Today we dive into the Expanded Universe of Doctor Who with the Eighth Doctor from the Big Finish Main Range.
Welcome to the eighth instalment of Time Lord Tops (formerly WBW Tops)! Today, I want to delve into the world of Doctor Who on audio. More specifically, the Big Finish Eighth Doctor Main Range stories. Now, since the the Eighth Doctor range is so massive (and still expanding) I have yet to listen to it all. That’s why this list is exclusively for the Main Range. If your favorite doesn’t appear on this list, it’ll probably appear on another list down the line.
Now this was a clever idea. An actual alien invasion that takes place during Orson Welles 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds. Mark Gatiss tried his best, and he came out with a somewhat decent result. With this coming out as a more film noir type deal with a mystery, a dame called Glory Bee and a gangster with a partially missing nose, it’s more of a sci-fi-infused mystery film than an alien invasion story. And that subtle setup for a later story was pretty well placed. Only the most attentive listener would catch it. And Orson Welles in Doctor Who! Why has no one done this before?
This is one way to use a show about time travel well. The Doctor encounters an immortal man known as Grayle. To the Doctor, he’s just some guy, but Grayle considers the Doctor an old enemy and even boasts about killing him. As we jump from place to place and plot to plot, the mystery of Grayle’s hatred for the Doctor is slowly unraveled. It’s an effective use of time travel because it takes us to many different periods of history that all have this one connection. It’s almost like the writer took a look at The Keys of Marinus and The Chase and said “I bet I could do it better.” And the way the plot is set up with the Doctor’s initial encounter with Grayle in Singapore in 1930 was a good way to get the ball rolling. This is something the New Series writers should take notes on. This is how you use the concept of time travel effectively.
This is a great example of a story that you think will go one way, but that ends up going in a completely different direction. The TARDIS lands in suburbia where every house is the same (in more ways than one), where we have a guy who looks like he’s 20 but acts like he’s 10 1/2 and his grandmother is in every house. Soon the TARDIS is carted off by a mysterious Ice Cream Man and they need to figure out how to escape this place before they become absorbed into its reality. One thing I really liked about this one was how many times I said “oh no”. That shows I am invested in the plot. That’s the trouble with most Big Finish audios from this time. They’re long and boring. This one had me from start to finish.
This is an example of a good pure historical. The Doctor, Charley and C’rizz travel to Crystal Palace, the site of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Soon, the TARDIS crew is caught up in Victorian London life and are separated. C’rizz is kidnapped and put on display in a freak show, Charley is mistaken for a harlot, and the Doctor is caught up in a scheme to start a revolution, but ends up being mistaken for some lady’s husband. Not much sci-fi here, but I like that. Between Daleks and Cybermen, this is a nice breather before the next set of sci-fi filled adventures. Big Finish does the pure historical very well. On top of this it’s a creative idea.
By this point, the Time Lords were not as mysterious and we pretty much knew how their society worked. But this story hints that there is so much more to the Time Lords. We get a better insight to this society without giving the game away. Romana returns, which is very welcome indeed. We also get this universe of “anti-time” where… sorry, spoilers. I will say that you do need context for this story and that cliffhanger at the end of part 4 was so brilliant! Definitely give it (and some of the preceding stories) a listen.
I’ll say it right now, the idea of the Multihaven was brilliant. Several religions living in harmony in one space. How impossible does that sound? Some of the creative religions we got here were also wonderful. We have religions that worship a song, this stuff called Kabari, sleep, accidents, and so many more! Even though the story is pretty obvious for a world like this (one religion tries to convert all the other religions to theirs), I really liked this one. The combo of the Eighth Doctor, Charley and C’rizz are great and this whole idea of the TARDIS team creating their own religion to enter the Multihaven is quite funny. That’s one thing I love about the Divergent Saga. The stories can be so odd and out there. It can be great!
Another thing I really like about Big Finish is that they have the ability to do things TV stories simply can’t or don’t have the courage to do. A story set in complete and utter darkness in a solar system without a star would be impossible to do on TV. But Big Finish pulled it off so well here. Plus what happens to people in this story can be a bit scary at times. When I hear people talk about this story, they have called it “dark and unsettling”. I would very much agree with that statement. Definitely an interesting little horror story.
Returning to the Divergent Saga, we have this story starring only the Doctor and Charley, just walking in circles for the entirety of the run-time. I know it sound wildly boring, but Robert Shearman really hit it out of the park. This is a story that is meant to be experienced through sound. No sight, no touch, simply sound. I suppose that’s the point of Big Finish. It’s a sound experience. Just like Embrace the Darkness, this story is not visual and would be impossible to do on TV. It’s also a good way to bring the Doctor and Charley closer together as they soon start going crazy trying to figure out what’s going on. Seriously, give this story a listen!
Now this is what I call a mystery. Doctor Who has done mysteries before, but never with a twist like this. This story is a bit dreary and can get a bit gruesome, but I suppose that’s what all good mysteries have. And that twist! Giving it away would be a crime! What Robert Shearman did here was masterful and if I said any more about this story, I’d give the game away. To solve the mystery of the Chimes of Midnight, you have to listen to the story for yourself.
Give this to someone who has never seen a second of the Classic Series or Big Finish and just the New Series, and watch as their brains melt out their ears. Heck, even an experienced Whovian like me who has all the context going in will have their mind somewhat melted. This story is so out there and very well set up by the previous set of Eighth Doctor stories. It’s great, but it is not for everyone. I mean it’s runtime of nearly four hours can put people off. And without having any context will simply add to the confusion. Your mind will be a mushy puddle by the end of it if there’s no context. But that’s why I like it. It’s not for everyone, but I think it’s good enough for me.
I’d also like to give a shout-out to the rest of the Divergent Saga, most of which did not make my list. While I do like my Doctor Who stories to be a bit out there (like The Mind Robber), some of the Divergent stories were a bit too out there to make sense. There at least has to be a bit of method to the madness. Still, if you like odd Doctor Who stories, give them a listen.
Let me know in the comments below what you think of this list. Oh, and a special art credit should go out to Hisi79 on DeviantArt. It’s kinda tough finding Doctor Who audiobook art, so here you go.
And if you haven’t listened to any of these stories, the first 50 or so monthly range stories are available on Spotify FOR FREE!!! That’s the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors all for free! Most of the stories afterwards are available to download through Big Finish for less than $3! Seriously, there is no excuse not to have a listen.
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