The Digital Fix End Of Year Big Finish Review
2020 has been another strong year for Big Finish, delivering a huge wealth of Doctor Who, related spin-off and original content. Facing the challenges of the global Covid-19 pandemic and working around lockdowns, the Big Finish team have still managed to record and deliver some huge stories for its fans, so it's only right we celebrate that.
At The Digital Fix, we are huge fans of Big Finish's content (check out our Big Finish page here). We've been provided regular reviews and associated content for a few years now, and we've decided what better way to celebrate that than a good sold-fashioned end of year review, celebrating the best of what Big Finish has to offer.
I've assembled our team of The Digital Fix reviewers to discuss 2020's content; joining me are my son (and co-reviewer) Ben Greenland, Lachlan Haycock and Ben Taylor.
Allow us to present The Digital Fix End Of Year Big Finish Review...
Best Big Finish News-related Item
Big Finish contributes to Time Lord Victorious (Baz Greenland)
While not strictly a Big Finish project - the BBC Studios-led initiative crosses multiple platforms - the audio streaming site has been a big player in this year's 'festival of Doctor Who', delivering stories of the Eighth and Four Doctors and Two Masters, with the Eighth and Tenth multi-Doctor story Echoes Of Extinction to follow next February. Time Lord Victorious is a celebration of Doctor Who and no one quite celebrates Doctor Who like Big Finish.
Check out our interview with Time Lord Victorious producer and Big Finish writer / director James Goss here.
Rory gets The Lone Centurion spin-off (Ben Greenland)
While not the most obvious choice for most exciting announcement of the year, something about this truly lit a spark within me. As a huge Matt Smith-era fan, it's just so pleasing to see it get more recognition, and with Rory definitely being the more underrated and side-lined characters during this TV run, I firmly hope we will be able to delve deeper into why he is such a brilliant character.
Check out the big announcement here.
The Ninth Doctor returns (Lachlan Haycock and Ben Taylor)
Long considered unlikely but now an exciting reality, the return of Christopher Eccleston to Doctor Who promises not only further adventures for the short-lived Ninth Doctor, but also the chance for Eccleston to revisit a role with renewed enthusiasm and to the widespread delight of fans. (Lachlan)
The hopes and dreams of legions of fans were answered when it was announced that the man who resurrected the Doctor back in 2005, Christopher Eccleston, would do so again for a range of Ninth Doctor audio adventures. It’s testament to their prestige and respect that Big Finish, the scrappy little start-up, could entice even the most stalwart ex-Doctor - my Doctor, since you’re asking - to don the leather jacket again. 2021 can’t come soon enough. (Ben)
Check out the big announcement here.
Best Monthly Doctor Who Single Release
Genetics of the Daleks (Baz Greenland)
Time Lord Victorious saved one of their best stories to the end of 2020, as Tom Baker entered the saga. Trapped on a doomed sleeper vessel with a criminal organisation replacing members of the crew and a lone rescued Dalek out to recreate the master race, Genetics of the Daleks had shades of Dalek meets The Ark in Space in a tense, action-packed horror drama with Baker stealing every scene.
Read our review of of Genetics of the Daleks here.
Regeneration Impossible (Ben Greenland)
There was something just so irresistible about this. My two favourite Doctors meeting in a fun Moffat-esque story just allows for thirty minutes of unbridled enthusiasm and love for these incarnations. Coupled with all the references and timey-wimey plot ideas thrown in makes for a short but sweet joyride.
Read our review of Regeneration Impossible here.
The Lovecraft Invasion (Lachlan Haycock)
The Lovecraft Invasion takes an excoriating view of xenophobic science fiction author HP Lovecraft. The Sixth Doctor’s refusal to back down from the writer’s unacceptable beliefs – and the wider systemic issues of which those values are a part – provides a timely reminder of the need for change.
Read our review of The Lovecraft Invasion here.
Out of Time 1 (Ben Taylor)
Big Finish brought out the big guns for this team-up adventure: a romp which unites Tom Baker, David Tennant and the Daleks. Four and Ten are tasked with saving the Cathedral of Contemplation, an interstellar gateway, and repelling their oldest foe while trading quips. It’s a heap of fun to hear the Tenth Doctor’s swagger intensify, as he realises he knows something his past self doesn’t: a tight script from Big Finish powerhouse Matt Fitton defines their dynamic instantly.
Read our review of Out of Time 1 here.
Best Doctor Who Box Set
The Fourth Doctor Adventures Series 9 Vol 2 (Baz Greenland)
It was a difficult choices between this set and Time War 4, but the second boxset of The Fourth Doctor Adventures series nine represented some of the best Fourth Doctor Big Finish stories in years. From the gothic horror of Planet of the Witches to the galactic wars of The Quest of the Engineer, this set delivered possibly the best Adric, Romana and Fourth Doctor tales of all time - including the televised E-Space trilogy on which series nine drew inspiration.
Read our review of The Fourth Doctor Adventures Series 9 Vol 2 here.
The Time War Volume 4 (Ben Greenland and Lachlan Haycock)
While I haven't necessarily been the biggest fan of these sets, volume 4 manages to end the series on a truly strong note with a bonkers timey-wimey opener which most certainly is the best Eighth Doctor story of the year and a finale that upholds the breath-taking standards of the concept of a Time War. (Ben)
The fourth instalment in the Time War range captures the vast scale and time-twisting nature of the war with aplomb. The writing is tight and exciting, the characters evocative, and the set ends on a note that propels the next instalment in a new and very interesting direction. (Lachlan)
Read our review of The Time War Volume 4 here.
Stranded 1 (Ben Taylor)
Pacing the floor of your tiny flat, losing track of time, and feeling as though life has been put on hold? Stranded revealed that it happens to Time Lords too, as Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor was marooned in London in 2020 without a working TARDIS. There was a different rhythm to these stories of boredom, desperation and the necessity of human connection - but they resonated deeply with many listeners during a very unusual year.
Read our review of Stranded 1 here.
Best Doctor Who Spin-Off
Missy Series 2 (Baz Greenland)
Is there anything more entertaining than Michelle Gomez's playful, psychotic, fourth wall-breaking, whirlwind of a character Missy? From a face off against Gina McKee's 'good Missy' to the violent rivalry with Rufus Hound's Meddling Monk, this was surely the most entertaining Big Finish box set of 2020. We all needed some laughs this year, and Missy Series 2 delivered that in spades.
Read our review of Missy Series 2 here.
The Lives of Captain Jack Volume 3 (Ben Greenland)
While the first story, Crush, wasn't too fun, the bulk of this set is phenomenal. River and Jack finally meeting was way overdue and made for the most bonkers and fan service-y story of the year, but Mighty and Despair is the surprising winner of my favourite Big Finish story of 2020 being a beautiful, contained character piece that almost brought a tear to my eye.
Read our review of The Lives of Captain Jack Volume 3 here.
The War Master Volume 5: Hearts of Darkness (Lachlan Haycock)
Hearts of Darkness pits Derek Jacobi’s War Master against Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor in an expansive four-part epic. Combine an absorbing central performance with a great plot twist and brilliantly executed concepts, and you get the latest release in one of the very best Big Finish ranges.
Read our review of The War Master Volume 5: Hearts of Darkness here.
Susan's War (Ben Taylor)
Hear me out - this box set attracted some disbelief from fans, after it was announced that Carole Ann Ford herself would be heading into the Time War as the Doctor’s most enigmatic companion, Susan. Surely this was a crossover too far? But a combination of smart writing, tasteful world-building and genuine pathos made this an unmissable chapter in the Big Finish Doctor Who universe.
Read our review of Susan's War here.
Best Torchwood Release
Tropical Beach Sounds and Other Relaxing Seascapes #4 (Baz Greenland)
I was all set to list Martha Jones' return in Torchwood: Dissected, but you can't deny the charm of the Michael Palin-narrated Tropical Beach Sounds and Other Relaxing Seascapes #4. Tim Foley's script twists a self-help tape into a choose your own adventure style romp into the heart of the Torchwood hub. Witting. violent and very funny, this was something rather unique.
Read our review of Tropical Beach Sounds and Other Relaxing Seascapes #4 here.
Torchwood Soho – Parasite (Lachlan Haycock)
Norton Folgate and Sergeant Andy Davidson team up to foil an alien invasion plot – and survive the grunge and filth of 1950s Soho – across six pacey and atmospheric half-hour episodes. It’s fun, raucous and carried along by the sparkling rapport between Samuel Barnett and Tom Price.
Read our review of Torchwood Soho – Parasite here.
Talking for Torchwood, check out our interview with James Goss about his love of the show and role as Big Finish writer and producer here.
Best Non-Doctor Who Related Release
Space Precinct: Demeter City (Baz Greenland)
Big Finish has brought some of Jerry Anderson's classic series to life; while 90's sci-fi cop drama Space Precinct wasn't exactly the cream of the crop, it was a fun kids show with some wonderfully bizarre alien murder cases. Demeter City, narrated by original cast member Richard James, served up a prequel to Patrick Brogan's stint at Space Precinct; hearing that classic theme tune was sure to put a smile on your face.
Timeslip (Lachlan Haycock)
The Age of the Death Lottery and The War That Never Was are two superb six-part serials with rich and speculative writing, plots twists that keep tension and excitement high, and characters who bring to life on audio the well-respected cult television property Timeslip for a modern audience.
Read our review of Timeslip Volumes 1 and 2 here.
Dracula’s War (Ben Taylor)
Writer Jonathan Barnes concluded his Dracula trilogy with this, an outlandish work of fan fiction which dropped Mark Gatiss’ debonair Dracula into the latter years of the Great War. Dracula’s War took liberties with Bram Stoker’s novel, but demonstrated a canny understanding of the characters and themes which have made it immortal. A macabre treat for long winter nights.
And that wraps up our End of Year Big Finish Review. What are your favourite releases? Let us know in the comments below...