Planet of Dust

Posted in Audio by - October 11, 2019
Planet of Dust

Released October 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Having begun to earn the Doctor’s trust, the Eleven sets course for the parched world of Parrak to find further help with his unique condition in Matt Fitton’s ‘Planet of Dust.’ The Master unknowingly holds control over Parrak, however, and as alliances and trust are quickly forged and broken in equal measure, the Time Lords soon discover that the Ravenous never truly give up on their prey.

The final few moments will undoubtedly provide the most lasting impact from ‘Planet of Dust’ as the Ravenous violently make their presence known and prove that nobody is truly safe, but the journey to that point is surprisingly through one of the most traditional Doctor Who storylines the Eighth Doctor has ever been a part of for Big Finish. The synopsis and cover of this story make little secret of the fact that the Great Provider is the Master, and ‘Planet of Dust’ follows the very trusted route of inserting the Doctor and his companions into an environment that the Master is manipulating for his own benefit, here as he takes water from throughout Parrak’s existence and returns it drop by drop to ensure the people follow his directions. Fitton does a good job establishing and developing this oppressed society whose members genuinely believe in the benevolence of their leader, but it’s a storyline with too many elements that have been done too many times before to truly stand out in the closing chapters of this lengthy saga.

Fortunately, the presence of the decayed Master as the husk his bodies always revert to despite this many attempts to prolong his life cycle significantly bolsters the urgency and emotional resonance of this story, especially as the plans of the Master and the Eleven unknowingly align while each seeks the fabled tomb of the Time Lord legend Artron and the remaining essence that lays within its walls. There have been many times in which the Eleven has been the Master in everything but name given his audacious schemes and mindset, but finally pairing the two characters together firmly highlights the subtle variations in both emotion and motivation that clearly delineates their desires for survival and resulting means of trying to ensure it. It’s no surprise that Mark Bonnar and Geoffrey Beevers are the highlights of this story as the truths behind each character are eventually revealed, and a genuinely emotional performance from Paul McGann as the Doctor who has such profound history with each of these renegade Time Lords provides a unique combination of optimism and despair that further elevates a standard setup and that adds an entirely new depth to the gruesome carnage the Ravenous bring in their wake.

Even as the Eleven shows his true colours and sets his eyes on an even bigger Time Lord delivery to fulfill his obligations, however, the Ravenous still don’t quite perfectly work as an audio menace. The sound effects adeptly highlight just how carnal these creatures are once their Time Lord prey is within their grasp, but it’s difficult to believe that conversations in fairly normal tones could be had while being ravaged or that the Ravenous could become so focused on one captive under any circumstances that they would allow the Doctor to escape so relatively easily. The Doctor, of course, has to escape to carry on the fight from a narrative perspective, and the implications pertaining to the Master’s fate are truly harrowing, but the approach taken to reaching this point is somewhat implausible given just how much buildup the Ravenous have received over the past several stories. Still, the scene is certainly set for a momentous showdown with the Doctor and Liv separated from Helen and the TARDIS and the Ravenous in endless pursuit, and the Doctor’s troubles only seem to be worsening as Ravenous heads into its two-part conclusion with even more familiar faces in sight.

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