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Big Finish Productions is a Britishmarker company that produces books and audio play (released straight to compact disc and for download in mp3 format) based on British cult science fiction properties. They are best known for their Doctor Who line; other properties include 2000 AD characters Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog; Dark Shadows; The Tomorrow People; Sapphire & Steel; The Adventures of Luther Arkwright; Stargate; Robin Hood and Highlander.

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.

History and organisation

Many of those initially involved in Big Finish had worked on the Audio Visuals fan series of unlicensed Doctor Who audio plays.

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 and Doctor Who - The Lost Stories (2010).

Downloads

In February 2008, Big Finish launched a new download service through their website. They are providing their 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.

Doctor Who

The Doctor Who audio plays feature four of the surviving lead actors to play the character of the Doctor (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 other surviving Doctors, Tom Baker has declined invitations to return to the role, and Big Finish's licence, which has been extended to 31 December 2011, 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. However, for instance, Big Finish are no longer allowed to use the character of Davros following his return to the series in 2008. Prior to the character being featured in the new series he had been used in several plays, portrayed by Terry Molloy.

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.

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 is scheduled for 2009. The episodes will initially be released for sale as downloadable 30 minute weekly installments, and released on CD later in the year. There are no plans for these episodes to be broadcast on BBC 7.

The relationship of Big Finish's productions in to the ongoing story of the television series is unclear, despite some of them now being broadcast by the BBC. 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) therefore exist in something of a 'grey area' in terms of canon. The fact that a couple of them have been (partially) adapted into new stories as episodes for the ongoing TV series further muddies the waters.

Big Finish also publishes 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 have produced them ever since.

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).

Characters, actors, and villains

Along with the Doctors from the original series, most of their companions have returned. These include Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), Turlough (Mark Strickson), Peri (Nicola Bryant), Mel (Bonnie Langford), and Ace (Sophie Aldred). With Janet Fielding's reprisal of her role as Tegan Jovanka for one play, The Gathering, all the surviving actors who have played the companions of the respective Doctors to appear in Big Finish have appeared, with (until recently) the exception of Matthew Waterhouse who played Adric.

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), C'rizz (Conrad Westmaas), "Hex" (Philip Olivier) and Amy (Ciara Janson). 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.

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 Kingdommarker "black ops" military research establishment known as the Forge. Thus far, Nimrod and the Forge have appeared in two Doctor Who audios, namely Project: Twilight and Project: Lazarus, both 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.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.

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 Devil made an appearance in the Bernice Summerfield play Bernice Summerfield and the Poison Seas, and the Draconians have also appeared.

The Tomorrow People

Big Finish also produced Tomorrow People audios until their licence was not renewed. Big Finish hope to release more Tomorrow People audios in the future.

2000 AD

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 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 talking books, entitled Judge Dredd: The Crime Chronicles, are planned for release later this year, with Toby Longworth again playing Dredd.

Earthsearch

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.

See also



References



External links




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