Saturday, August 26, 2006

My Review of Doctor Who's: "Time Flight"

Written by Peter Grimwade
Directed by Ron Jones

Nyssa (re air travelling): “You miss it, don’t you?”
Tegan: “Oh I don’t know. It’s not exactly dull travelling with The Doctor.”

Following the cataclysmic events of the previous serial, “Earthshock”, Season Nineteen of the series ends on a note that can only draw negative connotations. I know this show isn’t perfect but as season finales go, this one really doesn’t do much to inspire.

There’s a long winded plot about concords at Heathrow Airport going missing, which takes up way too much time during the opening scene to actually. Apparently the use of concords was a major coup back in 1982. It’s just a shame that such a coup doesn’t result in a storyline.

One bright spark about this serial is that there’s some strong continuity. Both The Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa are upset that Adric sacrificed himself to stop the Cybermen but while Tegan and Nyssa are open to the possibility of reversing the event so that Adric doesn’t have to die, The Doctor points out that certain rules can’t be broken.

Fortunately Tegan is wise enough to drop the tricky subject but it doesn’t stop The Doctor from wanting to console her and Nyssa with a pleasant trip to 1851. However the TARDIS ends up getting sucked into the current situation at Heathrow where The Doctor’s TARDIS draws all sorts of attention.

When The Doctor is brought up to speed about the missing concord he wastes no time in figuring out what has actually. Also despite initial cynicism from Captain Stapley, he also manages to use another concord, along with Tegan, Nyssa and the TARDIS to travel back to 140 million years in the past.

Well with an episode called, “Time-Flight”, it’s relieving to get both prospects in a quick amount of time. Of course being stuck in the past evokes all sort of weird feeling as the concord staff are convinced that they are still in Heathrow. Illusions tend to play something of a role in this whole thing.

The big question is what exactly brought them here and that answers seems to lie in a pretty powerful sorcerer named Kalid. Silver and obese this bloke spends a good amount of time enslaving those from the first concord he snatched and then snatching both Roger and Andrew as well.

He also has fun in sending his Plasmatons in attacking both The Doctor and Nyssa at different points but despite using these creatures to initially deter resistance, it’s not long until The Doctor actually faces off with Kalid. As face offs tend to go, this one is pretty uninspired to say the least.

Kalid might be boastful about his ability to make people do what he wants but The Doctor’s disbelief of magic is a good giveaway that Kalid isn’t what he claims to be. Nope, if anything Kalid is more electronic/hypnotic rather than mystical and no amount of mock-annoyance from him convinces The Doctor otherwise.

In fact when Professor Hayter and the concord crew interrupt the face-off, it’s soon revealed that Kalid is actually The Master. Now I know The Master has had a penchant for disguises but if ever there was a serial where dressing up was utterly pointless, it would be this one.

As motives go, even The Master’s here aren’t as grand as you would hope they would be. Basically he’s stuck 140 millions years in the past and he wants to get out. The Doctor isn’t exactly in the best of moods to help him but The Master swipes his TARDIS and spends pretty much the rest of the serial working out his own escape plan. His TARDIS needs a power source and The Master is nothing if not a tryer.

When he’s not instructing people to break down a wall or sending both Captain Stapley and Andrew (both of whom try to best The Master) on a TARDIS trip of their own, it seems he’s also using a race called the Xeraphin to help with his insane plans to escape.

The Doctor’s pretty horrified to discover just how far The Master will use the Xeraphin to aid his escape but worse than that is despite The Doctor even fearing at one point that The Master could actually best him, this still doesn’t feel as tense as you’d want it too.

Towards the final part of the serial, both The Doctor and The Master forge an uneasy partnership of sorts to help each other escape from the Time Zone. Of course it’s also nice to see The Doctor be a little ruthless as well when it turns out that The Master may be stranded on the Xeraphin’s home planet.

However despite the general unevenness of this actual storyline, there are a few bright sparks. For instance the scenes with flight staff such as Stapley, Angela, Andrew and Roger add a perfectly human element to the story while it’s interesting to see Professor Hayter’s eyes open up before his demise.

The best parts however involve Tegan and Nyssa. Nyssa is used on a few occasions to distinguish illusions and to talk for both the Plasmatons and the Xeraphin. There’s also a scene between her and Tegan where they briefly get to see Adric, the Melkur and Terileptil.

Tegan’s also got some stuff of importance as her feelings of longing for her old life seem to sink. Both her and Nyssa seem to have such a good friendship that I liked Nyssa for asking whether or not she missed her old life. Then Tegan winds up being left behind which is the only real punch this entire serial actually serves.

Also in “Time-Flight”

For the first episode, Anthony Ainley is credited as Leon Ni Taiy to conceal his identity. Again I stress that Kalid was a pointless device.

The Doctor (re Adric): “I feel his loss as well.”
Tegan: “You could do more than grieve. You could go back.”

What was up with The Doctor name-dropping The Brigadier like that? I know the bloke hasn’t appeared in six seasons but it felt a little tacked on.

The Doctor: “Well I might be able to help.”
Tegan: “That’s what worries me.”

The Doctor (re Andrew/Roger): “I wonder if they know where the TARDIS is.”
Professor Hayter: “They can’t even remember their own names. They’re in a trance.”

Some original titles for this included “Xeraphin” and “Zanadin”. Neither sound all together that great.

The Doctor: “I don’t understand.”
The Master: “No, Doctor you never understand. You never do.”

Professor Hayter (re passengers): “Doctor they’ve stopped hallucinating.”
The Doctor: “That’s not necessarily a good thing.”

I know it was tradition in the old season, but it’s still amazing that both Tegan and Nyssa haven’t changed their clothes for most of the season.

Nyssa: “I think we’re winning.”
Tegan: “Winning what for God’s sake?”

Tegan: “What does that mean?”
The Doctor: “It means The Master has finally defeated me.”

This was released on DVD in August 2007 in a box set with “Arc Of Infinity”. The commentary is pretty scathing but funny and I liked the “Mouth On Legs” feature about Tegan.

Tegan: “Doctor, hurry up. The Master’s getting trigger happy out there.”
The Doctor: “Oh well, better not keep him waiting.”

Captain Stapley: “Oh hello. I thought you were going with The Doctor.”
Tegan: “So did I.”

Peter Grimwade, who wrote this serial, directed the previous one, “Earthshock”.

Before reviewing “Time-Flight”, I have to admit to watching this serial at least four times since the 10 month period that I have owned it. It’s not one of those serials that gets better after repeated viewing but it did have a few redeemable things about it. However as a season finale, it’s incredibly limp, dull in a good few places and often too confusing for it’s own good. As a villain, The Master is also wasted on this serial.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

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