Top 20 Big Finish 'Doctor Who' Sixth Doctor Releases

by Joseph A. Morrison 10 months ago in scifi tv

Big Finish celebrates turning 20 this year—so I take a look at the best releases featuring Colin Baker's Doctor...

Top 20 Big Finish 'Doctor Who' Sixth Doctor Releases
The Sixth Doctor, as played by Colin Baker. (Picture copyright to Lee Binding/BBC Studios)

It has been 20 years since Big Finish Productions released The Sirens of Time, the very first of their long-running range of Doctor Who audio dramas. Since then, they have released audio adventures every month, featuring one of the actors to have played the Doctor on TV. In this special list, I'm taking a look back at some of the strongest audio adventures to feature the Sixth Doctor, as played on TV by Colin Baker. We begin with:

1. The Marian Conspiracy (2000)

The cover for The Marian Conspiracy, designed by Clayton Hickman. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

Only the sixth Doctor Who release from Big Finish, The Marian Conspiracy was not only the first pure-historical adventure the company released, but was also the first Big Finish audio to introduce an exclusive-to-audio companion, in the form of Dr Evelyn Smythe (Maggie Stables). The plot is quite simple: The Doctor discovers that Evelyn's history is being erased by a nexus point in time. To put it right, he and Evelyn must travel back in time, and attempt to put history back on track. Otherwise, not only will history change, but Evelyn will disappear from history all-together... While the plot may be simple, it allows for some wonderful character interactions, and helps to build the relationship between the Doctor and his new companion. Colin Baker and Maggie Stables are wonderful in their first new story together: They have instant chemistry, and their characters compliment each other perfectly. We also get a good insight into the time of Queen Mary, and the effect her policy of burning Protestants had upon the people under her rule. Writer Jacqueline Rayner brings the period to life with skill, and Mary is one of Doctor Who's most interesting portrayals of a historical figure in the show's history. The Marian Conspiracy is Big Finish's first stone cold classic, and it is one that introduces one of the best characters that Big Finish ever created in a fantastic way. Unforgettable.

2. The Holy Terror (2000)

The cover for The Holy Terror, designed by Clayton Hickman. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

Robert Shearman's first Big Finish story is something very special. The Holy Terror is a perfect mix of humour and horror, and manages to balance that mix throughout. Taking the slightly barmy team of the Doctor and Frobisher (Robert Jezek), a shape-shifting penguin who talks like a 1920s American private eye (who featured in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip in the mid 1980s) might seem, at first, to be a bit of a recipe for disaster; especially in a story with a tone as variable as this one. But not only does the pairing work really well, but it also fits the story perfectly. When the TARDIS goes on strike, the Doctor and Frobisher arrive in a strange castle, and find themselves heralded as messengers from the gods. However, there's something else going on here, something dangerous, and something that could destroy the world... I love this story, because it's something very different to all the releases preceding it. Whereas they attempt to hew to the era they come from to one degree or another, this isn't afraid to be its own thing. It doesn't try to stick to the formula of the past, and it feels all the more exciting for it. The cast of characters are wonderfully diverse and are all fascinating, especially Eugene Tacitus (played to perfection by the late, great Sam Kelly), and they are a big part of the reason why the story works so well. They may seem silly, but they actually serve to enhance the story, and they are wonderfully played by the cast. Overall, The Holy Terror is an exceptional Doctor Who story, one that plays fast and loose with genre and character, and wins big with one of the most compelling, thought-provoking Doctor Who audios to date.

3. The One Doctor (2001)

The cover for The One Doctor, designed by Clayton Hickman. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

Pure comedy is something Doctor Who does so rarely, mostly because it is so difficult to pull off successfully. After all, you have to be funny and tell a compelling story, something that, for the vast majority of writers, is incredibly difficult to do. Writers Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman, however, manage it here, telling the best comedy Doctor Who story, and even, dare I say it, one of the all-time best Doctor Who stories full stop. The premise is simple: the Doctor and Mel (Bonnie Langford) find that an impostor Doctor (played, of course, by Christopher Biggins) has been saving planets from fake alien invasions, and then scamming them for money and riches. However, when a real alien invasion turns up, it might need two Doctors to save the day... Now tell me that isn't irresistible, or what? Let's start with the dynamic between Colin and Christopher, which is probably the highlight of the tale. If Brian Blessed was the only man who could out-shout Colin Baker, that Christopher Biggins is the only actor who can out-ham him. The two are chewing the scenery fabulously, and they enhance the material immeasurably. The different settings that the story visits are wonderfully vivid, and the story keeps moving at a fair pace. But where The One Doctor ultimately wins big is in the comedy. A gentle pastiche of Doctor Who itself, The One Doctor takes the proverbial out of every element of the show, and even a few elements that hadn't been developed when this story was released. Seriously funny, this is one that deserves its reputation as a stone cold classic. Pure whimsy, this is simply wonderful.

4. Doctor Who and the Pirates (2003)

The cover for Doctor Who and the Pirates, designed by Lee Binding. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

Another story that straddles the difficult line between comedy and drama, Doctor Who and the Pirates is a story that manages to combine the drama of Doctor Who, the musicals of Gilbert and Sullivan and the adventure style of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island into a potent mix that sees writer Jacqueline Rayner pocking gentle fun at Doctor Who historicals and historical fiction generally. Doctor Who and the Pirates sees the Doctor and Evelyn telling one of Evelyn's students a story of one of their adventures: how they met the fearsome Red Jasper, and how Evelyn tried to help cabin boy Jem, and failed... Despite a third episode that sees characters breaking out into song (including Colin Baker singing "I Am the Very Model of a Gallifreyan Buccaneer"), it's actually a very dark story that lifts a bit of a lid on the myths we have surrounding pirates. Rayner reminds us that they aren't the dashing rogues and the cunning, but ultimately loyal, anti-heroes that fiction have built them up to be. Rather, it reminds us that they were also bloodthirsty people, who would quite happily kill you or torture you in order to make a quick buck. This story doesn't shy away from that grizzly aspect, and it features some genuinely upsetting scenes, particularly those featuring Helen Goldwyn's character of Sally. Overall, Doctor Who and the Pirates is one of the most skillfully written, downright enjoyable stories in Big Finish's canon, and it shows how well their writers can balance drama and comedy, and how Doctor Who can bridge genres with such skill.

5. Davros (2003)

The cover for Davros, designed by Clayton Hickman. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

Part of a trilogy of stories centred around big villains in the show's history, designed to mark Doctor Who's 40th anniversary, this story sees the Doctor and Davros forced into an uneasy working relationship with the company TAI. A story that dives deep into the morality of the character of Davros, this is a stellar tour-de-force for both Colin Baker and Davros actor Terry Molloy, and sees us look into the history and morality of the character for the first time. As you would expect, Colin and Terry are wonderful together, as the pair of them get the chance to bounce off each other and explore different aspects of their characters than they have before. The plot itself is fairly standard (though marked out by a complete lack of Daleks—this is a story with just Davros), but writer Lance Parkin builds the tension to near breaking point, and, by the time you reach the second half of that second episode, you're on tenterhooks, wondering just where the story is going next. Added to that, this is the story that first introduces elements of Davros' past, elements that would be revisited by Big Finish in the I, Davros mini-series, and by the TV show itself, in the Twelfth Doctor two-parter The Magician's Apprentice and The Witch's Familiar. These are wonderfully interspersed into the story, and they seek to delve a little deeper into the psychology of the Davros character. In all, Davros is one of the standout Colin Baker stories, and is one of the finest Davros stories in the cannon of Doctor Who.

6. Arrangements For War (2004)

The cover for Arrangements for War, designed by Lee Binding. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

Coming off the back of two incredibly dark stories for the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn, Arrangements For War is a wonderful examination of the death and tragedy the Doctor's travels bring, and the effect it has on those around him. Following on from the events of Project: Lazarus, Evelyn wants some time away from the Doctor, and so the pair of them end up on the planet Vliag. While Evelyn becomes intimately involved with a man named Rossiter, the Doctor finds himself caught in a dangerous love affair that could have disastrous ramifications for the planet... Raw and powerful, Arrangements For War pushes the Doctor and Evelyn as far apart as possible, before snapping the pair back together again at the story's end. Across its four expansive episodes, we cover the broad spectrum of emotions: from happiness to guilt, and from anger to sadness. This is a story that really makes you feel for the characters, especially the Doctor and Evelyn, and you get the sense throughout that this is a life-changing story for both TARDIS travellers. I love the way the Doctor reacts to the death that takes place in this story: It's rough and raw and Colin Baker really sells those scenes wonderfully. Maggie Stables and Gabriel Woolf have wonderful chemistry, and it helps that this is one of the more believable relationships between a companion and a guest character in the show's history. Sure, the plot is a little thin on the ground, but that is a relatively minor compliant about a Doctor Who story that is very unique in terms of the canon. A deep exploration of the Doctor and Evelyn's relationship, Arrangements For War is a wonderfully emotive story that throws away the sci-fi action and base-under-siege storytelling for beautiful character driven drama and an expansive, world-encompassing feel. Simply magnificent.

7. The Condemned (2008)

The cover for The Condemned, designed by Barry Piggott. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

One of the main reasons why Colin Baker's Doctor has become the most well-regarded Big Finish Doctor in the eyes of the fans is because of the risks the company have been willing to take with the Doctor's much maligned Sixth incarnation. One of the biggest risks they have ever taken with the Sixth Doctor was paring him with Eighth Doctor companion Charley Pollard (India Fisher). After departing the Eighth Doctor Adventures, Big Finish made the risky decision to put Charley with the Sixth Doctor instead, and it was a decision that completely and utterly paid off. And The Condemned is as perfect an introduction as you might expect, with some wonderful character moments, a gripping plot and some wonderful post-production work. The dynamic between Colin Baker and India Fisher is present from their first scenes together, and, even though they spend most of the story apart, their relationship develops across the story. The gritty feeling of the story is enhanced by the characters, all of whom feel incredibly real and world-weary, especially Anna Hope as Detective Inspector Patricia Menzies. Hope and Colin Baker have a wonderful rapport together, and it's no wonder that the character has been brought back on no less than three other occasions. The twists and turns that make up the story are exciting and send the story in directions you won't be expecting, especially if you know as little about the story as possible going in. Overall, The Condemned might seem, on the surface, to simply be the introductory story for Charley with the Sixth Doctor. However, dig deep, and you'll find a rich enough story on its own terms, with some fascinating characters, some phenomenal acting and a great sense of place and setting. A personal highlight of the Sixth Doctor's audio adventures.

8. Brotherhood of the Daleks (2008)

The cover for Brotherhood of the Daleks, designed by Alex Mallinson. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

The third story in the Sixth Doctor/Charley arc, Brotherhood of the Daleks is a key part of the arc, deepening the relationship between the two with skill, and telling an original Dalek story into the bargain. The Doctor and Charley believe that the TARDIS has brought them to an ice world on the furthest edge of the galaxy, but, when they step out of the ship, they find themselves in the jungles of Spiridon (as seen in the Jon Pertwee story Planet of the Daleks). Falling in with a lost platoon of Thal shock-troops, they find themselves questioning the very nature of reality, and who they are... This is very much a puzzle box of a story, that rewards repeated listening. Each time, a layer of reality is pulled away, and you are exposed to the true story underneath. It's not just a clever, flashy trick, however, but it gives the story a deeper complexity than it would have previously had. To say too much about this story would result in spoilers, however, and it really is best to go into this one blind. This does a lot with the Sixth Doctor/Charley relationship, while maintaining the key mystery behind which the appeal of the relationship lies. It does some clever stuff with the Daleks as well, subverting the influence that created them in the first place, and using it to examine the Daleks in a different light. There's some stories that leave you bowled away with how clever it is, and Brotherhood of the Daleks is one of those stories that does that. An early Big Finish favourite for me, this is one of Big Finish's best Dalek stories, and a highlight of the Sixth Doctor and Charley's relationship.

9. Patient Zero (2009)

The cover for Patient Zero, designed by Iain Robertson. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

Another Sixth Doctor/Charlotte Pollard/Dalek story, Colin Baker once hailed this as one of the best scripts he has ever read. And, make no mistake: He's absolutely right. Patient Zero is one of the most exciting, engaging and dramatic stories Big Finish have ever produced, and it is a key part of the Sixth Doctor and Charley arc. When Charley is infected with a virus, the Doctor travels backwards in time to the Amethyst Containment Station in order to find out where the virus came from. However, the Daleks are also heading to the station, looking to use the viruses to conquer the universe. Meanwhile Charley starts seeing a girl who claims that she's been inside the TARDIS for hundreds of years... Patient Zero has some incredibly interesting ideas, and it takes those ideas to the extreme. The tone of the story is incredibly bleak, and the tension is set to boiling point, as the Doctor becomes ever more desperate to prevent the tragedy the audience knows is coming. The Daleks are possibly at the most cunning they've even been in the show's history, and we get to meet a brand new Dalek, the Dalek Time Controller, who, as a Dalek who can see all of time, has lots of potential. (Potential that was picked up on the Eighth Doctor Adventures, but more on that later...) And the relationship between Charley and Mila is one of the most interesting between companions in the show's history, especially considering Mila's mental state. Jess Robinson gives a fine performance as the ex-Dalek prisoner sent insane by remaining invisible for hundreds of years, and her scenes with India Fisher play out like a crazy, ramped-up version of Silence of the Lambs. Patient Zero is a rare Doctor Who story in that it is utterly, utterly bleak, and it is all the better for it. It's a fine Sixth Doctor audio, and it does something utterly unique with the Daleks. Flawless.

10. Blue Forgotten Planet (2009)

The cover for Blue Forgotten Planet, designed by Alex Mallinson. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

And so, the Sixth Doctor and Charley arc came to a resounding end with Blue Forgotten Planet. The weight of expectation on this release was immense; after all, not only did it have to wrap up the Charley Pollard and the Sixth Doctor arc and relationship, the Doctor was now travelling with an imposter and the Viyrans (who had appeared in a number of Big Finish stories before this one, including Patient Zero) were also returning. Given the shopping list of elements it had to factor in and wrap up, you'd expect Blue Forgotten Planet to topple under the weight of all those elements. However, this is a rare instance of a finale that actually manages to follow through on all the set-up, and pays off the arc regarding Charley and the Sixth Doctor in a nice fashion. Set on an Earth devastated by one of the viruses from Patient Zero, the Doctor and 'Charley' find themselves caught between a group being helped by the Viyrans, and those that have been thrown out of their compound and want the Viyrans gone. But the Viyrans have a mission of their own, and nothing will stand in the way of them... or their agent. Blue Forgotten Planet is a story charged with such emotion that you could run a car battery off it. Not only do you have the emotionally charged scenes with the Doctor and Charley at the end (with some amazing acting from Colin Baker and India Fisher), but there's a lot of emotional scenes amongst the guest cast. There are many wonderful scenes between JJ Feild, Alec Newman and Andree Bernard, and they share a wonderful, complex chemistry. India Fisher's double header performance as the two Charley's is equally amazing, as it is clear at all times which one is the original Charley and which one is the 'Mila' Charley. And, even if it isn't, that's usually because writer Nicholas Briggs is making a point with it. It all adds up to a magnificent story that bids a close on the story of one of the most interesting Doctor/companion teams in Doctor Who history with a fine story that is dramatic and heartbreaking in equal measure.

11. Legend of the Cybermen (2010)

The cover for Legend of the Cybermen, designed by Simon Holub. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

Back in 2010, Big Finish decided to put the Sixth Doctor with yet another companion from a different Doctor. This time, however, it was a companion from the Doctor's past: specifically, highlander Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) from the era of the Second Doctor. After two previous stories in the Monthly Adventures (and a side-step into the Companion Chronicles), it was up to Legend of the Cybermen to wrap up the story-line in a satisfactory way, and run with the amazing cliffhanger that Wreck of the Titan finished on. If you ever want a demonstration of how to write a Doctor Who story that gets weirder as it goes along, then look no further than Legend of the Cybermen. Of course, any story set in—SPOILER ALERT—the Land of Fiction would be, but this takes it to new extremes. With the Cybermen invading and converting the Land of Fiction, it's up to the Doctor and Jamie, together with their old friend Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury), to defeat the Cybermen and save the Land of Fiction. Only there are secrets about the TARDIS crew that are about to revealed that could break them apart... Any story that brings the Cybermen and Valkyries together must be good, but Legend of the Cybermen is unique. The meta-narrative is wonderfully employed, and leads to a brilliant scene where Jamie finds himself in a recording booth, recording Legend of the Cybermen, being directed by Nicholas Briggs who turns into a Cyberman part way through. Seriously, if that doesn't excite you, I don't know what will. Bringing back Zoe as well as Jamie turns this story into a love letter for late 60s Doctor Who, and Wendy Padbury is as wonderful as you would expect. There are scenes that she performs at the end that will break your heart. And that's Legend of the Cybermen's biggest strength: its ability to be both brilliantly novel and wonderfully emotive. A true tribute to not only 60s Doctor Who, but also the show in general, this is simply magnificent in every way, and doesn't put a foot wrong. And Colin Baker's ending monologue is absolutely beautiful.

12. Peri and the Piscon Paradox (2011)

The cover for Peri and the Piscon Paradox, designed by Anthony Lamb. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

While also featuring the Fifth Doctor, Peri and the Piscon Paradox is ostensibly a Sixth Doctor story with the Fifth Doctor guest starring, mostly because it actually features Colin Baker. However, this is one of those stories that relies on heavy knowledge of The Trial of a Time Lord, the mammoth season-long story that made up Season 23 back in 1986. While the Fifth Doctor and a young Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant) go hunting for an evil Piscon called Zarl in 2009 Los Angeles, an older version of Peri is working to her own agenda—an agenda that is somehow tied to the Sixth Doctor and the aftermath of his trial by the Time Lords. This story is often included on lists of the best Big Finish releases, and it is no surprise why. It is a deep and complex character study of Peri, and it looks, in detail, at the relationship she shared with both of the Doctors she travelled with. In many ways, it tries to tie together and explain various things about Peri's character that were simply ignored back in the mid 80s, and it provides some subtle and incredibly needed retcons for various elements that were simply overlooked by the show at the time. It can be quite heavy going at times, and both Nicola Bryant and Colin Baker get the chance to indulge in some wonderfully meaty material. There's plenty of comedy throughout the piece (as you would expect from writer Nev Fountain) however, but what this story will always be remembered for will be how it develops the character of Peri and the focus it places on a companion. It exposes Peri in a way many listeners might find difficult, but they will ultimately come out with a deeper understanding and appreciation of her than in any other Who story. This is simply amazing.

13. The Curse of Davros (2012)

The cover for The Curse of Davros, designed by Simon Holub. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

The Curse of Davros has one hell of a twist at the end of Episode Two. When I first listened to this story, it was a twist that simply blew me away. "I'm sorry, what?" was my reaction. That twist alone qualifies this story for a place on this list. However, I want to talk about some other aspects of this story, which I think are equally deserving of praise. For one, the idea of Davros and the Daleks popping back into history, and changing Earth's development is a simply magnificent one. It shows real thought from writer Jonathan Morris in how to create a truly original Dalek story, and it's enhanced by the Daleks' new ability to swap their minds into other bodies. There's the character of Napoleon, who is given, like Queen Mary in The Marian Conspiracy, a more rounded portrayal than is usual in historical fiction. He is, quite clearly, a rather disturbed individual, but he is also committed to his own goals, and his scenes with new companion Flip Jackson (Lisa Greenwood) are a hoot. There's the tongue-in-cheek humor, which makes this story feel like it is the Dalek story Douglas Adams wanted to write back in 1979, were it not for Terry Nation. There's new companion Flip, who is a breath of fresh air for the Sixth Doctor, and is helped by truly committed performance from Lisa Greenwood. And there's the pace, sound design and music, all of which give the impression of this being a Steven Moffat era story, rather than a John Nathan-Turner era one. Yes, that twist is brilliant, and puts a new spin on the Doctor/Davros dynamic. However, The Curse of Davros has a lot more to recommend it than just that. It's a story of joyous treasures, and well worth your time and money.

14. The First Sontarans (2012)

The cover for The First Sontarans, designed by Alex Mallinson. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

Probably the best and finest of the whole of Big Finish's Lost StoriesThe First Sontarans is as great a genesis story for the Sontarans as Genesis of the Daleks and Spare Parts was for the Daleks and the Cybermen respectively. The basic plot sees the Doctor and Peri arriving on Earth in the 19th Century, only to find a race of aliens are already here. And the Sontarans aren't far behind. But why are they so  dedicated to wiping these aliens out? And can the Doctor stop them before Earth becomes the sight of a mass genocide? It's amazing to think that this was dreamed up in 1984, because it sounds more like a Monthly Adventure than a Lost Story. The plot is gripping and dramatic, the stakes are as high as they can get, and, while the early episodes are a little slow, the story really swings into high gear in the later half. There are even scenes in this that have never been done on TV, and (barring one video game) fans had been waiting since 1977 to see. Once again, there's another killer Episode Two cliffhanger (seriously, what was it with Big Finish and Episode Two cliffhangers of this period?). However, where this story really shines is in the origin story it gives to the Sontarans and the wonderful characters writer Andrew Smith creates. The origin story might seem, at first, to be born from the same influence as Terry Nation's when creating the Daleks, but you soon come to realise that there is a much deeper process at work here. We get to meet the Sontaran's creator, and he is nothing like Davros, or even Doctorman Allen from Spare Parts. Rather, he is a character driven by his past failures and regrets, and is on the run from his own past. The incidental characters also get some equally wonderful development, and even the Sontarans themselves get the chance to display a little more development than is usual for the Sontarans. Topped off with some first-rate sound design, performances, and music, this is an absolute must for anyone who's a fan of the Sontarans and/or the Sixth Doctor. Even if you're not mad keen on either, it might be worth listening to this one, as it might just change your mind.

15. The Wrong Doctors (2013)

The cover for The Wrong Doctors, designed by Mark Plastow. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

A multi Doctor story like no other, The Wrong Doctors sees the Sixth Doctor crossing paths with... the Sixth Doctor. Yep, Big Finish actually went and did it. They partnered the mellow, Big Finish Sixth Doctor with the bold and brash Sixth Doctor of the TV show, which we've rarely seen in the audios. The result is a tale of time-twisting complexity and wonderful character moments that show how far Big Finish have brought the Sixth Doctor and Mel since the days of the TV series. When the Doctor decides it's time for him to meet Mel Bush, he takes the TARDIS to Pease Pottage, only to discover that he is already there, returning Mel to her proper place and time after his trial. Can the Doctors avoid the two Mel's meeting, and can they work out what's going on in a village with highwaymen and Iguanadons running around? This is a crazy story, but it's one that I adore, mostly for bringing Colin Baker full circle and pitting the 2013 and 1986 versions of his character together. Colin is wonderful: He clearly differentiates between the two Doctors, and he has a wonderful interplay with himself. Bonnie Langford also gets the chance to play two different versions of herself as well, and she succeeds with admirable grace. The plot is bonkers, but absolutely brilliant, and the set-up not only allows us to see the effect Big Finish has had on the Sixth Doctor, but also allows writer Matt Fitton to pay tribute to Maggie Stables' Evelyn Smythe, the character who started the softening of the Sixth Doctor over a decade earlier. It's full of continuity, full of wit and full of heart, and it makes for a fantastic Doctor Who release. There's no real going back here on in for the Sixth Doctor: He's now the mellow 'old Sixie' that Big Finish have created, and he is wonderful. A tribute to Doctor Who of the mid 1980s, to Big Finish's sterling Sixth Doctor audios, and to the one man that made them possible: Colin Baker. The Wrong Doctors will make you laugh, and cry, and punch the air with joy. It is the ultimate expression of love for Doctor Who's most maligned era, and, even if you vehemently dislike this era, you cannot finish listening to this without feeling like it was spearheaded by the best Doctor the show ever had.

16. Trial of the Valeyard (2013)

The cover for Trial of the Valeyard, designed by Simon Holub. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

The last story Big Finish gave away to subscribers of the Monthly Adventures range, Trial of the Valeyard is one of the most interesting Doctor Who audios Big Finish have ever released. Taking as its initial premise the idea of putting the Valeyard on trial, it starts as an inversion of the original Trial of a Time Lord. However, as the story goes on, it starts to become something more interesting and complex, and it is all the more intriguing for it. Basically a three hander between the Doctor, the Inquisitor, and the Valeyard, we get to hear some incredibly intimate scenes as the three of them spar off each other. Colin Baker, Michael Jayston, and Linda Bellingham have wonderful chemistry together, and this is brought out by the fine script. Writers Alan Barnes and Mike Maddox also take some intriguing dips into Doctor Who mythology and lore, while still maintaining the mystery behind the Time Lords and their abilities. Some elements might tip the scales a little too far, especially in relation to the creation of the Valeyard and the Doctor's last regeneration, but the story plays a trump card at the end that makes you question everything you've just listened to. With the Valeyard, the only thing you truly learn is that you can never take the Valeyard at face value. Trial of the Valeyard is a gripping listen: It might sound more like a stage-play than an audio drama, but it is totally compelling in any event, and an absolute listen for anyone who loves the Valeyard or The Trial of a Time Lord and wants more. You won't be disappointed.

17. The Widow's Assassin (2014)

The cover for The Widow's Assassin, designed by Anthony Lamb. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

The Widow's Assassin picks up where The Trial of a Time Lord left Peri (I'm sensing a theme with a lot of these Sixth Doctor releases...), and we finally get to see what happened when the Doctor decided to track her down. Following on from the dramatic cliffhanger to Scavenger, this is a very different Sixth Doctor to when Peri last saw him. But then, Peri has changed too... and the consequences may threaten an empire and a friendship. I love The Widow's Assassin, and that because it is bonkers. Even more so than The Wrong Doctors or even The One Doctor, this is absolutely ridiculous. Nev Fountain pushes the boundaries with what you can do with a Doctor Who script as far as he can, and maybe, even, goes beyond them a little bit. The reunion between the Doctor and Peri is every bit as explosive as you'd expect it to be, and Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant play those scenes together with the appropriate emotions. But, like the best 'event' stories, this doesn't play out the way you are expecting, and Fountain has piled this story high with twists and turns. We have police constables who are talking sheep. We have two warring barons who are working together, despite the fact they despise each other. We pay a visit to the Doctor's psyche. And there are some twists that I simply cannot reveal, because it will spoil one's enjoyment of them. Suffice to say, Fountain doesn't just throw away the plot of Peri's last TV story, we get some links back to the distant past of the Doctor and Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant get the chance to do something I'm surprised hasn't been done more often in the show's history. Ultimately, if you love the Sixth Doctor and Peri, you will find lots to enjoy in this story. Taking the messy end to Peri's story, and tying it all together was desperately needed, and I'm so glad that this was the result, because this is glorious.

18. The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure (2015)

The cover for The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure, designed by Tom Webster. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

For many years, Colin Baker had refused to record a regeneration scene. We had Time and the Rani, which of course saw Sylvester McCoy donning a blonde wig, and filling in for Colin showing the moment of change. We had Gary Russell's 2005 novel Spiral Scratch, which showed the Doctor's last adventure before that fateful trip to Lakertya. However, none of these actually featured Colin Baker. Until 2015, when, 30 years after his era was cut brutally short by the BBC Sixth Floor, Colin Baker finally finished off his era with a four-hour extravaganza from Big Finish. And The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure is more than a fitting final story for 'old Sixie.' Spread across four discs, we get a celebration of the Sixth Doctor's life, taking in old friends, past glories, and even getting glimpses into the Sixth Doctor's bright future. The first story, "The End of the Line," sees the Doctor and Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison) investigating a mysteriously deserted train trapped in a desolate station hiding a dark secret. Despite being the first appearance of Constance, this wasn't her debut story. In tribute, perhaps, to Trial of a Time Lord, this was released before her debut, Criss-Cross, and as such, was the first glimpse we got of the character. It's a wonderful story, that takes the concept of parallel universes and runs with it for all that it is worth, and is one of the most genuinely terrifying Big Finish audios because of it. It also features one hell of a twist that I didn't see coming, and will send fans wild with giddy joy, especially as this character's presence wasn't advertised by Big Finish beforehand. "The Red House," the second story, sees the Doctor and Charley Pollard arrive on a world where werewolves have a reverse change cycle (they become human-like if exposed to light), and the human colonists there want to stop this mutation. While the weakest story in the box set, it still stands head and shoulders above many other stories, with its wonderful ideas and creative tone. The third adventure, "Stage Fright," sees the Doctor and Flip teeming up with Fourth Doctor era guest stars (and Sixth Doctor companions!) Jago (Christopher Benjamin) and Litefoot (Trevor Baxter) to investigate the Valeyard's ominous plan, which involves recreations of all the Doctor's past deaths. This is an amazing example of taking an arresting idea that, in certain hands, could have gone very badly, and making it a success. It brings out the most desperate and most angry side to the Sixth Doctor, but also shows his brave side and his ultimate strength in the face of adversity. And then, we come to the aptly named "The Brink of Death," which depicts the regeneration itself. Given only six minutes left to live, the Doctor must try to stop the Valeyard's grand plan coming to fruition, all the while with his time running out... I love this story. As time ticks away, the Doctor is pushed to his limit in an attempt to stop the Valeyard, and, in the end, knows he has to sacrifice himself in order to do it. Colin Baker is amazing throughout this set: He brings out the light and shade of his Doctor throughout the stories, and, ultimately, it's in his selfless and heroic actions that bring out the best of the Sixth Doctor. A tribute to his era, both on TV and audio, The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure is probably Big Finish's best ever Doctor Who box set, and one of the strongest regeneration stories in the show's history. This is highly recommended.

19. Classic Doctors New Monsters Volume 1: Judoon in Chains

The cover for Classic Doctors New Monsters Volume 1, designed by Tom Webster. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

When Big Finish gained the licence to produce New Series Doctor Who adventures, one of the most exciting prospects for me personally was the chance to partner New Series monsters with Classic Series Doctors. And the first Classic Doctors New Monsters set lived up to the promise. The highlight of the box set was the Sixth Doctor story Judoon in Chains, which partnered Colin Baker's boisterous and brash Doctor with the intergalactic Rhino police from the David Tennant-era story Smith and Jones. On Earth, in the 19th Century, Judoon Captain Kybo is being put on trial. And his defence counsel is none other than the Doctor. Telling the story of how Kybo ended up on Earth, how the Doctor became caught up in events, and why exactly the rest of the Judoon are so desperate for Kybo to be found guilty... This is a wonderful story, that takes the rather balmy idea of the Judoon and the Sixth Doctor together puts them in an Elephant Man-style story, and makes it a complete success. This story, more than any other in the Classic Doctors New Monsters range, delves into the psychology of the monster in question, and tries to understand why they are the way they are. The scenes of Kybo trying to break the limitations that all Judoon have drummed into them are genuinely heart-rending, and this story provides an explanation as to why, in their previous appearances, the Judoon have seemed a little dim. And, when Kybo does break beyond what we expect Judoon to be, it's a wonderful moment, that shows just how developed the Judoon have become in spin-off media. The scene where Kybo reads his poetry to the Doctor is testament to that, and allows Nicholas Briggs the chance to do something very different with his performance, something you simply can't do with Daleks or Cybermen. He is given the chance to show depth, emotional range and get the chance to portray a full and interesting character. Even if you didn't like the Judoon on TV, I would still say give this one a go. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find. This is a lovely mix of Classic and New Who, that finds new things to say not just about the Judoon, but the Sixth Doctor too. And, after 20 years of stories, that's quite an achievement.

20. Static (2017)

The cover for Static, designed by Anthony Lamb. (Picture copyright to Big Finish Productions)

When the Doctor, Constance and Flip arrive in a caravan park, they have no idea that their arrival has set in motion a catastrophic chain of events that will lead to the greatest threat to mankind since the dawn of time being unleashed. And not everyone will get out of this one alive... Static is absolutely terrifying. Not in a jump scare kind of way, but in a slowly encroaching, morbid dread kind of way, that manages to totally terrify the listener with its powerful central concept. To say anything about what that concept is would, I feel, take away from the experience of that Episode One cliffhanger. You need to go into that knowing as little as possible about where the story goes next, because it makes the experience all the richer. There are some wonderful performances, especially from the regulars, who get the chance to be pushed to the limit. Lisa Greenwood, in particular, gets the chance to take charge of the story at one point, and she is wonderful. It amazes me actually, how underrated Flip is as a companion, as I think there's very few finer. She's relatable, interesting, is prepared to push the story forward and Greenwood and Colin Baker have a wonderful chemistry, one that is enriched with Miranda Raison in the mix as well. The sound design and music on this one is absolutely stellar as well, helping to build the tension and atmosphere as the story goes along, to the point where it becomes practically unbearable. Thought-provoking, creepy, and just downright scary, Static is Doctor Who's best ever ghost story. It's utterly incredible, and it manages to stand tall alongside classics like Horror of Fang Rock and The Chimes of Midnight. You'll never be the same again.

Honorable Mentions:

Whispers of Terror (1999), The Spectre of Lanyon Moor (2000), Bloodtide (2001), Project: Twilight (2001), The Maltese Penguin (2002), Her Final Flight (2004), The Juggernauts (2005), Thicker Than Water (2005), The Reaping (2006), Year of the Pig (2006), The Doomwood Curse (2008), The Raincloud Man (2008), Leviathan (2010), Paradise 5 (2010), City of Spires (2010), Point of Entry (2010), The Wreck of the Titan (2010), The Song of Megaptera (2010), Short Trips 1: The Wings of a Butterfly (2010), Recorded Time and Other Stories (2011), The Fourth Wall (2012), Jago & Litefoot: Series 4 (2012), The Guardians of Prophecy (2012), Voyage to Venus (2012), The Seeds of War (2013), Trouble in Paradise (2013), 1963: The Space Race (2013), Scavenger (2014), Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories (2014), Masters of Earth (2014), Criss-Cross (2015), Jago & Litefoot: Series 11 (2016), Quicksilver (2016), Classic Doctors New Monsters: The Carrionite Curse (2017), The Behemoth (2017), The Middle (2017), Iron Bright (2018), Short Trips: The Darkened Earth (2018) & The Lives of Captain Jack: Volume 2 (2019)

Join me next time, when I'll be looking back at the top 20 Seventh Doctor Big Finish releases!

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Joseph A. Morrison
Joseph A. Morrison
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Joseph A. Morrison

21. Fan of Doctor Who, Blake's 7, The Prisoner and more old-fashioned TV. Reviewer, wannabe writer and general twit.

See all posts by Joseph A. Morrison