Hurple Hoopla

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Big Finish

My favorite television show of all time has got to be Doctor Who. The main reason why is simple, the program can become anything at any time. Because the title character wanders through time and space, his adventures can take any shape that a writer can imagine... Straight historical drama, murder mystery, grand space opera, spy thriller, whatever... the show has been all of these and more throughout it's 20 years on the air. In addition, making the main character an alien that is able to regenerate when needed also allows the makers to continue the show as various actors come and go. The show premiered on the day John F Kennedy was assassinated and was originally cancelled in 1989. Fan interest continued, and even grew, after it's cancellation so the BBC teamed up with Universal to make a US TV movie version in 1995. Unfortunately, that did not lead to a return of the series, at least not directly. In 2004, the very successful producer of the BBC program Queer As Folk was offered the chance to do any show he wanted by the BBC. He chose to bring back Doctor Who. While his vision of the show is not exactly the same as mine, the modern version of the program finds the magic back in full force.

I didn't sit down and start writing this as a review of the 2005 Doctor Who. I just wanted to give a little background to the subject I did plan to write about, Big Finish Productions.

It seems best to describe Big Finish as the little company that could, or maybe they were just in the right place at the right time. The BBC had sold the publishing rights of Doctor Who to Virgin Books, and the Virgin "New Adventures" series was experiencing steadily increasing sales as reader eagerly anticipated each month's newest Doctor Who adventure. Meanwhile, a small group of fans of the television program began making fan-fiction "audio plays" based on the original television series. Thanks to the ever-increasing fan base, and the internet, these audio adventures began to get traded far and wide. Realizing that there might be a good business model in there somewhere, the fans formed a company (although it wasn't called Big Finish... yet) and began polishing their craft, pressing actual CDs of the "audio plays" and selling them on the internet. The next step was taken soon after when they hired several actors who had actually appeared in Doctor Who to participate in their audios. Thankfully, they were also savvy enough to understand copyright laws and disguised the characters in their audios. For instance, they hired Sylvester McCoy to play the Doctor, but called their version of the character "The Professor," and when they hired Colin Baker for the role, they called the character "The Stranger." (A side note: These series were so successful that they continue today, even after the founding of Big Finish)

Someone, somewhere within the BBC hierarchy got ahold of a few of the CDs. I imagine it was someone meant to pour through them looking for possible copyright infringement lawsuit material. Whatever the case, they must have been impressed with the program's quality, because soon after the BBC offered the rights to the Doctor Who universe to the company. The original company spun off Big Finish (the original still exists and still does the "copyright safe" stories, here, but have since evolved their own fictional universes completely free of the "Doctor Who clone" stigma.)

Just last week Big Finish released their 77th Doctor Who adventure. It is called "Other Lives" and stars Paul McGann as the Doctor. On television, his only appearance in the role was in the 1995 TV movie. Since starting the the Doctor Who releases the company has since also begun releasing other series, like Doctor Who spin-offs (Daleks, Cybermen, Sarah Jane Smith, UNIT, Gallifrey, Unbound) and other well-known properties (Judge Dread, Sapphire & Steel, The Tomorrow People, Earthsearch) as well as others.

So, although I originally started this post as a review of the most recent release, for brevity's sake I'll simply finish with a list of the best of Big Finish's Doctor Who output (in no particular order), which are generally regarded equal to the very best Doctor Who stories ever conceived.

The Holy Terror

The One Doctor

Chimes of Midnight

Spare Parts


Doctor Who And The Pirates

The Fires of Vulcan


Creatures of Beauty

Arrangements For War


Post a Comment

<< Home