Classic Doctor Who by Big Finish: Highlighting the Best Audio Dramas
by S.V. Brosius
Big Finish is a studio in the U.K. producing audio dramas based on TV series and classic books. The stories are told with music, sound effects and dramatic performances by the voice actors. I am a lifelong Doctor Who fan and enjoy listening to these while in the car.
The creators of these audio productions choose the right music to suit the corresponding doctor’s era. Each of these is approximately two hours long and divided into parts as if watching it on television — theme song and all. There are countless audio dramas for Doctor Who. I still have many more to acquire.
So, I am beginning a series highlighting some of my favorites that I’ve had the privilege to enjoy. My focus will be on the classic eight doctors with minimal spoilers.
First Doctor: “Domain of the Voord” from The Early Adventures Series by Andrew Smith
“Die! Die!” – Nebrin
“Not today, thank you!” – Ian Chesterton
The TARDIS brings The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara to a ship at sea on the water-covered planet Hydra. They soon discover the Voord, an alien race appearing in the 1964 episode “The Keys of Marinus,” have invaded and are behind a series of attacks on the natives’ fleet of ships.
Tragedy ensues, resulting in loss of life. As the remaining companions learn to live without their fallen comrades, a rebellion rises against the Voord, and we discover what makes the alien race terrifying.
The pacing of this story is exquisitely timed to maintain the right amount of suspense. The heroes are noble and brave. The Voord are menacing and ruthless. William Russell does a fine job as The Doctor, imitating the late William Hartnell’s intonations and voice.
Carole Ann Ford portrays Susan and Barbara; however, she does not imitate the late Jacqueline Hill’s vocal pattern to the extent Russell does Hartnell. Yet, her performance is distinct enough to differentiate between the two characters, and I loved her Susan-esque reactions to the dramatic events in this story.
I appreciate the dual narration in this production. As wonderful as the characters’ voices are on their own, it is helpful to hear Russell and Ford describe the setting in more detail. There are action sequences in this story, and it would be challenging to understand what’s going on without narration. The supporting cast is fantastic, especially Andrew Bone as Pan Vexel/Nebrin.
Second Doctor: “The Yes Men” from The Early Adventures Series by Simon Guerrier
“I hate to think of what we’re walking in. These trousers are going to be wrecked!” – Ben
“Aye. You should have worn a kilt.” – Jamie
An Earth colony called New Houston is where The Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly find themselves after taking turns flying the TARDIS. A funeral is underway for Meg Carvossa, an old friend of The Doctor’s. As the TARDIS crew investigates her suspicious death, the robots programmed to serve show inconsistent behavior.
The CIB (Central Information Bank) is the focal point for all involved, providing vital data to the “Citizens” and the robots. The Doctor and Polly dig deeper to discover the true machinations of the CIB and find themselves in great danger while Jamie and Ben are introduced to the Data Extraction Machine.
Frazier Hines as The Doctor and Jamie is a real treat. It comes across how much fun he is having with both characters. I love the humorous bits throughout the story, just like the original Second Doctor series. The TARDIS crew’s banter with each other is hilarious. Elliot Chapman is delightful as Ben Jackson; Anneke Wills serves as the narrator and Polly, sounding like she did in the 1960s.
Political intrigue and rebellion are the themes explored in this entertaining story. I love Polly’s intelligent investigative skills as she works with The Doctor to uncover what happened to Meg Carvossa. Jamie and Ben make a practical and witty team as they are pulled into the world of the servant robots. The actors of the TARDIS crew have an authentic ensemble feel, which has always complemented the absentminded yet clever Second Doctor played by the late Patrick Troughton.
Third Doctor: “Prisoners of the Lake” from The Third Doctor Adventures by Justin Richard
“Ah, but what about this building they found?” – Jo
“My dear girl, finding buildings or the remains of them is what archaeologists do and I think we should just let them get on and do it.” – The Doctor
“So, you’re not even the teeniest bit interested?” – Jo
“Not remotely.” – The Doctor
“Ooh, the Brigadier won’t be happy.” – Jo
“Yes, well, not being happy is part of his job description.” – The Doctor
An archeological team discovers a mysterious building lurking far below the surface of Dunstanton Lake. Chief archeologist Freda Mattingly investigates, only to encounter a frightening alien site. The Doctor and Jo are sent by UNIT alongside Mike Yates to analyze the situation, only to discover an even deadlier hidden threat that could mean destruction for everyone involved and the entire planet Earth.
I am blown away by how much Tim Treloar sounds like Jon Pertwee. As the Third Doctor, he does a fantastic job, providing sharp and witty dialogue and infinite intelligence appropriate for a Gallifreyan Time Lord. Treloar also serves as the narrator and fills in the parts of the story that are difficult to describe by script only.
Katy Manning recaptures Jo Grant’s enthusiasm perfectly and is the companion with whom I easily identify. The two make an effective investigative team, with Jo’s caring concern for others and The Doctor’s knowledge and deductive reasoning.
The pacing of this story is like watching a Third Doctor episode. There is a lot of dialogue explaining the events, clues leading to the big reveal at the end and heavy keyboard musical cues. We get to hear the sonic screwdriver too! I appreciate this story because it is wonderfully complex, and the climax is full of tension and life-threatening peril.
I hope you get to check out these great audio dramas! You can get your TARDIS-themed fix by heading over to Big Finish for all your listening needs.
Do you have a favorite audio drama featuring The Doctor? Sound off in the comments below!