Guest contributor Lincoln Wilson handles this week’s Retro Review. Read on for his thoughts!
So, the time of reckoning is at hand.
After (almost) 275 monthly releases, stretching way back to July 1999 and the release of very first story (The Sirens of Time) of Big Finish’s flagship Doctor Who audio range, the end is nigh.
Well – it is, and it isn’t.
As Big Finish moves in to a new format of releases (box sets of some form) for the ‘classic’ Doctors, now seems a good time to start looking back at the good, the bad and the ugly stories that have thrilled, annoyed and perplexed listeners for over 20 years.
And this week we start with Dust Breeding by Mike Tucker.
The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) are heading for the barren, dust world of Duchamp 331 to add ‘The Scream’, the 1893 painting by Norwegian Expressionist artist Edvard Munch, to the TARDIS Art Gallery before it is destroyed in mysterious circumstances.
A distress beacon from the planet intervenes, and the Doctor and Ace find a lone survivor at a devastated refuelling station. All evidence points to the elements – the howling wind and the rolling dust – as the main culprit. But as usual the Doctor thinks that there must be more to it, and after bumping into an old friend, Bev Tarrant (played by Louise Faulkner and first seen in Tucker’s earlier story The Genocide Machine), they start to investigate a remote artist’s colony that just happens to house ‘The Scream’.
Also en route to Duchamp 331 is the luxury space-liner Gallery, where art patron Madame Salvadori (played with flamboyant gusto by Caroline John) and her side kick, the ever loyal and efficient Mr Klemp (Mark Donavan), have promised the wealthy passengers the art event of their lifetime when they reach Duchamp. But one of the VIPs on board, the mysterious Mr Seta (Geoffrey Beevers) and his even more mysterious cargo, has larger – and of course nefarious – plans of his own.
Dust Breeding has a lot of elements to it but take a step back and it is a fairly standard Doctor Who story. It is also a very enjoyable Doctor Who story.
Sylvester McCoy is on fine form and the supporting cast all add wonderfully to the mix. Duchamp resident Mr Guthrie (Ian Ricketts) and the slightly unhinged leader of the artist colony, Damien Pierson (Johnson Willis), both have roles to play as events unfold. We even get Alistair Lock of Blake’s 7 fame, playing a short-lived Gallery security guard who encounters Mr Seta in one of his less charitable moods.
The sound design is also excellent – with a familiar-ish roar or scream on the wind of Duchamp that is hard to place – but lacks the polish of Big Finish’s later output. A bit like listening to a slightly crackling vinyl record or a good old-fashioned valve amp.
Was that a first pang of nostalgia creeping in there? With 275 releases and even more stories making up the Monthly Range, fans of audio Doctor Who have a huge back-catalogue of releases to dip in to….but I don’t know.
It just doesn’t seem enough.
Doctor Who: Dust Breeding is available now as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
Our series of Retro Reviews continues next week, with a review of Cicero: Series One