Rye Serling


Cover art for Back to Earth cropped to cut out the lettering and center Christopher Eccleston

“You were going to spend a hundred years being pedantic?” -Fred

We're ten sets and thirty episodes into Christopher Eccleston's run with Big Finish — back as the Ninth Doctor. It's a sentence that feels like a bit of a miracle. If you're reading a niche ranking of Doctor Who audio plays, you probably know about the drama surrounding Eccleston and his tenure on the BBC television show for series 1 of NuWho (which has always sounded to me like a sort of Linkin Park-styled Whovian band). Even up to a couple of weeks ago, he called for specific heads of the show, including Davies, to be sacked. He's been increasingly brazen since his departure in speaking about mistreatment by higher-ups and refusing to return while they're still around.

Even with the circumstances of his departure and only one somewhat uneven series, his broody but playful Doctor was always kind of my favorite. I had some engagement with classic Doctors, but Nine was my first time sitting down to watch the series actively. And, even with my love for every actor to take on the role ever since, I always had a feeling if he had been around even just a little longer he'd have shined as my all-time favorite. The potential is just off the charts. Imagining him starring in “The Impossible Planet” & “The Satan Pit” gives me chills. Alas, his run ended short. Not without leaving behind some bangers, namely “Dalek” and “The Empty Child” & “The Doctor Dances.” I'm also partial to the two-part finale. It beautifully paints a picture of the pacifist Doctor living under the weight of committing genocide with a final confrontation that leads to the villain cawing “What are you, Doctor: coward or killer?” and the Doctor boldly stating: “Coward, any day.” That first series came at a pivotal point in my life and helped instill a vision of goodness that has stuck with me until today. As a recent pacifist myself, at the time, this was mind-blowing and spoke to me deeply.

That's when he became My Doctor.* Unfortunately, that's also when we lost him.

Neil Patrick Harris as The Toymaker saying: “Well, that’s all right then!”

So, as a lifelong fan of audio fiction, my dreams were kind of made true when they announced his return in a new Big Finish series. All episodes are set before Rose and tend to be standalone adventures that have a new companion each go. This is because Eccleston is a die-hard believer that there is no other companion for Nine than Billie Piper’s** incarnation. While I disagree overall with his conclusion and think it does weaken these sets a little, I love that it's coming from an earnest, character-driven place. While his time on the show was marred by unfortunate dealings, he seems to genuinely enjoy being the character again. Maybe even more so. He never stops with his praise for the writing, or having fun banter in interviews, and seems engaged with fans at events. And he isn't wrong about the writing. While this run hasn't been as ambitious as it could be and the start-and-stop nature of not having a real through-line gets in the way of its consistency, my favorites match and sometimes outright top the televised run. I’m not sure why people have been hard on this run, but sometimes it feels like people are prepared to dislike it from the start.***

Now that you understand how much this feels geared toward ME, let’s get to a ranking of the ten best stories this has offered so far.