Big Finish and other publishers and production companies like it, specialising as they do to a certain extent in continuing traditions established on television years ago, can be seen as trading on fan nostalgia, on remembrances of things past. When they began their range of Doctor Who audios in 1999, their objective was partly to plug a perceived gap in the market – the show had by then been off the air for quite some time and it seemed apparent that Paul McGann’s Eighth incarnation, the current incumbent, was unlikely to return as a regular TV character anytime soon. The McGann audios were therefore seen as directly continuing the series, as if it were moving forwards with the show in ‘the present’ while the releases featuring the earlier actors to play the role were aimed inevitably at recreating on audio a television era that had already come and gone. Thus their adventures would seemingly be stylistically mired in the past while McGann’s would be able to move more easily with the times. Once the show came back to TV in 2005 however this would also stop being the case with Christopher Ecclestone taking over the mantle. But Big Finish thankfully proved to be able to provide more than simple exercises in nostalgia and have consistently delivered content that, to these ears, is considerably superior to its television counterpart without betraying its roots but instead developing and building on the promise of the show and without just being hidebound by its past.
Having said that, Sylvester McCoy was very much my Doctor Continue reading
The audio rendition of Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor may well be the great success story of Big Finish. Initially portrayed on screen as irascible and curmudgeonly, Baker has subsequently said that he intended for the role to develop slowly over several seasons. Unfortunately for him, the show hit an all-time low in its popularity within the BBC under the management of Michael Grade – and it has to be said, his stories on screen were also not very well received either. From his first full season, Vengence on Varos and Revelation of the Daleks are the ones usually singled out for praise (and rightly so), with Mark of the Rani by the dreaded Pip and Jane Baker coming in a distant third. His second and final season was the ill-fated Trial of a Time Lord cycle, which despite several good ideas (including an imaginative chase through the Matrix and a standout departure for the doctor’s companion Peri in which she is shaved, de-brained and then violently dispatched by Brian Blessed – well, until Lynda Bellingham takes it all back again in the closing seconds) is let down by tatty design and an unwieldy concept that could have suited perhaps a six-part serial at best. And then Baker was unceremoniously fired.
The Big Finish audios have done something truly inspired and inspiring – rescuing one of the least-loved and, it has to be said, most unlucky of TV Doctor Whos, and making him perhaps the most well-rounded of all the Time Lord audio incarnations. Continue reading
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A few years ago two things in my life happened almost simultaneously – I became a commuter and I became a devoted Doctor Who fan, following years of urging by a friend who had grown up on the Time Lord’s adventures. Having come late to the party I bought lots of DVDs and books on his recommendation to make up for lost time and had a great time in the process. But how to progress? Finding myself with 3 hours a day travelling to and from work Monday to Friday I finally succumbed to the urge to buy an MP3 player and, having picked up an issue of Doctor Who Magazine, I started to get acquainted with the Big Finish audio productions – and have never looked back. Continue reading