I was asked on app.net if I had any suggestions for good audios to listen to from Big Finish. In case you’re not familiar with them, they make Doctor Who audio dramas starring the original casts and licensed by the BBC. They are also played on BBC channel 4 from time to time. I think that audio is probably the best medium for Doctor Who and possibly for stories in general. I think they fit somewhere between novels and movies/TV shows when it comes to storytelling.
So what to recommend? There have been 176 main line releases, all 2 hours plus in length. Add to that the 50 or 60 Companion Chronicles (stories told from the companion’s point of view), the special series for the 8th and 4th Doctor, and the Lost stories (made from scripts intended for the TV show but not made) and you have an unbelievable number of Doctor Who stories to choose from. And then there are the spinoffs and related audios like Bernice Summerfield, Iris Wildthyme, Jago and Lightfoot, Gallifrey, Graceless, Doctor Who Unbound (a what if series. What if the Doctor didn’t leave Gallifrey, etc.), Counter Measures, Sarah Jane Smith, I Davros, Dalek Empire, and UNIT you have close to 500 audios to choose from. Not going to go through all of them even though there are great stories in all the ranges. All are worth listening to. I’m going to concentrate on the inexpensive releases.
1st off, there are some available for free here: https://soundcloud.com/big-finish/tracks?format=html&page=1
It is mostly trailers but there are several longer length adventures in there too. If you want to start with Big Finish, I’d start with the 1st 50 of the main series. The downloads have been permanantly reduced to $2.99. I’ll go over what I consider the best stories in that 1st 50.
No.6 The Marian Conspiracy. A pure historical for 6, introduces the incredibly popular companion Evelyn Smythe. Evelyn gets into some trouble when she realizes she is several years earlier in England’s history than she thought.
No.10 Winter for the Adept. A spooky story for 5 and Nyssa, written by Andrew Cartmel. Nyssa is unceremoniously dumped in the snow in the alps. She manages to get to a school to shelter and that’s when things get weird.
No.11 The Apoclaypse Element. A 6, Evelyn, and Romana 2 story fighting the Daleks. Pretty sure this is the first time we hear Romana in Big Finish. Lalla is in great form.
No.12 The Fires of Vulcan. A cracker of a tale for 7 and Mel. The Tardis materializes in Pompeii, but why is the Doctor so fatalistic? Mel has to tapk him into not giving up.
No.13 The Shadow of the Scourge. A 7, Ace, and Benny tale. This feels like a story out of the New Adventure novels. Weird, surreal at times and 7 at his scheming best. First time Benny has shown up in the main series. Ace is definitely in New Adventures mode.
No.14 The Holy Terror. A classic, one of the best ever from Big Finish. Stars 6 and a companion from the comics, Frobisher. Funny and dark. Frobisher is a shaw changer and generally prefers the shape of a 4 foot tall penguin. Equal parts Monty Python and darkness. Recommended.
No.16 Storm Warning. The first 8th Doctor story. Also introduces Charlotte Pollard. Not only the 1st story for 8 but the start of the epic Charley arc. Charley picks a bad start to her adventuring career by getting on board the R101. She is one of my favorite companions and has one of the larger arcs Big Finish has ever done.
No.17 Sword of Orion. Another Big Finish classic. Charley and 8 fight the cybermen. Atmospheric, the Cybermen done right.
No.23 Project Twilight. 6 and Evelyn stumble across The Forge. The start of the Nimrod and Forge arc. Possibly the most visceraly violent Doctor Who stories to experience.
No.24 The Eye of the Scorpion. 6 and Perri in ancient Egypt. Introduces the new companion Erimem. Having a companion from earlier in Earth’s history was a brilliant move. Wish they would do this more often.
No.25 Colditz. Another classic. 7 and Ace end up in the famous Nazi POW camp. Also stars a pre Doctor Davis Tennant as a camp guard. Start of the Kline story. Even though they don’t appear I can’t help but think of this as the best Dalek story ever. The Nazis are the perfect analog for the Daleks.
No.28 Invaders From Mars. 8, Charley, Orsen Wells, War of the Worlds, what more needs to be said? A particularly 8 tory, can’t think of any other Doctor this could have been done with.
No. 29 The Chimes of Midnight. 8 and Charley find themselves in a strange house with strange servents. Might be the best thing Big Finish has ever done but you really need to have heard the previous Charley stories to make sense of it. A great mix of 8’s personality, humor, weirdness, and darkness. Weirdly also a good Christmas story. This alone is worth hearing the Charley arc that precedes it.
No.30 Seasons of Fear. 8 and Charley finally arrive in Singapore in 1930 but they end up trying to track down someone that claims to have killed the Doctor in the distant past. A bit of a run around but fun as only 8 can produce.
No.31 Embrace the Darkness. 8 and Charley in a creepy tale on a dark planet. Things are never as they appear.
No. 32 The Time of the Daleks. 8 and Charley. Why doesn’t Charley know who William Shakesphere is?
No. 34 Spare Parts. Amazing story concerning the creation of the Cybermen. 5 and Nyssa try to figure out where they are. The Cybermen have never been so pitiable.
No. 35 …Ish. 6 and Perri try to figure out a linguistic killer. 6 is the perfect Doctor for this story.
No.38 The Church and Crown. 6, Peri, Erimem, Cardinal Richelu and French intrigue. A great historical.
No.43 Doctor Who and the Pirates. A musical… kind of. A real departure, seems lighter, but has dark parts as well. 6 and evelyn. Colin baker does a lot of musical theater and it shows here.
No.46 Flip Flop. 7 and Mel caught in time shennagins. You can listen to part one or two in either order. Timey wimey, wibbly wobbly.
The stories that I have skipped over are still worth listening to for the most part. All of the ones I mentioned are well worth listening to, I’m a big fan of 8 and Charley. I’ll warn you, these are rather addictive…
There are some other ranges that are really good and not very expensive. The first 3 series of Gallifrey are gripping political thrillers staring Lalla Ward as Romana 2, Louise Jameson as Leela, and John Leeson as K9. All of the Dalek Empire series is worth listening to. The 3 part stars David Tennant and the 4th stars Noel Clark. I, Davros follows Davros thorugh his life and we get to see how he became what he did.
You can find all of these at www.bigfinish.com and I think all of them are $5 or less if you do the downloads, maybe a little more for the CDs. I think all of the Doctor Who stories I’ve mentioned are must haves for fans of the show. Enjoy!