Storm Harvest
The Genocide Machine
Big Finish Productions
Dust Breeding

Written by Mike Tucker Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2001
Continuity After Survival

Starring Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred
Also featuring Caroline John, Louise Falkner, Mark Donovan, Geoffrey Beevers, Johnson Willis, Ian Ricketts

Synopsis: 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?


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 14/8/01

After 3 Earth Stories on the trot from Big Finish, which were all excellent in their own way, we return to the stars for this tale from Mike Tucker. Tucker was responsible for the excellent Genocide Machine, and the 4 novels heralded as Season 27 (before some fans decided the 4 McGann audios were Season 27 – hell of a long season that one, to say it never existed!). Tucker is therefore something of a 7th Dr/Ace specialist – and this further re-inforces that notion.

Duchamp 331 feels like that spaceport in the Star Wars films – there is much grime and dust. A backwater that has taken on a life of it’s own, even though its population is transitory. There are a few people though, who have stayed there. There’s Guthrie, the amiable oddball. There’s Damien and his art gallery. There’s also a ship of art-lovers on its way there, led by the theatrical Madame Salvadori, with a masked guest roaming the ship oozing mysteriousness. The Doctor and Ace arrive at Duchamp, and are quickly joined by Bev Tarrant, a Benny type who was in Genocide Machine.

Thus we have the key players in the drama, and all are well-drawn, and well portrayed. Guthrie is wonderful, as the oddball. Tarrant was good before, she is again here. Madame Salvadori, as acted by Liz Shaw herself – Caroline John, is a drama queen. She majestically parades through her scenes, a trifle over the top, perhaps, Caroline John clearly relishing the chance to let herself go. Seta, the masked man, is one of those great voices that Big Finish have seemed to have found in abundance. What his motives are become clear as the story progresses – but this listener was wonderfully surprised and delighted with it all.

The Doctor is very good throughout. He is not manipulative at all here, and that’s nice to see. He has just happened upon the drama – in a good old-fashioned Dr Who way. Ace is okay, it’s just with Tarrant being so Benny-like it’s Tarrant who seems to be the main companion. Sophie Aldred plays it a touch too loud in places too, but Ace is always played with such gusto, I suppose this is inevitable.

The story is fine. Duchamp’s spaceport and dustworld are fully exploited – and there’s a nice reference to the Daleks in there. The Krill are less well-served. Theirs is just a destructive role. The scenes with them are frightening though. The whole business about the painting “The Scream” is sufficiently interesting to make this listener want to learn more of Munch, and his inspiration.

A pretty good story this one. Lots of great characters, good monsters, great villain. 7/10

Mixed Krill by Andrew Wixon 17/8/01

No spoilers allowed, eh? Right... A surprise - not exactly a plot twist - of significant proportions is central to Dust Breeding and trying to review it in a worthwhile fashion - or even intelligibly - without blowing the gaffe is going to be tricky. However...

For the most part this is a solidly and grippingly told yarn from Mike Tucker, highly reminiscent of last year's Genocide Machine. As a writer he seems very comfortable with space opera locations and storylines and the dustbowl planet of Duchamp 331 is atmospherically realised by BF's audio techs, probably the most convincing alien world yet heard on audio. The script does fall down slightly in a few places, though.

For one thing, Tucker decides to revive the Krill, who apparently were in a novel he co-authored (as you can probably tell, I'm barely familiar with the BBC range), and also the Bev Tarrant character from Genocide. I'm not entirely sure there's a good reason for the Krill to actually be in the story other than to provide a physical threat to the main characters - and, of course, to be the essential 'plot hoover' to get rid of all those annoying extras when the writer doesn't need them any more. On audio they lack any character or distinctiveness they may have possessed in print and end up playing a distant third fiddle to the more articulate threats of the Warp Core and... well, I'm not allowed to talk about the other thing. As for Bev, I've said before that she's not much more than a Benny lookey-likey and that's true here. But at least she gives the Doctor someone to talk to when Ace is off getting captured by the villains again.

As I said, the plot is quite solid, but there are a couple of exceptions. For example, part of the action takes place on Duchamp 331, the rest on a starliner. It may just have been me not paying attention or trying to do too many things at once but the complete separation of these two plot strands isn't made perhaps as clear as it should be. When a big fancy spaceship pops up on Duchamp's radar well into the story it took me quite a while to figure out it was actually the liner. But then again this may just be your reviewer being thick. The only other things I'd take issue with is the evil scheme at the heart of the story, which seems ludicrously overcomplicated but also sadly rather in character, and the fact that the plot's kicked off by the Doctor's rather selfish habit of stealing Old Masters for his own private collection, being sure to do so at the points where they 'historically' vanish. In this case, Munch's The Scream, which supposedly vanishes in 'mysterious circumstances' around the time of the story. This is a bit ludicrous given the events at the story's climax.

(Oh, and I could whinge about one of the villains being called the Warp Core. DW's been Trekified enough, thanks...)

I can't really criticise the cast very much. Sylvester McCoy's performances have been a bit too mannered and eccentric for a while now but at least he's stopped shouting. Sophie Aldred is Ace, in the nicest possible way. Sadly, Caroline John gives an awful silly-accent performance, but the script isn't terribly kind to her - never mind, Carrie, you were good in that TV advert about the escort agency. Ian Ricketts is quietly rather good as Guthrie, one of Duchamp 331's denizens. As for Geoffrey Beevers as the interestingly-named Mr Seta, all I will say is that his performance is as strong as one might have hoped but the script isn't all it could've been - so the end result is a little inferior to some of his earlier work.

I've been concentrating on Dust Breeding's few obvious flaws, rather than its' many quiet strengths. This is well worth a listen. Don't let the dust settle on your CD player for long.

A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 3/10/01

Compared to Mike Tucker's previous Big Finish offering The Genocide Machine, Dust Breeding is a definite improvement. And like his other work it also features an old enemy, in this case The Master, who provides the cliffhanger for the second episode. Also featured are the Krill from Storm Harvest, who don`t lend themselves to audio too well. What does go down better is the return of Louise Faulkner who plays the part of surrogate companion, Bev Tarrant with alarming ease. Geoffrey Beevers' Master is a breath of fresh air, although the character shoudn't return too often; a common mistake of the series, and Caroline John`s Madame Salvadori is also a welcome addition despite the dodgy accent.

Sylvester McCoy hits the right buttons as the Doctor here and Sophie Aldred brings a more vulnerable side to Ace. Mike Tucker's script contains some clever ideas in both the Scream and the planet of Duchamp 331 itself. Largely Dust Breeding is excellent let down only by some silly dialogue towards the end.

Dust Breeding - The One With THAT Cliffhanger by Robert Thomas 5/11/01

A pretty good story this, not brilliant but good. The 2nd audio outing from Mike Tucker and it's not as brilliant as his first but still pretty good. The setting isn't up to Mike Tucker's usual standard but is very atmospheric none the less. Sylvester is on fine form in this especially in his confrontation with the painting. The other actors do well but apart from Caroline John, Geoffrey Beavers and Louise Faulkner don't really stand out.

The plot however is very engaging and probably the most complicated and enjoyable is you follow is right of these audio's so far. The painting was a good idea as is the way The Doctor and Ace become involved. Incidentally great joke at the end. If you see the front cover and have read the hype you may think you know who the baddies are in advance. But Mike Tucker plays with this and you get something you were not expecting.

However there is the cliffhanger of part 2. Being the age I am I've never really experienced this and have enjoyed the shock of it for the 1st time. Although in all honesty without this cliffhanger this would be a fairly ordinary story.

A Review by John Seavey 21/1/04

Crap from beginning to end. The first two whole parts are taken up with the kind of set-up that used to be handled with the words, "Doctor, where are we?" The 'Scream' connection is horribly, horribly forced. The Master's plot is idiotic. The Krill are unthreatening, as is the Warp Core... and Tucker's penchant for giving his monsters stupid names continues. (Apparently, this one is all about brine shrimp fighting the power supply of the U.S.S. Enterprise...) Bev Tarrant returns, although she remains blessedly personality-free. There's nobody interesting anywhere in the supporting cast. The grizzled old miner sounds like a librarian, and the only personality trait he displays in two hours is that he's got a cigarette lighter... which, shock of shocks, turns out to be a plot point later on! The ending is the world's worst anti-climax. About the only thing I can think of to say about this that's positive is that Geoffrey Beevers does a great Vincent Price impersonation.

You Are Dust and To Dust You Shall Return by Jacob Licklider 18/4/18

Dust Breeding is full to the brim with brilliant ideas that author Mike Tucker brings to the table more than his original play, The Genocide Machine. The plot reveals that throughout his life the Doctor has been stealing paintings as soon as they go missing to preserve the art and how this allows him to discover a creature living in "The Scream" by painter Edvard Munch, a la the six fake Mona Lisa's in City of Death. This becomes part of a plot with the Master who is teaming up with the Krill, an alien created by Tucker and Perry for the novel Storm Harvest, to restore his body by harvesting this creature on a dust planet. There is also an intergalactic art convention with a mad artist melding his body with the dust for his art and a comedic woman running the place played by Liz Shaw actress, Caroline John. The audio itself is too cluttered for its own good trying to combine so many different ideas that it takes a lot to keep everything straight in your head. I've never read any of Tucker's novel work, but, as most of his work has been with Robert Perry, I feel Tucker is the idea and character man while Perry actually does the plot structure. This is evident in Dust Breeding just because of how cluttered everything is even though the characters shine through.

The Doctor and Ace have characterization on par with that seen in The Fearmonger and they feel more like they were equals during this story. Ace in particular has her own subplot where she gets to be independent of the Doctor, and Sophie Aldred pulls it off. While it is obvious Aldred has aged, I think her voice works better on audio than it would have if this was still 1989. Some of her delivery is off in places. Ace has a few good cracks at the Doctor and questions the morality of stealing paintings. Sadly, that debate is never really resolved, as the plot continues on without any real looking back on previously established conflict.

The villain of the piece is the Master, with Geoffrey Beevers making a quiet return as the character post-Survival. Tucker goes into nice enough detail about what happens, but don't expect it to make it the perfect resolution with the books and how David A. McIntee saw him post-Survival. It also makes it hell to keep track of the different versions of the Master, as Beevers has two incarnations now. Nothing on Beevers, however, as he is brilliant, and you won't see the Master coming, as the alias is perfect. He teams up with the Krill, who are an interesting idea for a villain, even though they don't do much.

The side characters are varied, with Guthrie basically being the mysterious old man who gets a few laughs. There is the return of Bev Tarrant from The Genocide Machine who works better here when she isn't a carbon copy of Benny. She would steal the show if it wasn't for Damien who is the camp secondary villain and Madame Salvadori who is Caroline John let off her leash and allowed to go full pantomime. The rest of the characters are rather dull and unforgettable, and Tucker falls into the same traps of The Genocide Machine with great ideas but a badly structured plot. It doesn't help that the music for the story is also forgettable, even if I can praise its sound design for just being great.

To summarize, Dust Breeding just doesn't do it for me. I mean, it is a good story with some great ideas that I really can get into, but there are many flaws that keep me from liking it. The music is very forgettable, but the sound is nice and the characters are mostly varied from what we have seen before. Tucker just cannot write a coherent plot if it was the only thing he could do to save the world. A real example of wasted potential. 65/100