Time-Flight is a bit of a mess. What it lacks in terms of budget and visuals it also lacks script-wise, so that we’re left with a pretty disappointing season finale.
It starts promisingly enough with episode one, which features Doctor Who’s most expensive ever product placement – Concorde. The location filming at Heathrow and the use of a real Concorde certainly adds a certain something.
The wheels fall off in episode two though. The prehistoric location doesn’t look great, mainly because it features incredibly obvious painted backdrops.
And just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, Kalid is revealed to be …. the Master! I’ve already written about the Ainley Master’s propensity for dressing up, in my post on Castrovalva but at least there was some logic to his cosplay in that story, since he was expecting the Doctor to turn up.
Here, there’s no such excuse, so why on earth did the Master decide to dress as an Oriental magician? Wisely, the script doesn’t dwell on this, presumably hoping that the audience won’t dwell on it either.
After escaping from Castrovalva, the Master found himself trapped on prehistoric Earth. By a remarkable coincidence, at exactly the same time the Xeraphin also become stranded in exactly the same place. The Master attempts to tap the power of the Xeraphin, but finds them difficult to control since they’re a gestalt intelligence whose good and evil sides balance each other out.
The Xeraphin are the most interesting part of the story, but they’re rather underdeveloped. Dropping the Master from the story would have allowed more time to feature them, but as it is we don’t really care about them since they’re painted so sketchily.
This is probably the least involving of all the stories featuring Ainley’s Master, but much better was to come over the next few years. For all its faults, The King’s Demons has a good explanation for the Master’s “small time villainy” and Planet of Fire is a story that is certainly lifted by Ainley’s performance.
If the visuals are sometimes disappointing and the script doesn’t really engage, then it’s just as well that the actors manage to make something out of pretty much nothing. By now the regulars are working well together and the loss of Adric has only served to give both Tegan and Nyssa more to do. After some dodgy performances earlier in the season, Fielding and Sutton have established a good partnership and they both have a good rapport with Davison’s Doctor.
The guest cast have their moments too. Richard Easton (Captain Stapley), Keith Drinkel (Flight Engineer Scobie) and Michael Cashman (First Officer Bilton) all seem to be enjoying themselves. None of the parts are that interesting, but all three actors help to give the story a much needed lift.
The main guest star was Nigel Stock as Professor Hayter. Stock had been a familiar face on British television and film for several decades (he was probably best known for playing Dr Watson alongside Douglas Wilmer and Peter Cushing in the BBC’s 1960’s adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories) and he brings a touch of class to the story. Professor Hayter, like the rest of the parts in the story, wasn’t a very rounded character but Stock does his best with what he’s been given.
Time-Flight ends on a cliff-hanger as Tegan’s left behind at Heathrow. Will she ever see the Doctor again? I guess we’ll have to wait until the next story to find out.
If you don’t fancy watching Time-Flight (or if you have and need cheering up) then this fab video by Farmageddon (aka Michael J. Dinsdale) should be just what, ahem, the Doctor ordered.