Churchill? River Song!? My Big Finish Spinoff Wishlist
June 26th, I sat down to write a new article called ‘Historical Characters for Big Finish?’ – it had occurred to me one night that it might be legally possible for Big Finish to depict historical characters from Doctor Who by using the voice of the same actors and actresses who had played them on television – thus, I had set out to write a wishlist of fun proposals that would see Doctor Who through Big Finish productions revisit past historical characters. First on the list was Series 5’s enchanting take on Sir Winston Churchill, played by Ian McNeice himself. However, the very next morning I awoke to the surprising headline, ‘River Song to Meet the Eight Doctor’ – attached was a picture of McNeice’s own Churchill giving me a dour, stern glare. I was crushed. Everyone wants their wishlist to be fulfilled, just after they’re published first preferably – otherwise you don’t get near the opportunity to brag! I’m a bragger at heart, after all.
With the much anticipated Doom Coalition 2, The Churchill Years, Classic Doctors, New Monsters and the previously announced, UNIT: Extinction, Big Finish Productions is boldly venturing into the world of Post-2005 Doctor Who which opens up many possibilities for future stories that the audio stories could tell and past characters and monsters it could revive. There are some obvious stories that I’m sure lots of us would want Big Finish to explore like the War Doctor’s adventures through the Time War and the Eleventh Doctor’s time on Trenzalore or, who knows, a Ninth Doctor return? I felt it might be more interesting to explore the stories that, while not the most obvious of choices, I’d been keen to listen to, with regards to Big Finish covering characters from the revived series.
Runner-Up: ‘A Slitheen’s Second Chance’
Not making the cut, but only barely, is the tale of Margaret Blaine. An early draft of The Stolen Earth saw an infant Margaret Blaine return to Doctor Who for a brief cameo – we can glean from Russell T Davies’ rough script that Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen was taken in by the Jingatheen family and called ‘Margaret’ of all things. Interestingly, Annette Badland actually recorded her voice for the cameo but the scene was eventually cut due to budget issues.
While I doubt the Slitheen is the first monster many would think of when they think of revisiting a monster, it’s my belief that one thing that Big Finish has excelled at has been taking badly maligned elements like Mel Bush from the Classic series and developing them with a better presentation. Boom Town ends with our favourite killer Slitheen transformed into a hatchling which gives her a second chance at a new life – I’d love to see just where this second chance led Margaret and what life she eventually lived.
1. ‘Deadly Danger to England’
Yes yes yes! Bring her back baby! Viewers last saw Queen Elizabeth in The Day of the Doctor romancing with the Tenth Doctor – it was there that we learnt the full extent of their relationship which had been hinted in previous stories as an infinitely satisfying running gag. I’d love to see a story or even a series exploring her complicated romance with the Last of the Time Lords – a previously unexplored history between the two characters which has been implied to have crossed both regenerations and timelines. There’s still lots to explore with the tragic tale of Queen Elizabeth – how did she get a hold of ‘Gallifrey Falls, No More’ -? Why does she consider the Doctor a sworn enemy later in life? Was the Doctor actually the King of England? (In the UK, the Queen is under no condition to award a title at all to her husband, but Queen Victoria’s case suggests Consort King would be inappropriate for a foreigner).
I’d like to see the Fourth Doctor or the Fifth Doctor, someone who we feel we know well, caught romancing in their private life with the Queen herself – perhaps he takes the Queen to see the stars? Eye of Orion? Gallifrey!? We know how much the Doctor loves showing the universe off and who better to show off to than the Last of the Tudor Monarchs, English’s most eligible Bachelorette. A secret affair that none of us, Whovian or not, knew about. It’d be an absolute pleasure to see Joanna Page and/or Angela Pleasence reprise their role as Elizabeth I along the course of her long, eventful life and reign as Queen. Pretty Please, Nick Briggs?
2. ‘Article 57’
Another potential series in the making: we haven’t seen much of the Shadow Proclamation as of late, have we? The universe’s very own ‘outer space police’ were last referenced in 2010’s The Eleventh Hour. The Shadow Proclamation like UNIT or Torchwood, being an enforcement agency concerned with galactic law abroad easily affords writers the opportunity for a good science fiction story with a solidly grounded format. Big Finish could flesh out Kelly Hunter’s Shadow Architect better and the role that the Shadow Proclamation plays in the universe to protect life, especially as the Jadoon are already set to return with Big Finish’s Classic Doctors, New Monsters set.
Perhaps the glorious hunt for Florence Finnegan can finally make a return? One can only hope.
3. ‘The Woman Who Walked the Earth’
A Doctor, but probably not the doctor you were expecting, Martha Jones stands as likely the most maligned of the revived series’ companions, despite being a thoroughly different kind of a character: a doctor in her own right with her own strengths and her own goals who eventually leaves the Doctor because she feels she can accomplish more with her life! In some respects, a bit of a modern-day Liz Shaw, I think Big Finish could do a wonderful job in exploring Martha Jones further as a companion, especially by taking Martha Jones out of the context of Series 3 where her character was written purposefully as second pickings, the Doctor’s ‘rebound’ from Rose Tyler. Personally, if it didn’t involve a different Doctor than the Tenth, I’d like to see a prequel to Blink – we’ve seen Sally Sparrow’s side of the story, but what about Martha and the Doctor’s story? How did they find themselves trapped in 1969? What were they up to at Wester Drumlins? Quick, someone get Freema Agyeman on the phone!
4. ‘Seven Horsemen of the Tally’
Despite the criticism it received, some of it very deserving, I’d argue Series 7’s Power of Three delivered us a glimpse of a wonderful new race of monsters, the Shakri. Problem is, that’s all it was: a glimpse! A teaser! An itty bitty little tablespoon of the great and fabled race. I want to see the Shakri and their interesting backstory explored more – perhaps Chris Chibnall could take the opportunity to write for Big Finish? That’d certainly be a coup. The Shakri are fascinating partly because we know very little about them, they appear to be anti-imperialist in a sense and frightfully spiritual – they were a bed-time story on Gallifrey, a myth – they feared the day of reckoning (‘the tally’), fought the ‘contagion’ of imperialistic species and had a strange, mythical association with the number seven.
5. ‘Under the Silver Cloak’
Bernard Cribbins, bless him, ain’t getting any younger and I’d love to see a return of Wilf just as much as I’m sure you are. The ultimate Wilf story to me would be for another Doctor to visit Wilf, just after he thinks he’ll never see the Doctor again with our hero, tearfully departing him in The End of Time – the Doctor, with a new face, appears: ‘oi! You!’ and a new adventure begins. Wilf and the Doctor share a special relationship, a complex space-time event which suggests they’re destined to meet each other forever.
One of Russell T Davies’ more clever inventions was ‘the Silver Cloak’ – Wilf’s band of friends, no doubt gathered from the local senior home – and it’s the Silver Cloak especially that I’d like to see expanded upon because as a group they’d be prone to a Nancy Drew / Hardy Boys / Scooby Doo fashion which sees them lopped into the middle of an unraveling urban mystery.
Elderly folks are especially interesting for Doctor Who to explore as a community because seniors are often marginalised and excluded, just as children are – just as they may have the time to explore the urban myths and oddities around us, the Silver Cloak’s ravings about Zygons and Rutans are likely to receive about as much recognition from others as a five year old’s tea party with the Easter Bunny might.
6. ‘The Zeroth Hour’
‘Prisoner Zero has escaped! Prisoner Zero has escaped!’ Sound familiar? The Eleventh Hour introduced us to a little known race called the Atraxi, a kind of intergalactic police state, who we have yet to even see in their full form. The Atraxi were pursuing an escaped criminal of theirs, Prisoner Zero. When Steven Moffat was promoting Deep Breath, he mused that post-regeneration stories are never about the plot, but the new Doctor – so characters like Prisoner Zero and the Atraxi are rarely fleshed out.
However, another post-regeneration baddie, the Sycorax will be returning to Big Finish with its Classic Doctors, New Monsters set, so perhaps that suggests an Atraxi return isn’t as impossible as it might sound-? Personally I’d love to see a Big Finish story explore the background of Prisoner Zero – who are they? What’s their real name? Their home planet? What did they do to be imprisoned? And just what is an Atraxian prison like?
Likely impossible narrative wise, but it’d also be great to see Olivia Colman reprise her role as Prisoner Zero because I felt as though The Eleventh Hour wasted her potential as a villain in Doctor Who.
7. ‘Song of Freedom’
Russell T Davies’s finest creation? Perhaps others would disagree, but I always found the Oodkind to be a very special kind of creature in Doctor Who. Gentle, subservient and genuinely odd looking. The Ood as characters don’t rely on clever tricks to make them unique and interesting, they are just genuinely unique and interesting because of their nature; their vulnerability has taught them to be kind and compassionate – servants, even – but there’s also always something scary about ‘the quiet butler’ or ‘the quiet servant’ in the background especially when those servants are interconnected at a conscious level to a hive-mind.
Oftentimes, I think the Ood have been let down by Doctor Who’s producers because the Ood are apparently one of the cheaper designs for the monsters – hence why they’re regularly used for webcasts, minisodes, live appearances and cameos throughout Series 4-6 (including being a ‘backup’ monster for Series 3’s 42) – if a ‘monster’ was needed, the Ood’s rubber masks were dusted off. After so many unnecessary cameos, it’d be nice to see someone like Big Finish give the Oodkind another story of their own where they are one of the main focuses once again – a story which respects them as characters.
One idea that did pop in my head when I was thinking about potential Ood stories was a Sensorite / Oodkind cross-over – given the two species are similar and occupy neighboring spheres – but how the two species would interact is anyone’s guess. Would they try to out-serve each other? Murder one another systematically with acts of kindness? Scratch that, that’s rubbish.
8. ‘Brian’s Log’
Arguably the most severely underused character in recent years was Brian Williams, played by Mark Williams. No, not NBC’s disgraced anchor – the other Brian Williams. Williams was featured in a couple of stories in Series 7, playing the role of Rory Williams’ father – a humdrum personality, whose thoroughness, diligence and sense of duty was often the butt of a joke – he would later reject joining the Ponds on the TARDIS because ‘someone needs to water the plants’.
Mark Williams, only a few years previous to filming Series 7, had already played Maxwell Edison (yes, it’s a Beatles reference) in a Fifth Doctor story for Big Finish, The Eternal Summer – but if anything that only seems to make it more likely he might return once more to Big Finish. My hope is though that a future audio story could expand on Brian Williams’s life after the Ponds, especially after his work with UNIT. I’m drawn towards thinking that Williams could become an employee of sorts for UNIT, especially given he already knows about the existence of aliens and about the Doctor, but as a civilian he’d be the perfect audience surrogate for a cast of otherwise scientifically attune characters – a new doorman to replace Atkins, perhaps?
It had to be said, didn’t it? The Paternoster Gang have often been touted as having the potential to carry their own show altogether – Moffat has said the BBC is keen to do a spin-off series with them too. Ultimately, if Moffat doesn’t have the time to pursue a spinoff series, I could see the characters having a life of their own with an audio series through Big Finish. If they were to be televised, the Paternoster Gang would almost surely appear on CBBC like the Sarah Jane Adventures. Another direction; a less obvious direction would be to use Big Finish as an environment to take the Paternoster Gang towards darker territory than BBC One might permit on their previous appearances in Doctor Who. When I had thought about this, it seemed to me that a darker, more adult Big Finish series could make a lot of sense…
First, the relationship between Madame Vastra and Jenny could be more delved into than Doctor Who’s programming permits (where they’re limited to the occasional ‘married, remember?’ and some sexual innuendo). Moreover, the enemies that the Paternoster Gang often face are violent sexual predators from the Whitechapel nightlife, like Jack the Ripper and Clarence DeMarco – who both were only glossed over as characters in Doctor Who. Likewise, the more adult format might detract from the fan criticism of Strax as repetitive slapstick comedy for kiddies.
One thing’s for certain: if a Big Finish Paternoster series happened, a Jago and Litefoot crossover would be near obligatory!
10. ‘Dinosaurs of Albion’
A bit more of a personal whimsy here, admittedly. You may have noticed in Deep Breath that part of Vastra’s conversation with Clara was cut off – Clara responds ‘And then we got swallowed by a big dinosaur. You probably noticed.’ – which implies there may have been some passage of time between The Time of the Doctor and Deep Breath – a, gah… pre-post-regeneration story. Yikes. Okay so…here, you play Nick Briggs and I’ll play the guy pitching it to you…
Imagine yourself in the Jurassic Age – strange birds tweet in the forests, dinosaurs rustle past. Silurians cowardly watch from the bushes, looking up towards the serene sky. The TARDIS hurls towards Earth. The Silurians cry for help, blowing into a conch. Clara, picking herself up from the crash, realises that the Doctor, newly regenerated, has wandered out of the TARDIS, stumbling into the untamed jungles. The madness of the Doctor is conveyed by his speech: he speaks his dialogue as Peter Capaldi, but thinks his inner dialogue as Matt Smith. Can Clara and the Doctor survive seven days and seven, long… frightening nights in the Jurassic world? Spoiler alert: they get eaten by a giant female dinosaur!
I’ve shared some of my ideas. Now it’s your turn! If you had your choice of new series characters, who would you bring to Big Finish?