big finish - my recommended doctor who stories ⤴
well, I've gone and done it. fallen down the Big Finish rabbit hole. they are the producers of Doctor Who audio dramas (my main listens), as well as other adaptations and original series.
here are some of my favourite stories.
a free, half-hour Doctor Who story that's perfect for audio and features great character interaction.
summary: Earth, 1974. The completely ordinary Lauren accidentally calls the Doctor (lucky for her, as it turns out). And then it happens again. And again...A Sixth Doctor story told entirely through phone calls.
a near-perfect short audio story. wonderful character piece. also a good introduction to Doctor Who. seeing the Doctor through the eyes of someone new (er, hearing the Doctor through...you know what I mean) is always interesting. he and Lauren build up a real relationship over the short runtime. I have listened to this...literally dozens of times.
Tropical Beach Sounds and Other Relaxing Seascapes #4
a stand-alone Torchwood story brilliantly narrated by Sir Michael Palin.
summary: You are listening to a self-help tape. Ah, that voice is soothing, isn't it? Follow these instructions - you are going to change the world...
no, I shan't give too much away. this one's brilliant. I've listened to it four or five times. it's a story designed for audio and it takes you to some wonderfully dark places. no prior knowledge of Torchwood required.
the story of the genesis of the Cybermen. perhaps the best Cybermen story of them all.
summary: On a dark frozen planet where no planet should be, in a doomed city with a sky of stone, the last denizens of Earth's long-lost twin will pay any price to survive, even if the laser scalpels cost them their love and hate and humanity. The origin story of the Mondasian Cybermen, featuring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa.
oh, Spare Parts. I'm almost mad at this story, because it has ruined nearly every other Cybermen story for me! far from being just intergalactic tin soldiers, the cybermen were people once. they had families and lives and dreams. this is a tragedy of quiet desperation and body horror. making small trade-offs to survive until you realize you've given over that last inch of yourself—your humanity.
I've mostly been listening through the Main Range, though I'm starting to pick and choose a few box sets. So many stories I could write about and recommend! Favourite TARDIS teams so far include: Eight/Charley, Five/Peri/Erimem, Five/Nyssa, Six/Evelyn, Seven/Mel, Seven/Benny/Ace. (I think it's the Fifth Doctor that has surprised me most on audio! I've enjoyed him with most companions and on solo adventures - in contrast to his TV run, which took a long time for me to warm to...)
In any case, it's time to start keeping a running tab of stories to come back here and write about, so:
- "The Spectre of Lanyon Moor" (Six, Evelyn, Brigadier! a near-perfect romp)
- "The One Doctor" (Six, Mel. a lovely comedic story in which we meet a Doctor-impersonator.)
- "Neverland" (Eight, Charley, Romana II! so epic, as it's near the end of Charley's first arc. leads into Zagreus...)
- "Doctor Who and the Pirates" (Six, Evelyn. I once played Samuel in the Pirates of Penzance so yeah I've got a soft spot for the pirate musical. this one is funny. and dark. musicals are great at laughter and tears.)
- "Omega" (Five, Omega. part of a villains trilogy and my favourite of the bunch. A bit more lighthearted, but still with stakes! And Five on his own. I heckin' love Omega in this.)
- "Zagreus" (Eight, Charley, and everyone else! Big 40th anniversary special, and I'm on the side that likes it.)
- "Scherzo" (Eight, Charley, and practically no one else. Very strange listening experience. Uncomfortable. Fascinating relationship dynamics. There is no other Doctor Who story quite like this one, and it could only exist on audio.)
- "Arrangements for War" (Six, Evelyn. a masterpiece. A proper drama to tear your heart out. Political drama meets romance.)
- "LIVE 34" (Seven, Ace, Hex. The darkness of their stories is part of why I'm not a huge fan of this TARDIS team, but that's a personal preference and not about the quality of the story. This one is brilliant, and the radio format cleverly done.)
- "Circular Time" (Five, Nyssa. It's a good set, but Autumn is best. An all-time favourite, and about as domestic as Doctor Who ever gets.)
- "The Reaping" (Six, Peri. Not quite perfect, but still quite a brilliant Cybermen story.)
- "The Bride of Peladon" (Five, Peri, Erimem. Being set on Peladon and encountering a several familiar aliens makes this feel very in line with the classic TV era. it's wonderfully done, and an excellent story for this trio.)
- "The Company of Friends: Benny's Story" (Eight, Bernice Summerfield. I was not acquainted with Benny, so this was my introduction to her. I think it's sort of a shame she doesn't have more stories with the Eighth Doctor, because they've got incredible chemistry. The story is nothing special, but the two of them are.)
- The Stockbridge trilogy: "Castle of Fear," "The Eternal Summer," "Plague of the Daleks" (Five, Nyssa. Some of the best audio stories I've listened to. I'd rank Eternal Summer first, then Plague, then Castle, but they are all exceptional. I cannot recommend these enough.)
- "1001 Nights" (Five, Nyssa. Another anthology, this time with a framing story! it's a series of mini-adventures and all four parts are have engaging supporting characters that make the tales feel satisfying despite their brevity. I've listened to this, oh, five or six times now.)
- "Love and War" (Seven, Ace, Benny. Adaptation, by Jacqueline Rayner, of the New Adventures Novel by Paul Cornell. introduces the character Bernice Summerfield. Even as a 3-hour audio drama, this one is dense, but if you can hang with it, it pays off. It's proper Sci-Fi, usually not my genre *I know, shut up* but Cornell is just that good. And I mean...it's Benny!)
- Gallifrey (Romana, Leela, K9. and Braxiatel. Doctor Who does political drama. It just got better and better, so by the time I reached the Series 3 finale, I was gasping and punching the air as each plot thread resolved. If you listen to the first episode and like it, stick with it. Gallifrey on TV has never been half as good as this.)
- "The Peterloo Massacre" (Five, Nyssa, Tegan. This is the high water mark for historicals. It's a proper drama that just happens to feature Doctor Who characters, and it's brilliant.)
- "Aquitaine" (Five, Nyssa, Tegan. Deadly plants + Doctor Who = excellent stories, in my experience so far. This story gives me Wolf 359 vibes, which is a high compliment.
- "Son of the Dragon" (Five, Peri, Erimem. The team meets Dracula! The real one, I mean. Prince Vlad III. Another dark and intense historical, thoroughly compelling, and featuring James Purefoy as Dracula?! Incredible.)
- "Red" (Seven, Mel. If you're in the mood for a deeply unsettling story, this one is all about violence, freedom, and responsibility. Great performances all round, but the standout is Sandi Toksvig as Vi.)
- "Peri and the Piscon Paradox" (Five, Six, Peri. This is a companion chronicles piece, rather than a full-cast drama, and it's a great showcase for both Nicola Bryant and Peri. Ever wonder what really happened to Peri after Mindwarp? Now's your chance to find out...)
- Classic Doctors New Monsters (having listened to Volumes 1-3, they are all worth getting. my favourite individual stories are: "Fallen Angels" and "Harvest of the Sycorax" in Vol. 1, "Night of the Vasthta Nerada" and "Day of the Vashta Nerada" in Vol. 2,
- "The Nowhere Place" (Six, Evelyn. mysterious, emotional, and we all know that Six and Evelyn are a winning pair, always.)
- "Frozen Time" (Seven, companionless. A surprising gem of a story that unthaws slowly to reveal itself.)
- The Diary of River Song (River Song, and everyone else. so far, I've listened to Series 1 & 2, which are both great sets. Special mention goes to "Signs" by James Goss, because Mr. and Mrs. Song together are an exceptional pair.)
- "Ghost Station" from Time Apart (Fifth Doctor. This is a solid set, with four enjoyable stories, but the clear standout is "Ghost Station" by Steve Lyons. listen twice.)
- "Sympathy for the Devil" Doctor Who - Unbound (Unbound Doctor, Brigadier. If you only listen to one Unbound story, make it this one. Warner's Doctor is so good, you'll wish he had a series of his own—go pick up some Benny audios for more—and there are a few other familiar voices here elevating an already solid story.)
- "The Scorchies" Companion Chronicles (if I'm being honest, Jo Grant might be my all-round favourite companion. This musical episode sees Jo trapped by the Scorchies, who are essentially the Muppets-gone-evil but also aliens. sorry in advance for getting "Jo is Making a Thing" stuck in your head.)
- "Solitaire" Companion Chronicles (Charley, Celestial Toymaker. at the time of writing—August 2022—it looks like Neil Patrick Harris is playing the Toymaker? which makes this essential listening. Charley versus a great enemy, this story's got a real ticking clock and many twists.)
- Out of Time (Tenth Doctor, Classic Doctors. multi-Doctor stories that know how to get in and out in 80 minutes or less. it's a fun format and David Tennant is on top form as always.)
- Forty-Five (Seven, Ace, Hex. Though this trio isn't typically one of my favourite TARDIS teams—due more to the darkness of their stories than the characters themselves—this anthology is a great lesson in short-story writing.)