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:

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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.

Listen to this audio here, on Big Finish’s official Spotify.

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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.

Listen to this audio here, on Big Finish’s official Spotify.

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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…

Listen to this audio here, on Big Finish’s official Spotify.

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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.

Listen to this audio here, on Big Finish’s Official Spotify.

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: