episodes in this box set feel like they are not pulling their weight. Big Finish does an excellent job of translating the Eighth Doctor into different release formats, from his debut in the Main Range to the New Who style EDAs and now the Eighth Doctor Box Sets. Paul McGann does a fantastic job with every story he is given, and he always gives it his all. Molly O’ Sullivan is a fantastic companion who has an excellent introduction here and the Daleks are as great as ever.

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Doctor Who – NEW Big Finish audio brings back Classic Who’s most infamous Supreme Dalek

Needless to say fans are excited about the return of this popular Dalek, but why is this particular Supreme Dalek so special?

Although the Daleks feature prominently in many of Big Finish’s Doctor Who Spinoff Audios, such as the Time War audios, it is a relatively rare occurence for the Daleks to feature in the monthly range. As the range approaches its 20th Birthday this year, it is interesting to look back on how the range has used the Daleks sparingly in the past compared to the current incarnation of the TV series. However, since it has been over a year since the last Monthly Range Dalek story, fans were teased with the title of August’s monthly release earlier this year, a Sixth Doctor story with the title: ‘Emissary of the Daleks’.

Fans are always quick to begin theorising over what the latest ‘of the Daleks’ buzzword actually means, with varying degrees of success. So far, all we really know about the story itself is that it stars the Sixth Doctor and Peri, and has something to do with someone acting as a go-between for the Daleks and another race, although even that is somewhat of a vague premise. All that changed with the reveal of the cover art, the first example of a Monthly Range Dalek story using the new Series 11 branding and logo, but the thing that really has fans talking is the inclusion of a specific and infamous Dalek on the cover – the Dalek Council Representative from Planet of the Daleks.

For those not in the know, this specific Supreme Dalek appeared in the 1973 Jon Pertwee story after Dalek activity on the planet Spiridon was disrupted by the Doctor, Jo and several Thals. Arriving on the planet in dramatic fashion in one of the most impressive uses of spaceship model shots in the era, the Supreme Dalek certainly made its mark on viewers with its unique appearance. The prop used for this Supreme was one of Terry Nation’s Movie Daleks painted black and gold, meaning that it is one of the most unique Daleks to appear in Classic Who and, in typical Classic Supreme style, he never appeared again after his first appearance.

Needless to say fans are excited about the return of this popular Dalek, but a logical question to ask would be: Why is this particular Supreme Dalek so special? After all, there were many Supreme Daleks in the Classic series, and there have been even more since the revival. The answer is in this Supreme Dalek’s attitude – thoughout Planet of the Daleks this Supreme is particularly ruthless – even by Dalek standards. He brutally murders his immediate subordinate for failing to capture the Doctor, and very nearly wipes out the entire population of the planet. After being thwarted and having his ship stolen by Thals, the Supreme Dalek is last seen plotting revenge of swearing the supremacy of the Dalek race, setting up a rematch with the Doctor that, sadly, never occured on-screen.

However, this distinctive Dalek Commander will hopefully be getting his chance at payback in Big Finish’s Emissary of the Daleks, as since we have never seen another Supreme Dalek quite like this one, there is a good chance that it is actually the same character. If so, this will be a rare example of a specific Dalek recurring in multiple stories. As the Dalek occupation of Spiridon was thwarted in another Big Finish story, it will be interesting to see what this Supreme has been up to, and given the sign warning of dangerous ‘Vitanium’ mining on the cover, it would seem this Supreme hasn’t lost his perhant for exploiting the natural resources of innocent planets. Hopefully Nick Briggs will also give his best shot at imitating the Pertwee-era Daleks’ distinctive voices as the pièce de résistance of this exciting-looking Dalek story.

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Doctor Who – The Best of Big Finish, Part Six

Though it has been some time since the last Best of Big Finish was released, since then Big Finish have announced dozens of new box sets so this article will showcase some of the best of Big Finish’s more recent box set releases.

Classic Doctors, New Monsters Volume One

BF-Doctor-Who-Classic-MonstersHaving a box set dedicated entirely to the concept of monsters from the New Series battling Classic Doctors is somewhat disheartening, as it implies that this is something that we will not see in the Main Range, but the payoff is worth it when listening to this box set. Each monster present is developed to a degree not seen in the TV series episodes in which they appear, and the focus of each story is on the returning monster. New Series monsters that seemed interesting but were never given the time or focus in the episode that they deserved, like the Sycorax, who were hardly the focus of their debut episode and are given more time in the limelight in Harvest of the Sycorax. The best of the box set is The Sontaran Ordeal, as it is set during the Time War and gives a small taste of the horrors of the conflict but from the perspective of the fringes of the war. In terms of best use of the returning monster, Judoon in Chains helps humanise the Judoon and is probably the most interesting of the set story-wise, although Fallen Angels does a great job of translating the Weeping Angels to the audio format.

The Diary of River Song, Series 5

river-5.jpgThough it may seem odd to include the fifth instalment of a series of box sets, this collection is entirely standalone and requires no prior context from previous River Song stories. What it does require, however, is a love of the Doctor’s arch-enemy the Master, as each of the four stories in this set features an incarnation of the evil Time Lord battling River Song. The first audio features Missy, at a point in time before she first met the Twelfth Doctor and still believes that River Song is the one responsible for the Doctor’s death. The story revolves around this concept from Series 6, but a lot of the actual conversation between Missy and River refers to many situations in the Classic series, and even a few references to other parts of Who canon too. Geoffrey Beevers appears as the decayed Master in Animal Instinct, and is the only true Classic Master to appear yet he stands out even among the dynamic newer Master incarnations. This box set also features the first appearance of Eric Robert’s incarnation of the Master, as well as the return of Derek Jacobi’s War Master, fresh from the Time War. Talking of which…

The War Doctor – Only the Monstrous

dwtwd01_onlythemonstrous_1417sq_cover_large.jpgBig Finish’s decision to fully elaborate on the events of the Time War after the 50th Anniversary came as no surprise, but John Hurt’s performance as well as the quality of the writing blew any potential naysayers out of the water when the first box set was released. People had been concerned that fully depicting the Time War would detract from the mystery, and whilst that is perhaps still true, the audio format allows for much to still be left to the imagination and allows for a depiction of the conflict that would not be possible on-screen. The first of four War Doctor box sets, the three stories featured focus mainly on the War Doctor coming to terms with his new role as a warrior, and do not feature the Time War’s events as directly as later releases, allowing for a lot of room for the War Doctor’s character to be firmly established.

The Sixth Doctor – The Last Adventure

51Prc9jSJ8L._SX350_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgWith the horrendous ordeal surrounding Colin Baker’s departure from the Classic Series and the subsequent botched regeneration scene that bridged the Sixth and Seventh Doctor at the start of Time and the Rani, there was a lot left to be interpreted by what we saw on-screen. For a start, there is a narrative gap between Colin Baker’s final story, The Ultimate Foe, and Sylvester McCoy’s first story, one of many throughout the Sixth Doctor’s era that allowed Big Finish to expand his timeline by adding hundreds of new stories. However, in The Last Adventure, Big Finish aims to tell a number of stories that lay the groundwork for the events that would lead up to the opening scene of Time and the Rani. What they produced is a box set of four fantastic stories that each take place at different points in the Sixth Doctor’s life, each with a different companion. This proves to be a great tribute to Colin Baker’s era not only at Big Finish but as the Sixth Doctor in general, and his regeneration scene is as poignant and heartwarming as any of the New Series regenerations.

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Doctor Who – Top 10 Big Finish Cyberman Stories

Big Finish has been producing the Doctor Who Main Range (formerly called the Monthly Range) since 1999 and is therefore fast approaching its 20th anniversary of creating Doctor Who audio dramas. Big Finish have not produced as many Cyberman audios as they have Dalek ones, but after 20 years of production, there is still a significant number of excellent Cyberman stories. This article ranks the best of the Big Finish Cyberman stories, starting with:

#10 – The Gathering

Gathering_(Doctor_Who)The Gathering has a strange place in the Cyberman story pantheon in that it doesn’t feature any actual Cybermen, but rather deals with the horrific aftermath of a Cyber incursion. This audio tells the kind of story that would be unlikely to appear in the TV series, and not only because it features some gruesome body horror, but the story also serves as Tegan’s return to the Fifth Doctor’s life after several years, and the focus on this aspect of the story, coupled with the lack of any actual Cybermen, is what puts this instalment at the bottom of the list. However, that is not to say it is a bad story, and it is an audio that Peter Davison fans should definitely check out.

#9 – Last of the Cybermen

dwmr199_last_of_the_cybermen_cover_large.jpgA homage to the Cyber-War plot from the early Cyberman stories, Last of the Cybermen depicts humankind’s final assault on Telos in an effort to wipe out the Cybermen for good. Featuring the Sixth Doctor alongside Second Doctor companions Jamie and Zoe, this audio has many twists and turns and has a terrifying depiction of the conversion process but is somewhat deflated by its pacing issues and underwhelming conclusion. Although it is fun to have Jamie and Zoe back fighting Cybermen, this was done far better in Legend of the Cybermen and as such this audio is further down the list than it would otherwise have been.

#8 – Human Resources

human resources.jpgThe final two-part story to the first series of Eighth Doctor Adventures, Human Resources Parts One and Two are an excellent conclusion to the strong first outing for the Eighth Doctor and new companion Lucie, played by Sheridan Smith. The story arc of the series is brought to a satisfying close and the Headhunter also makes an appearance, although the Cybermen themselves do not feature until quite a way through the story – which is good for tension, but means that there is not as much time for Cyber-action as is normally the case in 2-hour long audio plays.

#7 – Hour of the Cybermen

DWMR240_hourofthecybermen_alt_1417.jpgThe newest Cyberman story in the Main Range, Hour of the Cybermen is set on Earth and is a rare example of a Sixth Doctor UNIT story. The premise is simple – the Doctor arrives on Earth only to find that the UK has been afflicted with a terrible drought – but only the UK, not the rest of Europe (perhaps a veiled political message?) and eventually the Cybermen are revealed to be behind it. What makes this audio unique is the fact that it features the return of David Banks and Mark Hardy, who played the Cyber-Leader and Cyber-Lieutenant in Earthshock, The Five Doctors, Attack of the Cybermen and Silver Nemesis. Their iconic voices make this audio a real treat, and although Nicholas Briggs does a fantastic Cyberman voice, it is good to hear the old voices back again.

#6 – Sword of Orion

dwmr017_swordoforion_1417_cover_large.jpgSpeaking of Nicholas Briggs, Sword of Orion was the first story he wrote for the Eighth Doctor and the Cybermen in the Main Range, as well as being the first Cyberman story Big Finish produced. The format is simple but effective, which is particularly good considering the fact that this is Charley Pollard’s first ride in the TARDIS. The Cybermen also get some great action in this story, and their sinister nature is portrayed excellently in several scenes, particularly a gruesome encounter that the Doctor has with a Cyber-conversion plant that has stalled in mid-production = leaving the partly-converted victims to die horribly. Overall, this story is a strong instalment for the Cybermen, but doesn’t quite do enough new with them to warrant being in the top five.

#5 – The Reaping

The_Reaping_coverThe first Sixth Doctor to feature the Cybermen also features Peri, and deals heavily with her family and backstory meaning that those who are not fans of this particular companion may be immediately turned off this story. However, the concept itself is novel, with the idea of a highly futuristic Cyberman turning recently deceased humans into more Cybermen is similar to the concept for the New Series finale Death in Heaven, and that episode’s focus on the companion is also shared by this audio. Peri’s tragic story coupled with some really grisly Cyberman scenes makes this audio a must-listen for fans, particularly since it sets up several elements for both The Harvest and The Gathering.

#4 – Legend of the Cybermen

61lCIfV0rALAs previously mentioned, Legend of the Cybermen is a fantastic story involving the Sixth Doctor alongside Jamie and Zoe, and features the Cybermen invading the Land of Fiction from the Second Doctor story The Mind Robber. For those who haven’t seen that episode, it was essentially introduced as an excuse for the production team to use lots of historical and fantasy props for an episode, but ended up as a psychedelic journey through a crazy land featuring several fictional characters, and in this audio the Cybermen arrive there to convert them all. As the Cybermen work from an angle of total logic, this story depicts a sort of holy war for them, as they try to wipe the ‘scourge’ of fiction from the land.

#3 – The Harvest

dwmr058_theharvest_1417_cover_large.jpgThe first and arguably best of the loose ‘Cyberman Trilogy’ of The Harvest, The Reaping and The Gathering, this Seventh Doctor audio features the debut of Hex as well as the first encounter that the Seventh Doctor and Ace have had with the Cybermen since Silver Nemesis. The story focuses not only on Hex encountering the Doctor and Ace but also the side story of the Cyber-Leader transitioning into a human, something that is fascinating to listen to. With some great dialogue between the Doctor and the three main antagonists of the story, as well as the computer ‘System’, The Harvest is definitely one of the best Cyberman stories in the Big Finish back-catalogue.

#2 – The Silver Turk

20141022095558dwmr153_thesilverturk_1417_cover_largeThough the Eighth Doctor has a fair few Cyberman stories, this is his first and (so far) only encounter with the Mondasian Cybermen. The premise of having Mary Shelley in the TARDIS makes for a fascinating listen, particularly as she begins to feel sympathy for the Cybermen. Over the course of the story, several Mondasian Cybermen are used as marionettes and performers, and although they are somewhat sympathetic, they are also horrifying in their own right, and there are some really creative ideas that come together well in this story – but to give away any more would certainly venture in the territory of spoilers.

Honourable Mention – The Isos Network

dwea0204_theisosnetwork_1417_cover_large.jpgAlthough some fans will be put off by the more traditional ‘talking book’ style of the audio adventures of earlier Doctors, there are some genuine gems in amongst the catalogues of the first three Doctors. The Isos Network is an excellent bridge between the final two Second Doctor Cyberman episodes, and although there are some strange concepts included in this story, such as giant sentient slugs, the Cybermen are still fantastic in this story and the voices in particular are excellent.

#1 – Spare Parts

dwmr034v_spareparts_1417_cover_largeThe top spot, however, goes to Spare Parts, a story that serves as the origin story for the Mondasian Cybermen and has several links with the final First Doctor story, The Tenth Planet. Pitting the more human and fallible Fifth Doctor against the Genesis of the Cybermen was a fantastic move, as it sets up a dark and gritty tale that gives Genesis of the Daleks a run for its money, and that’s saying something. The gloomy world of Mondas with its desperate, hopeless inhabitants is countered by the down-to-Earth and optimistic Hartman family, and their tragic story helps drive the emotional weight of the story. The Cybermen themselves are at their best in this story, creepy and intimidating, and Nicholas Briggs does a fantastic impression of the original Mondasian Cybermen voices. Filling out its four parts nicely, this audio is a great jumping-on point for new listeners and is perhaps one of the greatest Big Finish audios of all time.

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Doctor Who – Top 10 Big Finish Dalek Stories

Big Finish has been producing the Doctor Who Main Range (formerly called the Monthly Range) since 1999 and is therefore fast approaching its 20th anniversary of creating Doctor Who audio dramas. In the 20 years that these audio plays have been in production, Big Finish has expanded their Doctor Who releases further than the Main Range to include many standalone series like the Eighth Doctor Adventures and the Dalek Empire series with a vast array of excellent Dalek stories to listen to. However, there are definitely some that stand out as truly spectacular stories and perhaps even some of the best examples of Doctor Who stories in any format, including the Classic and Modern TV series, and this article ranks the top ten, starting with:

#10 – We Are The Daleks

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Intended as a potential jumping-on point for would-be listeners who felt intimidated by the increasing number of story arcs and continuity related to the Big Finish Main Range, We Are The Daleks aims to tell a self-contained, somewhat familiar and yet entirely new Dalek story, and it achieves all three of these goals and more. Whilst the end result is hardly groundbreaking, and is certainly not as introspective or formula-inverting as some of Big Finish’s other Dalek stories, what fans got with We Are The Daleks was a classic Dalek romp that takes advantage of being set in the 1980s but with the hindsight of knowing what advancements in technology would bring in the 21st century, and the idea of combining Dalek technology with the basic human desire for video games was an ingenious one.

#9 – The Dalek Transaction

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Though it may seem an odd choice to include an audio from the UNIT: The New Series range considering the fact that it is a spinoff, The Dalek Transaction proves that great Dalek stories can be done in any form of Doctor Who media, not just the Doctor-focused ranges. Despite the wider lore surrounding UNIT: The New Series, Big Finish have made it very easy for fans to jump into the series with each box set, and although this audio can only be picked up as part of the UNIT: Encounters box set, you are almost immediately given everything that you need to know to understand the story and the characters. And as far as the story goes, although the idea of a critically damaged Dalek being held prisoner isn’t a new one, this story certainly takes a new and dynamic approach to the concept that pleased many a Dalek fan.

#8 – Blood of the Daleks

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The opening two-parter to the Eighth Doctor Adventures with Sheridan Smith playing new companion Lucie Miller, Blood of the Daleks aims to both introduce the audience to Lucie and the more brooding Eighth Doctor whilst also delivering a fantastic Dalek story. Unsurprisingly this episode has plenty of references to other Doctor Who stories, particularly Dalek stories, as this audio was designed as not only an introduction to new companion Lucie but also to the Eighth Doctor and the idea of Doctor Who audios as a medium, as this was the first episode in a series that Big Finish pushed as a jumping on point for new Doctor Who fans back when the New Series had only just started. As it stands, Blood of the Daleks is a great opener to the Eighth Doctor Adventures and is one of the best audios to use as a means of getting accustomed to the format, for those who have not listened to many before. The relationship between Eight and Lucie is composed perfectly, and there is a great dynamic between them that develops as the plot unfolds.

#7 – Masters of Earth

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This audio peaked the interest of many veteran Dalek fans on its announcement as it features the Sixth Doctor and Peri visiting Earth during the Dalek Occupation, as seen in the famous First Doctor episode The Dalek Invasion of Earth. The idea of the Doctor visiting eras in Dalek history from the Classic show is something that the New Series should definitely work on creating, as it gives some great marketing opportunities as well as setting up innumerable ideas for potential time-travel focused stories. Masters of Earth delivers on this, as whilst its twist is predictable, it does a great job of recreating the feel of Dalek-controlled Earth that fans saw in the 1960s. As this is an audio set later in Peri’s timeline, her character is much more manageable than she appeared in the show, and Peri arguably gets a proper encounter with the Daleks that Revelation of the Daleks tragically denied her.

#6 – Order of the Daleks

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A recent outing for the Sixth Doctor and his new companion Constance Clarke, this audio’s eye-catching cover is fitting considering how this audio stands out among many of its peers. Make no mistake, Big Finish is still just as fantastic as it always has been, but there has been a recent trend of Big Finish Dalek stories being less experimental than perhaps they once were. Enter Order of the Daleks which manages to not only utilise the concept of a Stained Glass Dalek for a great cover design but also as a great peg for an original and wholly unique Dalek story idea, that being: what would the Daleks do if they crashed on a primitive planet, and were forced to use primitive technology to repair themselves? The result is a great story that showcases how great Colin Baker is as the Doctor but also provides new companion Constance Clarke with an opportunity to make a mark on the Doctor Who timeline – and as audio-only companions go, Constance is every bit as great as classics like Charlie and Lucie. The conversations between the Dalek Commander and the Doctor in this story are brilliant and, without spoiling too much, there is some very good development of the Daleks psychology in this story that any Dalek fan should check out.

#5 – The Dalek Contact/The Final Phase

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The Fourth Doctor Adventures are a fantastic range of audios, particularly since they star one of the most popular Doctors in the history of the show, as well as fan-favourites like Leela, Romana and K-9. However, an interesting aspect of this series is that it manages to replicate one of the many odd quirks of the Fourth Doctor’s era, in that there is a disproportionally small number of Dalek stories considering the sheer number of stories that the Fourth Doctor has, both for TV and in his own audio series. The Fourth Doctor Adventures definitely benefits from this, as the few instances in which the Daleks do appear feel like special occasions and, as special occasions go, The Dalek Contact and The Final Phase are both great Dalek stories, making it especially exciting that it features the Fourth Doctor, Romana I and K-9. For fans of this era of the show, this two-parter is definitely one of the best Dalek stories.

#4 – Enemy of the Daleks

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When discussing types of Dalek stories, particularly with people who are fans of the Daleks specifically, often the stories that try a different ‘take’ on the Daleks are ranked as among the best, and with good reason. As the Daleks are so prolific among the various media formats of Doctor Who, with dozens of episodes and audios, and even a significant number of books, dedicated to them, and as a result after over fifty years of the Daleks it is often those few stories that attempt to somehow redefine or reinvent the Daleks that are considered the best. However, every once in a while a Dalek story comes along that, although playing straight to almost every single Dalek story trope that the show has ever seen, actually manages to be just so good regardless that it is automatically considered a classic. Enemy of the Daleks is definitely one of these, as what is (on the surface at least) a generic Dalek action romp also manages to deliver a surprisingly good story and present some characters with great emotional depth. When describing Enemy of the Daleks, the key phrase to bear in mind is ‘never judge a book by its cover’, although that hardly seems fair as this audio has perhaps one of the coolest covers of any Doctor Who product across all its many mediums.

#3 – The Apocalypse Element

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If it wasn’t good enough that the Sixth Doctor got to face the Daleks so early in his audio appearances, it just so happens that he got to star in what is undeniably the best of the early ‘Dalek Empire’ Main Range audios. For those not in the know, early in their career as Doctor Who audio play producers, Big Finish brought the Daleks to their main series with four totally separate yet also thematically linked Dalek stories – The Genocide Machine, The Apocalypse Element, The Mutant Phase and The Time of the Daleks, and this later went on to drive the plot of their standalone Dalek Empire spinoff series. Each main range story is good in their own right, particularly The Mutant Phase, but The Apocalypse Element is by far the greatest of the bunch. Not only does it feature Lalla Ward as Romana II, but it also delivers a cracking Dalek story that seems to present what has later become the ‘first act’ of the Last Great Time War.

#2 – The Juggernauts

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Something that might have become apparent to Dalek fans reading this list is the fact that, until this point, no Davros stories have appeared. There are several reasons for this – arguably the most important being that there is rarely a good Dalek story that also happens to be a good Davros story, usually one is sacrificed for the other. However, there are always exceptions to this rule, and The Juggernauts is probably the best example of this. Featuring the Sixth Doctor and Mel in the best story that they share, this audio approaches the Davros/Dalek dynamic in a very different light, and presents the idea of Davros, finally deciding that the Daleks have failed him, attempting to create something to counter the Daleks on a galactic scale – the ubiquitous ‘Juggernauts’. For those who are fans of the 1980s Davros stories, this audio is essentially everything that those stories were trying to be, had they not been held back by budget constraints.

Honorable Mention – The Dalek Occupation of Winter

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Although some fans will be put off by the more traditional ‘talking book’ style of the audio adventures of earlier Doctors, there are some genuine gems in amongst the catalogues of the first three Doctors. A recent example of one of these is the superb The Dalek Occupation of Winter, an audio that utilises the fact that this is one of the Doctor’s first encounters with the Daleks to great effect, and is definitely work picking up as an introduction to the different format for those who are not familiar with it.

#1 – Jubilee

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An audio made famous by the distinction of being adapted into the 2005 episode ‘Dalek’, the first appearance of the Daleks in the New Series, Jubilee has a lot more going on than what is presented in the episode it was later adapted into. ‘Dalek’ is arguably just an adaptation of one plot point from Jubilee, and listeners will quickly realise that there is a lot more to Jubilee than is to be expected of a Dalek story. One of this story’s greatest assets is the fact that it features the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn, a Doctor-companion pairing that has rarely been topped in any medium of the franchise. Considering Colin Baker’s rough time on the show and the generally negative reception that his Doctor gets as a result, it is fine poetry that his Doctor happens to be the one that has spearheaded the success of the Doctor Who audios through great characterisation, fantastic scripts and great new companions. However, the greatest thing about Jubilee (and the thing that makes it a great Dalek story) is the Dalek itself and the way it is presented. When listening to this audio all preconceived notions about the Daleks have to be thrown out of the window, as this story depicts a Dalek that demonstrates some definite growth as a character, and without spoiling too much, it is clear where the most emotive moments in ‘Dalek’ were derived from, as Jubilee presents an entirely different yet similarly emotive story that makes the audience feel conflicted feelings of pity for the most pitiless race in the universe.

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