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It’s the end of another year, which means it’s time to look back at some of the best Big Finish audios released over the last twelve months. In these strange times, Big Finish has been such a comfort, both to me, and for so many other people all around the world. Not only have their stories provided a welcome distraction from the day-to-day dreariness that 2020 has brought, but their commitment and ingenuity in continuing to make these amazing audios, even in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, is absolutely inspiring.
Under these circumstances, everything Big Finish has made this year has been an absolute triumph, but, as always, there are some releases that have shone just that bit brighter than all the rest. So, without further ado, here are my ten favourite releases from Big Finish this year:
(You can check out the full reviews of each release by clicking the title)
Strongly plotted and with great characterisation, there’s very little to complain about in Plight of the Pimpernel. Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant put in some of their strongest performances as the Doctor and Peri, while the script’s complex ideas about morality and incredible sense of fun strike the perfect balance. Highly recommended.
The Tenth Doctor and River Song is one of the best boxsets that Big Finish have released this year. With strong direction from Nicholas Briggs and truly fantastic central performances from the two leads, you’d never know this set was recorded remotely during lockdown: it works so well! Each story is strong in its own right, but the collection as a whole is definitely far more than just the sum of its parts. It’s just so exciting to hear David Tennant and Alex Kingston play off against one another after all these years, and I really hope we hear more from this pairing soon. Highly recommended.
8. Susan’s War
Susan’s War is a very impressive release, effortlessly advancing the story of the titular character (Carole Ann Ford) in new and exciting ways, and plunging the listener once again into the excitement of the Time War. While the first half of the boxset is undeniably far stronger than the second half, each of the stories is equally as creative and exciting, making for a listen that is constantly satisfying. Sensorites, Daleks, Ogrons, and the return of Ian Chesterton (William Russell): what more could you want?!
Freema Agyeman returned to the role of Martha Jones for the first time in February with Torchwood: Dissected by Tim Foley. She steps back into Marth’s shoes as if no time has passed, effortlessly bringing back the smart, resourceful companion we know and love while putting a new spin on things. The Martha we meet here is a little more tired and jaded than the energetic character we saw on screen: an excellent new direction in which to push her. Here’s hoping we see some more of Martha in 2021!
The Eighth Doctor and Bliss’s Time War exploits continue in this fourth volume, which is undeniably one of the best of the bunch. The two-part opening story, Palindrome by John Dorney, has seen nearly universal acclaim in the way it reintroduces Davros (Terry Molloy) to the fray, while Dreadshade and Restoration of the Daleks by Lisa McMullin and Matt Fitton respectively are also very strong, introducing more key players to the Time War and giving tantalising hints for where the range will go next.. And what a cliffhanger!
It’s writer Chris Chapman‘s second entry on the list, with the another very strong Doctor Who Monthly Adventures release. With mature storytelling, fantastic performances from all involved, truly brilliant music and sound design from Lee Adams and some wonderful cover art from Tom Newsom, there’s very little in this release that isn’t perfect.
4. The Lives of Captain Jack: Volume Three
For some reason I never published my review of this boxset, which is strange, because I absolutely loved it! From the Jackie Tyler-centric Crush and the epic, touching Mighty and Despair to the crossover of the century between Captain Jack and River Song in R&J, this is an almost-flawless release with lots to enjoy. When I find time, I’ll definitely write a full review, because I definitely have a lot to say about this delightful collection of stories.
Ever since his debut in 2016’s Ghost Mission, Norton Folgate (Samuel Barnett) has been a fan-favourite character… and now he’s got his own series! Torchwood Soho: Parasite follows Folgate as he and his very own Torchwood team investigate strange goings-on in 1950s London, coming across strange Nazi packages, a pub that lies outside of time and Cardiff’s very own Sergeant Andy Davidson (Tom Price). It’s a fun, gripping boxset and a nice change of pace and tone for the Torchwood series, with its half-hour episodes and pulpy atmosphere. Strong stuff that leaves me wanting more Torchwood Soho adventures.
With powerful development for all four lead characters, compellingly written and performed guest characters and a creative return for the Slitheen, Thin Time/Madquake is the standout release in this year’s Doctor Who: Monthly Adventures range. Dan Abnett and Guy Adams provide two vastly different but equally entertaining scripts that leave me incredibly excited to see where the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Marc will go next.
Taking the Eighth Doctor and his companions in a very exciting new direction, the first instalment in the Stranded series is undeniably my favourite release of this year. A joint effort from Matt Fitton, John Dorney, Lisa McMullin and David K. Barnes, this boxset is a masterclass in storytelling, effortlessly combining gritty, earthbound drama with the exciting adventure we’ve come to expect from Doctor Who.
It also introduces some great new talent to the Doctor Who universe, the most notable being Rebecca Root, who plays new companion Tania. Her storyline with Liv (Nicola Walker) is one of the best things Big Finish have ever put out, culminating in a beautifully written-and-performed scene where Tania reveals that she’s transgender. Root and Walker put in such heartfelt and honest performances that this is definitely the standout scene not only of this entire boxset, but of all of Big Finish’s output in 2020. Truly fantastic stuff.
So that’s it: my top 10 releases of 2020. A big thank you to everyone at Big Finish for brightening my year with these amazing stories, and for working to make sure that even a worldwide pandemic wouldn’t put a stop to your plans. Here’s hoping that 2021 is full of just as many brilliant stories!
Stay tuned to Who Review in 2021 too, for lots more Big Finish reviews next year, along with plenty of other exciting surprises.