I’m reviewing Big Finish Doctor Who to help you find some great audios with your favourite Doctors and/or companions (see my audio index with ratings).*
But if you’re a starving student, even the generous $2.99 price for the first fifty Main Range audios on the BF website may not be within your budget. Or perhaps you just want a sampler?
Big Finish for Free on Soundcloud and on BigFinish.com
Some free Big Finishes are available on Soundcloud. Others you have to purchase for $0 on BigFinish.com so you can download them (meaning you have to create a login account). Some are available in both places. Most of these freebies were originally released as CD inserts with Doctor Who Magazine. They tend to be no-frills adventures of 30 to 40 minutes with a simple script, a small cast of 2-3 voice actors, and limited FX and music. I worry that they’re not representative of the high quality one can expect from Big Finish’s paid ranges. But hey, they’re free.
Big Finish Free Streaming on Spotify (as of May 2017)
Big Finish has generously offered most of its early titles on Spotify for streaming. These include the first Fifty Main Range adventures (Doctors Five through Eight) and the first seasons of many of the Big Finish spinoffs. Main Range are 4×25 minute episodes with cliffhangers in the style of classic Who TV serials. The rest are usually an hour, apart from Short Trips which are 8×15-minute short stories.
Here’s an index with links to each Big Finish Doctor Who audio on Spotify. You’ll need to register a username and password to listen, but that’s all.
Main Range 1-50 on Spotify [Complete Playlist]
These are full cast audio plays which try as closely as possible to capture the style/feel of classic who TV serials, with better writing and a bit more character development. Most Main Range are standalone. Those with arcs I’ve starred (Eight & Charley audios all follow a loose character development arc; * are the ones with essential beats for Charley’s Bigass Plot. “Project: [X]” ** audios are a multi-Doctor arc.) Bold are audios I’ve rated 8/10 or above. I’ve all of these.
- Sirens of Time – Five, Six, Seven (5/10; BF finding their feet)
- Phantasmagoria – Fifth Doctor and Turlough (7/10, fun but basic historical during time of Glorious Revolution)
- Whispers of Terror – Six, Peri (7/10, unusual monster in a futuristic library, guest star Lisa Bowerman)
- Land of the Dead – Fifth Doctor and Nyssa (6/10, eerie monsters in remote Alaska)
- The Fearmonger – Seventh Doctor, Ace (8/10, prescient story very topical in today’s political landscape, excellent but dark)
- The Marian Conspiracy – Sixth Doctor, Evelyn (9/10, Evelyn’s intro, Tudor England historical)
- The Genocide Machine – Seventh Doctor, Ace (6/10, Basic Dalek story, but BF can be better)
- Red Dawn – Fifth Doctor, Peri (6/10, first contact on Mars; guest star: Georgia Moffat!)
- The Spectre of Lanyon Moor – Six, Evelyn, BRIGADIER (8/10, something’s stirring in a Celtic barrow; quite good)
- Winter for the Adept – Fifth Doctor, Nyssa (5/10, ghost story set at posh girls’ school in Apls; guest star: India Fisher)
- The Apocalypse Element – Six, Evelyn, ROMANA (9/10, Action! Gallifrey! RTD later referenced this story as an opening salvo of the Time War)
- The Fires of Vulcan – Seventh Doctor, Mel (7/10, Decent Pompeii historical)
- The Shadow of the Scourge – Seven, Ace, Benny (7/10, I liked, but it’s grade B SF / comic book camp)
- The Holy Terror – Sixth Doctor, Frobisher (8/10, fan favorite, terrifying crackfic)
- The Mutant Phase – Fifth Doctor, Nyssa (6/10 draggy Dalek story, good 5&N character moments)
- Storm Warning* – Eight, Charley (6/10, Required listening for Charley’s arc; Guest star Gareth Thomas (Blake of Blake’s 7)!
- Sword of Orion – Eight, Charley (7/10, basic Classic Who SF with a familiar antagonist; I enjoyed it)
- Stones of Venice – Eight, Charley (6/10, Melodramatic retro-future Venice)
- Minuet in Hell – Eight, Charley, Brigadier (3/10, one of BF’s few duds; someone needs to extract the Brigadier Writes Scathing Email To His Superiors scenes from the wreckage.)
- Loups-Garoux – Fifth Doctor, Turlough (8/10, Melodramatic werewolves)
- Dust Breeding – Seventh Doctor, Ace, and a very special guest star (spoilers) – two, actually, there’s Caroline John (aka Liz Shaw). 7/10, Mastermind Seven vs. an equally clever antagonist with a lot of people caught in the crossfire.
- Bloodtide – Sixth Doctor, Evelyn (7/10, unexceptional historical with Charles Darwin made much better by this team)
- Project: Twilight** – Six, Evelyn (8/10, Powerful but very dark “black ops” story with ruthless villains.)
- The Eye of the Scorpion – Fifth Doctor, Peri, Erimem’s intro! (9/20, Rollicking adventure in ancient Egypt, lots of derring do.)
- Colditz– Seventh Doctor, Ace, Klein’s intro (7/10, guest star David Tennant. Ace in a WWII Nazi prison. Memorable and a turning point for her.)
- Primeval – Fifth Doctor, Nyssa (9/10, FINALLY a good story for them; the Doctor takes Nyssa back to Traken thousands of years before its destruction. Guest star Steven Grief (Travis in Blake’s 7.)
- The One Doctor – Sixth Doctor, Mel (8/10 with a Doctor impersonator! A fond spoof of classic Who.)
- Invaders from Mars – Eight, Charley (4/10, Riff on War of the Worlds Orson Welles broadcast; I really didn’t like the stereotypical sleazy gay villain)
- The Chimes at Midnight* (Eight, Charley) 8/10, This Christmas horror story and Spare Parts were voted the top two Big Finish audios ever.
- Seasons of Fear* (Eight, Charley) 8/10, I love this one; each episode lets them tackle the same problem in a different historical era of Earth.
- Embrace the Darkness (Eight, Charley) 7/10. Eek. Good SF horror. I like it, but it’s not quite as excellent/essential as its two predecessors for the arc.
- The Time of the Daleks* (Eight, Charley) 5/10. Not my favorite Dalek story, but there’s some important beats for their arc you probably shouldn’t skip.
- Neverland* (Eight, Charley, Romana) 10/10. Payoff/crisis point for Eight and Charley’s arc. Essential listening. I suspect this one influenced Gatiss and RTD in how the new series envisioned Gallifrey.
- Spare Parts* (Fifth Doctor, Nyssa) 10/10. Guest star Sally Knyvette (Blake’s 7). One of the top two rated Big Finishes ever, basically Genesis of the Cybermen. IF YOU LISTEN TO ONLY ONE… But it’s dark.
- …Ish. (Sixth Doctor, Peri) 9/10. I adore this one, but it’s esoteric: a murder mystery set at a university in the future.
- The Rapture (Seventh Doctor, Ace) 5/10 Bleah. Seven takes Ace to a rave; Ace sulks. Cover art and techno remix of Who theme are best part.
- The Sandman (Sixth Doctor, Evelyn) 8/10, Great worldbuilding. A whole culture living aboard a spacefaring fleet which has some unfortunate history with the Doctor.
- The Church and the Crown (Six, Peri, Erimen) 8/10 Good historical riffing on The Three Musketeers.
- Bang-Bang-a-Boom! (Seventh Doctor, Mel) 7/10 Spoof of classic Star Trek. Amusing in spots, but it’s no Galaxy Quest.
- Jubilee (Sixth Doctor, Evelyn) 9/10. RTD liked this one so much he asked Rob Shearman to rewrite/adapt it to help kickstart new Who. Dalek was the result. Very different, but you can see how the story germ (and one of the best scenes) are the same. Personally, I think this version is better, if darker.
- Nekromantia (Five, Peri, Erimem) – Listen at your own risk; only one I’ve skipped on friends’ recommendations; includes gratuitous sexual assault on companion without dealing with the fallout from it.
- The Dark Flame (Seven, Ace, Benny) 6/10. Disappointingly meh horror. Benny deserves better.
- Doctor Who and the Pirates (Sixth Doctor, Evelyn) – 8/10, fan favorite, Gilbert & Sullivan meet Pirates of the Caribbean, “Gallifreyan Buccaneer” song.
- Creatures of Beauty – (Fifth Doctor, Nyssa) 8/10 Daring experiment in storytelling, dark, but excellent. Be prepared to be confused for a while; it’s like a jigsaw puzzle with the picture gradually coming together.
- Project: Lazarus** – (Six, Seven, Evelyn.) 7/10, OUCH. Good, but more angst. Back to that black ops group doing nefarious experiments.
- Flip Flop (Seventh Doctor, Mel) 8/10 Clever timey-wimey story which works equally well if you start with CD#1 (Part I) or CD #2 (Part III).
- Omega (Fifth Doctor) – 8/10, leading up to Big Finish’s 50th release in 2003, 5 years after BF began, the Main Range Doctors each got to face off with a classic Who antagonist. All of these are excellent.
- Davros (Sixth Doctor) – 8/10, Guest star Wendy Padbury (aka Zoe Heriot, 2nd Doctor companion playing a different character)
- Master (Seventh Doctor) – 9/10, controversial but excellent story purporting to reveal the Doctor & Master’s childhood.
- Zagreus* (Eight, Charley) – 7/10, fanservice 6-part epic that some fans love, others loathe; I enjoy it but think it’s about one episode too long. Every single classic Who Doctor/companion Big Finish could get their hands on plays someone in this, not necessarily their usual role. It accidentally sets the stage for the Gallifrey political drama when Leela and Romana meet for the first time.
From here on I’ve only heard a handful, so you’re on your own. 🙂
Lost Stories Season 1 (Six and Peri) [Complete Playlist]
Lost Stories are abandoned classic Who TV scripts, stories that died in development, or stories from lost seasons that were never filmed. Big Finish revised, rewrote, improved and finished them. The first series is Colin Baker’s Revenge: the season that was lost when the show went on hiatus through no fault of his.
- The Nightmare Fair
- Mission to Magnus
- The Hollows of Time
- Paradise 5
- The Song of Megaptera
- The Macros
- The Fourth Doctor Boxset – Fourth Doctor & Leela (two stories)
Fourth Doctor Adventures Season 1 (Four and Leela)
One-hour adventures. [Complete Playlist]
- Destination Nerva
- The Renaissance Man
- The Wrath of the Iceni (i’ve heard this one; it’s a decent historical with Boudicca)
- Energy of the Daleks
- Trail of the White Worm
- The Osidon Adventure
Eighth Doctor Adventures Season 1 (Eight and Lucie “Bleedin’” Miller)
One-hour adventures. The Eighth Doctor moved from the Main Range to his own series after Charley left. [Complete Playlist]
- Blood of the Daleks pt 1
- Blood of the Daleks pt 2 – yes that IS guest star Hayley Atwell 🙂
- Horror of Glam Rock
- Immortal Beloved
- No More Lies
- Human Resources Pt. 1
- Human Resources Pt. 2
A sequence of four one-hour stories featuring the Seventh Doctor, Elizabeth Klein, Raine (a companion that would’ve come aboard after Ace had classic Who not been cancelled), and **SPOILER REDACTED** played by the brilliant Alex MacQueen. Haven’t heard it, but I’ve heard good things about it.
Unlike most Big Finish ranges, Short Trips are not full-cast radio plays. They’re mini audiobooks, nowadays half an hour, but these anthologies are eight 15-minute short stories read by a single narrator, usually a companion or (for Five and Six) the Doctor himself. I love listening to these while doing chores. Vol I has several of my favorites including Colin Baker’s very own delightful fanfic “Wings of a Butterfly.”
The Companion Chronicles Season 2 [Complete Playlist]
One-hour adventures. Early on, Big Finish hit upon CCs as a way to tell stories with Doctors who are no longer with us, recollected by their surviving companions. They’re fan favorites because they tend to show the Doctor and the adventure through each companion’s eyes. I’ve heard 2 & 4 and enjoyed them; from what I’ve heard the other two are even better.
- Mother Russia – Steven (First Doctor, Dodo)
- The Catalyst – Leela (Fourth Doctor) 7/10
- Helicon Prime – Jamie (Second Doctor)
- Old Soldiers – Brigadier (Third Doctor) 7/10
Destiny of the Doctor – 50th anniversary special [Complete Playlist]
One-hour adventures, essentially Companion Chronicles for every Doctor as of 2013, narrated by a companion from that Doctor’s run. (Except Nine, unfortunately; it’s narrated by a monster from that era instead. 😉 ) Smoke and Mirrors was good, representative of its TARDIS team; I expect the others are too.
- Hunters of Earth – First Doctor, Susan (Carole Ann Ford)
- Shadow of Death – Second Doctor, Jamie (Frazer Hines)
- Vengeance of the Stones – Third Doctor, Mike Yates (Richard Franklin)
- Babblesphere – Fourth Doctor, Romana II (Lalla Ward)
- Smoke and Mirrors – 8/10, Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa, Adric (Janet Fielding)
- Trouble in Paradise – Sixth Doctor, Peri (Nicola Bryant)
- Shockwave – Seventh Doctor, Ace (Sophie Aldred)
- Enemy Aliens – Eighth Doctor, Charley (India Fisher)
- Night of the Whisper – Ninth Doctor, Rose, Jack (Nicholas Briggs)
- Death’s Deal – Tenth Doctor, Donna (Catherine Tate)
- The Time Machine – Eleventh Doctor, Clara (Jenna Coleman)
Doctor Who – The Stageplays [Complete Playlist]
Big Finish adapted/redramatized a few classic Who stories that made it to the stage over the years. I have no idea how good these are but assume Big Finish wouldn’t showcase them on Spotify if they weren’t good advertisements.
- The Ultimate Adventure – 1980s stageplay, Sixth Doctor
- Seven Keys to Doomsday – 1970s stageplay, an AU Doctor
- The Curse of the Daleks – 1960s stageplay with no Doctor at all, starring Michael Praed?!!! (Whatever happened to him anyway?) and of course, Nicholas Briggs, the voice of the Daleks on TV and audio.
Dalek Empire, Nicholas Briggs’ baby, is one of Big Finish’s earliest spinoffs, and it is… epic, gripping, and heartbreaking. It asks the chilling question: what if the Daleks strike when the Doctor is not around to stop them (since this took place after Zagreus, and he wasn’t around for a while?)
It turned Daleks from an annoying and somewhat silly Who monster I disliked to a terrifying force one truly believes are the most dangerous monsters in the universe. But the humans/humanoids in this story are what make it truly powerful. The memorable Gareth Thomas (Blake of Blake’s 7) plays Kalendorf, but Sarah Mowat as Susan Mendez is the real star. (David Tennant also starred in series 3 before being cast as the Doctor.)
- Invasion of the Daleks
- The Human Factor
- Death to the Daleks!
- Project Infinity
- Dalek War 1
- Dalek War 2
- Dalek War 3
- Dalek War 4
Writers of Doctor Who like Rob Shearman and Paul Cornell refused to write the second season because they wanted to enjoy it as fans. I’m sure RTD had these Daleks in mind when he envisioned the Time War. I can’t recommend it enough
35 years ago, my Mom said the guest characters Jago & Litefoot in The Talons of Weng-Chiang were so good they should have their own spinoff. Tragically, she was right, but she’s forgotten all about them, and I can’t get her to listen. Don’t make the same mistake. They’re brilliant: Victorian paranormal investigators, old friends of the Doctor.
Professor Bernice (Benny) Summerfield is the smart, cynical 26th-century archaeologist-cum-Lara-Croft who really, really needs a drink. Her sometime nemesis Braxiatel may be the Doctor’s own brother. I’ve only caught a few Bennys, but Lisa Bowerman has played her for 20 years— in fact, Big Finish won the license to product audio Who thanks to the calibre of the early Benny range.
I’m going to be lazy and not copy all of them here because I think that playlist has all of them on Spotify: Five seasons, 3 stories per season.
I grew up watching Katy Manning as Jo Grant, the Third Doctor’s companion, but in her old age Katy is having an absolute ball playing Time Lady (?) Iris Wildthyme, rocketing around the universe driving her double-decker bus TARDIS and getting into almost as much trouble as she causes. Retired movie star, fashion icon and alcohol connoisseur, Iris is another amazing personality in the Who Expanded Universe.
Terry Molloy returns as Davros, fleshing him out into a 3-dimensional villain who reminds me far too much of some current leaders. Except he’s diabolically smarter.
The Tracers of the Key to Time have been personified into a good an evil twin. These are spinoff characters from the Main Range Key to Time trilogy.
Okay, this one I know nothing about.
*Maybe if I post enough reviews on this website, it’ll start paying for my Big Finish habit. Someday.