Faction Paradox
Volume 2
The Ship of a Billion Years

Starring: Wanda Opalinska and Jane Lesley, with Julian Glover and Gabriel Woolf
Magic Bullet Productions
RRP: 9.99, US $15.00
Available 15 April 2006

Cousin Justine is a prisoner, enslaved by an Egyptian deity on a billion-year cruise across the universe. As Cousin Eliza and the Society of Sigismondo di Rimini go to desperate lengths to locate her, Justine becomes embroiled within Osirian court politics. Neither knows that they are on a collision course towards a confrontation with Sutekh the destroyer...

It seems like a billion years since I heard the previous instalment of this story, Coming to Dust. In fact the gap was substantial enough at over seven months. Happily, the plot is surprisingly easy to slip back into.

Following my confusion regarding Sutekh's (Gabriel Woolf) apparently active status in 1763 (as opposed to being imprisoned in Pyramids of Mars), I am pleased to report that this is explained in this episode. Apparently time flows differently for Osirians than it does for us mere humans, and sometimes in different directions, so the events of Pyramids have not yet happened as far as Sutekh is concerned (though there are hints that his clash with 140 of his fellow Osirians is not that far away). The title of the piece is also a pretty big clue that time travel is involved.

Woolf and Julian Glover (as Upuat) played relatively minor roles in Coming to Dust, but here they well and truly come into their own. This episode contains a veritable clash of the titans as the rich voices of two great villains from the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who exchange verbal barbs. OK, so Glover isn't actually playing Scaroth from City of Death, but it's easy to imagine that he is, especially when he mentions time fields. (Come to think of it, a splinter of Scaroth existed in ancient Egypt. That would be an interesting topic for a future adventure: Scaroth meets Upuat!)

One minor vocal nit-pick is that all the characters pronounce the name of Sutekh's people the way it is spelt, whereas it was pronounced "Osiran" in Pyramids of Mars. Perhaps writer Lawrence Miles and the rest of the production team wish to correct what they see as an oversight in that earlier serial. Alternatively, maybe this is a cunning get-out clause in case of legal action from the BBC, in that the makers could claim this is a different race of beings than the ones used in Doctor Who!

There's also an amusing double entendre as Eliza (Jane Lesley) encounters Sutekh in a space-time tunnel and asks: "What are you doing in my passage?"

Otherwise, though, this episode (and somehow that word doesn't do justice to this packed 79-minute escapade) is a satisfying resolution to the current Faction Paradox tale.

Richard McGinlay