Big Finish has produced literally of hundreds of audio dramas set in the world of Doctor Who. I’ve only listened to maybe 50 of them, so any list from me about the “best” is far from thorough.
(Doctor Who #266)
But I thought I’d run through the ones I’ve heard and identify some of my favorites.
Featuring: The Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe
Robert Shearman’s audio play which inspired his own television episode Dalek, but which is far more interesting and complex then what appeared on the small screen. Jubilee is an intensely powerful story about commercialism, imperialism, cruelty, and of course, Daleks. Read more here.
Death and the Queen
Featuring: The Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble
The conclusion to the first series of Tenth Doctor adventures sees Donna being swept off her feet by a literal prince, but of course there is more going on than meets the eye. David Tennant and Catherine Tate are in top form, recreating the magic of what made them great on television. Read more here.
The Chimes of Midnight
Featuring: The Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard
Another Robert Shearman story, this episode is a Twilight Zone-like meditation on pre-determination and the repetitive nature of servitude. It’s precisely the sort of story which can get boring because it’s too into cleverness, but impressively it remains gripping and compelling throughout. Read more here.
The Wrath of the Iceni
Featuring: The Fourth Doctor and Leela
Proof that purely historical adventures can work, even in audio. Louise Jameson gives a bravura performance as Leela in this story of the warrior queen Boudica. Read more here.
Featuring: The Sixth Doctor and Peri Brown
The best of the early “Lost Stories” built around the Sixth Doctor’s era. I don’t remember this one very well but I recall being impressed by it as an expansive story told impressively, and featuring good performances. Read more here.
The Five Companions
Featuring: The Fifth Doctor and Ian, Steven, Sara, Polly and Nyssa
One of the “special releases” from Big Finish that got me into their offerings in the first place. During the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, I felt like Doctor Who missed the opportunity to feature an appearance by original character Ian Chesterton, and then I found out I could listen to him here, played by William Russell, alongside Peter Davison and other actors from the show in a story that was set alongside the 20th anniversary story, The Five Doctors. I really enjoyed this opportunity to revisit some of the show’s past. Read more here.
Diary of River Song: Volume 2
Featuring: River Song and the Sixth & Seventh Doctors
Actually, I chose this collection of four related stories on the basis of a single one of them: 5:29 by John Dorney. It’s deeply moving and affecting, and a standout in this release–the others of which were just fine but nothing more. Read more here.
Featuring: The Seventh Doctor and Mel
I wavered between including this or The One Doctor–both are more light-hearted comedy episodes, which by coincidence involve Mel, a serious contender for the worst television companion. But she’s great here, as is the Doctor, and the way this story spoofs Star Trek, Space: 1999, and the Eurovision Song Contest gives it the edge for me. Read more here.
The Legacy of Time
Featuring: The Third through Eighth Doctors, plus appearances by the First & Tenth. Also Ace, Leela, Romana, River Song, Benny Summerfield, Counter-Measures, Jenny, Jo Grant, UNIT, and more.
Basically, an extended commercial for all of Big Finish’s Doctor Who-related content, The Legacy of Time features six vaguely-related stories, each starring a different Doctor and pairing him up with one or more recurring characters who feature heavily in their output. But in spite of the clearly self-promoting nature of the release, it’s fun run of stories. Read more here.
There are more good ones out there, but for my money these are all good places to start!