Okay, my Big Finish addiction is getting a little out of hand. Luckily it has coincided with my newfound financial need to budget, in order to make a lump sum of money last all year rather than having a nice little fortnightly sum be replenished every week SO THAT MORE BOOKS CAN BE BOUGHT.
Anyway, I decided I would repeat my two months of not buying books at the beginning of the year, as I did last year, since I have a groaning shelf of books to read and not actually a lot of inclination to read them. Meanwhile, I’m churning up audio plays like nobody’s business. My excuse was initially that there weren’t as many podcasts out over the holiday period, but now I’m just plain hooked.
Listening to the Big Finish Podcast didn’t help. It was bad enough when they were an anonymous bunch, but after listening in to a year’s worth of their office antics and discussions of creative decisions, I feel entirely invested in the entire business. That, and I now have a very specific and detailed list of the many, many plays I desperately want but can’t have yet because of This Thing, It Is a BUDGET, It Has A Specific Clause Regarding Online Shopping.
A few people have mentioned being keen to get in on Big Finish but not sure where to start, which is very understandable as they have been going for more than a decade. In the interest of getting other people to join my current obsession, here are some recs of bits and pieces I’ve listened to lately, which don’t require a decade’s back story to get into:
The Settling (May 2006)
[Seventh Doctor, Ace & Hex]
A pure historical, dealing with that old chestnut about how you can’t change the past. Hex has been in the TARDIS for a while now but you get everything you need to know about him as a character, and how Ace has grown up, through scenes in the TARDIS that show the two of them recovering after a far-too-intense visit to a bloody period of Ireland’s history, indispersed with scenes of what they witnessed.
An Earthly Child (Dec 2009)
[Eighth Doctor, Susan Foreman, Alex Campbell]
A story that many Doctor Who fans have been waiting for a long time, in which we get to see the future that Susan made for herself in the post-Dalek-invaded-Earth. Now a widow, and the mother of a university student, Susan is frustrated by the xenophobic and technophobic attitude that has become so culturally entrenched since the end of the war. She is certain that the only way humanity will survive to become the great empire she visited in her youth is by seeking help from other alien races… but her rebellious son has other ideas, and is less than impressed at the appearance of his utterly alien great grandfather! I really enjoyed this one, especially the scenes between the Doctor, Susan and Alex – my only complaint was that the story wound up far too fast, and I wanted to see more of this particular version of the future. The good news is that Susan and Alex have returned in recent episodes, but the bad news is that I *think* I have to listen to four seasons of the Eighth Doctor and Lucie before I can get to them. This one is very much a self-contained story, though.
Solitaire (June 2010)
[Charley, the Celestial Toymaker]
The Companion Chronicles are a great series of monologues and two-hander plays which have allowed Big Finish to explore new stories even for those era for whom the actor playing the Doctor is no longer with us, or in the case of Tom Baker, not participating (though this has changed, apparently, and plans are afoot for Baker to join the monthly range along with some of his companions). These stories have involved some really clever and innovative storytelling – and this one breaks the mould again, being mostly an excuse for Big Finish to tell another Charley story even though she has been retired as an active companion.
India Fisher is always compelling to listen to, and this is an excellent short play in which she finds herself trapped in a toyshop with a mysterious stranger, a marionette that looks like the Doctor, and no memory of her former life. You don’t need to know anything about her, or indeed the Toymaker (a villain from the 1960’s) to understand to the story.
Home Truths (2008), The Drowned World (2009) and The Guardian of the Solar System (2010)
While not a single standalone, this self-contained trilogy of plays by Simon Guerrier is very clever and innovative as far as getting some extra stories out of a companion who had such a limited run. Like Solitaire, these are two-hander plays, though they also involve long periods of descriptive storytelling in Jean Marsh’s rich, emotional voice. I’m not sure if these would mean much to anyone who didn’t know Sara Kingdom’s character, but they are just lovely.
I was also very tempted by the Big Finish Textbook Stuff range, which pairs great voice actors with classic stories and poetry on the British Exams Syllabus. Couldn’t resist Miriam Margolyes reading Christina Rossetti, which has become my favourite casual listening on my phone. I’ve never been a poetry sort of person, but I make all exceptions for Christina Rossetti.