‘Time-Flight’ (TV)

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‘TIME-FLIGHT’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Flight of the Concorde

The ‘Time-Flight’/’Arc of Infinity’ DVD box-set contains two amazing stories with Peter Davison! Yes I know, you think I’m bonkers!

But I honestly enjoyed these two ‘Doctor Who’ stories when I purchased this DVD box-set on holiday in Torridon, Scotland, August 2007. Crikey, is it that long ago? These are two fine stories with Sarah Sutton as Nyssa and I’ve met her at conventions since she’s my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companion.

I’ve had the DVD covers of ‘Time-Flight’ and ‘Arc of Infinity’ signed by Sarah Sutton at the ‘Cardiff Film and Comic Con’ in March 2014. I cherish this DVD box-set always. I can’t help enjoy both these stories with Peter Davison’s Doctor, Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa and Janet Fielding’s Tegan. Really! Honest!

Concorde

Poor ‘Time Flight’! This is an uncherished; unloved story from Season 19. But I like ‘Time-Flight’!

The story has the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan having to rescue a Concorde plane zapped back in time. It has the ingredients of a good story and it’s a shame the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ aren’t well executed enough.

This four-part story by Peter Grimwade (who directed ‘Earthshock’) is pretty ambitious and required a lot of time and effort. More money was spent on ‘Earthshock’ and less was spent on ‘Time-Flight’.

There are some interesting concepts in this story. I liked how Grimwade introduces the Xeraphin as an alien race with this split personality and the power to create illusions and to hypnotise their subjects.

I liked the opening scene with Nyssa, Tegan and the Doctor in the TARDIS since they’ve lost Adric in ‘Earthshock’. I found it a tense and moving scene when the Doctor tells Nyssa and Tegan why he can’t go back to save Adric.

I liked the Heathrow Airport scenes in the story. I felt sorry though for Sarah and Janet who braved through the bitter cold in those scenes. I wanted to put my arms around them and keep them warm.

I love Sarah Sutton as Nyssa. I’ve chatted to Sarah about ‘Time-Flight’. I told Sarah that I was convinced by her amazing performance. I don’t think Sarah believed me but she was pleased and glowed at my compliments.

This story contains some really good Nyssa moments. Nyssa’s latent psychic abilities get touched upon in the story. I found Nyssa to be a stronger character when she’s prepared to sacrifice her life for the Doctor.

Janet Fielding is also good as Tegan and has managed to get back home to Heathrow Airport by the Doctor. She’s willing to help out in this adventure and gets to show off her air stewardess skills.

One of the sequences I liked is when Nyssa and Tegan encounter visions of Adric and past monsters they’ve met. The monsters include the Melkur from ‘The Keeper of Traken’ and a Terileptil from ‘The Visitation’.

Peter Davison delivers an energetic performance as the Doctor in this story. I liked his scenes with Kalid and the ‘new series-like’ moment the Doctor has when he reacts to Captain Stapley’s sabotage of the TARDIS.

The story’s villain is the conjuror Kalid who happens to be Anthony Ainley as the Master. The Master is on top form in this story, although I don’t know why he had to disguise himself as Kalid in the first two episodes.

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The TARDIS trio are joined by three air pilots. They are Richard Easton as Captain Stapley, Michael Cashman as Bilton and Keith Drinkel as Scobie. They’re also joined by Nigel Stock as the sceptical Professor Hayter.

The Doctor defeats the Master and brings everyone home. But Tegan gets left behind and it’s too late for her when she tries to head back to the TARDIS. I really felt for Tegan as she had tears in her eyes.

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s a ‘Mouth on Legs’ interview with Janet Fielding; deleted scenes; outtakes; a ‘Jurassic Larks’ featurette and a brief Peter Grimwade interview.

There’s a 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 and two PDFs including a ‘Radio Times Listing’ of the story and the ‘Doctor Who Annual 1983’.

There’s also a ‘coming soon trailer’ for ‘The Time Warrior’ with Jon Pertwee and Elizabeth Sladen.

‘Time-Flight’ isn’t a great ‘Doctor Who’ story. The story is complex and hard to follow, but I like ‘Time-Flight’ as it features some lovely moments in it, especially for Nyssa. For me, it’s a decent finale to Peter Davison’s first season as the Doctor.

‘Time-Flight’ rating – 8/10


Concorde

DEFENDING ‘TIME-FLIGHT’

This is more or less an extended version of my review on ‘Time-Flight’ on my ‘Bradley’s Basement’ blog. I hope you’ll enjoy and find this article interesting and entertaining about why I like this poorly-rated ‘Doctor Who’ story so much. There are plenty of good moments to look for in this TV story if you know where to find them.

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Poor ‘Time-Flight’! No one likes ‘Time-Flight’ very much. I like ‘Time-Flight’. No one wants it.

It’s this uncherished, unloved ‘Doctor Who’ story that was tagged on at the end of Season 19 (Peter Davison’s first season as the Doctor) in March 1982. Yet despite its faults; dodgy dialogue and dodgy effects; it’s a story that, for me, does have plenty of good moments and deserves more examination.

To start, ‘Time-Flight’ is a story that despite its weak plot did manage to gain 10 million viewers when it was shown on TV. Also the plot itself contains a simple premise that is quite exciting to watch.

A Concorde plane gets zapped back in time; the TARDIS gets caught in its impact; the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are summoned to investigate the plane’s disappearance; they with three air pilots get zapped back in time; find themselves in the pre-historic age; come up against a terrifying villain; and have to find a way to get themselves and the Concorde passengers to return…back to the future!

To me, those are the ingredients for a good ‘Doctor Who’ story. It’s all there. It’s just a shame that the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ and the scientific explanations and concepts aren’t so well executed enough.

This four-part story by Peter Grimwade (who directed ‘Earthshock’) was the first one he wrote for ‘Doctor Who’. It was a pretty ambitious story and required a lot of time and effort. But being made at the end of the season, more money was spent on ‘Earthshock’ and less was spent on ‘Time-Flight’.

‘Earthshock’ should have been the season finale and ‘Time-Flight’ would have made a nice season opener. Also the story being directed by Ron Jones may have spoiled the writer’s interpretation of the piece. I know Peter Grimwade wasn’t happy with what Ron Jones did with directing ‘Time-Flight’.

There are some interesting concepts in this story. I liked how Grimwade used the Concorde planes to great effect. I also liked how he introduces the Xeraphin as an alien race with a split personality inspired by Jekyll and Hyde. I also liked it that they have the power to create illusions and to hypnotise their subjects. Some of the scenes with the Doctor and friends seeing things are intriguing.

When the Doctor and his friends arrive back in time, they think that they’re back at Heathrow Airport until Nyssa screams and spots the dead bodies. This gives the clue that they’re not where they are. It is a frightening concept to think that people can get caught in a hypnotic effect like that and you have to break through the trance. I found it quite mind-boggling and disturbing when I saw it.

Sometimes the scientific explanations on the concepts of the Xeraphin and the perception induction in ‘Time-Flight’ aren’t done justice. But somehow, I was able to get the gist of what was going on.

I liked the opening scene with Nyssa, Tegan and Doctor in the TARDIS as they lost Adric in ‘Earthshock’. I wanted 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, as they’re terribly upset and miss Adric.

Nyssa and Tegan beg the Doctor to go back and rescue him, but the Doctor refuses. I found it a tense and moving scene 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. He simply can’t go back as he knows it would change history. He insists Nyssa and Tegan reframe asking him such a request 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 between Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton.

I liked the Heathrow Airport scenes in the story. The Doctor has tried to get Tegan back to Heathrow Airport for some time and now he’s finally done it. The Heathrow Airport scenes are nice as they provide a familiar atmosphere that we can recognise and are probably the best scenes in the story.

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

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 recently told me ‘I was mad’ that I liked it. 😀

Sarah doesn’t like this story very much, I’m afraid. In fact, Sarah considers ‘Time-Flight’ to be the worst ‘Doctor Who’ story ever made instead of Colin Baker’s ‘The Twin Dilemma’. But I remember telling Sarah why I liked this story so much. I told Sarah that I was convinced by her amazing performance. I don’t think Sarah believed me, but she was pleased and glowed at my compliments.

I can sympathise with Sarah not understanding the story as it must have been hard for her when she, Peter and Janet made it. But to be honest, this story contains some really good Nyssa moments.

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’s okay as her psychic abilities are used to great effect in this.

Nyssa seems to know more about what’s going on than the Doctor and Tegan. I liked it when Nyssa gets to lead Tegan into the Inner Sanctum of the Xeraphin stronghold. She becomes adamant and insistent when she has scenes with Tegan. I found Nyssa to be a stronger character in the story especially when she’s prepared to sacrifice her life for the Doctor. It was very effective and dramatic.

Janet Fielding is also good as Tegan and has managed to get back home to Heathrow Airport by the Doctor. She’s willing help out in this adventure as she travels back in time on the Concorde plane with the Doctor, Nyssa and the three air pilots. I liked it when she shares an adventure with Nyssa.

Tegan also gets to show off her air stewardess skills when she directs passengers to board the Concorde plane. This was something I wanted to see. Tegan has been travelling in the TARDIS for some time now. She wanted to go back home at first. Now Tegan seems uncertain about whether she should leave the TARDIS and return to Heathrow Airport to become an air stewardess or not.

One of the sequences I liked is when Nyssa and Tegan encounter visions of Adric and past monsters they’ve met. They journey through the tunnels of the Inner Sanctum and are tempted by Kalid not to go further on. It got tense when Nyssa and Tegan see a vision of Adric, who they saw blown-up and killed in ‘Earthshock’. They have to make the painful decision to go through him and ‘kill’ him again.

The past monsters that Nyssa and Tegan encounter included 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 so fitting to have those lovely moments in this season finale.

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

I liked those scenes when 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 he confronts him in his lair and the moments when the Doctor ridicules Kalid’s powers and refuses to give him the TARDIS key.

I also liked the ‘new series-like’ moment the Doctor has when he reacts to Captain Stapley’s sabotage of the TARDIS. I thought Peter’s Doctor was going to go boiling mad with Stapley. But it turns out he was pleased with what Stapley did. I really like that moment with Peter’s Doctor as it’s much like what recent Doctors such as Christopher Eccelston; David Tennant and Matt Smith would do.

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The story’s villain is the conjuror Kalid who happens to be controlling the Xeraphin’s power, played by Leon Ny Taiy…oh hang on! That actor doesn’t exist. Who’s playing Kalid then? Oh, wait a minute. He’s not Kalid. He’s Anthony Ainley as the Master. When I first saw this 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, although 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 in the story.

Perhaps the Master needed to disguise himself as Kalid in order to control the power and convince the Xeraphin. It would have worked better if Kalid was seen in silhouette than in full view as he looked like a fat conjuror in front of the Doctor. The green ooze out of the nose when Kalid ‘dies’ in ‘Part Two’ was very unnecessary and rather disgusting when I saw it in the TV version of the story.

The reasoning behind the Master disguising himself as Kalid is better handled in the novelization of ‘Time-Flight’ by Peter Grimwade compared to the TV story. In the book, it’s described that Kalid is a Plasmaton version of the Master and it’s a disguise to hide not just the Master but also to hide the evil Xeraphin that are in the Sanctum. I wish that had been shown in the TV version of the story.

Aside from this, it was a joy to see the Master in ‘Time-Flight’. Anthony Ainley provides the classic villain role and I get great pleasure seeing him do maniacal deeds and laughing away so delightfully.

The TARDIS trio 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 liked these three guys. They’re such good characters to join the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan in this adventure in ‘Time-Flight’.

Some say they’re not convincing as air pilots, but I found them convincing as they’re played by such fine actors. I like how each of them reacts to being in a prehistoric environment as they’re astonished and bewildered. They slowly get used to being in this strange world 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 liked 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 earlier Concorde, as he tries to help her keep focused and not fall under a trance again. I enjoyed what these three did in the story.

They’re also joined by Nigel Stock as the sceptical Professor Hayter. I liked this character and Nigel Stock plays him well. He’s a well-learned man who’s able to break through the Xeraphin’s hynoptic suggestions. But he’s also sceptical and 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 at times.

Yet Professor Hayter gets to follow the Doctor and the others despite his scepticism. He’s curious and wants to know about what’s going on. He is intolerable at times, but is a good soul and cares about 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 home. But Tegan gets left behind and it’s too late for her when she tries to head back to the TARDIS. Earlier, Tegan wandered off and seemed to want to go back to Heathrow Airport. But she’s uncertain and is torn between wanting to become an air stewardess and joining the Doctor as well as travelling in the TARDIS.

Tegan’s upset when she’s left behind as the TARDIS leaves without her with the Doctor and Nyssa inside. I really liked those moments with Tegan’s character as it feels ‘new series-like’ and what they do with companions today. It also comes ‘full circle’ as to what Season 19 has been about with the Doctor trying to get Tegan back home. I really felt for Tegan as she had tears in her eyes at the end.

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

For me, it’s a decent finale to Peter Davison’s first season as the Doctor, 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 see it for the first time, do appreciate some of its good points.


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‘DOCTOR WHO – TIME-FLIGHT’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

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 this book and the novelization of ‘Castrovalva’ at the now-deceased ‘Doctor Who’ Up Close Exhibition in Cardiff back in August 2009. I remember reading this whilst on holiday and was keen to find out 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 Grimwade. The book was published in January 1983, a year after the story’s original broadcast. The story is divided into 10 chapters, which is unusual as 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. I was expecting this novel 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 about each event.

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 as I like to hear the characters’ lines in the novelization than have them removed.

The aftermath scene of Adric’s death in the TARDIS following ‘Earthshock’ was rather rushed in my opinion, as some of the dialogue was cut from the transmitted episode into the novel. The scene didn’t have the emotional impact it should have had, especially between the three major characters.

Also Grimwade fails to include the ‘deleted scenes’ that were on the ‘Time-Flight’ DVD that I remembered. These scenes included Sheard’s conversations about NATO and Whitehall in his office as well as the missing line of dialgoue in the Sanctum when the Doctor talks about the Xeraphin in the sarcophagus.

Also the scenes where Nyssa and Tegan journey to reach the Sanctum aren’t well-realised in the novel 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 are briefly mentioned.

An interesting point is when Stapley breaks Bilton out of his hypnotic state by mentioning Tegan. This occurs also in the TV version of the story. I wondered why Tegan’s name-mentioning should have helped Bilton remember where he was. Sadly this isn’t dealt with properly in Grimwade’s novel.

The Master holding some Concorde passengers hostage until he gets the temporal limiter from the Doctor is also removed in the book. Also the preparing for take-off in Concorde between the Doctor and party is hazy and poorly structured as 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 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 as I myself am not familiar with the terms.

I liked it when 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.

Both Sheard and the air traffic controller Horton are given first names in the story. Sheard is called Douglas and Horton is called Clive. This was interesting for Grimwade to give both men these names.

Grimwade does well describing the perception induction scenes. Not just with the Doctor and party arriving in pre-historic Earth, but also with the passengers under hallucination. Examples include Angela seeing Hayter as a difficult passenger and Bilton in the cockpit with Stapley whilst they work.

The reasoning behind the Master disguising himself as Kalid is better handled in the book compared to the TV story. In the book, it’s described that Kalid is a Plasmaton version of the Master and it’s also a disguise to hide not just the Master but to also hide the evil Xeraphin that are in the Sanctum.

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 Sanctum; when Nyssa is 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 in 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. You can buy that DVD from the ‘Galaxy 4’ shop online.

‘Doctor Who – Time-Flight’ has been an interesting read. It’s not the best Target novelization I’ve read and is rather disappointing, lacking in detail and consistency. But it’s interesting how Peter Grimwade novelizes his TV story into prose. I’m wondering what his novelization for ‘Mawdryn Undead’ is like.

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


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2 thoughts on “‘Time-Flight’ (TV)

  1. 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

    • 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. 🙂

      Like

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