Joseph A. Morrison
25. Fan of Doctor Who, Blake's 7, The Prisoner and more old-fashioned TV. Reviewer, wannabe writer and general twit.
Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles: Bernice Summerfield and the Criminal Code Review
Bernice Summerfield remains, to this day, the most enduring Doctor Who companion who has never featured in the TV show. The famous space archaeologist with a complicated history with the Doctor (no, not that one!) has remained popular with Doctor Who fans since her inception thirty years ago, and, thanks to Lisa Bowerman's portrayal with Big Finish since 1998, she has gone on to develop an even greater following. Added to that, Lisa Bowerman has gone on to become the most prolific director of the Companion Chronicles range, directing a large number of varied titles. So, it was really only a matter of time before Benny would get her own Companion Chronicle, and "Bernice Summerfield and the Criminal Code" was the chance to get up close and personal with our favourite archaeologist. Unlike a lot of the Virgin New Adventures that defined this era, this story is light-hearted fun, albeit with a darker edge befitting the era this belongs to.
Doctor Who: Patient Zero Review
One of the most highly-regarded story strands from Big Finish remains the Sixth Doctor and Charlotte Pollard adventures. Released between 2008 and 2009, this short run of plays remains a fan-favourite, thanks to the unusual pairing of a classic Doctor with a future companion, and a strong sequence of stories that really explored this unorthodox dynamic. But all good things must come to an end, and "Patient Zero" opens the trilogy of stories designed to bring Charlotte Pollard's time in the TARDIS to a close. Bringing together a number of threads that had been running through Big Finish's audios for quite some time, "Patient Zero" has a grand scale, and a great sense of the stakes never being higher. Coupled with some of the best performances in a Big Finish audio drama ever, this definitely stands out as a classic, even today in the era of multi box-set arcs and the like.
Doctor Who: Circular Time Review
In 2007, Big Finish launched a new recurring format for the Monthly Adventures. Every year, there would be a release that, instead of featuring one 4-part story, would feature four 1-part stories, often centred around a theme or central idea, and these releases ended up becoming some of the best examples in the Monthly Adventures of creativity and using the short-form format to tell Doctor Who stories out of the norm. The first of these was "Circular Time": four stories centred around the seasons and the relationship between the Doctor and Nyssa. It remains to this day one of the most well-regarded anthology collections, and one of my personal favourites, due to doing some very unexpected things with the Doctor Who format.
Doctor Who: Year of the Pig Review
"Year of the Pig" is, without doubt, one of the strangest Doctor Who stories ever produced. Oh, there are many wacky and wild adventures for the Doctor and their friends in the canon, but very few are as strange as "Year of the Pig". I mean, a talking pig in a dinner suit would be strange enough, but that's only the beginning. Strange characters, stranger motivations, a train chase across Belgium and Austria, and a scene where it literally rains steak down on our heroes only add to the sensation that this is something very unusual. And, while perhaps not quite the barnstorming masterpiece it could have been, it remains one of the most unusual Big Finish audios ever produced, and a testament to how far the team are willing to push the Doctor Who format in order to tell interesting and varied stories.
Vienna: The Memory Box Review
It's incredible to think that Vienna has now been around for nearly 10 years. Since her introduction in the Doctor Who story "The Shadow Heart", she has gone on to have a life of her own in a self-titled spin-off, as well as starring alongside Lisa Bowerman in "The Worlds of Big Finish" and Eric Roberts in "Master!". Her first solo story, "The Memory Box" remains a perfect introduction to the glamourous space assassin, and, with a story that twists and turns with plot and counter-plot, it is a perfect template for the series that would follow. It gives us a chance to see Vienna away from the Doctor, in a fast-paced flick that not only works as a pilot for a spin-off, but works well as a one-off drama in its own right.
Doctor Who: Heroes of Sontar Review
It's incredible to think that it took nearly 12 years before Big Finish decided to use the Sontarans. Robert Holmes' clone warriors had been part of the show's stable of foes ever since their introduction in 1973's "The Time Warrior", and their reintroduction to the show in 2008's "The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky" brought them to the attention of a whole new audience. However, despite using the Rutans in stories like "The Bellatron Incident" and "Castle of Fear", it wasn't until "Heroes of Sontar" that we got the chance to hear the Sontarans on audio. And, while a Dad's Army parody may not seem the natural idea to develop for their first audio appearance, its one that ends up working surprisingly well, with a lot of comedy springing from the parody. It isn't an out-and-out comedy, however, and it does have a serious story at its heart, which, while not being anything massively original, makes for a good audio introduction to the Sontarans.
Doctor Who: Crime of the Century Review
Back in 1989, the BBC decided to cancel Doctor Who. There were many reasons for this cancellation, most too numerous to go into here, but the most obvious consequence of this in the short term was the abandonment of the upcoming Season 27, which would have seen the team take the Seventh Doctor into further unexplored territory. There were also plans for Ace to leave the TARDIS (this would have been depicted in the previous story in this season, "Thin Ice"), and to introduce a new companion called Raine. So, when Big Finish launched the Lost Stories range, one obvious target were the stories originally planned for Season 27, but never realised. And the second story in the season, "Crime of the Century" introduces new companion Raine Creevy - a wisecracking, upper-class cat burglar, who was envisioned as a strong contrast to Ace's working-class roots. And, like a number of modern companion introduction stories, it is a mad-cap caper, with more ideas than sense, and a bravura sense of pace that never lets up from beginning to end.
Treasure Island Review
For many people, Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" is their first encounter with fictional pirates. It laid down the template for thousands of books, plays, radio dramas, TV shows, films and video games since, and has remained a perennial favourite with children and adults alike. So it was inevitable that, at some point, Big Finish Productions would attempt an adaptation for their Classics line. And, with Tom Baker in the notorious role of Long John Silver, it was inevitable that this was going to be a success. This is a fantastic production of the classic novel, sticking closely to the novel's roots as a ripping adventure yarn, with some fantastic performances from all involved, especially Baker as the treacherous pirate.
Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles: The Mahogany Murderers Review
Looking back over 10 years t0 May 2009, it's hard to overstate just how much of a phenomenon "The Mahogany Murderers" was on its release. It isn't often talked about today, in the era of River Song meeting the classic Doctors, Dalek Universe, Christopher Eccleston's return to Doctor Who and the return of pretty much every New Series character, but, at the time, the return of Jago & Litefoot was a huge deal. Notoriously, this was a story that sold out its first print run in a matter of weeks, and it was several months before CD stocks could be replenished, so in demand this release was. And it isn't hard to see why word of mouth lead to this story becoming one of Big Finish's best-selling titles: it's an absolute blast. From start to finish, this is a huge amount of fun, and opens the doors for one of Big Finish's most acclaimed and long-lasting Doctor Who spin-offs: Jago & Litefoot.
Sherlock Holmes: Holmes and the Ripper Review
Back in 2010, when Big Finish were launching their range of Sherlock Holmes audio plays, "Holmes and the Ripper" stood out as being the first to feature Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl as Holmes and Watson respectively. Now, of course, this team up have gone on to star in numerous stories and award-nominated box-sets since, so this step back in time to a period where this was all very new and very fresh is a strange one. And, while very unlike most of the other Holmes plays to follow, this is still an enjoyable listen, with an interesting plot, some well-developed characters and a great chemistry between the two lead actors.
Doctor Who: The Chimes of Midnight Review
Whenever you get Big Finish fans to discuss their favourite audio plays, you'll hear a few names that constantly crop up: "Spare Parts", "Jubilee", "Davros" and "A Death in the Family", to name but a few. But the one play that seems universally loved by everyone is Robert Sherman's "The Chimes of Midnight": an audio that has, repeatedly, been voted the greatest Doctor Who audio of all-time. And it isn't hard to see why. Described as Sapphire & Steel meets Upstairs Downstairs when pitched, it is a story with a sure-fire premise, one that was always bound to be a success. But I don't think anyone could have expected just how good "Chimes of Midnight" was going to be, because this story is honestly legendary. Combining a perfect script, with phenomenal performances and superlative post-production work, this is one of Big Finish's finest releases in its over-20 year history, and remains the very highest of benchmarks for everything that has followed it since.
Dalek Empire: Invasion of the Daleks Review
Back in 2001, Doctor Who spin-offs were quite the novelty. Up till that point, we'd only ever had a pilot episode for K9 & Company (which failed to generate a series) and Bernice Summerfield (a series which was, for licensing reasons, far removed from the Doctor Who universe). This was before the TV show was resurrected, so there was no Torchwood, no Sarah Jane Adventures, no Class, no Jago & Litefoot, not even any Gallifrey. So, the first Dalek Empire audio does hold an important place in Doctor Who history, as the first episode of the first ongoing, fully-fledged spin-off. And it remains, to this day, one of the high points of this great series. As a founding episode, it sets the template for everything to come with style, confidence and a whole lot of Dalek action.