I’ve recently delved into the world of Big Finish audio stories. They’re something I’ve been aware of for quite a long time now, but had been a bit afraid to jump into because I was never sure how we were supposed to process them as Doctor Who fans. Are they canon? Are they not? To be honest, until Steven Moffat basically made them canon in Night of the Doctor by having Paul McGann acknowledge the Eighth Doctor audio companions onscreen, I didn’t know what the rules were.
Some people even claimed that the Eighth Doctor himself wasn’t part of the official canon. Which to me was sacrilege. But that’s another story for another day.
Anyway, as you may have noticed by now, I seem to be unable to let myself just enjoy watching or listening to something. It all has to be part of a bigger story. Maybe it’s the writer in me, I don’t know.* Thanks to Moffat though, I felt like I had permission to accept whatever happened in the stories as canon, and that made me feel safer jumping in.
Still, I have my comfort zone, and that seemed the best place to start. Though I love the Eighth Doctor, I was slightly scared to listen to his audios for fear of not liking them and not liking him (which thankfully did not happen!!). But I thought if I was listening to well-established characters that I knew I loved dearly and I still didn’t enjoy it, I would accept that maybe the audio adventures weren’t for me and just move on with my life.
But oh, was I ever wrong.
The very first audio adventure I listened to was part of the Companion Chronicles series. The Blue Tooth read by Caroline John (a.k.a. Dr. Liz Shaw) was a fantastic story featuring Liz (obviously), the Third Doctor, the Brigadier, and the rest of the UNIT family that I so adore. And it featured the Cybermen, who just happen to be my favorite Who villains in all of time and space. The Third Doctor never met the Cybermen onscreen (no, Carnival of Monsters, absolutely does not count) and I liked having that gap filled in. It also gave Liz something resembling a proper leaving story, which I really appreciate given that she gets almost nothing in Inferno. Liz is one of my very favorite companions, and the fact that she only stayed for four stories always made me a bit sad.
Anyway, since I listened to that and loved it, I decided I needed more. I started sifting through all the options on the website (and oh wow there are so many), and to be honest, I went a bit mad. I had an order that I had wanted to listen to them in initially, but that went out the window when I remembered that, not only am I on a budget here, I also have literally no patience to buy one at a time from paycheck to paycheck. So I dove in and a grabbed some of the cheaper ones instead. I figured if nothing else, it would keep me pacified for a bit until I decided if I wanted to tackle Triumph of Sutekh or the Dark Eyes series first (after listening to the trailers of each, I was pretty much ready to throw my wallet at the screen and cry TAKE ALL THE MONIES). To say nothing of my desperate need to pre-order UNIT: Extinction.**
Fortunately, though, the original UNIT series was at a discounted price, so into the cart they went. They don’t feature the Doctor as such, but they do feature David Tennant from before he was cast as the Doctor playing a UNIT Colonel. More importantly, they feature the late Nicholas Courtney back as the Brigadier. That in itself is a reason to buy anything, as far as I’m concerned.
This morning I listened to the short introduction to the series, UNIT: The Coup. In less than thirty minutes, they take you on a pretty wild ride and create a HUGE setup for the four major stories to follow. I don’t want to spoil the plot for anyone, because really, you should listen to it. Even if you don’t want to buy the four main stories, if you’re a fan of Nicholas Courtney and are missing him as The Brig, you need to hear UNIT: The Coup. Incidentally, it just happens to be free for download on the Big Finish website.
So you have no excuse.
I’m impressed that the intro got me so interested right away. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few things in it that bugged me (there are bits where sound effects are a bit overused), but overall, I’d say I’m hooked and I’m excited to start UNIT: Time Heals tonight!
* It’s like reading a really good piece of fan fiction. You fall in love with an incredible story that makes sense of absolutely everything and feels so right for the overall story and then have to remember that–oh, yeah–none of that actually happened.
** Or as Ingrid Oliver put it… (I would totally buy that album.)