A guide to the first 75 Doctor Who audio releases, as well as a host of other delights from Big Finish…
A few years ago, Benjamin Cook, in the days before he was interviewer-in-chief for the revived Doctor Who series, penned a book for Big Finish. The Inside Story was exhaustive in detail, but, shall we say, a little informal in tone, with rather a large amount of dirty laundry being aired in public (I’ve never listened to Real Time the same way again, certainly!)
A lot of people, myself included, have asked about a follow-up over the years, and while there have been unofficial guides in print and online, there’s not been the official version from Big Finish themselves – until now. We’ve had a great guide to Bernice Summerfield’s adventures, but nothing relating to the main range.
While obviously Richard Dinnick’s new book covers some of the same ground as The Inside Stories, at least as far as the first 50 Who adventures and the Benny stories, the approach taken is markedly different. There’s more of an emphasis on the guidebook than the history element – with new synopses for each tale, hopefully definitive placements, and some trivia and production details, as well as character profiles for new companions Evelyn Smythe, Charlotte Pollard, Erimem, C’Rizz, and Hex.
But that’s not all. Also included are guides to a load of other Big Finish releases, whose choice does appear a little arbitrary. The Specials, the first three seasons of The Companion Chronicles, the first year of Lost Stories, the first two seasons of The Eighth Doctor Adventures, complete with profile of Lucie, the Stage Plays, the Excelis saga, the first four series of Benny (including her Excelis appearance), the entire Dalek Empire story, the Big Finish Sarah Jane Smith stories (making up for their total omission in Lis Sladen’s autobiography!), the first season of Jago & Litefoot, I, Davros, Sapphire & Steel, Highlander, Sherlock Holmes year 1 and Robin Hood… It’s an eclectic mix, which leaves some interesting areas for volume two (Iris, UNIT, The Tomorrow People and Stargate among them).
Having written similar guide books for various shows in the past, I know from experience that these sorts of books are like piecing together a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, and have to serve two distinct audiences – the reader who will go through from start to finish, and the listener who just wants their memory jogged about a specific story. Dinnick fulfils the brief very well, gaining some insights from writers, actors and producers that haven’t seen print before, and keeping it all entertaining. The only downside is the poor proofing that afflicts some sections of the book – hopefully if the book gets a second edition, these can be rectified, and the second volume will be checked a little more closely before it goes to print.
Verdict: It’s a pricey book, but if you’re a Big Finish fan, you really won’t want to be without it. 8/10