This week, I thought I'd change geers and crack open my audio drama collection. It has been growing for over twenty years. To enjoy some of it will require you to have a good handle on skills like browsing the Internet, extracting files, etc. In some sad cases, what I have isn't currently for sale anywhere. You can count on me not to torture you with anything you simply can't get. I'm starting out with one of the easiest and best-run places on the Internet to find excellent audio drama. You can enjoy and use this site with your computer as well as your iOS device.
Before we get started, let's make one thing very clear. Please note that I don't condone piracy and won't share freely what I myself have paid for over the years. Obtain your copies legally and help these companies keep afloat. The more we do this, the more ambitious creations we are likely to enjoy as they are able to make livings through their labours. Big Finish estimates that it loses around 75% of potential revinue from their work because of people illegally sharing files. Frankly, I appreciate them being considerate enough of their legitimate customers not to employ file protection. As someone who has been unable to find work but who has insisted on contributing things anyhow, I feel for these artists who often have to abandon their art just to make ends meet. Things are changing. Prices for digital copies of books and audio dramas are more flexible than they used to be. Often, these sites will put selections of their offerrings on sale. Watch for these. Follow them on social media and sign up for newsletters.
Big Finish has existed for 15 years and is most famous for the Dr. Who dramas they have created. They sell their material as digital files and as physical CDs. Operating from the UK, their stories aren't necessarily confined to there. They sell unabridged audio books which can be hard to find elsewhere in addition to their staggerring catalog of audio dramas. After finishing this blog post, check them out for yourself at:
There are literally hundreds of titles in their catalog and new ones are released monthly. To keep everyone entertained and up to speed, they are quite active on Twitter, Facebook, with posts to their blog and podcast, and through Vortex, a regularly published ezine. I discovered them quite late since I never have been a Doctor Who fan. Even after I had heard of them, I never stopped by to check them out because I thought that Dr. Who dramas were all they did. I was so very wrong. They do so much more! Their catalog includes audio books narrated by famous actors.
Many audio drama ranges are based on licensed TV shows like Blake's 7, Torchwood, and Dark Shadows. They also dramatise classic books like The Wizard of Oz, Dracula, Treasure Island, etc. In a partnership with Paizo, makers of the Pathfinder roleplaying game, they have dramatised adventure campaigns in the Pathfinder Legends series.
Currently, the range of stories based on The Prisoner is getting lots of attention. So are the Torchwood and Dark Shadows ranges of stories.
Over the years, Big Finish has done a whole lot of Christmas specials. My particular favorite is called Ghosts of Christmas Past where Dorian Gray and Sherlock Holmes join forces to thrwart an evil plot involving Dorian's past. Big Finish respects the characters they use but isn't above having fun bringing various worlds together. Dark Shadows and many other series feature special Christmas material. Look around for it.
Part of the costs of the audio dramas is to pay for licensing fees needed to produce dramas about commercial intelectual properties like Dr. Who, Torchwood, Dark Shadows, and more recently, The Prisoner. They are also able to pull in top talent in terms of voice acting usually including actual cast members from TV shows being made into audio dramas. Sound and music is typically top notch.
To obtain these fine dramas and audio books, you need to go to the site and register an acount with them. Once that's done and you've got a payment method sorted out, you then add items of interest to your basket and then place your order. They will show prices in your local currency so there aren't any exchange rate surprises. They accept Paypal which may be useful to people without credit cards. Paypal can draw directly from your bank acount. It doesn't reveal bank or credit card information to online merchants you choose to deal with. I've used Paypal for well over a decade without any issues.
Once you've ordered titles, they are made available to you in your personal library on the site. You can then download them to your computer. To get the dramas onto your iOS device, get the Big Finish app from the appstore and run the app. Log into your acount with the email and password you used to register on the Big Finish site. Once that's done, you won't have to do it every time you use the app. You can simply open the app and retrieve any dramas your device has room for. To recover space, delete the dramas you're finished listening to. You can download dramas as often as you need to.
The Big Finish App:
I very much like the app for iOS Big Finish has available. It's free from the appstore and works wonderfully with Voiceover. This was intentional as Big Finish is very aware of having blind listeners. They have clearly taken steps to make their app and web site fully accessible. You can sort and search for dramas. It is also easy, using the "device" and "cloud" buttons, to look at what you have stored on your device and what is available to you in the cloud. You can delete and download dramas as often as you need to. If you suddenly need to close your app, don't worry. Your position will be saved. There are buttons to easily navigate, play and pause, set a sleep timer, etc. It behaves like a music app and you can therefore do the usual pause, play, and track skipping with the control on your headset.
These dramas are large files. Most need to be downloaded as complete series which are often well over half a gb. To make certain you don't accidentally use cellular data to download dramas, double-tap the "info" button at the top left of the screen in the app. Next, flick right until you come across two buttons called "allow cellular data". Switch both buttons to off. You can then only download dramas when connected to WIFI.
There are "cloud" and "device" buttons which let you view what you have on your device separately from what is in the cloud.
What you have in "the cloud" is what you have purchased but is not on your device. You can download anything in the cloud to your device as long as you have cellular or WIFI connection. This counts against your cellular or WIFI data so be aware if you have limited data. It need not be your WIFI. For instance, a friend or Internet cafe or library could supply a WIFI connection.
The app has filter and search functions to help you browse your collection and find what you're interested in.
This is a good example of convenience versus cost. Apple gets no profit from Big Finish sales but Big Finish isn't allowed to make an app like iBOOKS which includes a store. Audible works the same way. You can either use a PC to do your purchasing and browsing or you can learn to use Safari or another browser on your iOS device. Firefox works well and is fully accessible.
All cast and synopses below are taken directly from the Big Finish web site. They have tons more stuff. Check them out at:
Please engage with them via social media, email, etc. Let them know you're out there and appreciate them. They're very eager to engage with their audience.
The Confessions of Dorian Gray:
Dorian is a character created by Oscar Wild. This series posits that he is in fact real and so is the deal with dark powers he made to have all the marks and physical consequences of age and sin appear on his painted portrait rather than on himself. The whole Dorian Gray range is now completed consisting of five series. These range from creepy to moral issues to comedic. Many look at interesting historical events which Dorian has lived through. Each series is hours of drama. Also, Big Finish likes to provide extras like music from the dramas and cast interviews.
Often, early stories are sold separately. This is true for series 1 and 2 of Dorian Gray stories. The final 3 series are sold as complete collections and each are well over 600 Gb.
This World Our Hell
link to drama main page:
Paris, 1900. One of Dorian Gray's oldest friends is on his deathbed, locked away in a room at the notorious Hotel D'Alsace, where he is fighting a duel to the death. And when Dorian comes to visit him one last time, both men realise they may never be allowed to check out…
Note: The Confessions of Dorian Gray contains adult material and is not suitable for younger listeners.
Written By: David Llewellyn
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Alexander Vlahos (Dorian Gray), Steffan Rhodri (Oscar Wilde), Marilyn Le Conte (Genevieve Moreau), David Blackwell (Robert Ross), Sophie Melville (Isabelle)
Big Finish has done amazing Sherlock but it took a while for them to find their stride. Earlier dramas just didn't have the same level of atmosphere and polish.
The best Sherlock begins with the Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner. By this point, Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl have really found their acting stride as Holmes and Watson. Also, the sound atmosphere has been honed to a wonderful degree. This story followed by the Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes, The Judgement of Sherlock Holmes and The Sacrifice of Sherlock Holmes comprise a large story arc. Gaps in Sherlock's biography left by Doyle are filled in and unanswered questions are given satisfying answers. The trailer for The Perfidious Mariner just lacked any real punch so I went with the trailer for my favorite of the boxed sets: The Ordeals of Herlock Holmes. It had the largest scope reaching back before the beginning of Holmes and Watson's first meeting and forward past where Doyle leaves off after His Last Bow. A real epic journey done in splendid style.
The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes:
link to drama main page:
Link to trailer:
'Briggs and Earl now a definitive audio Holmes and Watson' Scifi Bulletin
'Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl are, as ever, sublime in the roles that they have made their own' Tim, Mass Movement
'Messrs Briggs, Earl and Barnes, director Ken Bentley and the rest of the fine cast are to be congratulated' Roger Johnson, Sherlock Holmes Gazette
'Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl, now a firmly established team...' Sherlock Holmes Journal.
Four decades. Four cases. One solution.
From the plains of Afghanistan to the alleyways of Victorian London, from the dark heart of the English countryside to the ruin of Europe after the Great War, join Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson in a quartet of astonishing new investigations which span their lifelong friendship, and beyond…
Written By: Jonathan Barnes
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Nicholas Briggs (Sherlock Holmes), Richard Earl (Dr Watson), John Banks (Inspector Lestrade), Derek Carlyle (Wherry), Blake Ritson (Christopher Thrale), Michael Cochrane (Winchester Bartley-Gower), Eve Karpf (The Gracious Adelina/Mrs Chaunt Maclise/Mrs Hope), Amy Ewbank (Eliza Hinderclay/Judy), Ken Bones (Jim Hinderclay), Caroline Keiff (Tess Dorno), Tracey Childs (Mrs Edgar Curbishley), Marek Oravec (Griesser), Andrew Fettes (Tlitzlmann Blench)
Big Finish does wonderful dramas of classic books. They recently released their version of Dracula and have also done Frankenstein. In general these are pretty faithful to original stories but always with their own focus. Dramas are hours long and come with extras like music and behind the scenes recordings. The next classic will be Jekyll and Hyde. I can hardly wait for that one. Choosing which trailer to feature was a hard one but I settled on Treasure Island.
Very good work. Long John Silver was brilliant as was all the cast. Good sound and music. Cast often had multiple roles but it was far from obvious who they were. Very good voice acting. Generous extras. An all around excellent package I'll always treasure.
Link to drama main page:
Link to trailer:
Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!
When young Jim Hawkins unexpectedly inherits a treasure map, he little knows what adventures await him. Pursued by pirates, betrayed by friends and beset by skulduggery, Jim must brave high seas and low cunning before he reaches the shores of Treasure Island.
His fellow treasure-hunters include the inflexible Captain Smollett, the indefatigable Doctor Livesey and the irrepressible Squire Trelawney. And then there's the ship's cook: a seafaring man with one leg who goes by the name of Long John Silver...
Robert Louis Stevenson's classic adventure is brought thrillingly to life in this brand new full-cast audiobook adaptation.
Written By: Barnaby Edwards
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards
Tom Baker (Long John Silver/Captain Flint), Nicholas Farrell (Narrator), Edward Holtom (Jim Hawkins/Young James), Tony Millan (Dr Livesey/Blind Pew/First Mate), Tony Haygarth (Billy Bones/Morgan), Nicholas Pegg (Captain Smollett/Black Dog/Redruth/Dick), Gareth Armstrong (Ben Gunn/Israel Hands), Nicholas Briggs (George Merry/Arrow/Lookout/The Real Flint), Barnaby Edwards (Squire Trelawney)
Producer and Script Editor Barnaby Edwards
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs