Please feel free to comment on my review.
Flight of the Concorde
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, 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 are dedicated to Tegan, I consider them to be fine stories for Nyssa’s character, especially as 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’, August 2016. It was so nice to have that photo signed by Sarah at the 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 this un-cherished, 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’ tale 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 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 get 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 to almost 9 million at around ‘Part Three’ of this tale.
You may consider that a mystery considering ‘Time-Flight’ suffered a troubled production and was 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’ was a TV tale that managed to get two ways of luring viewers to watch it.
Also, when you think about, 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 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 for a very good ‘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 for this story also aren’t so well-realised as was hoped. They do sound interesting, especially with the concepts for the Xeraphin and there being a Jekyll & 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 director on ‘Doctor Who’. He directed ‘Full Circle’, ‘Logopolis’, ‘Kinda’ and ‘Earthshock’ beforehand in the 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 series as he would later write ‘Mawdryn Undead’ and ‘Planet of Fire’ after this. ‘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’ve 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 was not 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 as he knows it would be changing history.
The Doctor insists to Nyssa and Tegan to reframe from asking him such a request like that ever 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 didn’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’s finally done it and got Tegan back home.
The Heathrow Airport scenes are very 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 in the story, knowing what is to come later on with the prehistoric setting 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 as they braved through the bitter cold in those scenes. I wanted to put my arms around them to keep them warm since they do look cold on screen.
Like I said, the concepts for the story were interesting. I like how Peter Grimwade utilised the Concorde planes to great effect. Clearly Grimwade had done his research in terms of knowing how a Concorde plane works 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 hypnotise their subjects, which was 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, they at first think they’re back at Heathrow Airport in the 1980s. That is until Nyssa screams to give the clue.
It was 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 is quite a frightening concept to think about people getting caught in a hypnotic effect and you have to break through the trance 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 as 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 understanding 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 to it 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’s managed to get back home to Heathrow Airport by the Doctor, but is willing 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 the Concorde plane. This was something I wanted to see in Tegan’s character since it was established very on in the series that she was an air stewardess. That had 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 like in ‘Time-Flight’ is when Nyssa and Tegan encounter visions of Adric and past monsters they’ve met. They journey 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 there.
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 get 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 is 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 has 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 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 magic 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 doing 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 in this.
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 like Scobie’s scenes with Angela, the stewardess of the earlier Concorde, 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 is 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 is 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 is unsure as well as torn.
Tegan’s upset when she gets left behind as the TARDIS leaves 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 stereo 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 stereo sound audio mix option for the story; the DVD audio commentary; the info-text commentary option and the ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF can be found on there. The photo gallery for ‘Time-Flight’ has been updated for 2018 on the Blu-ray.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the making-of documentary, ‘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’); the ‘coming soon’ DVD trailer for the ‘Tegan Tales’ DVD box set (‘Time-Flight’ and ‘Arc of Infinity’) 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, 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
‘A MESSAGE FROM JOVANKA AIRLINES’ SEASON 19 BLU-RAY TRAILER
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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.
‘DOCTOR WHO – TIME-FLIGHT’
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A Wing and a Prayer
‘Doctor Who – Time-Flight’ has been a fascinating book to read.
This is the novelization of the TV story, ‘Time-Flight’, by Peter Grimwade. I purchased the book and the ‘Castrovalva’ novelization at the now-deceased ‘Doctor Who’ Up Close Exhibition in Cardiff back in August 2009. I remember reading the ‘Time-Flight’ book whilst on holiday. I was keen to find out more about this story.
‘Time-Flight’ is not a highly regarded story by ‘Doctor Who’ fans. In fact, it’s poorly rated. But I have a certain fondness for ‘Time-Flight’ and I wanted to explore more about what went on in this story with all the scientific explanations and concepts running throughout the plot and what was behind them.
This is a slim Target novelization of the story by Peter Grimwade. The book was published in January 1983, ten months after the story’s original broadcast. The story is divided into 10 chapters, which is unusual since four-episode stories tend to be divided into 12 chapters with 3 chapters to comprise each episode.
I must admit I found the Target novelization rather disappointing. It wasn’t as detailed as I hoped for. I was expecting this novelization to be in-depth with the likes of ‘Black Orchid’. But I found as I was reading it, each chapter went swiftly by and there wasn’t enough information to absorb each event in the adventure.
Peter Grimwade has a tendency to be brief and to the point when writing the book. For example, the lines of dialogue in certain scenes were removed and paraphrased to describe the action of the story. This was unsatisfying since I like to hear the characters’ lines in the novelization rather than have them removed.
The aftermath scene of Adric’s death in the TARDIS following ‘Earthshock’ was rather rushed in my opinion, since some of the dialogue was cut from the transmitted episode in the novelization. The scene didn’t have the emotional impact it should have had, especially between the three major TARDIS characters.
Also, Peter Grimwade fails to include the ‘deleted and extended scenes’ that I recall were on the ‘Time-Flight’ DVD . These scenes included Sheard’s conversations about NATO and Whitehall in his office as well as the missing lines of dialogue in the Inner Sanctum where the Doctor talks about the Xeraphin in their sarcophagus.
Also the scenes where Nyssa and Tegan journey to reach the Inter Sanctum weren’t well-realised in the novelization as they were in the TV version. The scene where they encountered the ghost of Adric is well-handled, but the bits where they encountered the Melkur and the Terileptil were briefly mentioned.
An interesting point is when Stapley breaks Bilton out of his hypnotic trance by mentioning Tegan to him. This occurred in the TV version of the story too. I wonder why Tegan’s name-mentioning should have helped Bilton to remember where he was. Sadly this isn’t dealt with properly in Peter Grimwade’s book.
The Master holding some Concorde passengers hostage until he gets the temporal limiter from the Doctor is also removed in the book. The preparing for take-off in Concorde between the Doctor and party is also hazy and poorly structured since there’s no clarity for the scene set-up between characters.
The good points about this book though are that the story isn’t hampered by dodgy effects and set design. The plot works well in print as you can imagine the visual prehistoric landscape and the interiors of the Citadel with the vivid descriptions given by Peter Grimwade in the novelization of the story.
Saying that however, it has been known that Peter Grimwade likes to use elongated works that are pretty complicated and wouldn’t be understood by the average reader. Words like rotunda and protoplasm aren’t defined in the book as one would have hoped for since I myself am not familiar with the terms.
I liked it when Peter Grimwade describes the phone call scene between 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 of the story, the tense reactions that Sheard has in his conversation with Sir John are well-described and felt.
Interestingly, both Sheard and the air traffic controller Horton are given first names in the story through the novelization. Sheard is called Douglas and Horton is called Clive. This was interesting for Peter Grimwade to give the two male characters names in the novelization compared to the TV story.
Peter Grimwade does in well describing the perception induction scenes. Not just with the Doctor and party arriving in prehistoric Earth, but also with the passengers under hypnotism. Examples include Angela seeing Hayter as a difficult passenger and Bilton in the cockpit with Stapley whilst they’re working.
The reasoning behind the Master disguising himself as Kalid is better handled in the novelization of ‘Time-Flight’ compared to the TV story. In the book, it’s described that Kalid is a Plasmaton version of the Master and it is a disguise to hide not just the Master but also the evil Xeraphin in the Sanctum.
I wish that had been shown in the TV version of the story. Having Kalid as a fat conjuror figure didn’t make much sense in the TV story. Having Kalid in a silhouetted form like a Plasmaton would’ve disguised Anthony Ainley’s appearance here before he became revealed as the Master in ‘Part Two’.
For me, Nyssa’s psychic abilities are well-handled in the story. 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 Nyssa is self-sacrificing herself and when she senses Hayter in the Xeraphin life-force.
In terms of the structure of the book, the earlier chapters are pretty brief and most of the book covers the first two episodes. The third episode is compressed into one chapter (Chapter 8), making it the longest chapter in the whole book. Also the fourth episode is divided into the last two chapters.
The exit of Tegan is pretty well-handled. I liked how in the book, the scene that depicts Tegan at Terminal One shows her desperate to be on her way and without saying goodbye to the Doctor and Nyssa. In the last scene, Tegan is terribly upset when losing her chance to re-join the TARDIS team.
As I understand it, plans were made by AudioGo to produce an audiobook of the ‘Time-Flight’ novelization. Matthew Waterhouse (interestingly) was considered to be the narrator of the audiobook. However when AudioGo went into bankruptcy in 2013, the production was abandoned.
I would like this novelization/audiobook to be resurfaced again someday. Sarah Sutton read an extract of the ‘Time-Flight’ novelization for the ‘Myth Makers’ interview with Peter Grimwade on DVD. She is a very good and lovely narrator. Perhaps Sarah can read the ‘Time-Flight’ novelization. 😀
‘Doctor Who – Time-Flight’ has been an interesting read. It’s not the best Target novelization I’ve read and it is rather disappointing, lacking in detail and consistency. But it’s interesting how Peter Grimwade novelizes his TV story into prose. I wish that I could do a ‘Time-Flight’ novelization myself.
‘Doctor Who – Time-Flight’ rating – 6/10
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