Monday 3 August 2015

Big Finish Favourites - A Guest Post by Jack Ryan

Who knew that my suggestion for guest blog posts would be so well received! It's my pleasure to add my second guest article, by Jack Ryan, in which he shares his thoughts on the Big Finish audio stories, a subject he, and I, are very passionate about! Whilst familiar with the majority of the Big Finish material, Jack's post has inspired me to dig into some of the goodies on offer, beyond Doctor Who and it's various spin offs. I'm particularly drawn to his thoughts on the Dorian Gray series, about which I know nothing, I look forward to changing that, soon! And so, without further ado, I'm proud to present...



I want you to cast your mind back to 2007. A year of Deathly Hallows and bad superhero movies. It was also the year after I became a Doctor Who fan. And as such Series 3 (with the fantastic Freema Ageyman) was the first one I saw from beginning to end, as I joined the bandwagon the previous year, thanks to Elisabeth Sladen. Also, later that year, I obtained my first great collectible, The Complete Davros DVD collection. OH HOW I CHERISHED THAT THING!!! So why am I bring this up? Well, me getting that box set was my introduction to the fantastic world of Big Finish...


Since then I have picked up two dozen CDs and nearly 250 downloads from the great audio-drama powerhouse and I have loved every single one of them. But of course, there are those I love more than most; the ones I listen to again and again and never get tired of hearing the brilliance pouring into my ears. And these are them. Now bear in mind, these are my personal favourites, not a list of “the” best. You might agree with some, you might disagree with others. Also bear in mind two further things; A) Spoiler Alert and B) There will be some usage of ‘language’. With that said....



SPIN-OFFS, GLORIOUS SPIN-OFFS!!! So many to enjoy!!!!

Like most good things, when I heard that Big Finish were planning a Special Release celebrating 15 years of Doctor Who audios, I was intrigued. When they said it was going to be a crossover, I immediately said “WHERE’S THE PRE-ORDER BUTTON?!?!” And I’m glad I did. This is an absolutely brilliant release, and whilst it still sticks to the regular box-set formula, the main difference is that the stories are all from different series, all joined together by the enigmatic Mr Rees, played by the glorious Jamie Glover. Going from Jago & Litefoot, to Counter Measures, to UNIT and Gallifrey, and ending with Colin Baker’s reborn 6th Doctor, the greater story is a fantastic romp which I love listening to again and again, and the box as a whole is a perfect introduction to the spin-offs it showcases.



May I be frank here, when I say that.... THIS SERIES IS FUCKING AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!

Being the replacement and continuation of The Eighth Doctor Adventures, Dark Eyes had some big shoes to fill, being set immediately after the epic and climactic To The Death, and not only did it work, it worked spectacularly. Introducing the fantastic Ruth Bradley as the Doctor’s new IRISH companion, Molly O’Sullivan, and reintroducing the amazing Nicola Walker as Liv Chenka, this series went from strength to strength with each box set and became a must have for not only Doctor Who and Big Finish fans, but those with any interest in audio drama as a whole.



Does the name Alex McQueen mean anything to you? He played a slithy Government official opposite Peter Capaldi, a fountain of comedy delight alongside the Inbetweeners and Matt Lucas, and he has now also played (in my opinion) THE MOST INSANE INCARNATION OF THE UNIVERSE’S MOST FAMOUS PSYCHOPATH!!!!

This 7th Doctor mini-series is an absolute gem and, unlike the likes of Dark Eyes, all four stories are directly connected as they’re not stories; they’re parts of the bigger story. Alongside Beth Chalmers as the fun and quirky Raine Creevy and the domineering Tracey Childs and the cold but compassionate Dr Klein, Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor comes into his absolute own here, showcasing comedy and dark drama and setting up McQueen’s Master perfectly for the his long awaited return in the Dark Eyes series...



“Please Doctor, do come out to play....  I’m waiting for you.”


With 2013 being the year of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary, every medium had its special episode; BBC had Day Of The Doctor, DWM had Hunters Of The Burning Stone, and Big Finish had one of their many Magnum Opus-es. The Light At The End did what I believe the TV series would never be able to on a practical level; include every Doctor and companion they could, and still make it a story rather than a huge round of continuity bingo. Add to that, Geoffrey Beavers as the chilling voice of the pre-Ainley Master, the glorious return of India Fisher as the amazing Charley Pollard, and Straxus. STRAXUS, YOU B*ST*RD!! You are the perfect character that I love to hate for every conceivable reason. There are a multitude of reasons why I love this story. Too many to list here, so I’ll leave you with the main reason to get this story; Tom Baker and Paul McGann, IN THE SAME SCENE!!! Every moment of that is perfection... 



I love the sixties: great music, brilliant films and the beginning of the greatest TV series ever. So for the 50th anniversary, Big Finish did a trilogy of stories featuring the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors, all set in the later part of 1963. And they all set the time perfectly, from the music scene to the space race to the cold war and the paranoia of mutually assured destruction, every story hits its head straight on the plot and never disappoints. Plus, add one of the best Big Finish cliff-hangers (the only thing to make if perfect would be a certain spoilery sound effect), an amazing homage to The Beatles, and a captivating prequel story to the fantastic spin-off Counter-Measures, these stories do exactly what they say on the case, and more...


I know The Worlds Of Doctor Who is on this list already, but this is just too good to leave off. Connecting six of Big Finish’s most popular original series is a task in itself, but one that writer David Llewellyn not only took on, but completely excelled at. Having known and listened to half of the shows represented in the box, it did an excellent job in introducing the others and now, Big Finish have six brand new reasons to clear out my bank account. As well as the story, the acting is top notch. And not only that, but the guest appearances of David Warner, Hugh Skinner and Terry Malloy, was like music to my ears. Plus, being the first time hearing the delightful Katy Manning as Iris Wildthyme... I CANNOT STOP LAUGHING!!!! I’m definitely getting the new box set coming out this month.



Words cannot describe how much I love this series. But they’ll try anyway...

Based on Oscar Wilde’s most famous creation, Confessions creates a world where Dorian Gray was a real man, who made the deal and lived for nearly 150 years. And because of this exceptional source material, this allows Big Finish to go to new extremes in storytelling, and not once does it feel like exploitation. Everything fits into place creating an atmosphere both intriguing and shocking. And Alexander Vlahos. DEAR GOD, I FUCKING LOVE HIS VOICE!!!! With the fantastic guest cast from Doctor Who and beyond, the amazing tone-perfect music and even a crossover Christmas Special with SHERLOCK BLOODY HOLMES, this is not only a brilliant original series, it is a must have and a must to listen to. Believe me, you will thank me and Big Finish when you get this...




This is a story where the rules are flipped on their head. No Doctor, no Time Lords, instead we’re dropped right into the middle of the Great War Of Skaro (AKA The Thal-Kaled War) and are introduced to the most hated man in creation.... before he became infamous. Taking cues from I, Claudius, the original Dalek serial and the background of World War II, this presents a very realistic view of what the other side sees. Rory Jennings and Terry Malloy excel as the titular megalomaniac and the story as a whole is just a fantastic, well constructed tale about a side that isn’t explored very often in stories of its kind. Add to the fact Peter Miles is in the last episode and you have got, what I consider, Big Finish’s greatest mini-series ever.



Otherwise known as the story that inspired ‘Dalek’, ‘Dalek’, this is not! And yet it still is. It’s a story you can’t just listen to it whilst your mind is on other things. It requires every last bit of your attention, and yet, you still don’t know the half of it. You need to listen to it again and again to get every last detail. And because this story is so brilliantly written, so brilliantly constructed and so brilliantly performed, it would never be considered a chore. Also, this story marked my introduction to the amazing and lamented Maggie Stables as Dr Evelyn Smithe. And she was, is, and always will be, glorious...



Tom Baker. Do I need another reason to say why I love this box setOh, I do? Okay...

The Lost Stories series started in 2009 adapting unmade TV stories onto audio, and when it was announced that Tom Baker would be joining Big Finish proper in 2011, as a special treat, this box set was made featuring two bloody good stories that would have fit straight into the series proper. Despite one of the stories sounding vaguely familiar to The Android Invasion, these two stories are great. The plot, the acting, the obligatory 70’s humour that always makes me laugh, everything in these stories are spot on. They are just amazing, fantastic romps and proved a brilliant introduction for Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor into Big Finish.

Follow Jack on Twitter @ClassicDWFan

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