Big Finish Productions is a British audio production company founded in 1996. Since 1999, it has produced audio dramas and prose stories related to Doctor Who.
Big Finish began in late 1998 with audio adaptations of novels featuring the Seventh Doctor's former companion Bernice Summerfield. It subsequently was licensed to produce authorised Doctor Who audio plays. Later, the company branched out into prose publishing, producing a long-running series of novels and short story anthologies featuring Summerfield, followed by its acquisition of the Short Trips line of Doctor Who-related short stories, previously published by BBC Books.
Currently, Big Finish produces a series of monthly Doctor Who dramas in a four thirty-minute episode format, similar to the format of the classic TV serials. These stories feature the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Doctors. In 2007, a separate monthly series of one-hour Eighth Doctor adventures was created, though the Eighth Doctor continues to appear occasionally in the main Doctor Who range.
In March 2010, Tom Baker made a surprise posting on his website indicating he was in discussions with Big Finish about recording audio dramas for the company, reprising the role of the Fourth Doctor. Big Finish followed this, confirming they were in talks, but nothing was agreed as yet. Nicholas Briggs posted "Tom and I have been communicating about possible projects for some time. There is really no firm news other than that, but we are both keen to make something happen. ELisabeth Sladen, Louise Jameson and Nicholas Courtney had also expressed an interest in being involved, but no storylines have been written or approved yet and we don't anticipate anything being available before 2011." On 16 March 2011, Big Finish confirmed Tom Baker would be portraying the Fourth Doctor in both the monthly series and the Lost Stories beginning in 2012. Unfortunately, by that time Sladen and Courtney were deceased; Baker was able to record a season of stories with Mary Tamm before her death in 2012, and has primarily been paired with Jameson. As of the start of 2014, Big Finish has been successful in recruiting every surviving classic-era companion actor to reprise their original roles save one: Jackie Lane, as Matthew Waterhouse has since reprised his role. In addition, both companion actors from the 1996 TV movie (Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso), and several revival-era companion actors (Bernard Cribbins, Noel Clarke and Arthur Darvill) have also recorded for the company, but as different characters as the company generally does not have the rights to the movie or revival-era companions.
Connections with the current TV seriesEdit
The licensing contract Big Finish holds with the BBC allows the company to produce material from the "classic" era , which gives them the rights to use the first eight incarnations of the Doctor and their companions. However, their agreement restricts the use of any intellectual property from the "revival" era series. Big Finish does not at present have the rights to produce any audio stories based upon the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh nor Twelfth Doctors nor related characters, even if they are no longer featured in the TV series, as BBC Audio holds those rights. Because they were ideas conceived as part of the relaunched series, the Time War and the War Doctor currently cannot be included in any of Big Finish's Doctor Who audio stories for the same reason. However, minor, oblique references have occasionally been made to the Time War. Big Finish also currently does not hold the rights to any characters created for the 1996 TV movie, except for the Eighth Doctor.
Several Big Finish personnel and performers, among them David Tennant, Georgia Moffett, Anthony Stewart Head, Nicholas Briggs, Gareth Roberts, Gary Russell, Mark Gatiss, Paul Cornell, Matt Jones and Robert Shearman, have gone to do work for Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood. Shearman's Dalek was directly based on his audio Jubilee.
Many, such as Briggs, were involved in the production of unlicenced audio productions (such as Audio Visuals), as well as non-Who audio and video productions such as The Stranger. Briggs currently serves as producer for the Big Finish line of Doctor Who audio adventures, concurrent with his ongoing voice-over work on the BBC TV series.
A number of actors from the BBC Wales TV series have worked with Big Finish after becoming known on TV, but playing characters other than their TV roles. Examples include Arthur Darvill and Noel Clarke.
In late 2012, Big Finish announced that it was partnering with AudioGO to produce a series of 11 audio dramas in 2013 to mark the 50th anniversary of the franchise, a series entitled Destiny of the Doctors. These are Big Finish's first productions involving the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, however it is not known whether this indicates a widening of the company's licence or (more likely) a one-off. It featured actors from the New Series including Catherine Tate and Jenna Coleman as readers, and the Eleventh Doctor cameoed in each story. Due to AudioGo going into administration, the final release and accompanying boxset, The Time Machine (featuring the Eleventh Doctor) was released solely by Big Finish, and the cover acknowledges this.
In recent years, the BBC has shown a leniency in terms of the license. A number of stories have contained allusions to the Time War, most notably Dark Eyes and Gallifrey VI. For Gallifrey VI, released in October 2013, Big Finish were granted special permission to use the New Series Daleks on the packaging who, in the first story, attempted an invasion of an alternate Gallifrey. The 'origin' story The Beginning, released in the same year, was altered before release to depict the TARDIS capsule seen in TV: The Name of the Doctor and to reference Clara Oswald. Additionally, Big Finish depicted a future Doctor's TARDIS on the cover to UNIT: Dominion with the exterior of the Eleventh Doctor's. However, many references are able to get around licensing restrictions through vague references and implicature; the story The Kingmaker mentions a "northern chap with big ears"; the story City of Spires references the "assembled hordes of Ghengis Khan" (DW: Rose), whilst more recent stories like [Luna Romana]] have shown an escalation in conflict on Gallifrey.
Big Finish produced the monthly The Companion Chronicles from 2007 to 2014, a series of hour-long stories narrated by former companions of the Doctor. The story's Companion narrates the adventure, relating the events to the listener in-character, while one other major role in the story is performed by another actor.
The Companion Chronicles have allowed Big Finish to feature stories involving the first four Doctors, despite their original actors being unavailable. As a result, all eight "classic series" Doctors have now been represented in some way in Big Finish productions. Later releases featured stories from the perspective of a companion of the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors. Companions such as Sara Kingdom and Liz Shaw, who did not get much screentime in the show, were able to be given much vaster catalogues of stories, featuring the voice of the original actor. With the introduction of Tom Baker into Big Finish's cast, the last few series moved away from using the 4th-8th Doctors and instead focused in on solely the 1st-3rd Doctors.
The series has also introduced spin-off characters, including U.N.I.T. members Matheson and Sato, portrayed by TV Movie actors Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso, and The Mahogany Murderers, reuniting detectives Jago and Litefoot from The Talons of Weng-Chiang, became a backdoor pilot for the spin-off series.
Apart from stories featuring the Doctor, Big Finish produces related spin-offs based on characters and situations from the Doctor Who Universe.
• Charlotte Pollard - The further adventures of Charlotte Pollard.
• Doctor Who Unbound – Parallel universe stories in which fundamental concepts of the Doctor Who universe have been altered in various ways.
• Graceless – The further adventures of Abby and Zara.
• Sarah Jane Smith – The further adventures of Sarah Jane Smith.