‘Time-Flight’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

Flight of the Concorde with the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan

And now we’ve come to the final story of Season 19 of ‘Doctor Who’! This is ‘Time-Flight’, a four-part story by Peter Grimwade! The first time I saw ‘Time-Flight’ was on DVD when it was part of the ‘Tegan Tales’ DVD box set. The box set contained the two stories – ‘Time-Flight’ and ‘Arc of Infinity’!

At the time I saw the two stories on DVD back in August 2007 (Crikey, is it that long ago?), I considered them to be two amazing stories from the Peter Davison era. Yeah I know, I must have sounded bonkers when I thought that and I know these tales have their flaws, but I still love them!

I honestly enjoyed ‘Time-Flight’ and ‘Arc of Infinity’ when I purchased the ‘Tegan Tales’ DVD box set on holiday with my parents in Torridon, Scotland in August 2007. I found them two fine ‘Doctor Who’ tales featuring Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, Sarah Sutton as Nyssa and Janet Fielding as Tegan!

Even though the two stories were dedicated to Tegan, I consider them to be fine stories for Nyssa’s character, especially since she became my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companion in later years. It’s pretty amazing to believe that I would be watching these TV tales before I saw Sarah Sutton at conventions.

I’ve had the DVD cover of ‘Time-Flight’ signed by Sarah Sutton at the ‘Cardiff Film and Comic Con’ in March 2014. I’ve also had a lovely photo of Nyssa in ‘Time-Flight’ signed by Sarah Sutton at the ‘Worcester Comic Con’ in August 2016. It was so nice to have that photo signed by Sarah at that event.

I cherish ‘Time-Flight’ always as I do for all the ‘Doctor Who’ stories featuring Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa. I can’t help like these classic ‘Doctor Who’ stories with Peter Davison’s Doctor, Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa and Janet Fielding’s Tegan. It’s a shame though that not many other ‘Doctor Who’ fans feel like I do.

Poor ‘Time-Flight’! No one likes ‘Time-Flight’ very much. I like ‘Time-Flight’! No one wants it. It’s an uncherished, unloved ‘Doctor Who’ story that was tagged on at the end of Peter Davison’s first season as the Fifth Doctor sometime in March 1982. It’s a ‘Doctor Who’ story that gets criticized a lot!

Yet despite its flaws; its dodgy dialogue; its dodgy scriptwriting and its dodgy special effects, ‘Time-Flight’ is a ‘Doctor Who’ story that has, for me at least, some pretty good moments in it and it deserves more examination. The good moments are there in ‘Time-Flight’ if you know where to look for them.

To start off with, ‘Time-Flight’ is a ‘Doctor Who’ story that, despite its weak plot, managed to gain 10 million viewers for its first episode when it was shown on TV. The viewing figures did drop to 8 million after that, but it managed to climb back up to almost 9 million at around ‘Part Three’ of the story.

You may consider that a mystery considering ‘Time-Flight’ suffered a troubled production and was made on a reduced budget by the time Season 19 came to an end. But with the death of Adric in ‘Earthshock’ for viewers to tune in to ‘Part One’ of ‘Time-Flight’, that was a big stroke of luck there. 🙂

Also when the Master appeared at the end of ‘Part Two’ of the story, it was bound to get viewers interested in seeing what happened next in ‘Part Three’. Despite the viewing figures dropping again in ‘Part Four’, ‘Time-Flight’ is a TV story that managed to find two ways of luring viewers to watch it.

Also, when you think about it, the plot of ‘Time-Flight’ itself contains a rather straight-forward premise that’s quite exciting to watch. Hear me out! The story is about a Concorde plane that gets zapped back in time. The TARDIS soon gets caught up in its impact with the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan on board.

Eventually, the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are summoned to investigate the disappearance of the certain Concorde plane. The TARDIS heroes, with three air pilots joining them, get zapped back in time via another Concorde plane with the TARDIS aboard and they’re back in the prehistoric age on Earth.

With limitations, the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan with the three air pilots Captain Stapley, First Officer Bilton and Flight Engineer Scobie come up against a terrifying villain in the form of the Master. Our heroes have to find a way to get themselves and their Concorde passengers to return…back to the future!

So there you are! Those are the ingredients of a very decent ‘Doctor Who’ story! It has merit! It’s all there! Yet it’s such a shame that the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of the story aren’t well-executed enough. That can be down to a number of things in terms of the writing, the direction and the overall design of the story.

The scientific explanations and the concepts of this story also aren’t so well-executed as were hoped. They do sound interesting, especially with the concept of the Xeraphin and there being a Jekyll and Hyde aspect to them. But it all came out confused to the cast and crew as well as to the audience in output.

Peter Grimwade, who wrote ‘Time-Flight’, was previously a ‘Doctor Who’ director. Beforehand, he directed ‘Full Circle’, ‘Logopolis’, ‘Kinda’ and ‘Earthshock’ in the TV series. In fact, ‘Time-Flight’ was transmitted directly after Peter Grimwade’s efforts as a director were presented in ‘Earthshock’! Ouch!

‘Time-Flight’ was the first ‘Doctor Who’ story Peter Grimwade wrote for the TV series as he would later write ‘Mawdryn Undead’ and ‘Planet of Fire’ afterwards. ‘Time-Flight’ is a pretty ambitious story and it required a lot of time and effort to be put into it. A huge shame that it was made at the end of Season 19.

It was clear that more money was spent on ‘Earthshock’ and less time, effort and money was spent on ‘Time-Flight’. I’m not sure what the logic is to have ‘Time-Flight’ as the season finale, despite it being set at Heathrow Airport at the start and finish of the story and completing Tegan’s journey in it.

‘Earthshock’ should have been the season finale for Season 19 and ‘Time-Flight’ would have made a nice season opener for Season 20. The idea of a ‘Doctor Who’ season finale is to spend a lot of money on it and to end the season on a high! Not the reverse! This happened a lot in classic ‘Doctor Who’!

Also with the story being directed by Ron Jones, his second contribution to the TV series after he directed ‘Black Orchid’, it may have spoiled Peter Grimwade’s interpretation as the writer of the piece. I know Peter Grimwade wasn’t pleased with how Ron Jones directed ‘Time-Flight’ in the end.

I really did like that opening scene between Nyssa, Tegan and Doctor in the TARDIS after they lost Adric in ‘Earthshock’. I did want to know what happened next after Adric got killed and how the Doctor and his friends dealt with his death. It’s an effective scene since they’re very upset and miss him.

Nyssa and Tegan beg the Doctor to go back and rescue him, but the Doctor refuses. I found it tense and moving when the Doctor tells Nyssa and Tegan why he can’t go back to save Adric. The Doctor’s anger rises when he gives his reasons to Nyssa and Tegan, since he knows it would mean changing history.

The Doctor insists to Nyssa and Tegan that they reframe from asking him such a request like that again. The Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan have to move on and honour Adric in their memory with his heroic sacrifice. The scene was wonderfully played throughout between Peter, Janet and Sarah here.

I admit, you wouldn’t get away with that nowadays as you would have a story dedicated to the death of a certain character and the main characters mourning for that certain character in modern television. But things were different in those days and I don’t mind that it wasn’t dealt with too much.

I also liked the Heathrow Airport scenes featured in this story. Throughout Season 19, the Doctor has been trying to get Tegan back to Heathrow Airport in certain stories. Most of the time, he’s been unsuccessful. Now, and without the intention, the Doctor has finally done it in getting Tegan back home.

The Heathrow Airport scenes are pretty nice to watch, as they provide a familiar atmosphere that we, as viewers, can recognise when going to airports and such. The Heathrow Airport scenes are probably the best part of the story, knowing what is to come later on concerning the prehistoric scenes.

I liked those snowy scenes with the Concorde plane as the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan embark and disembark. I felt sorry for Sarah and Janet though since they braved through the bitter cold in those scenes. I want to put my arms around them to keep them warm since they did look cold on screen.

Like I said, the concepts for the story are interesting. I like how Peter Grimwade utilised the Concorde planes to great effect. Grimwade had clearly done his research in terms of knowing how a Concorde plane worked and how he does his best in using them to tell his story in ‘Doctor Who’ itself.

And as I’ve also stated, I like how Peter Grimwade introduces the Xeraphin as an alien race with a split personality inspired by Jekyll and Hyde. I also like the notion of the Xeraphin being able to create illusions and being able to hypnotise their subjects, which is pretty mind-boggling to watch and consider.

There were some scenes that I found intriguing where the Doctor and his friends saw things that weren’t there. When the Doctor and his friends arrive back in time during the prehistoric age, at first they think they’re back at Heathrow Airport in the 1980s. This is until Nyssa screams where a clue is given.

It was some dead bodies that scared Nyssa when she screamed and it is at this point that the Doctor realises that they’re not where they are. It’s quite a frightening concept to think about with people getting caught in a hypnotic effect and you have to break through the trance in order to win over the illusion.

As well as mind-boggling, I found it quite disturbing and tried to envisage what it would be like to struggle and not be overcome by illusions and hallucinations placed on you. I know the explanations for these concepts about the Xeraphin and the theme of perception induction aren’t well justified here.

But somehow, when I watched the story again and again, I was able to get the gist of what was happening in the tale. Maybe it was me homing in onto the Doctor’s explanations and how Nyssa, Tegan and the others interpreted them that helped me to enjoy and appreciate the story even more.

I love Sarah Sutton as Nyssa! I’ve chatted to Sarah about ‘Time-Flight’ at conventions including the ‘Collectormania Glasgow’ event in August 2012 and at ‘Pandorica 2015’ in Bristol, September 2015. I told Sarah I quite liked ‘Time-Flight’. Sarah was surprised and did tell me I was mad. I liked that! 😀

Sarah doesn’t like ‘Time-Flight’ much. She’s considered ‘Time-Flight’ to be worse than Colin Baker’s ‘The Twin Dilemma’. I recall telling Sarah why I liked ‘Time-Flight’ so much, especially since I was convinced by her good performance. I don’t think Sarah believed me, but she liked my compliments.

I can sympathise with why Sarah doesn’t like ‘Time-Flight’ very much and not being able to understand the story since she, Peter and Janet must have found it hard work when they made it back then. But to be honest, ‘Time-Flight’ is a ‘Doctor Who’ story that contains some really good Nyssa moments in it.

Nyssa’s latent psychic abilities get touched upon in the story. She gets taken over by the Xeraphin who use her as a medium to speak their messages of warning to the Doctor. You do wonder what’s going on with Nyssa and hope that she is okay. Her psychic abilities get used to a great effect in this.

Nyssa seems to know what’s going on than Tegan and the Doctor do. I liked it when Nyssa gets to lead Tegan into the Inner Sanctum of the Xeraphin stronghold. She becomes adamant and insistent when having scenes with Tegan. I found Nyssa to be the strongest character throughout this story.

This is especially when Nyssa’s prepared to self-sacrifice herself for the Doctor’s sake as they’re trying to get out of the Inner Sanctum they’re in. It was very effective and dramatic to watch. I know some aspects of that scene are clunky in execution, but through the actors’ performances, it’s a very effective scene.

Janet Fielding is also good as Tegan in this. Tegan has managed to get back home to Heathrow Airport by the Doctor, but is willing to help out when they travel back in time on the Concorde plane in this story. I liked it when Tegan shares an adventure with Nyssa as they delve right into the Inner Sanctum.

Tegan also gets to show off her air stewardess skills when directing passengers to board a Concorde plane. This was something I wanted to see in Tegan’s character since it was established very early on in the series that she was an air stewardess. This has never been properly exploited in the TV series.

For some time, Tegan has been travelling in the TARDIS and she initially wanted to go back home for most of Season 19. Now Tegan is unsure about whether to remain on Earth; return to Heathrow Airport and become an air stewardess or to keep on travelling in the TARDIS with the Doctor and Nyssa.

One of the sequences I liked in ‘Time-Flight’ is when Nyssa and Tegan encounter visions of Adric and past monsters they’ve met. They journey on through the tunnels to get to the Inner Sanctum and are tempted by Kalid to not go further in. It got tense when Nyssa and Tegan see a vision of Adric in this.

It was nice to see Matthew Waterhouse make a cameo appearance as Adric in this story. Nyssa and Tegan are uncertain about Adric’s appearance in the tunnels since they saw him being blown-up and killed in ‘Earthshock’. The two girls have to make that painful decision to go through Adric and ‘kill’ him again.

The past monsters that Nyssa and Tegan encounter include the Melkur from ‘The Keeper of Traken’ and a Terileptil from ‘The Visitation’. This sequence brings together all that we know and love about the Fifth Doctor’s first season and it’s very fitting to have those lovely moments in the season finale.

Peter Davison delivers an energetic performance as the Doctor in the story. Peter has managed to find his feet as the Doctor by this point and despite his disapproval of the special effects; he still pulls off a pretty good performance. The Fifth Doctor is so enthusiastic and energetic throughout this tale.

I liked those scenes where the Doctor tries to get his friends to concentrate and break through the perceptual induction that’s on them. I liked his scenes with Kalid when confronting him in his lair. I liked the moments where the Doctor ridicules Kalid’s powers and when he refuses to give him the TARDIS key.

I also liked the new series-like moment the Doctor had when reacting to Captain Stapley’s sabotage of the TARDIS. I thought that Peter’s Doctor was going to go boiling mad with Stapley at that point. But it turns out he’s pleased with what Stapley did and I liked it when he said “Stupid?! It was brilliant!”

I really like that moment with Peter’s Doctor since it’s one of those moments that one of the recent Doctors like Christopher Eccelston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and Jodie Whittaker would do. The youthful enthusiasm of Peter’s Doctor contrasts with the idea of an old man in a young man’s body.

The story’s villain is Leon Ny Taiy as the conjuror Kalid who happens to be controlling the Xeraphin’s power. Hang on! Leon Ny Taiy! That actor doesn’t exist! Who’s playing Kalid then? Oh, wait a minute. He’s not Kalid. It’s Anthony Ainley as the Master. How brilliant was that to see the Master in this story?!

When I first saw ‘Time-Flight’ with my Mum, she knew it was the Master all along. It was a magical moment when we got to the reveal at the end of ‘Part Two’. The Master is on top form in this story with an evil elegance and I enjoy what Anthony Ainley does in the role since he clearly enjoys playing it. 😀

Mind you, I don’t know why he had to disguise himself as Kalid in the first two episodes. It’s meant to be a surprise for the audience, but I didn’t understand the logic of that aspect to the story. Perhaps the Master needed to disguise himself as Kalid to control and convince the Xeraphin here.

It would have worked better if Kalid was seen in silhouette rather than in full view since he looked like a fat conjuror in front of the Doctor. The green ooze from out of his nose when Kalid ‘dies’ in ‘Part Two’ was unnecessary and rather disgusting when I watched the story. Why did that have to be in there?!

Aside from that, it was a joy to see the Master in ‘Time-Flight’. Anthony Ainley provides the classic villain role and I get great pleasure in seeing him do maniacal deeds and laughing away so delightfully. It’s a shame that he didn’t do a master-plan to conquer the universe at the end of Season 19.

Our TARDIS heroes are joined by three air pilots who become their allies. They are Richard Easton as Captain Stapley, Michael Cashman as Bilton and Keith Drinkel as Scobie. I love these three guys! They’re such good characters to join the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan in their adventure in ‘Time-Flight‘.

Some say that they’re not convincing as air pilots, but I found them enjoyable to watch. I like how each of them reacts to being in the prehistoric environment they’re in since they are astonished and bewildered. They slowly get used to being in this strange environment and accept the Doctor’s words.

I like how Stapley puts his trust in the Doctor, no matter how absurd the situation is. I also like how Bilton follows Stapley’s orders and joins him when they try to hijack the TARDIS to stop the Master. I also liked Scobie’s scenes with Angela, the stewardess of the first Concorde to go missing, as he tries to help her.

Incidentally, I’ve seen Keith Drinkel in the TV series ‘A Family At War’, which was made before he did ‘Doctor Who’. He also worked with Sarah Sutton years later in ‘Wirrn: Race Memory’. Richard Easton was also in an episode of ‘A Family At War’ and Michael Cashman later went into politics. 😀

The Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and the three air pilots are also joined by Nigel Stock as the sceptical Professor Hayter. I’ve seen Nigel Stock in period drama productions such as ‘The Pickwick Papers’ and ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ after watching ‘Time-Flight’. I liked Nigel Stock’s character in this TV story.

Professor Hayter is a well-learned man who’s able to break through the Xeraphin’s hynoptic power. But his scepticism gets the better of him and he tends to dismiss the Doctor’s theories and anyone else’s aside, saying that they’re either mad or hallucinating. It annoys the Doctor when this happens.

Yet Professor Hayter gets to follow the Doctor and the others despite his scepticism. He’s curious and wants to know more about what’s going on. He’s intolerable at times, but is a good soul and cares for others. He’s willing to sacrifice himself, despite not knowing what he’s letting himself in for.

By the end of the story, the Doctor defeats the Master and brings everyone back home. But Tegan gets left behind and it’s too late for her when she tries to return to the TARDIS. Earlier, Tegan wandered off and seemed to want to go back to Heathrow Airport. But she’s unsure as well as torn.

Tegan is upset when she gets left behind since the TARDIS left without her. I like those moments with Tegan’s character. It feels new series-like and it comes ‘full circle’ on what Season 19 has been about with the Doctor trying to get Tegan back home. I really felt for Tegan when she had tears in her eyes.

The original DVD special features were as follows. There was the ‘Mouth on Legs’ interview with Janet Fielding; deleted and extended scenes; a ‘Jurassic Larks’ featurette which was some behind-the-scenes studio recording footage on the story; outtakes of the story and a short Peter Grimwade interview. There was a mono sound audio mix option for the story; a DVD audio commentary with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and script editor Eric Saward; an info-text commentary option to enjoy; a photo gallery of the story; a ‘Doctor Who Annual 1983’ PDF and a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story. There was also a ‘coming soon’ DVD trailer for ‘The Time Warrior’ with Jon Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen (now included on the ‘The Green Death’ disc for the Season 10 Blu-ray box set).

On Disc 7 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 19’ Blu-ray, the deleted and extended scenes; the ‘Jurassic Larks’ featurette (now called ‘studio footage (highlights)’); the outtakes; the Peter Grimwade interview; the mono sound audio mix option for the story; the DVD audio commentary; and the ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF can be found on there. The photo gallery and the info-text commentary option for ‘Time-Flight’ has been updated for 2018 on the Blu-ray.

The new special features on Blu-ray include the making-of documentary called ‘Turbulence’ with cast and crew interviews. There’s also the ‘Behind the Sofa’ feature on ‘Time-Flight’ with Peter Davison (The Fifth Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Matthew Waterhouse (Adric) as well as Mark Strickson (Turlough) and Sophie Aldred (Ace). There are also two parts of raw studio footage from ‘Time-Flight’ to enjoy! 😀 There’s a BBC trailer and some continuity announcements of the story, and an audio archive interview with writer/director Peter Grimwade.

On the PDF front, as well as the ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story, there are also production documents and scripts for the story. You need a special Blu-ray computer drive for that. The ‘Mouth on Legs’ interview with Janet Fielding and the ‘Doctor Who Annual 1983’ PDF isn’t included on the ‘Time-Flight’ Blu-ray disc for the Season 19 Blu-ray box set.

On Disc 8 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 19’ Blu-ray, there is the ‘Peter Davision: In Conversation’ interview conducted by Matthew Sweet. There’s also the ‘Time Crash’ mini-episode with Peter Davison and David Tennant; the ‘A Message From Jovanka Airlines’ Season 19 Blu-ray trailer and ‘The Panopticon Archive’ panel interview with Janet Fielding, Matthew Waterhouse and Nicholas Courtney (the Brigadier). There’s also a ‘Take Two’ item; an audio archive interview with director Ron Jones; the ‘coming soon’ DVD trailer for the ‘Mara Tales’ DVD box set (‘Kinda’ and ‘Snakedance’) with Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding and Matthew Waterhouse (taken from ‘The Ark’ DVD); the ‘coming soon’ DVD trailer for the ‘Tegan Tales’ DVD box set (‘Time-Flight’ and ‘Arc of Infinity’) with Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding (taken from the ‘Timelash’ DVD) and the studio clocks compilation for Season 19.

There’s more PDF written archive including the ‘Doctor Who Annual 1982’ PDF (taken from the ‘The Keeper of Traken’; ‘Logopolis’ and ‘Castrovalva’ DVDs) and some BBC Enterprises Literature for Season 19.

‘Time-Flight’ isn’t a great ‘Doctor Who’ story. It’s quite complex and a challenge to follow, but I still like ‘Time-Flight’. It has some lovely moments in it, especially for Nyssa. I can’t help like ‘Time-Flight’ in a strange way, since it features some great performances by the actors who braved through the making of this story.

For me, it’s a decent finale to Peter Davison’s first season of ‘Doctor Who’, especially with Tegan’s journey. I know how poorly rated it is in the ‘Doctor Who’ poll, but I can’t help defend it in some way. If you watch ‘Time-Flight’ again or are watching it for the first time, do appreciate some of its good points.

Season 19 is definitely my favourite season of ‘Doctor Who’! There’s no denying that it has its flaws. But this is the ‘Doctor Who’ season that got me to embrace my fandom by going to conventions and seeing my favourite stars like Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding and Matthew Waterhouse.

‘Black Orchid’ is my absolute favourite story from Season 19 and ‘The Visitation’ and ‘Earthshock’ are highlights for me too! Tegan may have been left behind, but better things are to come for the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa, especially through the Big Finish audios and in my series of ‘Fifth Doctor’ stories. 😀

Because of my love for Nyssa and Sarah Sutton, I’ve had a painting and a drawing based on Nyssa in ‘Time-Flight’ done for me by Timelord007. 😀 I couldn’t have asked for nicer gifts since he knows I’m a huge fan of Nyssa and Sarah Sutton in ‘Doctor Who’. You can find these in the photo gallery above.

As of March 2019, I’ve had the Blu-ray booklet of Season 19 of ‘Doctor Who’ signed by the lovely Sarah Sutton at the ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’ in March 2019. Sarah signing the Blu-ray booklet of Season 19 for me means a lot. We’ve become good friends over the years. I’ve enjoyed chatting to Sarah about how much I love Season 19 and that I enjoyed re-watching it complete on Blu-ray over Christmas in 2018.

‘Time-Flight’ rating – 7/10


Please feel free to comment on my review.

I love the announcement trailer for the Season 19 Blu-ray box set of ‘Doctor Who’! This was the Blu-ray box set I wanted to see the most! I was pretty excited when I saw the trailer on YouTube back in August 2018. It was to be the big top Christmas present for me when I received it in December 2018!

It was funny to see Janet Fielding as…Tegan, I think (I know it says so in the YouTube video description 😀 ) presenting this announcement trailer as an airline safety video from ‘Jovanka Airlines’. The jokes featured in this trailer are very wittily written by new series writer Pete McTighe.

I was thrilled to bits to see Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton in the trailer with Janet Fielding. This was filmed from the ‘Turbulence’ making-of documentary for ‘Time-Flight’ of course. Peter and Sarah are wonderful doing the comedy scenes with Janet as passengers wanting to get to Heathrow Airport. 😀

I should know how good Sarah is at doing the comedy acting having worked with her in an April Fools Sketch and a 4th Anniversary Sketch for my blog. 🙂 It was pretty exciting for me to see the new bonus content being advertised for the Season 19 Blu-ray box set including new documentaries.

I was excited about there being a new making-of documentary for ‘Black Orchid’ as well as for ‘Castrovalva’, ‘Four To Doomsday’, ‘Earthshock’ and ‘Time-Flight’. I was pleased about the ‘Behind the Sofa’ items featuring Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding and Matthew Waterhouse too.

‘A Message From Jovanka Airlines’ Season 19 Blu-ray trailer rating – 10/10



Please feel free to comment on my review.

A Wing and a Prayer

‘Doctor Who – Time Flight’ has been a fascinating Target novelization/audiobook to check out.

The original Target novelization of ‘Time-Flight’ by Peter Grimwade was published in hardback in January 1983 and in paperback in April 1983. This was after the story’s original broadcast in March 1982. I purchased the paperback edition of the ‘Time-Flight’ Target novelization back in August 2009.

This was at the now-deceased ‘Doctor Who’ Up Close Exhibition in Cardiff along with the Target novelization of ‘Castrovalva’. I remember reading the ‘Time-Flight’ novelization whilst I was on holiday in Scotland, I believe. I was keen to find out more about this story and how it was novelized.

‘Time-Flight’ isn’t a highly regarded ‘Doctor Who’ story by fans. In fact, it’s poorly rated. But I have a soft spot for ‘Time-Flight’ and I wanted to explore more about what went on during this story with all the scientific explanations and its concepts running throughout the plot and what was behind them.

Sadly however, I found the ‘Time-Flight’ Target novelization to be a slim book of the story by Peter Grimwade. The story is divided into 10 chapters, which is an unusual structure in a Target book since four-episode stories tend to be divided into 12 chapters with 3 chapters to comprise each episode. 😐

I found the ‘Time-Flight’ Target novelization rather disappointing. It wasn’t as detailed as I hoped it would be. I expected this to be an in-depth novelization along the lines of ‘Black Orchid’s Target novelization. As I was reading the book however, most of the chapters tended to go by quite swiftly.

There wasn’t enough information and time dedicated to absorb each event in the adventure. Peter Grimwade seems to have a tendency to be brief and to the point when he wrote the book. Sometimes there are moments when he touches on explanations concerning the scientific concepts.

But they aren’t long enough to fully appreciate them. The balance of story and character development isn’t that well in-depth as I would have liked. It makes me want to novelize ‘Time-Flight’ all over again to emphasise some of the emotional moments that need to be delved far more.

For example, lines of dialogue in certain scenes are either omitted or paraphrased to describe the story’s action and emotional moments. This was unsatisfying since I would like to hear all of the characters’ lines featured in a Target novelization rather than having them mostly removed entirely.

In my opinion, the aftermath scene of Adric’s death in the TARDIS following ‘Earthshock’ is rather rushed. Some of the dialogue in the transmitted ‘Part One’ is omitted in the novelization. The scene doesn’t have the emotional impact it needs, especially between the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan. 😦

Peter Grimwade also fails to include the ‘deleted and extended scenes’ that I recall seeing from the ‘Time-Flight’ DVD. These scenes include the extended conversation between Brian McDermott’s Sheard and Peter Cellier’s Andrew about NATO and Whitehall in Sheard’s office during ‘Part One’.

There are also lines of dialogue omitted from the transmitted ‘Part Three’ in the Target novelization for the Inner Sanctum scene where the Doctor talks about the Xeraphin in their sarcophagus. Surely those lines of dialogue were in Peter Grimwade’s original TV scripts. Why weren’t they in the book?

There are also the scenes where Nyssa and Tegan journey to reach the Inner Sanctum. They aren’t well-realised enough in the Target book as opposed to the TV version. The scene where they encounter Adric’s ghost is good, but the moments they meet the Melkur and the Terileptil are brief.

I don’t understand why Peter Grimwade didn’t expand on those moments more in the Target novelization, since they are significant moments in terms of the journeys our TARDIS heroes have had. I know Peter Grimwade wasn’t involved in those stories, but more effort could have been put in. 😦

Incidentally, Sarah Sutton read an extract of the ‘Time-Fight’ novelization for Peter Grimwade’s ‘Myth Makers’ interview, which featured Nyssa and Tegan encountering Adric’s ghost. I find Sarah to be a very good and lovely narrator. I hoped she would read the ‘Time-Flight’ novelization someday. 🙂

From what I understand, according to Toby Hadoke’s 96th ‘Who’s Round’, plans were underway by AudioGo to produce an audiobook for the ‘Time-Flight’ novelization. Interestingly, Matthew Waterhouse, who played Adric, was considered to be the audiobook’s reader. Sadly it didn’t happen.

This was due to AudioGo ending up in bankruptcy in 2013. Therefore, the production was abandoned. A shame! Thankfully in 2021, BBC Audio came along with an audiobook reading for the Target novelization and it’s provided by none other than the Fifth Doctor himself – Peter Davison. 😀

I purchased the ‘Time-Flight’ Target audiobook on a 3-disc CD set from Amazon.co.uk. Since the ‘Time-Flight’ novelization is a slimmer book compared to other ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelizations; it makes sense for the audiobook to be a 3-disc CD set instead of a 4-disc CD to save space and time. 🙂

Peter Davison provides a lovely reading of the Target novelization in audiobook form. Having enjoyed Peter’s readings of the ‘Castrovalva’ and ‘Earthshock’ Target novelizations, I knew I would have good time reading the ‘Time-Flight’ book whilst Peter Davison read the story in the background.

In a way, reading the ‘Time-Flight’ Target book with Peter Davison reading the audiobook in the background is a better experience than reading the Target book on its own. A shame Peter Davison didn’t read both the ‘Time-Flight’ and ‘Arc of Infinity’ audiobooks, but that’s for another occasion. 😐

When hearing Peter read the ‘Time-Flight’ audiobook, he calls the villainous conjuror Kalid by pronouncing his name ‘Ka-lid’ instead of ‘Ka-leed’ as in the transmitted TV story. An interesting decision to make in terms of pronouncing Kalid’s name differently in the audiobook than in the TV story.

The sound design for the ‘Time-Flight’ audiobook is a lot better compared to the TV story’s sound design. The moments are more dramatic and compelling compared to how the TV story did its sound design. This is especially when the Doctor and friends are tackling some of the psychic experiences. 🙂

An intriguing point about the Target novelization is when Stapley breaks Bilton out of his hypnotic trance created by Kalid by mentioning Tegan to him. This occurred in the TV version too and I’m still curious about why Tegan’s name-dropping should have helped Bilton to remember where he was. 😐

Sadly this isn’t dealt with properly in Peter Grimwade’s book. Mind you, in the Target novelization, Bilton does say “Rope” in order to recollect where he is instead of saying “Tegan?” and then beaming “Yes!” like he did in the TV story. The moment feels less odder in the Target book than in the TV story.

The moment where the Master holds some Concorde passengers hostage until he gets the temporal limiter from the Doctor is also omitted in the book. The dialogue between the Doctor and the Master as they exchange the quantum accelerator and the temporal limiter gets shifted around a bit.

I found the preparing for take-offs in the Concorde plane containing the Doctor and party both at the beginning and at the end of the story hazy and poorly-structured. There’s not enough clarity for the scenes to be set-up between characters. They are sort-of handled well when Peter’s reading them. 🙂

On a positive note, the story isn’t hampered by dodgy special effects and dodgy set designs. The story’s plot works well in print since you can visualise the prehistoric landscapes and the interiors of the Citadel with the well-defined descriptions given by Peter Grimwade in the Target novelization. 🙂

With that said, it’s been known Peter Grimwade likes to use elongated works which are pretty complicated and wouldn’t be understood by an average reader. Words like protoplasm aren’t well-defined in the book as one would have hoped for. I’m concerned other readers wouldn’t get them. 😦

I did like how Peter Grimwade described the phone call scene between the airport controller Sheard and Sir John Sudbury of C19 at U.N.I.T. Although we don’t have Sir John actually speaking to Sheard in the novelization, the tense reactions Sheard has in his conversation with Sir John are well-done. 🙂

Interestingly, Sheard and the air traffic controller Horton (as played by Peter Dahlsen in the TV story) are given first names in the novelization. Sheard is called Douglas and Horton is called Clive. This was very intriguing for Peter Grimwade to give these two male characters first names in the novelization.

Peter Grimwade does reasonably well in describing the perception induction scenes featured in the story. This isn’t just with the Doctor and his party when they arrive in prehistoric Earth, but it’s also with the passengers under hypnotism. This is reflected really well in the audiobook’s sound design. 🙂

Examples of this include Angela Clifford (as played by Judith Byfield in the TV story) seeing Professor Hayter as a difficult passenger whilst she and the other passengers break down the wall of the rotunda. Stapley succumbing to being in the Concorde cockpit with Bilton is also very well-handled.

The reasoning behind the Master disguising himself as Kalid is sort-of better-handled in the Target novelization as opposed to the TV story. It’s revealed that Kalid was a Plasmaton version of the Master. It was also a disguise to hide not just the Master but also the evil Xeraphin in the Sanctum. 🙂

Mind you, Kalid is described as having a ‘yellow oriental face’, being ‘bloated like the body of a drowned dog’ and is ‘gangrenous with age and excess, with broken teeth and rotting gums that contorted his mouth into a permanent leer’. I still would have preferred Kalid being put in silhouette.

For me, having Kalid as a fat conjuror figure doesn’t make much sense in the TV story since it doesn’t match to the Xeraphin and the Plasmatons. Kalid in a silhouetted form like a Plasmaton would have disguised Anthony Ainley’s appearance before his masterly reveal happened at the end of ‘Part Two’.

Nyssa’s psychic abilities are very well-handled in the book. The reader is able to home in on Nyssa’s thoughts and intuition, especially when she and Tegan make their way into the Inner Sanctum; when she’s about to self-sacrifice herself; and when she’s able to sense Hayter in the Xeraphin life-force. 🙂

In terms of the novelization’s structure, the first five chapters are quite brief. The sixth and seventh chapters are arguably longer than the first five. Most of the book covers the first two episodes. ‘Part Three’ is contained in one chapter – Chapter 8. It’s actually the longest chapter in the novelization. 😐

This is exemplified in the audiobook where Chapter 8 is divided into two halves, transitioning from Disc 2 into Disc 3. The fourth episode is also divided into the last two chapters – Chapters 9 and 10. Chapter 9 is longer than Chapter 10. Chapter 10 has more focus of being back at Heathrow Airport. 🙂

Tegan’s exit is pretty well-handled in the book. I liked how the scene depicting Tegan at Heathrow Airport showcases her determination to be on her way and not say goodbye to the Doctor and Nyssa. In the final scene, Tegan is terribly upset when losing her chance to re-join the TARDIS crew. 🙂

‘Doctor Who – Time-Flight’ has been an interesting Target novelization/audiobook to read/listen to. It’s not the best Target novelization/audiobook I’ve read/heard and it’s rather disappointing that it lacks detail and depth of characters. I would have liked every angle of ‘Time-Flight’ to be explored. 😦

If I had a chance to do my own ‘Time-Flight’ novelization, I would take on the challenge. Despite that, it’s interesting how Peter Grimwade novelized ‘Time-Flight’ into prose for his 1983 book. It was also a great joy to hear Peter Davison read the Target audiobook of ‘Time-Flight’ whilst reading the book.

‘Doctor Who – Time-Flight’ rating – 6/10

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6 thoughts on “‘Time-Flight’ (TV)

  1. Timelord 007

    Great review Tim, i agree Timeflight isn’t particularly bad it’s just hampered because the production budget was down to it’s last few pennies so it couldn’t achieve the ambitious nature which the story demands.

    Never read the Target novelization but after reading your thoughts I’m glad i didn’t or I’d been seething that they cut so much dialogue out.

    Really enjoyed your reviews on this Tim, give me this over Love & Monster’s anyday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘Time-Flight’. It’s a shame this story was made when the budget ran out. Many criticise this story and I can understand these criticisms. If more time and effort was put into the making of the story in terms of its budget and writing, then perhaps it would be highly regarded.

      I would like to be given a chance to write my own novelization on ‘Time-Flight’. At least I’d be able to improve some of the weaker points of the story and enjoyed giving fleshier dialogue to the characters featured in it.

      Very pleased you enjoyed my reviews on ‘Time-Flight’, Simon. I’ll have to do my own list of ‘Doctor Who’ stories hated by fans by loved by me someday.

      Thanks for your kind comments.

      Tim. 🙂


  2. Timelord007

    Excellent update review Tim, this is a guilty pleasure story not as bad as Horns Of Nimon that’s for sure, to be honest I kinda wished Tegan stayed away in season 20 had Doctor & Nyssa & then Turlough always felt Tegan was overbearing on tv although Big Finish toned her bolshy attitude down I’d have liked Fifth Doctor & Nyssa as there stories on audio are excellent especially when that Billy Walker chap turns up, still have goosebumps about Doom Of The Daleks when he & Doctor clash.

    If ever your stories got adapted who would you like to play Billy? I’d say you but they’d probably want a actor?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Very pleased you enjoyed my updated review on ‘Time-Flight’.

      Both ‘The Horns of Nimon’ and ‘Time-Flight’ are guilty pleasures for me. I can’t help liking this story. I know it’s bad in a certain way, but I can’t deny some of the positive aspects to it as I’ve identified in my review.

      I would love the Season 19b of Big Finish audios with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa to be the Season 20 of ‘Doctor Who’ as much as I would love my Fifth Doctor stories with Five, Nyssa and Billy to be part of that Season 20 as well. I can’t claim Tegan is one of my favourite companions in ‘Doctor Who’ but I have enjoyed her more recently in the Big Finish audios. I just wish her character wasn’t so bolshy in Season 20 since it seemed like she hadn’t changed much since her departure in Season 19.

      My Fifth Doctor series is undergoing a repeat at the moment. I’m still working on getting ‘City of Monsters’ up for this year which is taking a while. This week ‘The Space Hotel’ is going to get a repeat and the next week will be on ‘Doom of the Daleks’. I’m glad I impressed you with that first trilogy of stories especially ‘Doom of the Daleks’ giving you goosebumps.

      That’s a difficult question to answer. I’m not sure I can answer who I would like to play Billy Walker apart from myself. It would have to be one of the regular Big Finish actors like they cast Beth Chalmers to play Raine with the Seventh Doctor and Ace. It would have to be someone Peter and Sarah get on well with as well as balancing both the humour, emotion and drama in Billy’s character. I suppose the casting process would be a long one as I would have to negotiate with Big Finish on who I would like to play Billy. I wouldn’t mind Geoffrey Breton who played Hector in ‘Moonflesh’ though. He sounded good.

      Thanks for your comments, Simon. There are plenty of Fifth Doctor stories by me like ‘The Stockbridge Terror’ to check out.

      Tim. 🙂


  3. Williams Fan 92

    Great review Tim.

    I’m very pleased to have watched all of Season 19. I actually watched the last 3 stories of that season as viewers of BBC 1 in 1982 did, back-to-back over two days per week.

    I enjoyed ‘Time-Flight’ more than I thought I would. It wasn’t amazing or the best end to one of my favourite seasons of ‘Doctor Who’, but I would rank it above ‘Kinda’. I liked that Nyssa and Tegan got a lot to do and we got to see Nyssa use her psychic abilities. Tegan was good as well and I felt really bad for her when she had tears in her eyes during the final scene. Ironically, Janet was actually crying because she was standing on the roof of Heathrow Airport in the cold. Poor Janet. I believe Sarah was crying because of the cold as well.

    The Doctor was pretty decent in ‘Time-Flight’. That being said though, I thought he was a bit rough on Nyssa and Tegan in the opening scene. I get that he was explaining why they couldn’t go back and save Adric, but he could have done so without snapping at them. The scene didn’t really come across as emotional for me. My favourite guest character was Richard Easton as Captain Stapley. The Master played by Anthony Ainley was very menacing in this adventure, more so in his own form than when he was disguised as Kalid, which I doubt you would get away with nowadays.

    I can’t say whether Peter Grimwade is better at writing or directing. I saw a clip of his ‘Myth Makers’ on the ‘Time-Flight’ Blu-Ray disc. I might see the full interview if it gets released on the second volume of the Tom Baker Behind the Scenes DVD. I can’t deny that ‘Time-Flight’ was hard to follow at times and will require a revisit. Whether that’s on Blu-Ray first or via the audiobook that you’ve just reviewed, I’m not sure.

    Next year, I will finally get around to watching Season 20. Before then, I might listen to some of the Season 19b audios. Where would you recommend that I start with those?

    Take care, WF92.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi WF92,

      Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘Time-Flight’. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the story. Glad you enjoyed the story as well as me. I’m glad you enjoyed Nyssa and Tegan in the adventure as well as the Doctor, Captain Stapley and the Master.

      I had no idea about the Tom Baker: Behind the Scenes – Volume 2 DVD. I must look out for that since Sarah Sutton reads extracts of Peter Grimwade’s novelizations in his ‘Myth Makers’ interview.

      Thanks again with sharing your thoughts on ‘Time-Flight’. I still regard it highly even if other fans and most of the cast don’t. I’m sharing my review on ‘Circular Time’ tomorrow. That audio anthology might be the best place to start for you as it was for me. At the end of ‘Circular Time’, there are trailers for other Fifth Doctor and Nyssa stories like ‘The Land of the Dead’, ‘Winter For The Adept’, ‘The Mutant Phase’, ‘Primeval’, ‘Spare Parts’, ‘Creatures of Beauty’ and ‘The Game’ to enjoy.

      Many thanks,

      Tim 🙂

      Liked by 1 person


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