Big Finish Productions
|Key people||Jason Haigh-Ellery, MD
Nicholas Briggs, Executive Producer
John Ainsworth, Marketing Director
Barnaby Edwards, Casting Director
David Richardson, Producer
Paul Spragg, Production Assistant
Richard Dinnick, Web Producer
|Products||List of Doctor Who audio plays by Big Finish
List of Dark Shadows audio plays
List of Blake's 7 audio plays
Big Finish Productions is a British company that produces books and audio plays (released straight to compact disc and for download in mp3 format) based, primarily, on cult British science fiction properties. They are best known for their Doctor Who line; other properties include the characters Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog from 2000 AD, Dark Shadows, Sapphire & Steel, Stargate, Blake's 7 and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes character.
The Managing Director of the company is Jason Haigh-Ellery. The company name, "Big Finish", comes from the title of an episode of Press Gang (coincidentally, a television series co-created by Steven Moffat, who would go on to become the executive producer and lead writer for the Doctor Who and Sherlock TV series').
History and organisation
Big Finish began with a series of audio plays adapted from New Adventures. These were a series of novels from Virgin Books which had originally been licensed Doctor Who stories, but by then had become officially independent from the show and were based around the character of Bernice "Benny" Summerfield. Big Finish then obtained a (non-exclusive) license to produce official Doctor Who plays, beginning with the multi-Doctor story The Sirens of Time. Doctor Who and spin-offs have remained the main part of the company's output ever since, although they have since diversified.
The company's first foray into books also came through Benny and a series of paperbacks. This range was later abandoned, but the company then obtained a (non-exclusive) license to do hardback Doctor Who short story collections. They subsequently returned to Benny books and other Doctor Who spin-offs, but have kept with the hardback format.
Until July 2006, Gary Russell served as producer of the Doctor Who audios. When Russell left the company, Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs took joint responsibility as Executive Producers. Briggs now bears creative responsibility for Big Finish's Doctor Who range, along with script editor Alan Barnes. In late 2007 David Richardson took over from Sharon Gosling and now holds the title of Producer, organising the schedules across the company's output, as well as having creative responsibility for The Companion Chronicles, Doctor Who – The Lost Stories and Jago and Litefoot (2010).
On 11 June 2011 Tenth Planet Events hosted the first Big Finish Day in Barking with guests including Colin Baker, Sophie Aldred and Sarah Sutton. On 11 February 2012 a second one was held with guests including Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Katy Manning, Anneke Wills, Terry Molloy and Paul Darrow.
In February 2008, Big Finish launched a new download service through their website. They provide audio plays in MP3 format, free of any DRM. They are working to provide their whole catalogue through this service, but are starting with their Doctor Who range.
In June 2008, Big Finish announced a download subscription service that mirrors its physical CD service.
In September 2008, they released their first free downloadable play. UNIT: The Coup had previously been given away with an issue of Doctor Who Magazine. Since then, it has also made a couple of single-episode plays from its Companion Chronicles line available for exclusive download through Doctor Who Magazine.
|Parts of this article (those related to BBC Radio – BBC7 no longer exists and BBC Radio 4 Extra, its replacement, is airing some Eighth Doctor audios on 7 January to 11/1/2013) are outdated. (January 2013)|
The Doctor Who audio plays feature the five surviving lead actors to play the character of the Doctor in the classic series (Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann), as well as many of the regular supporting actors over the many years of the programme. The late Jon Pertwee's voice is featured in the 40th-anniversary story Zagreus. His part in the story was pieced together from snippets of dialogue (from the fan-produced Doctor Who video "Devious") recorded prior to his death.
Of the surviving Doctors, Tom Baker had for years declined invitations to return to the role (though in March 2010 he mentioned on his website that he had a new story in the works, and Big Finish confirmed these plans on their own website).
Big Finish's licence, which has been extended to 31 December 2015, only covers the original Doctor Who series. Big Finish are therefore unable to feature any material from or references to the new series, which prohibits Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith from appearing as the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors respectively. The extent of the restriction remains unclear, as the character of the Ninth Doctor makes a silent "off-screen" appearance that affects the plot of 2006's The Kingmaker.
Developments in the 2005 revival TV series also impacted the availability of certain characters. For example, Big Finish was no longer allowed to use the character of Davros following his return to the series in 2008, although this restriction has since been lifted and Davros returned to Big Finish in The Curse of Davros, released in January 2012. Prior to the character being featured in the new series, he had been used in several plays, portrayed by Terry Molloy. In a 2008 podcast, Nicholas Briggs explained that all scripts are sent through the TV show's offices in Cardiff to prevent any potential conflicts in continuity. Briggs has also said there is a ban on stories concerning the Time War (a major piece of backstory separating the 1963-1996 "classic" series and the 2005–present revival), which he has no issue with as he believes the concept of a "Time War" would be impossible to portray. One reason for the restriction is that BBC Audiobooks has, since 2008, been producing its own exclusive-to-audio stories featuring the Fourth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, Sarah Jane Smith, and Torchwood, as well as releasing full-cast audio dramas (similar to Big Finish's format) based upon Torchwood. However, despite BBC Audio also producing an ongoing series of Fourth Doctor adventures, this has not affected Big Finish's ability to feature the character as well. The return of Sarah Jane Smith to the continuity of the TV series, and subsequent The Sarah Jane Adventures spin-off, resulted in the character no longer being available to Big Finish (forcing the cancellation of an ongoing Sarah Jane Smith audio series). According to Briggs, permission from Russell T Davies, producer and creator of The Sarah Jane Adventures, had been secured that would have allowed the character and actress Elisabeth Sladen to return to Big Finish for a series of stories alongside Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor, but Sladen's illness and death in April 2011 put an end to those plans.
The return of Doctor Who to television in 2005 did not have an immediate impact on the audio plays, save that the grouping of Eighth Doctor adventures into "seasons" ceased and subsequent releases starring McGann were folded into the regular releases featuring previous Doctors. McGann, who appeared as the Doctor in a 1996 telemovie yet never got a television series of his own, concluded his fourth and last continuous audio "season" with the release of The Next Life in 2004, and has continued to appear in standalone releases as of 2013.
Six of the earliest Eighth Doctor dramas were broadcast in BBC 7's The 7th Dimension slot between August 2005 and January 2006: these were Storm Warning, Sword of Orion, The Stones of Venice, Invaders from Mars, Shada and The Chimes of Midnight. (Minuet in Hell, originally released on CD between The Stones of Venice and Invaders from Mars, was judged unsuitable for the timeslot.) All six of these stories were rebroadcast on BBC7 beginning in July 2006 and again in September 2007.
In September 2006, Doctor Who Magazine announced that Big Finish would be producing a new eight-part audio miniseries featuring the Eighth Doctor and new companion Lucie Miller (played by Sheridan Smith), set later in the character's chronology (i.e. after he has parted ways with then-'current' companions Charley Pollard and C'rizz). The miniseries was broadcast on BBC 7 beginning on New Year's Eve 2006 and subsequently released on CD. Each episode was 50 minutes long; most were one-part stories, with two-parters beginning and ending the miniseries. A second series was released in 2008, with six of the eight titles broadcast on BBC 7. Meanwhile, the Eighth Doctor's 'earlier' stories were concluded and retired from the main range in 2007, with the release of The Girl Who Never Was. A third series of the Eighth Doctor's adventures was released in 2009. The episodes were initially released for sale as downloadable 30-minute weekly instalments, and released on CD later in the year. There are no plans for these episodes to be broadcast on BBC 7. A fourth, and final, series was released in 2010, with a follow-up box set, Dark Eyes, released in November 2012. Another series of follow ups will commence with Dark Eyes 2 in or around November 2013, followed by Dark Eyes 3 and 4.
The relationship of Big Finish's productions in to the ongoing story of the television series had been unclear. Unlike, for example, Paramount Pictures, which has a rule that only live-action televised or filmed Star Trek productions are canonical, the BBC have always resisted making such an announcement regarding Doctor Who – importantly, the BBC's charter prohibits situations where television viewers must be required to purchase merchandise in order to follow the story. The Big Finish audio productions (and print spin-offs) had existed in something of a 'grey area' in terms of canon, although in the 2013 mini-episode of the TV series titled Night of the Doctor, featuring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, previous companions that have only appeared in the Big Finish Audio Adventures are mentioned by name.
Big Finish also published a series of short story anthologies taking place in the Doctor Who universe under the overall title of Short Trips. Three Short Trips collections were published by BBC Books in the late 1990s, before a hardback short story anthology license was granted to Big Finish, who took over the name and produced them until their licence to publish such stories was revoked in the spring of 2009 (Big Finish is continuing to produce audio-only Short Trips productions, however, with the first scheduled for release in the fall of 2010).
Big Finish has also produced a number of short, single-episode plays which have been released exclusively with issues of Doctor Who Magazine. To date, this has included several Doctor Who stories, as well as stories from the UNIT and Bernice Summerfield series. Most of these DWM releases have also included behind-the-scenes audio featurettes and previews of regular releases (including on occasion complete sample episodes).
On 30 July 2012, Big Finish announced that its licence to make Doctor Who audio adventures had been extended to December 2015.
Characters, actors, and villains
Along with the Doctors from the original series, most of their companions have returned. These include Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), Turlough (Mark Strickson), Peri (Nicola Bryant), Mel (Bonnie Langford), and Ace (Sophie Aldred). All the surviving actors who have played the companions of the respective Doctors in Big Finish have appeared, with the exception of Jackie Lane who played the First Doctor's companion Dodo Chaplet and Matthew Waterhouse who played the Fourth/Fifth Doctor's companion Adric, who will begin working with Big Finish in a series of 2014 Fifth Doctor plays, although Daphne Ashbrook who played the Eighth Doctor's companion Dr Grace Holloway has appeared in a different role.
The audio plays have also introduced their own companions. These include Doctor Evelyn Smythe (played by Maggie Stables), Erimem (Caroline Morris), Charley Pollard (India Fisher), Lucie Miller (Sheridan Smith), C'rizz (Conrad Westmaas), "Hex" (Philip Olivier) and Flip (Phillipa) Jackson (Lisa Greenwood). The character of Professor Bernice Summerfield, from the spin-off novels, has also appeared, and stars in her own line of audio plays, written by a number of authors including her creator Paul Cornell. Frobisher, a shape-changing alien in the preferred guise of a penguin created in the mid-1980s for the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip, has appeared in two stories, portrayed by Robert Jezek. One release also saw the audio debuts of comic strip character Izzy Sinclair, and the BBC novels' Fitz Kreiner, played by Jemima Rooper and Matt Di Angelo respectively.
Other spin-offs include the Gallifrey series (with Lalla Ward as Romana, Louise Jameson as Leela and John Leeson as K-9); the Dalek Empire series; the UNIT series; the Iris Wildthyme series starring Katy Manning; the Sarah Jane Smith series and the I, Davros series. Big Finish have also produced a series of Doctor Who plays based on alternative scenarios (for example, what if the Doctor had never left Gallifrey, or had been a woman), collectively titled Doctor Who Unbound. This has allowed them to cast other actors in the role of the Doctor, including Sir Derek Jacobi, Arabella Weir and David Warner.
A number of new villains have also been introduced, which include Nimrod, the deputy director of a United Kingdom "black ops" military research establishment known as the Forge. Thus far, Nimrod and the Forge have appeared in three Doctor Who audios, namely Project: Twilight, Project: Lazarus, and Project: Destiny, all written by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright. There were hints of the Forge's influence in the subsequent audios Cryptobiosis, written by Elliot Thorpe and The Gathering by Joseph Lidster. Project: Destiny concludes the Forge storyline for the time being. Other writers for Big Finish include Rob Shearman and The League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss, who have also written for the 2005 relaunch of the Doctor Who television series. Shearman's 2005 TV episode Dalek has been acknowledged as being based upon his Big Finish storyline Jubilee.
Former adversaries of the Doctor who have reappeared in the audio plays include the Master, the Cybermen, the Daleks and Davros (both separately and together), Omega, the Nimon, the Ice Warriors, the Autons, the Zarbi and the Silurians. The Sea Devils made an appearance in the Bernice Summerfield play Bernice Summerfield and the Poison Seas, and the Draconians have also appeared. In 2011 the Sontarans made their first appearance.
The Tomorrow People
Between 2002 and 2004, Big Finish released eighteen audio plays featuring characters from the British sci-fi comic strip anthology magazine 2000 AD. These consisted of sixteen Judge Dredd stories with two additional plays featuring characters from the Strontium Dog strip.
When initially announced, the intention was for the series to consist of stories based upon three strips with Rogue Trooper joining Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog. The first story to feature Rogue Trooper was supposed to be Nordland Calling by Gordon Rennie, but this was abandoned due to difficulties in creating the character’s unique personalities in the audio medium successfully on Big Finish’s limited budget and cast.
The Judge Dredd series drew heavily upon Big Finish’s repertory company established through their Doctor Who series with many actors crossing over such as Toby Longworth (who voiced Dredd), Clare Buckfield, Nicholas Briggs, Mark Donovan and Teresa Gallagher who voiced Chief Judge Hershey. The series would also feature many special guest stars such as The League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss playing Judge Death, Doctor Who companion actress Nicola Bryant (who would also direct 99 Code Red!) plus Blake's 7 star Stephen Greif as Efil Drago San. Writers for the series included David Bishop, Dave Stone and James Swallow.
For the Strontium Dog audio plays, Shaun of the Dead star Simon Pegg was cast in the leading role of Johnny Alpha with Longworth voicing his partner Wulf Sternhammer and Mark McDonnell taking on the role of Middenface McNulty. Despite critical acclaim, the sales of the first Strontium Dog release, Down to Earth, were disappointing and Big Finish focused almost exclusively on the better-selling Judge Dredd series. Writer Jonathan Clements would pen another Strontium Dog story for the series though with Fire from Heaven before the sixteenth play in the 2000 AD range, Pre-Emptive Revenge. This featured a crossover, with Johnny Alpha teaming up alongside Dredd in the aftermath of the Judgement Day storyline.
The final release in the 2000 AD series was a Judge Dredd play entitled Solo by Jonathan Clements, notable for star Toby Longworth voicing every single part through a combination of his own vocal dexterity and special effects.
A series of four talking books, entitled Judge Dredd: The Crime Chronicles, were released in 2009, with Longworth again performing as Dredd.
In July 2011 Big Finish obtained a licence to produce audiobooks and novels based on the BBC television series Blake's 7. On 1 February 2012 the first collection of audiobooks Blake's 7: The Liberator Chronicles was released featuring original cast members from the television series.
Earthsearch was a BBC Radio 4 radio series written by James Follett which was later adapted as a science fiction novel. However, his prequel novel Earthsearch Mindwarp was adapted by Big Finish and is being broadcast by the Digital radio station BBC 7. Earthsearch Mindwarp stars a number of actors from the Doctor Who range — India Fisher, Nicholas Courtney and Colin Baker.
Big Finish is one of the production companies behind the Games Workshop Warhammer audios. These are often voiced by Toby Longworth and contain music and SFX by Jamie Robertson, Howard Carter, Toby Hrycek-Robinson and Steve Foxon with regular direction by Lisa Bowerman.
Big Finish has released audio dramas based upon other works as well, including Sherlock Holmes, Dark Shadows, Stargate, classic dramas, and also a line of works featuring newly written plays. In 2010-11 the company also received the rights to distribute AudioGO's Doctor Who product. An animated short featuring Benny Summerfield and an animated recreation of two missing episodes from the Doctor Who story The Reign of Terror are among the company's other endeavours.
- List of Doctor Who audio plays by Big Finish
- Big Finish Short Trips
- Stargate audiobooks
- Dark Shadows audio dramas
- "BBC Cult TV". BBC. Retrieved 2013-11-23.
- "Actress in cult 'Doctor Who' show dies". The Independent. 20 April 2011.
- "Win Doctor Who Experience tickets". Cultbox. 2011.
- "Big Finish Day: The Convention". Big Finish Productions. 2011.
- "Big Finish Day 2 Approaches". Big Finish Productions. 2012.
- "UNIT: The Coup". Big Finish Productions. 2008.
- "Doctor Who News: Tom Baker to record for Big Finish? (UPDATED 18 March)". Gallifreynewsbase.blogspot.com. 2010-03-17. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
- "Podcasts". Big Finish. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
- Nicholas Briggs, "Remembering Elisabeth Sladen", Doctor Who Magazine #440, October 2011, p. 34
- "Doctor Who Licence Renewed! - News". Big Finish. 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
- [dead link]
- "Blake’s 7 New Audiobooks and Novels in 2012". Big Finish. 2012.
- "Blake’s 7 - Volume 1 Out Now!". Big Finish. 2012.
- Big Finish Productions Official website
- Big Finish Productions official Youtube channel
- Big Finish Productions at the Internet Movie Database