THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVEL "ATOM BOMB
BLUES" AND THE BIG
FINISH AUDIO DRAMA
BIG FINISH CD#21
RELEASED IN JUNE 2001.
On nineteenth Century
Earth artist Edvard
Munch hears an
infinite scream pass
Centuries later his
painting of that
Scream hangs in a
gallery on the barren
dust world Duchamp
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
'Gallery' are hoping
to see? And what is
hidden in the crates
that litter the cargo
The Doctor's diary
indicates that the
painting is about to
be destroyed in
when he and Ace
arrive on Duchamp
Dust Breeding is a notoriously controversial production, but a compulsively compelling one. Here Mike Tucker brings back the Krill from his novel Storm Harvest, Bev Tarrant from his audio drama The Genocide Machine, and – in the mother of all reveals - the Geoffrey Beevers version of the Master from The Keeper of Traken. How Big Finish managed to keep that bombshell under wraps I have no idea; perhaps they sought to bamboozle their listeners with a surfeit of other returnees.
The return of the Master allows Tucker to conclude his second episode with a staggering, Earthshock-style cliffhanger as “intergalactic egg-collector” Mr Seta (what an anagram) whips off his mask and proclaims: “I am the Master, and you will obey me.” With the body he obtained on Traken stripped from him by the power of the creature he has been trying to control, Beevers is able to portray the calcified Master with all moribund allure that he did in The Keeper of Traken. If anything, he raises his game to match McCoy’s unsurpassable indignation.
However, this setup is not only convoluted but contentious. Instead of having Tremas’ body torn from him, Tucker could have just had the Doctor run into the Master during the years between The Deadly Assassin and The Keeper of Traken, from the Master’s point of view. Had he gone down this route, the warp core might not have come across as being quite as dangerous, but his story certainly wouldn’t have stuck two fingers up at the New Adventures the way that Dust Breeding does.
Nevertheless, if you can forgive some needlessly perplexing continuity, there is much to enjoy about Dust Breeding. Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred are both on fine form once again, and Tucker’s story is far more exciting and enthralling than his script for The Genocide Machine was. The idea that a painting can contain a life form is a fascinating, if unoriginal concept, and the ensuing narrative is fuelled by strong, memorable characters such as Ian Ricketts’ Guthrie and Louise Faulkner’s Bev Tarrant. Sadly Caroline John is far less convincing than her husband Mr Beevers, burdened as she is with the over-the-top role Madame Salvadori, but it’s nice to hear an old companion’s voice all the same.
The Krill are surprisingly effective too, their visceral terror much more complementary to the world of sound than I had expected. This is offset rather nicely by the seventh Doctor being portrayed slightly less sullenly than usual. I really enjoyed the revelation that the Doctor often nips into Art Galleries that are about to catch fire and “rescues” certain pieces of art for his private collection!
All in all, Dust Breeding is an engrossing and shocking adventure, but it’s certainly not for
the faint hearted or those clinging to their battered old copies of First Frontier. The wanton debasement of New Adventures continuity is admittedly hard to forgive, but if you turn your nose up at this one for that alone, then you’ll be selling yourself short.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Bev Tarrant’s return here supports our contention that the seventh Doctor and Ace audio dramas take place
in production code order (unless there is a good reason why they shouldn’t!)
We have placed this story after the cluster of BBC Books featuring the seventh Doctor and Ace as it follows
at least two of them (Storm Harvest and Prime Time).
The Master’s appearance here, however, is most problematical. Dust Breeding makes it unambiguous that
the Master’s Trakenite body was stripped from him by the Warp Core’s power, returning him to a moribund, pre-Keeper of Traken state. As such, how he gets from Dust Breeding to First Frontier is a bit of a poser.
The best theory that we can posit is that following Dust Breeding, the Master is somehow able to restore his Trakenite form (Cheetah infection and all), as he did once before when the Trakenite body was torn from him
in The Quantum Archangel. If this were to have the convenient side-effect of disrupting a few of his recent memories, then this might also explain why he seems to think that he travelled straight from the Cheetah planet to Earth when the Doctor later encounters him in First Frontier.
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