I don’t know if you heard, but the ENTIRE DOCTOR WHO UNIVERSE RECENTLY EXPLODED! Big Finish Audio announced that they were releasing new radio plays that continue to wed the audio universe to the proper television one. Post-2005 monsters will start making their appearances in classic Doctor stories, such as the Fifth Doctor taking on the Weeping Angels (Don’t ask me how that works on the radio). Also, Ian McNeice will reprise the role of Winston Churchill in a series where he recounts World War II encounters with the Ninth Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors. Captain Jack Harkness is entering the audio plays with a new Torchwood series, as is Kate Stewart with a UNIT series. Best of all, River Song is going to be teaming up with the Eighth Doctor in his next adventure.
The reason that I’m so excited about this beyond it just being amazing is that the Big Finish Audio stories are basically the gateway to uniting everything cool that has ever happened off-screen in Doctor Who. Unlike, say, Star Wars, which had to blow up its expanded universe to continue, Doctor Who has managed to reconcile everything through audio plays like “Zagreus”. Since the television show proper is slowly but surely making its way to Big Finish, it’s reasonable that maybe Big Finish and the novels, comics and radio plays it represents might start exporting back onto the show. Which would be wonderful because there are some great companions that exist only in those mediums we might finally get to see come to full life. Companions like…
Frobisher is a shapeshifting alien companion that started out working with the Sixth and Seventh Doctors in the comics of Doctor Who Magazine. Though he can appear in many guises his preferred appearance is that of a talking penguin. He’s a detective, among other things, though not necessarily an entirely ethical one. Nevertheless he’s one of the Doctor’s longest running companions off-screen and was even a major hero in the recent Prisoners of Time comic arc. A regular CGI character is probably out of Doctor Who’s budget, but surely they could spare an episode or two that reunites Frobisher with his old friend. Anyone that says they don’t want to see Peter Capaldi argue with a penguin is clearly dead inside.
Before Torchwood, Bernice Summerfield was THE spin-off Doctor Who success story. She was introduced in the novels that followed the cancellation of the series in 1989, and was a prominent fixture of the books traveling with the Seventh Doctor. From there the daring archeologist has appeared numerous times in books, comics and her own excellent series of audio plays voiced by Lisa Bowerman. She even had a mini-animated film that was part of a BBC webcast, which is pretty damned close to being in the series itself. Summerfield more or less served as the template for River Song, and has battled Daleks and Cybermen in her own right on numerous occasions. The television canon is poorer for her continued exclusion, not to mention that of Bowerman. She’s still in perfect shape to rock Summerfield’s usual catsuit, and is a gifted script writer in her own accord. The show could do with her shaking things up.
Probably no one classic companion is more noticeably absent than that of Romana. The Time Lady stepped out of the Tardis years ago, but later went on to serve as president of Gallifrey. Like The Doctor, she can regenerate so there’s no particular reason why we can’t see her again, and the fact that she didn’t appear in either “The End of Time” or “The Day of The Doctor” is a little odd. The first Romana, Mary Tamm, is no longer with us, though the second, Lalla Ward, still portrays the character in Big Finish. However, they’ve also created a new Romana who goes by the nickname Trey. This Romana is played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Juliet Landau, and Landau is the perfect person to reintroduce a new audience to the formidable Time Lady.
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I don’t think that I’m exaggerating when I say that Big Finish’s greatest success story in creating its own memorable character is Charley Pollard. A companion of the Eighth and Sixth Doctors, she recently struck out on her own for a new series. The Edwardian adventuress has traveled across the universe and even into a timeless dimension with The Doctor during his exile, and there are few companions that can match her in sense, bravery and the ability to keep up with the Time Lord. India Fisher remains very active in creating new content for Doctor Who, and the idea of her and Bernice Summerfield teaming up with Twelve honestly gives me goosebumps.
Daak was a thug and a mercenary who chose to hunt Daleks for a living to escape execution. Hunt them he did at the side of the Seventh Doctor. Think of Daak as Eleven’s companion John Riddell combined with Conan while wielding a chainsword. He was the ultimate brutish hero, which oft-times put him at odds with The Doctor but was always entertaining. Daak had a television cameo as a known criminal in a database shown during “Time Heist”, so in a sense he’s already made his debut. I don’t know how you make a working chainsword prop, but I’m dying to see it happen.
As Doctor Who the television show further opens up to welcome in the alternative media that helped support and nurture the franchise during the years it was off the air it offers a chance to welcome in aspects that were often considered fringe. I couldn’t be happier that Big Finish and the BBC are continuing to tear down the walls.