Doctor Who Audio Book Review: #21 – Dust Breeding

Written By: Mike Tucker
Directed By: Gary Russell
Featuring: Seventh Doctor and Ace
Release Date: June 2001

Big Finish Summary:
On 19th century Earth artist Edvard Munch hears an infinite scream pass through nature. Centuries later his painting of that scream hangs in a gallery on the barren dust world Duchamp 331.

Why is there a colony of artists on a planet that is little more than a glorified garage? What is the event that the passengers of the huge, opulent pleasure cruiser ‘Gallery’ are hoping to see? And what is hidden in the crates that litter the cargo hold?

The Doctor’s diary indicates that the painting is about to be destroyed in ‘mysterious circumstances’, and when he and Ace arrive on Duchamp 331, those circumstances are well underway.

*Warning: This review contains spoilers relating to the plot*

‘Dust Breeding’ is the product of some good writing, a plot that successfully links to the show to the mystery of ‘The Scream’, and some good characterisation of both the TARDIS crew and the antagonists of the story, both returning and new. This is an audio book that successfully adds to the wealth of quality in the Doctor Who Big Finish archives.

The biggest standing out point of this audio book is that it is the first appearance of The Master in this Big Finish monthly series. I noted after that Geoffrey Beevers portrayed him; he was also this character in the TV story ‘The Keeper of Traken’, but had no idea of the actor when listening to the audio book. Big fans of the classic series, myself included, will see this twist coming well before it is revealed, since the character uses an anagram of the word ‘Master’, and a slightly obvious one at that. This Master has once again been stripped of his regenerations and has degenerated into a rotting corpse-like creature, which makes him all the more dangerous and powerful, as he will do anything to regain his power. There was a lot of attention of detail towards the way this character acts that stays true to himself, including attempted hypnosis of less intellectual individuals and the way he uses other monsters and creatures in the hope he can double-cross them down the line and take the power he craves, which is good to see from the writer Mike Tucker. Geoffrey Beevers makes a good Master on audio, full of well-spoken menace in a way that makes it feel like the other characters are his playthings to manipulate.

The plotting and pacing of this audio book feel good, apart from a second part barely over twenty minutes where it feels like the result of a writer who wanted two reveals to happen in quick succession. Connecting a barren dusty backwater of a planet with one of the most iconic paintings in Earth history was definitely a good choice; it feels like not enough is done with the many wonders of the planet. The painting itself is pretty horrifying and does make you wonder what the message or the inspiration behind ‘The Scream’ is, so it was good that the writer managed to integrate this artwork into the narrative directly. The dangerous entity/weapon behind the painting (literally), the Warp Core, makes for another solid villain because it is pretty eerie and unhinged when it talks, particularly when it takes over the essence of an individual and speaks through them. Between the Master and the Warp Core, there are some good villains here. I’m not sure whether the Krill were as successful, mostly because they kill nearly all of the inhabitants on a ship the characters are on, and then are used as an obstacle course. Funnily enough, they made an appearance in a BBC book a couple of years before this audio book was released, again featuring the Seventh Doctor and Ace and written by Mike Tucker, so maybe the author wanted to use them again. In spite of this, ‘Dust Breeding’ is a good listen and the shortened runtime compared to previous stories in this series means that it feels exciting and to the point.

I think that the writer got the characterisation of the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) near perfectly. What makes his incarnation so interesting is that he always seems to have a motivation behind a certain action that may not be shared by his other selves. The confession that he ‘rescues’ artworks when their galleries are burnt down and then keeps them in the TARDIS seems very in line with his character, and he is firm with companion Ace (Sophie Aldred) and returning character Bev Tarrant (Louise Faulkner) when telling them what they can do to help. Speaking of Ace, she was written very well here again and works well against the Seventh Doctor. Bev is decent here, but she doesn’t really have as much of an impact as she did in her previous appearance, ‘The Genocide Machine’, mostly because she isn’t that different from Ace in terms of personality and attitude. As a side note, Caroline John (previously companion Liz Shaw on the TV show in 1970), gives a bold and very different performance as the opulent Madame Salvadori. In terms of characterisation of both the main protagonists and the villains of this audio book, writer Mike Tucker does a good job.

”Dust Breeding’ is another successful story in this Doctor Who Big Finish audio book series, further consolidating the fact that the later classic TV series could have been better received had it included stories like those that have been featured by Big Finish to date. This story is further improved by a surprising appearance from the Doctor’s old adversary, the Master, as well as some decent characterisation and a good concept around Edvard Munch’s mysterious painting, ‘The Scream’. This is definitely one that I would recommend fans of the show to listen to.

Star Rating: 4/5

‘Dust Breeding’ is available to listen to for free on Spotify or for £2.99 to download from the Big Finish site. The link to this audio book is below:

021. Doctor Who: Dust Breeding – Doctor Who – The Monthly Adventures – Big Finish

The next audio book in this series sees the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn arrive on the Galapagos Islands, which are shrouded in mystery to the new arrivals, amongst them one Charles Darwin, but something deep below the surface is starting to rise to reclaim their planet, thousands of years after going into hibernation…

You can read my review of Audio Book #22 – ‘Bloodtide’, very soon!

Bloodtide cover (Big Finish, 2001)

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