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Time Flight

Production Code: 6C

First Transmitted

1 - 22/03/1982 18:55

2 - 23/03/1982 19:05

3 - 29/03/1982 18:55

4 - 30/03/1982 18:50

Plot

The Doctor finally manages to deliver Tegan to Heathrow Airport, where he gets drawn into investigating the in-flight disappearance of a Concorde. Following the same flight path in another Concorde, with the TARDIS stowed in the hold, he discovers that it has been transported back millions of years into the past through a time corridor.

On prehistoric Earth he and his friends encounter a genie-like figure named Kalid and his protoplasmic servants, the Plasmatons. Kalid turns out to be just the latest guise adopted by the Master, who is engaged in a complex scheme to try to gain control of a powerful alien gestalt called the Xeraphin and use it as a dynamorphic generator in his TARDIS.

The Master's interference has caused the Xeraphin to become divided. Its evil side now intends to take over the universe, but the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa are able to overcome it by combining their will power. The Master, tricked by the Doctor, ends up trapped on the Xeraphin's home planet Xeriphas. The Doctor and Nyssa make a quick departure in the TARDIS, abandoning Tegan at Heathrow.

Episode Endings

Plasmatons suddenly materialise around the Doctor, and he is engulfed in protoplasmic matter.

Kalid collapses, apparently dead, and Professor Hayter, a Concorde passenger who has managed to resist the conditioning to which the others have succumbed, discovers on opening the base of a console that the source of the genie-like figure's power was mere electronics. The Doctor is incredulous. Suddenly the Master rises from the floor, divesting himself of the remnants of his Kalid disguise and observing that the Doctor never does understand.

The Doctor realises that the Master has succeeded in transferring the Xeraphin to the centre of his TARDIS. He tells Nyssa and Tegan that his old adversary has finally defeated him.

Tegan arrives back from a nostalgic wander around Heathrow Airport just in time to see the TARDIS departing without her.

Roots

Airport.

The Twilight Zone episode The Odyssey of Flight 33.

The Starlord comic strip Planet of the Damned.

Isaiah (Xeraphin name).

The Arabian Nights.

Freud.

There is brief mention of Jekyll and Hyde.

The Doctor quotes [an anonymous parody of Ronald Knox's parody of Bishop George Berkeley's ideas, attributing them to] a naive 18th century philosopher: 'That's why this tree/ Doth continue to be,/ Since observed by yours faithfully, God.'

Dialogue Triumphs

Captain Stapley : "I thought you were going with the Doctor."

Tegan : "So did I..."

Dialogue Disasters

"He's been... atomised!"

Angela : "Andrew, I didn't know you had a New York stopover."

Continuity

The Doctor says that he cannot go back in time to save Adric: there are some rules that cannot be broken, even with the TARDIS. The TARDIS interior can be 'rotated' with reference to its exterior doorway. Nyssa says that this would have come in useful on Castrovalva. Objects within, however, fall over (e.g. the hatstand) [one dreads to think what sort of state Tegan's room ended up in].

The Master escaped from Castrovalva (no explanation is given), although his TARDIS' dynormorphic generator became exhausted, leaving him stranded on prehistoric Earth. Already in the area are the last of the Xeraphin from Xeraphas, a planet devastated by nuclear crossfire in the Vardon Kosnax war. [Vardon is a long lived civilisation, as it is mentioned in Planet of Fire with reference to Trion agents.] They crashed on the Earth, hoping to populate the 'uninhabited' planet, but they were still ill with radiation sickness. They therefore became a single entity [and built the citadel], waiting for the contamination to pass.

The Master decided that the Xeraphin nucleus would provide an excellent substitute for his generator [hinting that the original, like so much of the TARDIS, is semi-living]. It would also afford the Master [much of] the wisdom of the Universe. He destroyed the individuals who emerged from the nucleus, and then began a lengthy appeal to the evil side of the Xeraphin.

[It seems likely that his disguise was, for some reason, intended to aid his penetration of the heart of the citadel. He certainly wasn't playing an Arabian magician for the benefit of the Concorde passengers and crew or the Doctor. Perhaps Kalid was a real person who the Master has 'possessed' in order to benefit from his knowledge of the Xeraphin.]

Even with the new power source, the Master has to 'run in' his TARDIS, following the time contour back to Heathrow. [This process involves some form of calibration, and is similar to the first Doctor's desire to pinpoint his location in stories such as The Daleks. It seems more than likely, therefore, that some repairs were made to the TARDIS in 1960s London.] The Doctor, having ensured that the Master's TARDIS will end up on a (now habitable) Xeraphas, postulates that the Master's new energy source will destroy his TARDIS' temporal limiter (A temporal stabiliser features in Planet of Fire).

Sir John Sudbury is the Doctor's contact within UNIT's department C19 [The name alone leads one to speculate that UNIT in the 1980s runs along civil service rather than militaristic lines]. The Doctor is clearly unaware of the Brigadier's retirement: see Mawdryn Undead.

Tegan has never flown in Concorde before.

Location

Heathrow [1980?], and the same area 140 million years previously.

Links

Untelevised

The return of the freighter crew (Earthshock) to their own time.

Trivia

There are cameo appearances by Adric, the Melkur (from season eighteen's The Keeper of Traken) and a Terileptil (from The Visitation) in Part Two, as images conjured up to try to dissuade Nyssa and Tegan from entering the inner sanctum presided over by Kalid.

Well known actor Nigel Stock appears here as Professor Hayter. His many notable roles included the lead in the BBC's medical drama series Owen MD.

Michael Cashman, now better known for his appearances in EastEnders and for his work as a gay rights activist, plays Concorde First Officer Bilton.

Technobabble

Nyssa talks about cross tracing on the space/time axis. We also hear of an exponential time contour, a neuronic nucleus, and some unconvincing waffle about passing through centuries of galactic radiation.

Goofs

As the Doctor correctly indicates, landing some 140 million years ago puts them towards the end of the Jurassic period. However, he then says that they can't be 'far off' the Pleistocene 'era' (should be Pleistocene epoch), which wouldn't actually occur for another 138 million years. [He must surely have meant the Cretaceous period, and the 'nip in the air' therefore cannot be the indication of an approaching Ice Age.]

A bird flies in front of Concorde when it takes off from Jurassic England.

Heathrow's air traffic control consists of two men in a tiny room.

Angela Clifford disappears halfway through the story.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Peter Davison

Adric - Matthew Waterhouse

Nyssa - Sarah Sutton

Tegan - Janet Fielding

Andrews - Peter Cellier

Angela Clifford - Judith Byfield

Anithon - Hugh Hayes

Captain Stapley - Richard Easton

Captain Urquhart - John Flint

First Officer Bilton - Michael Cashman

Flight Engineeer Scobie - Keith Drinkel

Horton - Peter Dahlsen

Kalid - Leon Ny Taiy 'Leon Ny Taiy' is an anagram of 'Tony Ainley' - another instance of a pseudonym being used for the actor in order to conceal the Master's presence in the story.

Professor Hayter - Nigel Stock

Sheard - Brian McDermott

The Master - Anthony Ainley

Zarak - André Winterton

Crew

Director - Ron Jones

Assistant Floor Manager - Lynn Richards

Costumes - Amy Roberts

Designer - Richard McManan-Smith

Film Cameraman - Peter Chapman

Film Editor - Mike Houghton

Incidental Music - Roger Limb

Make-Up - Dorka Nieradzik

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Joan Elliott

Production Associate - Angela Smith

Script Editor - Eric Saward

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Eric Wallis

Studio Sound - Martin Ridout

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Peter Howell

Visual Effects - Peter Logan

Writer - Peter Grimwade

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'I don't know what English cricket is coming to.' Somebody, somewhere should have thrown this script in the bin the moment it had Concorde crash landing in Jurassic England, but, instead, it was made on a typical end of season minimal budget. The actors give it their best, but it only exposes the paucity of the concept and the dialogue.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Time Flight suffers from the same problem as many of the other stories of this period - a difficult-to-follow and hole-ridden plot. The Master's scheme is ridiculously convoluted and illogical; and Richard Walter, writing in TARDIS Volume 7 Number 2, dated May/June 1982, spotted another oddity: 'Why oh why did the Master disguise himself as Kalid when (a) the Doctor was nowhere near and (b) even if he had [been there was no apparent purpose served by] the disguise... Time Flight... gave little material for a good Master/Doctor adventure.'

Worse still, Peter Grimwade's scripts make totally unrealistic demands of the production. Consequently, after a quite promising start, the whole thing goes badly downhill, as Simon M Lydiard observed in Skaro Volume Two Number Five, dated June 1982: 'The early scenes at Heathrow Airport were some of the best Earth scenes [for many years]. With an unpretentious, almost documentary style of direction, Ron Jones evoked the "realistic" feel so typical of the later Troughton Earth-based stories and the early Pertwees. The location filming in and around Concorde was beautifully done and was one of the high points of the season...

'However, despite its excellent beginnings, I was left feeling rather disappointed with this story... Not only was it set in two completely different times, it was made in two completely different styles of production - the modern day Earth scenes being entirely convincing... the prehistoric scenes... [looking] rather false. In fact, once we arrived where the main part of the story was to take place the whole [thing] seemed to descend to another level.'

Scenes involving Concorde crash-landing on the barren plains of prehistoric Earth would be difficult enough for an epic cinema film to achieve convincingly, let alone a series with the modest resources of Doctor Who. Just how the production team ever thought that this story could be made to work is a mystery. The realisation of its requirements was always going to be an uphill struggle, and in the final analysis the whole thing is a bit of a shambles.

Particularly unsuccessful is the ill-conceived attempt to mix stock footage of Concorde aircraft with a studio-bound 'landscape'; and the Plasmatons must be just about the most poorly realised and uninspiring monsters ever to appear in the series. One of the story's few saving graces is the idea of the Xeraphin although, as Lydiard suggested, even this is not as well developed as it might be: 'The Xeraphin looked to me very much like something out of Star Trek, [but] the concept of a failing gestalt of good and evil was an interesting and reasonably effective one, though not enough was made of it...'

Walter surely echoed the thoughts of many when he wrote: 'There is no doubt in my mind that Time Flight was the worst story in an otherwise excellent... season.'

< EarthshockFifth DoctorArc of Infinity >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



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