Roots: Space 1899 and steampunk fiction, Dune (warring houses), Point Break ("Peace through superior firepower"), Terminator 2 ("If you want to live, come with me")
Dialogue Disasters: Merril's machismo: "Hello, I think I have a bullet that belongs to you"
"Now if you'll excuse me, I have a destiny to fulfil!"
Dialogue Triumphs: "A good lie usually has ten or so minutes of life in it"
Double Entendres: Swallow's nod to Platt: "They say they started off with Spare Parts."
"You just need to listen to the rock, Magnus."
Continuity: Tasak orbits more than one sun. Following a recent civil war the planet is still politically fragile, with rivalries existing between the familial Houses of Argenta and Sarkota. It is described as a pre-atomic industrial revolution society (although they are aware of other worlds). 'Scienticians' and 'biologians' are revered, and 'magnus' is a title. Flying machines include coleopters, thermal blasters are among current technology, and there is a large calculatory in the Grand Citadel of Argetia the most heavily fortified place in Argent City, a major conurbation on the northern coast of the planet's main continent. It is the 'heart' of Argentia. Geothermal energy is tapped via magma tubes in an island a few kilometres off the coast of Argent City, a location widely referred to as the 'legacy of the Mordath', appearing frequently in the planet's mythologies and race memories, with legends of great beings merging with the people in a new and shining form.
In actuality Tasak is a Cyberman 'tomb world', one of countless thousands spread across the galaxy where Cyber armies sleep in suspended animation, waiting for a Galactic Dehibernation Signal to revive them, primed and ready to convert the native population. Reverse-engineered Cybertechnology (such as a cybergun and 'silver', an alleged panacea derived from Cybermen nanogens) have helped prepare the way. Below the island, cavern structures stretch for miles beneath the sea floor and contain thousands of dormant Cybermen. Steel embedded in the basalt suggests the Cybermen may have been here for thousands of years.
The Cybermen here have a sub-space communications array. A "cybrid" control signal awakens nanogens in human subjects, converting them into semi-Cybermen, though it appears that near-to full conversion is also possible with sufficient quantities of nanogens in a host body. The Doctor calls the cyber-conversion machinery 'fleshworks'. Cybernetic senses take some time to recover post-cryosleep. A mechanical cogitator that's much smaller than the earlier models and is able to be carried on a man's back is seemigly a reverse-engineered Cyberplanner.
The Doctor recognises Temeter's sensor and common android design from the Orion War period. The androids are in the middle of an arms race; both they and Earth's military are scouring the galaxy for Mondasian technology for use in the Orion War .Android sensors can detect technologies in advance of their own - observer probes discovered cultural indicators in Tasak's mythology inferring alien intervention far back in their history. The androids are unaware of the Time Lords
The Doctor uses the alias 'Johannes Smither'. He uses a sonic screwdriver and owns a self-heating fusion teapot (he tells Temeter he's come to Tasak for the tea as it's the best in the quadrant).
Untelevised Adventures: This is seemingly not the Doctor's first visit to Argentia, given he has an invitation under the above name to the meeting of Houses.
Links: Sword of Orion, Tomb of the Cybermen (including the phrase "you will become like us"), Keepsake. The Doctor refers once again to having met Leonardo Da Vinci, telling him that his helicopter design would only be "bad news"
Location: the planet Tasak, light years away from the battle lines of the on-going Orion War (some time in the twenty-sixth century?)
The Bottom Line: "The path to Hell is paved with good inventions"
To date one of Big Finish's few steampunk stories, yet this element takes a definite backseat to the Cyberman elements most of which we've seen or heard before. With that in mind there are few surprises here both in story or characterisation, and this is a story overshadowed by its more economic companion piece, Keepsake.
The Orion War
The Orion War was a series of conflicts which took place largely in the Orion System between an autonomous enclave of Androids and the Earth Empire early in the 26th century. In Keepsake the Doctor describes the War as long and brutal, noted for moments of great cruelty and even greater heroism. It forms the backdrop of the Cyberman spin-off series, as well as the stories Sword of Orion, Kingdom of Silver and the aforementioned Keepsake.
Long after the Cyber wars of the 25th century Earth Androids built in the fledgling Orion colonies are so technologically advanced as to be virtually indistinguishable from their creators, yet exist as an under-class. They proceed to set up their own government in the Orion system, with the stipulation that humans could only remain if they accept Android equality. 'Ugly scenes' ensue, including demonstrations and riots, and when Earth authorities respond aggressively, events culminate in all-out war.
From the outset the Androids' greatest weapon is their number, yet after eight years, the War reaches a stalemate. Seeking a technological advantage, the Earth Empire seeks to retrieve Cyber technology from Orion's neighbour, the Garazone System, specifically from an apparently derelict Star Destroyer left behind from the Cyber Wars. In a mission dubbed 'Project Sword of Orion' Earth intends to reverse-engineer the Cybermen aboard the Destroyer (in actuality a conversion ship) to mimic the Cyber-conversion process and use it to transform their own men into cybernetic troops. In return the vessel attracts the attention of Android spies who have much the same objective, seeking information to convert their human prisoners into cyborgs. Revival of Cybermen within the ship renders the mission inoperable, and intervention by the Eight Doctor scuttles the ship permanently.
Twenty years into the War the Earth Military narrowly avoid reawakening the Cybermen from their master hibernation vault on Telos, and in doing so open themselves unwittingly to incursion by a Cyberplanner and cybrid agents. Earth launches 'Scorpius', a mission to clean up the remains of the Sword of Orion Project. Locating another crashed Cybership on Earth Scorpius (named after the slayer of the mythical Orion) sees a further and this time successful attempt to create Cybermen for use against the Android army. With Earth under martial law and prisoners of the state rounded up for conversion the human Cyber army swells, but with a cybrid agent in the White House the now-vastly numerous Cybermen themselves emerge to seize control. In what appears to be the final known act of the War, Android forces leave Orion to meet the approaching independent Cyber army head-on, in a last-ditch attempt to destroy them for the sake of Orion and Earth. Though their success is not recorded, it may be assumed that this confrontation effectively ended hostilities between Orion and Earth.