"BBC approves new Doctor Who audio plays.
Productions, the company behind the recent audio dramatisations of the Bernice
Summerfield New Adventures novels, has secured a ground-breaking licence to
produce all-new, full-length Doctor Who audio dramas."
the announcement in issue 275 of The Doctor Who Magazine in February 1999.
Since then over 20 brand new Doctor Who audio adventures have been
released with many more stories planned for well into 2002.
We have had 4 incarnations of The Doctor, 10 companions including 2 new
ones and the return
of Bernice Summerfield and Frobisher. We have been terrorised
by the return of the Ice
Warriors, The Cybermen and the dreaded Daleks.
But how did it
all start and why in 1999 and not 10 years earlier when Doctor Who left
our television screens?
Big Finish Productions were formed in 1996 by Jason
Haigh-Ellery and Nancy Hine as a small production company, handling both audio
and video productions. Gary Russell (a previous editor of Doctor Who Magazine)
and Nicholas Briggs (who is more well known for his involvement with the Myth
Makers interview tapes and Reeltime Pictures) approached Big Finish Productions
to do some audio science-fiction. Both had already worked together and were
responsible for much of the output in Audio Visuals, a fan group from the late
eighties who made unlicensed Doctor Who audio plays.
|The First Benny Summerfield Audio
to secure a licence from Virgin Publishing to make audio
dramas based upon their range of novels featuring one-time Doctor Who companion
Professor Bernice Summerfield. They issued five audio dramatisations
too much acclaim
before being approached by BBC Worldwide in 1999. Big Finish
Productions had already approached the BBC three years earlier
regarding the idea of doing
fresh, original Doctor Who audio dramas. At that time though
everything was in a state of flux due to "Doctor
Who: The Movie", starring Paul McGann,
and the BBC were understandably reluctant to issue any licences
of this nature.
securing of the licence to do Virgin's New Adventures output was partly out of
a desire to prove science fiction could be done on audio, but also to show the
BBC that they were serious and a professional company. Subsequently the BBC
listened to what they had done and the licence was offered and eagerly accepted
by Big Finish Productions.
To ensure that the plays remain faithful to the
Doctor Who television series in terms of style and content, BBC
World-wide has retained the rights to approve all story-lines
and scripts. Initially BBC Books range editor Steve Cole was the Executive
Producer on BBC
Worldwide's behalf. However, after Steve's departure from
the BBC, that role was taken on by his former assistant, now Eighth
Doctor desk editor herself,
|THE FIRST STORY
Over the weekend of 6th and 7th March 1999, Peter Davison,
Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy led the cast in the recording of "The Sirens of Time", the first in this new series.
|Three Doctors Reunited
The stars seemed delighted to be back in the harness
in their roles as The Doctor and despite their high-spirited japes,
writer/director Nicholas Briggs managed to call 'cut' at 7.00pm on the Sunday -
bang on schedule.
|The Sirens of Time
in July 1999 "The Sirens of Time" features
brand new music and sound effects along with the traditional sound
effects from the television series including the familiar TARDIS
noises and the theme tune, originally composed by Ron Grainer. During
this time Big Finish also confirmed its next produc-tions. "Phantasmagoria"
staring Peter Davison in August 1999 and "The Sirens of Time" starring
Colin Baker in October. Each of The Doctors were joined by a television
companion - Mark Strikson, as Turlough and Nicola Bryant, as Peri respectively.
Then at the
end of Big Finish's first year it was announced that the releases would be
going monthly. It was also announced that the Daleks would be returning not in
one story but in three! The first of these was "The Genocide
Machine" released in April 2000.
year progressed further television companions and monsters, as well as some new
ones, made their Big Finish debut's. "The Land of the
Dead", released January 2000, saw Sarah Sutton reprising her role as Nyssa.
Sophie Aldred, as Ace, starred in "The Fearmonger" in
February. Then in March the Sixth
Doctor was joined, in "The Marian
Conspiracy", by a brand new companion, Doctor Evelyn Smythe, played by
Maggie Stables. The release in May 2000 was a Fifth Doctor story titled "Red Dawn" which herald
the return of the Ice Warriors who last made an appearance in the
Doctor television story "The Monsters of Peladon" in 1974. Then in June
Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart joined the Sixth Doctor with his 'new'
companion Evelyn Smythe in "The Spectre
of Lanyon Moor". July 2000's release, "Winter for the
Adept", is another Fifth Doctor story with Nyssa played by Sarah Sutton.
Also starring in this story is India Fisher who will
be returning to play the Eighth Doctor's 'new' companion early in 2001. Lalla
Ward's debut was in August 2000's "The Apocalypse
Element" where she reprised her role as Romana. "The Fires of
Vulcan", released in September, herald after an absence of 14 years in the
show Bonnie Langford in the role of Melanie
October 2000 New Adventures companion and archaeologist Bernice Summerfield
returned to the Doctor Who range since the end of the Virgin
Books 'The New Adventures' stories. "The Shadow
of the Scourge" is another Seventh
Doctor and Ace story staring regulars
Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred as well as Lisa Bowerman as Benny. The
release in November 2000 was another special story. Titled "The Holy Terror"
it featured, alongside Colin Baker, the debut of Frobisher - the shape-changing
Whifferdill who featured mainly as a penguin in The Doctor Who Magazine comic
strips and in the BBC novel "Mission: Impractical". To round off the year was
"The Mutant Phase"
the third and final Dalek story for the year.
THE SPECIAL GUESTS
|Bonnie Langford & Gemma
Special Guest stars have also added their contributions to
these stories - Jacqueline Pearce (who played Servalan in Blake's Seven
and Chessene in "The
Two Doctors") stars in "The Fearmonger". James Bolam (best
known for his role in The Likely Lads, and When the Boat Comes
In) and Toby Longworth (who was the voice of Trade Federation
representative Lott Dod in Star Wars Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace) are
both in "The Spectre of Lanyon Moor".
Sally Faulkner (who portrayed Isobel Watkins in the
classic Patrick Troughton story "The
Invasion") stars in July 2000's story
"Winter for the Adept".
|Sam Kelly (middle)
In the later half of 2000 even more guest stars
added their contributions: Gemma Bissix (who played Nigel Bates' adopted
daughter Claire in Eastenders) is in "The Fires of Vulcan". Sam Kelly
(who is best known for his role as Bunny Warren in the sit-com Porridge,
Captain Hans Geering in Allo Allo, and as a chauffeur in On the
Up), Roberta Taylor (who played the part of Irene in Eastenders) and
Peter Guinness (who was a regular in both Spender and Casualty
and who was also in the film Alien 3) all star in "The Holy Terror".
As stated by Gary Russell:
|"Doctor Who has a fine tradition of employing great
actors to be in the series, and, budgetary considerations allowing, we think
it's great if we can continue that. We have a list as long as my arms (legs as
well) of people we'd kill to work with. But we don't believe in guest stars for
the sake of it. Actors must be cast for what they bring to a part, not what
they bring to publicity".
As announced in September 2000 Big Finish Productions are
delighted that their licence from the BBC has been renewed through to the end
of 2002. It was also reported that the BBC are pleased with the quality of the
productions so far and that they think that Big Finish Productions are doing a
| Paul McGann
as announced earlier in the year, the beginning of 2001 was to herald something
even better - The return of the Eighth Doctor, played by Paul McGann, along
with a brand new companion Charley Pollard played by India Fisher. "Storm Warning",
released in January 2001, was the first of four adventures for Paul and India.
And the second story, February 2001's "Sword of Orion" saw
the long awaited return of the
Two more stories "The Stones of
Venice", released in March 2001, and in April "Minuet in Hell",
which also features the
completed the Eighth Doctor's 'first audio season'.
Doctor, with Turlough, was the first of the 'previous' Doctor stories to be
released in 2001 in May's "Loups-Garoux". June
saw "Dust Breeding", a
Seventh Doctor and Ace story followed, in July, by "Bloodtide" where the
Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe meet a young Charles Darwin and the
The Sixth Doctor and Evelyn returned in the following month's
release called "Project: Twilight". And
September's release, "The Eye of the
Scorpion", had the Fifth Doctor and Peri in a pseudo-historical romp
through ancient Egypt. While in October "Colditz" has the Seventh
Doctor and Ace trapped within the notorious Second World War prison. November's
release had the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa in "Primeval" and the end of
2001 was rounded off with "The One Doctor",
which saw the first release of the first Sixth Doctor story with companion
If that was not enough for you then a special mini-series of
four Doctorless Dalek stories written and directed by Nicholas Briggs were
released during the year. Titled "The
Dalek Empire" Big Finish Productions wanted these stories to evoke some of
the spirit of the fondly remembered Dalek annuals and strips of the Sixties and
Seventies. All four stories were closely linked with many of the same
characters appearing in each story. As they were released one by one the
tension was built up to a climax at the end of part four gave no doubt to the
fact that this mini series was a huge success, even without The Doctor, and
that the Daleks would be returning.
|The Dalek Empire
also not short of guest stars: Gareth Thomas (who played the intergalactic
freedom fighter Roj Blake in Blake's Seven) stars in "Storm Warning" and
in the four "Dalek Empire" stories. Michael Sheard, who appears in March 2001's
"The Stones of Venice", is more famous for his role as a teacher in the BBC
children's school drama programme Grange Hill. He has also appeared in
many Doctor Who television stories and his film credits include The Empire
Strikes Back and two of the Indiana Jones films. Burt Kwouk, who was
Inspector Clouseau's martial-arts manservant Cato in the "Pink Panther" movies,
appears in "Loups-Garoux". His other film and television credits also include:
Empire of the Sun, Goldfinger, The Saint and The
Avengers. June's "Dust Breeding" stars Caroline John, who played companion
and scientist Liz Shaw alongside the Third Doctor.
|Burt Kwouk (left) as Cato with Peter
off the year "The One Doctor" has a host of guests stars which is headed by
entertainer and panto veteran Christopher Biggins who is a very famous face on
British television for many years. The programmes he has been involved in
include I Claudius, Rentaghost and Absolutely Fabulous.
Joining Christopher are 2 Point 4 Children and Grange Hill star
Clare Buckfield, Shooting Stars comedian Matt Lucas and Adam Buxton, who
is one half of the team behind Channel 4's critically acclaimed The Adam and
AND WHAT ABOUT
| Like the previous year, the beginning of 2002 was
to herald something even better than the beginning of 2001- The second 'audio'
season for the Eighth Doctor, played by Paul McGann. This time though Big
Finish Productions announced that they have done six episodes. It was also
announced that not only would the Eighth Doctor at last get to meet the dreaded
Daleks in "The Time of the
Daleks" but at the end of the sixth story, "Neverland", not only
ends this run of adventures, for the Eighth Doctor, on an explosive high but
also that nothing will ever be the same again!
Due to the large period while all six Eighth
Doctor stories were released before a 'previous' Doctor story would be released
in July Big Finish decided to release another mini series of adventures
starring the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors. Titled "Excelis
Rising" and "Excelis
Decays" these three separate stories will all take place on the same planet
but during different time zones which are all connected by not only the visit
of a different incarnation of The Doctor but by a holy relic that each Doctor
And for the future? As well as the continued exploits of the
Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors there is a series of five brand-new doctorless
audio adventures starring the ever-popular 1975 companion
Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen. The second Big Finish appearance of
the Cybermen in "Spare Parts". A story
with the strange title "...ish".
A story with the legendary DJ Tony Blackburn. The first actual adventure
with Erimem, who first
appeared as a Pharaoh in "The Eye of the
Scorpion", as a companion. And to round the year off there was another
story with a strange title - "Bang-Bang-A-Boom!".
We were warned...
|Sarah Jane Smith
And as to 2003? As well as the return of the Daleks in "Dalek
Empire 2 - Dalek War" Big Finish Productions released the weirdest story so
far with "Flip-Flop" which,
according to Big Finish, you can listen to this two-CD adventure in either
order. We also had a musical in
and the Pirates where the Sixth Doctor gets to sing. The biggest event
though for 2003 is the 40th anniversary celebration of the television show. As
a precursor to the November 2003 anniversary adventure, " Zagreus", Big Finish
Productions released three stories where three Doctor's faced three old foes
Master), but in unusual
With all these exciting releases to look forward to and with
more innovative stories being planned the future of the Big Finish Productions
Doctor Who audio adventures has never looked so good.
Long may Big
Finish Productions continue.