Saturday, April 7, 2007

DWM Preview! Bid Time Return

Following their crippling defeat at the hands of the Movellan Network, the last survivors of the Daleks scattered across the galaxy, realizing that they would again have to rely on humanoid races to assist them in the task of rebuilding. But instead of Robomen, Ogrons or the prisoners they took as slaves, the Supreme Dalek turned its attention to the Charnel House - an ancient order of the most viscious and competent warriors in existence, whose only loyalties were to themselves and their current paymasters. The Daleks tricked a platoon lead by Commander Gustave Lytton into becoming their elite Dalek Task Force and brainwashing them to become mindless Dalek slaves. But Lytton's superb grasp of strategy and tactics were needed badly by the Daleks, and his conditioning was only partial - and the warrior's cunning brain was able to break it entirely.

The attack on Cassius Four succeedly solely down to Lytton's planning and, although no amount of planning could have predicted the arrival of the Doctor and his effect on subsequence events, it is obvious the outcome would have been very different if Lytton had been given free reign by his increasingly paranoid and insane Dalek Masters. Realizing the increasing danger of Davros' private army and that the Daleks were determined to get rid of him Lytton used his intelligence and managed to escape the slaughter of the warehouse (a feat only the TARDIS crew also managed), and took mental command over the two remaining, masterless, Kamelion androids. Although marooned in 1984 London, Lytton was quick to adapt and despite having no official existence soon became a profitable blue collar criminal, his gift strategy easily allowing himself and three loyal if unintelligent comrades to become wealthy. He also had the skill to construct a complicated artificial intelligence with only rudimentary twentieth century components.
Lytton once again found himself caught up in a massive alien invasion through time - only on this occasion it was the Cybermen and they had their own enemies to deal with before the newly regenerated Doctor and Peri turned up. Lytton's risky plan to use the time invasion in order to escape back to his own era was once again compromised by the Doctor's chaotic arrival. However, Lytton's sense of self-preservation was finely tuned and he not only escaped with his life, but also a Cyber scout ship capable of taking him, if not home, than to the more civilized parts of the universe.

Tracking Lytton down would be a time-consuming and frustration process for the peripatic Doctor, though it is clear that of all his human enemies it is Lytton he despises most - from his brutal murder of an unarmed and defenceless woman in Warhead of the Daleks to selling out his only human friends in The Attack of the Cybermen, Lytton's calm ruthlessness and sheer brutality make him a dangerous opponent. It is quite clear that he is capable of returning to his home time and place, but the question is what will the consequences be to the innocent bystanders when he does it?

However, Commander Gustave Lytton is far from the thoughts of the Doctor and Peri at present, which is ironic, as he, like them, is currently visiting the barren desert planet of Celleste which boasts the gambler's paradise, Silver City - a haven of entreprenours, black market traders, wanders, aliens, and many more simply passing through. After the exhausting events of The Enemy Within, the Doctor is drowning his sorrows and trying to think of anything else. Peri, finally giving up on her mentor, is off enjoying herself at Silver City's opulent casino and spending some time with the Governor of Celleste, the philosophical Naraleen. However, there are others visiting Silver City - the Rocinante, a literal doomsday cult lead by the dangerously unstable Archon Tesku (or, as he liked to be called, Loki) who intend to end the universe and everything in it.

Assuming the Doctor can tear himself away from the luxury of his voxnic bar, will even he be able to stop Loki when not only Lytton is there to impede him but also the menagerie of chaos that engulfs Silver City as a side effect of his armageddon device?

These answers are to be found in the fifth story of the new season, Bid Time Return, which is chalk to the previous story's cheese. While The Enemy Within was a small scale, horrific, character based story Bid Time Return is a large, colourful extravaganza of casinos and alien cultists yet both are focussed on bases under siege and how the Doctor and Peri cope with encountering some of the most evil beings they've ever encountered. The title is as much about the desire for the time travellers (even Lytton) to get back the fun times they once had as it is about the extra-dimensional chaos Loki intends to unleash, and like all the best comedy has incredibly dark subject matter at its core.

To balance out the expensive nighttime location filming of the previous story, Bid Time Return is entirely studio bound, with the models and special effects team working wonders to create flying saucers, ruined castles and the vitally important Silver City, itself a parked space station on an asteroid. Also, scenes cut for timing reasons from last year's spectacular The Caves of Androzani have been cunningly woven into the narrative, as have some from the legendary Shada. With its big concepts and characters hiding the fact this is the one of the year's "cheap" stories, producer John Nathan-Turner swear that it will not let up the pace between the heavyweights of The Enemy Within and the six-episode epic The Androgum Inheritance as Lytton is not the only returning enemy in this story.

Joining Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Maurice Colbourne as Lytton in Bid Time Return are main cast members Stephen Pacey as Loki, Sabina Franklin as Naraleen, Ben Howard as Gamsool, and Ric Young as Commander Zihra. Considering the impressive list of ingredients and the high standard of stories so far, this unobtrusive two-parter might have the potential to be the winner of the season.

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