Doctor Who: Dust Breeding

The Plot: On nineteenth 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.

“It’s like Camden market gone mad!” - Ace

This is a fairly multi-layered story by Mike Tucker that touches upon such themes as the true value of work of art and the price of personal expression; but it is also about the Machiavellian Seventh Doctor (the ever wonderful Sylvester McCoy) coming face to face with another arch manipulator and just what the ultimate cost of that might be …

When this was first released, great efforts were made to keep the reappearance of the villain in the script a secret but I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that it features the Master, or rather the Master 2.1 as played by Geoffrey Beevers, who followed in Roger Delgado and Peter Pratt’s black footsteps for the 1981 story The Keeper of Traken. Indeed he played the role as a barely skeletal remain, replacing the physically similar performance from the heavily made-up Pratt from The Deadly Assassin, and to serve as a transition for the introduction of Anthony Ainley, who would play the role many more times over the rest of the decade. Although at the time this was a major addition to the potential roster of supporting characters available to Big Finish, his is a somewhat generic evil mastermind presence here, given to uttering sub-Bond villain lines as:

“Like a bad penny, you keep turning up.”

Beevers would however reprise the role to greater effect in Joseph Lidster’s thrilling Gothic exercise Master, though this is not to take away from the enjoyment of this story. The story, set on a desert planet below and a large spaceship up above, follows pretty well established lines and it comes as no surprise to learn that the Master was added late in the day to the story. This was a comparatively early release from Big Finish and so tends to over-emphasize references to previous adventures (TV and audio), being targeted mostly at core fans, which does limit the appeal a little bit too. But when all said and done, this is an imaginative and nicely produced audio – not the Master’s greatest caper perhaps, but highly diverting and it is great to imagine that the Seventh Doctor is such a connoisseur of the Arts.

***** (3 stars out of 5)

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4 Responses to Doctor Who: Dust Breeding

  1. Yeah, it’s not great, is it? Although it is nice to hear from the nuttiest bad guy out there again, I’m hoping Alan Barnes gives Beevers a bit more to chew on in the upcoming Fourth Doctor Adventures.

  2. I must admit, it was news of his return that made me dig it out and listen to it again – recently re-watched John Simm’s two-part debut in the role and was slightly shocked to see quite how panto the performance was! I think my 7-year-old nieces liked it at least …

  3. I rather like John Simm’s performance – each Master tends to suit “his” Doctor – apart from Ainley, who just chewed the scenery. Delgado made a good show of taking some really potty schemes deadly seriously, but remember, the Master’s scheme are almost always monumentally stupid – at least the Simm Master seemed to accept and revel in it.

    Would have been nice to see more of the Jacobi incarnation though…

    • I agree completely about the Jacobi but, while I like Simm generally, I just found the interpretation too broad – but then, I am not actually that big a fan of the RTD era to be honest so probably a bit of a soft target for me. the Master’s plan in Tennant’s swan was particularly daft I thought, to the extent that it undercut the drama which seemed a shame in the circumstances.

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