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Big Finish Productions is a British audio production company founded in 1996[1]. Since 1999, it has produced numerous licensed Doctor Who audio dramas, audiobooks and prose stories, as well as a number of series set within the DWU.

History[]

Big Finish began in late 1998 with audio adaptations of novels featuring Bernice Summerfield, a former companion of the Seventh Doctor. It subsequently was licensed to produce authorised Doctor Who audio plays. Later, the company branched out into prose publishing, producing a long-running series of novels and short story anthologies featuring Summerfield, followed by its temporary acquisition of the Short Trips line of Who-related short stories, previously published by BBC Books.

In 2002 they released a straight-to-DVD Doctor Who documentary interview with Paul McGann about his role of the Eighth Doctor called Big Finish Talks Back: Paul McGann.

The name of the company originates from an episode called The Big Finish? of children's TV programme Press Gang, written by Steven Moffat, who in 2010 became the showrunner of the Doctor Who TV series.

According to James Goss, by December 2017, Big Finish has become the second largest producer of original audio dramas in the UK after Radio Four.[2]

Product lines[]

Doctor Who[]

Big Finish began their Doctor Who range with a series of monthly full-cast dramas in four twenty five-minute episode format, mirroring the format commonly used by the original TV series. Releases featured the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and, from 2001 on, Eighth Doctors, all portrayed by their original actors. In 2007, a separate monthly series of one-hour Eighth Doctor adventures was created that ran for four series, before being succeeded by boxset releases. The Eighth Doctor appeared very occasionally following this in the main range.

In 2012, following a box set of Lost Stories, Tom Baker returned to the role of the Fourth Doctor in a brand new series of Fourth Doctor Adventures, completing the set of surviving "Classic Who" Doctor actors. Unfortunately, by that time companion actors Elisabeth Sladen, Ian Marter and Nicholas Courtney were all deceased; Baker was able to record a season of stories with Mary Tamm before her death in 2012 but has primarily been paired with Louise Jameson.

As of 2021, Big Finish has been successful in recruiting every surviving classic-era companion actor to reprise their original roles. In addition, both "companion" actors from the 1996 TV movie, Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso, have recorded several Who releases for the company, but portraying different characters, as the company does not have the rights to non-Doctor movie characters.

In October 2015, Big Finish announced two new Doctor Who ranges starring their first BBC Wales era Doctor and companion actors, with Doctor actors John Hurt and David Tennant and companion actor Catherine Tate reprising the roles they originated in the television series. In August 2020, Christopher Eccleston was also announced to return to his role for the Big Finish audio dramas, leaving only three of the shows' headlining actors left to partake in this aspect of the Doctor Who franchise (Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi & Jodie Whittaker, respectively).

Big Finish's current licence to produce Doctor Who on audio extends to 20 June 2025.[3]

Connections with the current TV series[]

The licensing contract Big Finish originally held with BBC Worldwide allowed the company to produce material from the "classic" era, giving them use of the first seven incarnations of the Doctor and all of their companions, as well as the character of the Eighth Doctor from the 1996 telemovie. Initially, the terms of their Doctor Who licence restricted any intellectual property from the 2005 revival, preventing them from producing any stories featuring the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh or Twelfth Doctors, nor any related characters, even if they were no longer featured in the TV series.

Numerous Big Finish personnel and employees, including David Tennant, Georgia Moffett, Anthony Stewart Head, Nicholas Briggs, Gareth Roberts, Gary Russell, Mark Gatiss, Paul Cornell, Matt Jones and Robert Shearman, have gone to do work for Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood. Shearman's episode Dalek was directly based on his audio drama Jubilee.

Many, such as Briggs, had been earlier involved in the production of unlicenced audio productions (such as Audio Visuals), as well as "Who-alike" audio and video productions such as The Stranger. Briggs currently serves as the executive producer Big Finish, concurrent with his ongoing voice-over work on the BBC Wales series.

A number of actors from the BBC Wales TV series have worked with Big Finish after becoming known on TV, but playing characters other than their TV roles. Examples include Arthur Darvill and Noel Clarke.

In late 2012, Big Finish announced that it was partnering with AudioGO to produce a series of 11 audio dramas in 2013 to mark the 50th anniversary of the franchise, a series entitled Destiny of the Doctor. These were Big Finish's first productions involving the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. It featured actors from the revival series including Catherine Tate and Jenna Coleman as readers, and the Eleventh Doctor cameoed in each story. Due to AudioGO going into administration, The Time Machine, the final release featuring the Eleventh Doctor, as well as the accompanying series boxset, were released solely by Big Finish.

In later years, the BBC began to show varying degrees of leniency in terms of the breadth of licence. A number of stories contained allusions to the Time War, most notably Dark Eyes in 2012 and Gallifrey VI in 2013. For Gallifrey, Big Finish was granted special permission to use the revival series Daleks on the packaging, and, in the first story, featured an attempted Dalek invasion of an alternate Gallifrey. The "origin" story The Beginning, released in the same year, was altered before release to depict the TARDIS capsule seen in the television story The Name of the Doctor and to implicitly reference Clara Oswald. Additionally, Big Finish depicted an apparent future Doctor's TARDIS on the cover of Dominion with the exterior of the Eleventh Doctor's. However, many references in the past had been able to get around licensing restrictions through vagueness and implicature: the 2006 story The Kingmaker mentioned a "northern chap with big ears"; the 2010 story Klein's Story quoted from Time Crash, referencing the TARDIS console's "leopard skin desktop theme," whilst another, City of Spires, quoting Rose, referenced the "assembled hordes of Genghis Khan" and their attempt to enter the TARDIS. Later stories such as Luna Romana, along with numerous Gallifrey and The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield releases more directly referenced an escalation in conflict on Gallifrey. Finally, the company's audio adaptation of the novel Damaged Goods directly referenced the Torchwood Institute and the Last Great Time War.

Around August 2014, (BFX: Extinction) it was revealed that the terms of their licence changed and that it was now extended to encompass a part of the "new series." [4] Big Finish announced that they would be producing stories featuring Winston Churchill, Strax, River Song, members of UNIT featured in the new series, and a new box set entitled Classic Doctors, New Monsters, featuring new series aliens such as the Weeping Angels, Judoon and Sycorax, and the Sontarans of the Time War as encountered by the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors. They also announced that they had gained the rights to produce audio dramas based on the spin-off television series Torchwood.[4]

In October 2015, Big Finish announced that John Hurt reprised his role as the War Doctor in a series of box sets set during the Time War, and a prequel starring Paul McGann as an older Eighth Doctor during the early stages of the War would also be released.[5] The company followed this announcement by revealing a set of Tenth Doctor Adventures starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate scheduled for release the following year, marking the company's first true foray into "New Series" Doctor Who.[6]

Around the beginning of 2018, Nicholas Briggs confirmed during a Q&A on his Facebook that Big Finish's licence was further extended and now included the Twelfth Doctor era.[7][8]

Adventures of the first four Doctors[]

Alongside their full cast dramas, Big Finish launched a monthly series entitled The Companion Chronicles in 2007, featuring hour-long "enhanced audiobooks" narrated primarily by former companions of the Doctor. The story's companion narrates the adventure, relating the events to the listener in-character, while usually one other major role in the story is performed by another actor.

The series allowed Big Finish to produce stories involving the first three Doctors for the first time, despite their original actors being deceased, along with the Fourth Doctor, despite the fact that Tom Baker was unwilling to participate at the time. As a result, all eight "classic series" Doctors were now represented in some way within their range. Later releases featured stories from the perspective of a companion of the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors. Companions such as Sara Kingdom and Liz Shaw, who did not get much screentime in the show, were given the opportunity to have much vaster development, in stories featuring the original actor. With the introduction of Tom Baker into Big Finish's cast and the launch of Fourth Doctor Adventures in 2012, followed by Tim Treloar recast for voicing the Third Doctor in The Third Doctor Adventures in place of late Jon Pertwee in 2015, The Companion Chronicles changed format to one 4-story box set per year alternating between the First and Second Doctors.

The series has also introduced spin-off characters, including UNIT members Matheson and Sato, portrayed by TV movie actors Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso, whilst The Mahogany Murderers, reuniting detectives Jago and Litefoot from The Talons of Weng-Chiang, became a backdoor pilot for their own spin-off series.

Big Finish also began to incorporate the first three Doctors into The Lost Stories range, featuring larger casts including original companion actors, and using such actors to provide narration and lines for the Doctor.

At the conclusion of The Lost Stories and the monthly Companion Chronicles in 2013, Big Finish announced the launch of a new range entitled The Early Adventures starring the surviving members of the black and white era stories. Nicholas Briggs said (of the end of The Companion Chronicles), "It's always sad to say goodbye to something, especially if they are popular. But at Big Finish we feel we must always be moving forward, and finding new ways to tell exciting Doctor Who stories on audio." [9]

Spin-offs[]

Apart from stories featuring the Doctor, Big Finish has produced numerous spin-offs set within the Doctor Who universe and usually branded "from the worlds of Doctor Who".

Spin-offs of television spin-offs[]

In addition, Big Finish secured rights to produce audio stories based on television spin-offs of Doctor Who

Books[]

Through much of the 2000s, Big Finish complemented its audio line with a series of short story collections entitled Short Trips, a continuation of a series established by BBC Books. Most volumes centred around particular themes, with most books containing at least one story for each of the first eight Doctors, as well as occasional stories focusing on other characters. After BBC Books retired its BBC Past Doctor Adventures novels at the end of 2005 in favour of focusing on the current Doctor, Big Finish's Short Trips became the only source for officially licensed fiction featuring the first eight Doctors.

In April 2009, Big Finish was forced to terminate its prolific Short Trips anthology series when the BBC did not renew its licence to publish Doctor Who-related prose.[10] However, in February 2010, Big Finish announced that they had opted to continue producing the Short Trips range in the form of anthology audiobooks featuring brand new authors accompanied by prolific Big Finish writers.[11] Big Finish also published prose fiction featuring characters such as Erimem, Bernice Summerfield and Iris Wildthyme. Non-fiction books related to its series have also been published, including select audio scripts and Bernice Summerfield: The Inside Story.

In 2013, Nicholas Briggs authored the BBC New Series Adventures novel The Dalek Generation. The story pit the Eleventh Doctor against the Dalek Time Controller, a recurring Big Finish villain who faced the Sixth and Eighth Doctors. The novel was one of very few instances were Big Finish and revived series material had been able to cross over, prior to the 2014 licence extension.

Other work[]

Big Finish previously produced original audio dramas based on franchises such as Sapphire & Steel, Stargate SG-1, 2000 A.D., Highlander and The Tomorrow People, and continues to produce original audio dramas based on a number of other franchises including Dark Shadows, Blake's 7, Sherlock Holmes, The Avengers, Terry Nation's Survivors, The Omega Factor, and The Prisoner.

More recently Big Finish has also produced a number of original and reworked releases based on the works of celebrated TV producers Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, including Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Space: 1999 and Terrahawks (the latter of which was a direct continuation of the original TV series, rather than an adaptation of novels or a remake like the former two). It has also produced wholly original comedy and sci-fi audio dramas.

Big Finish has also published original prose, including Love Songs For the Shy & Cynical and other short story collections by Rob Shearman and The Mervyn Stone Mysteries by Nev Fountain.

Doctor Who related series[]

The ranges and series published by Big Finish are presented in the chronological order of the first release in the following table:

Range 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Bernice Summerfield
New Adventures
Main Range
Dalek Empire
Excelis
Sarah Jane Smith
Unbound
Gallifrey
UNIT
Cyberman
Iris Wildthyme
06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
I, Davros
Eighth Doctor Adventures
The Companion Chronicles
The Stage Plays
The Lost Stories
Jago & Litefoot
Graceless
Short Trips
Fourth Doctor Adventures
Counter-Measures
12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Novel Adaptations
Dark Eyes
Destiny of the Doctor
Charlotte Pollard
The Early Adventures
Philip Hinchcliffe Presents...
The Third Doctor Adventures
Torchwood Regular series
Torchwood One
Aliens Among Us
God Among Us
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Doom Coalition
The New Series UNIT: The New Series
The War Doctor
The Diary of River Song
The Churchill Years
The Tenth Doctor Adventures
Classic Doctors, New Monsters
The Doctor Chronicles
The Lives of Captain Jack
The Eighth Doctor: The Time War
17 18 19 20
The War Master
The First Doctor Adventures NS
NS Tales from New Earth NS
Ravenous DW
Jenny: The Doctor's Daughter NS
Class: The Audio Adventures
Lady Christina NS
The Seventh Doctor: The New Adventures DW
Missy NS
The Comic Strip Adaptations DW
17 18 19 20
The Paternoster Gang W
Rose Tyler:
The Dimension Cannon
W
Donna Noble: Kidnapped! W

Legend[]

  • To distinguish them from officially recognised ranges, series titles are on a light blue background, following either a small dark blue rectangle or, in case of subseries of the Torchwood range, the name of the range. The latter treatment is also applied to named subranges of the Bernice Summerfiled range.
  • Ranges and series marked "DW" are under Doctor Who license.
  • Ranges and series marked "NS" are parts of The New Series range and include licensed elements from the post-2005 series.
  • The "DW" and "NS" designations are not applicable to audio ranges and series based on the television spin-offs Torchwood and Class.
  • An empty polygon represents the start of a range or series; a filled polygon represents its end; years with releases in between are marked with filled circles.
  • Only the first release of a story counts. Neither individual re-releases such as Cyberman: The Complete Series 1 and 2 nor re-release ranges such as Short Trips Rarities are represented in the table.
  • Special and bonus stand-alone stories such as The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure are not represented in the table. Neither are subscriber specials released alongside another story.
  • More generally, "collected" ranges that are created postfactum by collecting stories from other ranges featuring a particular Doctor are not represented in the table.
  • "Bonus Releases" and "Special Releases", representing a mix of the previous two situations, are excluded too.
  • Books are not represented in the table.
  • The Bernice Summerfield range is broken into three subranges: Single Releases (1998–2010), Box Sets (2011–2013, 2018) and The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield (2014–2017). They are distinguished by vertical shifts and varying polygons used (including for the years in between).
  • The symbol ✹ is used in the Torchwood range to represent years that had both regular releases and special releases not represented in other rows. An example of such a special release is The Torchwood Archive. By contrast, Before the Fall is represented in the row of Torchwood One subrange.
  • Series that are not presented as ranges on the Big Finish website, such as The Third Doctor Adventures are identified based on the combination of a recognisable name and designated consecutive production codes.

External links[]

Careful . . . spoilers!

Clicking on external links in this article will most definitely lead to pages that will spoil details of upcoming stories.

Footnotes[]

  1. Big Finish (March 23, 2014). Big Finish FAQ (From 2002). Big Finish. Retrieved on 2002.
  2. https://www.bigfinish.com/news/v/12-days-of-big-finishmas-10-20-years-of-bernice-summerfield
  3. Doctor Who: Licence Extended to 2025!. Big Finish Productions (6 May 2016). Retrieved on 8 May 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 More New Series Doctor Who from Big Finish. Big Finish Productions (27 June 2015). Retrieved on 28 June 2015.
  5. http://www.bigfinish.com/news/v/doctor-who-the-war-doctor
  6. Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures. Big Finish Productions (26 October 2015). Retrieved on 26 October 2015.
  7. Nicholas Briggs Facebook Q&A. Facebook (2 January 2018). Retrieved on 5 February 2018.
  8. Nicholas Briggs Facebook Q&A. Facebook (2 January 2018). Retrieved on 5 February 2018.
  9. Doctor Who: The Early Adventures Announced!. Big Finish Productions (8 February 2013). Retrieved on 28 June 2015.
  10. Short Trips Announcement. Big Finish - News (17/04/2009). Archived from the original on April 20 2009. Retrieved on 18th September 2012.
  11. The Return of Short Trips. Big Finish - News (10/02/2010). Archived from the original on March 30 2010. Retrieved on 18th September 2012.
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