Dust Devil

Posted in Audio by - April 14, 2022
Dust Devil

Released April 2022


As multiverses and alternate realities continue to become increasingly mainstream, it’s easy to forget that Big Finish has had its own Unbound range dedicated to such scenarios with unique actors in the leading roles since 2003. While the last official story released in 2008, Unbound makes a triumphant return with perhaps the biggest ‘what if’ of them all as Doctor of War 1: Genesis explores the fallout of the Fourth Doctor accepting his mission to destroy the Daleks in ‘Genesis of the Daleks.’

John Dorney opens this most intriguing concept with ‘Dust Devil’ and a brilliant recreation of that famed sequence by Tom Baker, Sadie Miller, and Christopher Naylor that quickly takes the most tragic of turns as the Doctor decides to touch the wires together and avert the creation of arguably the most dangerous race the universe has ever seen. Unfortunately, not everything goes according to plan, and after Sarah Jane and Harry perish, the Doctor is recalled to Gallifrey on the verge of regeneration himself. This provides a clever means for Narvin who has become so integral to so much of Gallifrey’s affairs for Big Finish to become entwined in the events of the Fourth Doctor, and with time already in flux and fracturing, he utilizes the knowledge of the Sisterhood of Karn to guide the Doctor’s change into one suited for the great war that has already consumed all of history. The established War Doctor is nowhere to be seen, however, and Colin Baker instead assumes the mantle of the Warrior who stands at the very centre of it all.

In what is quite a bold move for this opening instalment, the Warrior himself hardly features, the story instead choosing to follow the Sixth Doctor in different times as he encounters the ravages of time and confronts his own vestigial existence. This approach actually serves as an intriguing segue into the increasingly wrong universe and Doctor that will undoubtedly come to more prominently feature, and returning to the planet of Aridius from ‘The Chase’ to build up the mysteries behind the planet’s movement toward its sun and changing topography, the immense growth of the sole remaining Mire Beast, and just how exactly time is flowing here is a bold one that again keeps this reality steeped in at least a semblance of familiarity. The Doctor quite astutely wonders how this planet came to receive its name that is so fitting of its ultimate fate as now seen and yet so wholly disparate from its original ocean-covered state, and the temporal assassination attempt at this story’s core while the Doctor searches for his own tomb effectively amplifies the scale and scope of this tremendous threat. Indeed, this is perhaps best exemplified by Nicola Bryant’s stunning turn as Ms Brown who is hunting this version of the Doctor, the spite and casual menace in her voice as she speaks chillingly effective in again blending distinct and familiar and providing a brilliant contrast to the more optimistic and exuberant Peri seen traveling with the Sixth Doctor while reality flickers around them with even the TARDIS terrified of the danger before them. Even the Doctor is unsure of what is occurring in either of these circumstances and locations where everything is so wrong as temporal bullets persist, but Peri’s own keen eye and bluntness provide a needed voice of directness in a story that quite purposefully refuses to reveal too much as it builds its mysteries to a deafening crescendo with the Warrior always aware.

Colin Baker offers an incredible performance in these different locales and personas that brilliantly captures the determination and assuredness of his incarnation even amidst such turmoil as well as the cool, cutting tones that will form at least part of the Warrior as this character comes to feature more prominently. Aided by equally impressive guest performances and immense sound design to bring this fragmented storyline together, ‘Dust Devil’ is an incredibly interesting start to this series that makes the most of utilizing familiarity to enhance its unfamiliarity. It certainly does seem as though fragments and splinters of this fractured reality will continue to bleed through and feature within the Warrior’s domain, and even as an expositionary tale that by necessity cannot reveal too much, ‘Dust Devil’ has already proven just how successfully this approach for Unbound can work.

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