A guide to the Eighth Doctor Audio Adventures

Feature Andrew Blair 15 Nov 2013 - 16:37

Andrew talks us through the best of the Eighth Doctor Audio Adventures from Big Finish. No particular reason...

Contains spoilers for The Night of the Doctor and several Big Finish plays.

Now is a very good time to start investigating the Eighth Doctor stories from Big Finish audio productions. If you don't know why, you should probably look here immediately, and maybe have some coffee.

Mentioned in The Night of the Doctor are the names of the Eighth Doctor's audio companions: Charley Pollard, C'rizz, Lucie Miller, Tamsin Drew and Molly O'Sullivan. The reason this is a big deal is that the Eighth Doctor had previously only appeared in one television story (1996's Doctor Who TV movie), and as a result multiple continuities had opened up across novels, comics and audioplays. The audioplays are still ongoing, and have now been tentatively slotted into the TV continuity. This will bring these names to a new audience, which begs the question of who are they, and where should you start?

You should probably start, for reasons of economics, with Radio 4 Extra.

Starting tomorrow (Saturday the 16th of November) and continuing through to the end of the month are a number of Doctor Who and Big Finish audioplays and book readings. Tomorrow sees William Russell narrate David Whittaker's Doctor Who and the Daleks novel, based on Terry Nation's original story. Sunday sees the first Big Finish story, a Seventh Doctor tale called Protect and Survive. The First, Fifth, and Seventh Doctors are represented in these stories.

For the Eighth Doctor, we have Human Resources - a two-parter set in an unusual office block - the finale of the first series featuring Lucie Miller. Played by Sheridan Smith, the new companion and format for the stories was influenced by Russell T. Davies' work on the restored television show, and it refreshed things enormously. No-one has really come up with a better description for Lucie Miller than 'brash Northern lass', and the pairing of her and Paul McGann is one of the range's highlights. That's on the 21st of November.

On the 24th and 25th we have Lucie Miller and To the Death, stories that I'll happily bang on about to anyone given the slightest opportunity. This concludes Lucie Miller's arc, and also Tamsin Drew's. It then leads into the start of Molly O'Sullivan's adventures in Dark Eyes – a four disc Dalek epic recently voted the most popular Eighth Doctor Big Finish story. Molly – a nursing assistant in World War One, played by Ruth Bradley – continued Lucie Miller's trait of initially finding the Doctor annoying and confusing, before eventually stopping hitting him and growing fond of the damaged, deadpan, nutjob genius. More series of Dark Eyes are coming, but for now just the one boxset exists. If you buy the new issue of Doctor Who Magazine, however, you will find a code to download Episode One (and numerous other Big Finish episodes).

Tamsin Drew features in Series 4 of the Eighth Doctor Adventures (starting off in Situation Vacant), which started by introducing Lucie Miller in Blood of the Daleks. While the long-term plotting can get intricate, each play is self-contained enough to launch into without prior knowledge, and if anything this approach often intrigues you into finding out more about the ongoing arcs. Tamsin – an out of work actress, played by Niky Wardley – may only appear in one series, but as it's the final one she makes quite an impact. It's genuinely worth seeking the entire thing out, and it may be repeated on Radio 4 Extra again. Otherwise, if I had to recommend a few episodes from these four series, I'd suggest The Horror of Glam Rock, Grand Theft Cosmos, Relative Dimensions, and Brave New Town, though that last one's mainly for Paul McGann's pronounciation of the word 'Uzbekistan'.

I'm sure other people will recommend more stories in the comments section.

Before all this, and before the series returned to television in 2005, the Eighth Doctor had already returned in 2001. Storm Warning introduced Charley Pollard - Edwardian adventuress and jollier than any combination of hockey sticks you care to imagine – who had rebelled against her soft upbringing and sought a life of adventure.

Actress India Fisher is, for Doctor Who fans, so synonymous with the role that many people choose to interpret her voice-overs on Masterchef as being in character (especially when plum pudding is involved – listen to The Chimes of Midnight to A. Get that joke, and B. Appreciate how good The Chimes of Midnight is). Charley's death was a fixed-point-in-time, and much of her arc consists of the ramifications of the Doctor rescuing her from it. It's a measure of Charley's popularity that she was the Eighth Doctor's companion in the recent fiftieth Anniversary special The Light at the End (read our review here), and the first two series of her adventures are fondly remembered for the excitement of hearing the Eighth Doctor, and for the generally high quality of the stories.

After the events of Neverland (generally considered good) and Zagreus (Um...) the Doctor and Charley are forced into another universe, and it's here that Big Finish's initial surge faltered. Though there are popular plays in this series, the Divergent Universe run is considered a miss-step, and the character of C'rizz (a troubled alien with blood on his hands, played by Conrad Westmaas) is saddled with a lot of baggage as a result of coming from this run (which also features Don Warrington playing the same role that Timothy Dalton did in The End of Time). C'rizz's backstory is fairly horrible (well, he did first appear in a Philip Martin story), so it's unsurprising that he suffers from time to time. Even if things pick up when they return to our universe, being brainwashed by the Daleks doesn't do anyone any good. While C'rizz eventual fate is guessable (his final story is called Absolution) you certainly won't expect what happens to Charley.

While The Night of the Doctor works without knowing these stories, it has that much more of an impact when you do know what the Doctor has been through in relation to these characters – a testament to the work of Big Finish as well as the BBC Cardiff team. As introductions to Big Finish go, the combination of the forthcoming radio broadcasts and the downloads free with Doctor Who Magazine are an excellent start, as is the Big Finish website.

In the meantime, I think it's only fair to express gratititude to everyone involved in making The Night of the Doctor, and for expanding the show's universe so well when they simply didn't have to. Maybe, in the coming days, there'll be further reason to investigate the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe, or the Seventh Doctor and Elizabeth Klein.

Who knows?

Well, Steven Moffat does, but he's a massive fibber.

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Or the 6th Doctor and Frobisher, from the old comics, I loved that era.

Anyhow, smashing stuff Mr Blair. They are all cannon now so I expect to see them mentioned a lot more :-)

I know it's on Radio 4 tomorrow but I remember my Dad reading me David Whittaker's Doctor Who and the Daleks novel when I was about 6 or 7, a little light bedtime reading there! Anyone who has read it knows it varies quite a bit from the actual show, and it was my first introduction to the First Doctor. Some years later I was quite surprised to find out that the introduction of Ian and Barbara in An Unearthly Child was so different.

The more attention paid to the Big Finish series, the better! I have listened to precious few of them, but I would disagree with the review above in one respect: the 'alternative universe' series with C'rzz does have one shining jewel: 'The Natural History of Fear'. It's a remarkably different story, and one of the cleverest uses of the medium I've yet seen from Big Finish.

You're right, the Night of the Doctor is still amazing without much prior knowledge, but it also excited me enough to start learning!

Natural History of Fear is my most loathed and hated Big Finish release ever. It is an appalling travesty and quite possibly the dullest thing I have ever heard. I gave my copy away to a friend who returned it in disgust. Avoid at all costs

The divergent universe saga is a good listen, much better than many would have you believed. A natural History of fear is excellent, a high point in the storyline. Scherzo remains my favourite, while Zagreus is a misunderstood gem.
If you are a Doctor Who fan, you MUST listen to the Big Finish Who range. More over, you must BUY it, yes, pay real money for it. I know its easy to download illegally, but please don't.
Big Finish is the home of Doctor Who, its story lines remain superior to the new Who series (which I thoroughly enjoy by the way). Any true Doctor Who fan will be rushing full tilt to the Big Finish web site right now...

Chimes of Midnight takes some topping!

I've just listened to part one of Blood of the Daleks and I'm already hooked on the McGann audios! I expect to delve further and further into these throughout the year. Brilliant stuff!

Get Frobisher lodged in continuity - better still, get him in the Anniversary special!

Good article, it would be great if McGann could do another special episode, he brings so much to the role that both modern and old Who fans can appreciate his Doctor

I recommend Storm Warning (the introduction of charley), Human Resources, Max Warp (top gear spoof). Also the entire fourth series with lucie / tamsin, as the pay-off is so good. Plus The Silver Turk (with Mary Shelley) and last but not least the incredible Dark Eyes box set.

McGann the Doctor we where teased with then rob of :(

I have to agree. The whole Divergent Universe arc, while probably an interesting idea at the time, was just so... Boring. To me, anyway. The Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller stories, though, are some of the best things BF have ever done.

McGann and Colin Baker are my favourite audio Doctors. Listening to a new McGann audio gives me as much pleasure as watching a new episode, and his enthusiasm for the role is clear in his pitch perfect performances - The last two Lucy Miller stories and Dark Eyes are up there with the very best Doctor Who has to offer. In fact, nothing I've seen on the show for a good while matches those three stories.
As for Colin, this is the sixth Doctor we could have had if the writing matched his acting ability, and best all, you can tone down the colour of his coat in your minds eye. I know BF stories can be expensive, but the first 50 are available to download for £2.99 each, and if you want to see/hear what you've been missing, just buy The Chimes Of Midnight to get you started - it's a near perfect story.

I really want to listen to the eight doctor audios so when I get the latest DWM I'll download episode 1 - question is though, what do do when listening to them? Just sit there with a drink?

Do the ironing. It'll fly by :-)

The Eight audios are superb as is the majority of work produced by Big Finish.

I’d certainly recommend the Lucie Miller series as they are fantastic slices of Who and brilliantly performed by both McGann and Smith. My favourite of Eight’s other adventures include Chimes at Midnight, The Natural History of Fear (I think the Divergent Universe is underappreciated and there are a real number of gems) The Girl Who Never Was, Situation Vacant, Seasons of Fear, Embrace the Darkness, Neverland, Scherzo, Faith Stealer, Caerdroia, Time Works, Terror Firma, Other Lives, Memory Lane and The Silver Turk. The Dark Eyes series is superb too and I can’t wait for Dark Eyes 2. Zagreus should be listened to as well because though it doesn’t entirely work I think it’s got some interesting things to say.

It’s always lovely to see Big Finish Who written about and discussed; you should do a few more Den maybe a Top Ten for each Doctor or a look at the Companion Chronicles, Dalek Empire, Gallifrey and all that.

If you don't have the time or patience to check everything out be sure to check out The Light At The End. It has McGann meeting Tom Baker and it's glorious. Colin Baker is also absolutely fabulous in it. If you just want to test the waters a bit and aren't sure whether you're ready to commit it's as good a place as any to start.

"Tentatively slotted into the TV continuity" by a minisode set on Karn- where we established that a time lord can have more than 12 regenerations. Continuity, yes, slavish following of the most pedantic refusal ever to contradict, no.

A brilliant article. Bravo.

C'rizz is a trickier one than the others because, as said, that whole arc wasn't a high watermark for Big Finish. However, once they were out of the Divergent Universe I'd recommend Other Lives, Time Works and Memory Lane as good ones for the Eighth Doctor at the that and C'rizz too.

Frobisher has been indirectly mentioned by the Tenth Doctor in the Big Finish-AudioGo series for the 50th anniversary, when he says he once had a shape-shifter for a companion. That's more or less like canonizing him, I suppose...

Don't forget that the shape-shifting robot Kamelion was technically one of the Fifth Doctor's companions...

Well, he said " a shape-shifter" in reference to aliens, not to robots... still, good point taken.

I listen to them on my way to and from work. These have been so ingrained into my daily routine that I feel 'off' when I don't get to listen to them.

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