Munching on the Dust

Big Finish Folly, Part 146 – Dust Breeding, by Mike Tucker

Dust BreedingOn 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.

Okay, so there’s a few decent ideas in this, just like in Tucker’s The Genocide Machine before it. The execution isn’t all it ought to be, but in some respects it’s a very faithful attempt to replicate a TV story in audio format, even to the point of having bizarrely accented supporting characters and a slightly deflating final confrontation. A sentient world of dust, actually an ancient war device, that has swallowed a Dalek cruiser whole, and now the planet echoes to the creams of never-dying Daleks… that’s a whirligig concept that gets tossed in purely as background detail, colouring the story with Dalek Empire washes, about as space opera as you can get without tripping over The Culture.

Like Tucker’s previous entry in the chronology, the story also has a central McGuffin – The Scream, a painting that ties together Duchamp 331 and the voyage of the pleasure cruiser Gallery. The painting is a device to get the long-dormant war machine¬†back in the game, with the added edge of its ancient nemesis, the Krill, being brought to Duchamp 331 to resume their battle against it.

And into this mess come not only the Doctor and Ace, but Bev Tarrant too. And Mr Seta, the hand behind the Krill. Now obviously, you don’t have to be an expert at anagrams to realise that Mr Seta is an anagram of Master. This is Big Finish’s first run at a Doctor/Master story, and while it’s sort of… oh, I don’t know… it’s okay, but here’s the problem: the Master is the Master, doing Mastery things and making Mastery plans, for pretty much no clear reason at all, in such a complex fashion that things can only be resolved by a deus ex machina explosion.

Meanwhile, I got distracted by the Krill, because context in the dialogue indicated that both the Doctor and Ace had met them before, and I was scratching my head over that. So, rather than concentrate on the action I wound up looking up the Krill and discovering their previous appearance in the BBC Past Doctors Adventures novel Storm Harvest. Really, if the Master’s involved then you shouldn’t be getting distracted by minor continuity issues.

Not that Geoffrey Beevers isn’t wonderfully fun as the Master; of course he is. The Master is the epitome of controlled chaos, especially as voiced by Beevers. Bev Tarrant gets used mostly as a foil for either the Doctor or Ace to bounce off – from here she’ll move on into the Bernice Summerfield range, which to be honest is no great loss as she feels quite surplus to requirements here. Former companion Caroline John guests as a very uncompanionlike Madame Salvadori, a character straight from the TV years.

Good? Nearly.
***

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