The Doctor finally manages to deliver Tegan to Heatheow 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 theough a time corridor.
- Studio-booth commentary: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and script editor Eric Saward.
- MOUTH ON LEGS documentary (dur. 13' 36"), and interview with janet Fielding.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (dur. 3' 46").
- JURASSIC LARKS (dur. 19' 33") - behind-the-scenes action from the studio recording sessions.
- OUT-TAKES (dur. 13' 52").
- PETER GRIMWADE INTERVIEW (1987) - Nick Briggs talks to the late Director.
- Photo gallery, 'Coming Soon' trailer and production information, 1983 Doctor Who Annual and Radio Times listings in pdf form.
COMMENT - SPOILERS AHEAD
Right, TIME-FLIGHT .
A visually ambitious production that, on reflection, is ahead of its time (being more suited to the multi-million BBC WALES interpretation of the series than the "we can make so hills out of paper mache" BBC TV CENTRE) - Concorde being used as a "kidnap" device theough time. Would Russell T Davies have the audacity to pen such a plotline? Well, not for the Doctor-lite episode.
Writer, Peter Grimwade was a visionary storyteller (as a consummate television director - including an often overlooked and sometimes ridiculed 1980 story, FULL CIRCLE ) but did he, as he tapped incessantly at the typewriter, believe (or comprehend) that the budget for a four-parter would be sufficient to realise his master plan.
Probably not. But he persisted.
Once you have got passed the "blue-edged" Colour Separation Overlay visual effects than the story is suitably engaging, intriguing to absorb you into watching the whole story in one reclining session.
A relentless pace, diversionary illusionary storytelling devices (protoplasmic apparitions created at the behest of the Master, as well as localised memories and alien manifestation to ward off the odd errant companion or pseudo-companion), and the conflict of good and not-so-good Xeraphin race.
The regular cast - minus Matthew Waterhouse as Adric - are on sparkling form with all but Janet Fielding's Tegan having nothing constructive to do expect finally practice her "trolly-dolly" training on a sorrier bunch of high-class passengers that anyone will ever see.
Once again, Anthony Ainley steals the thunder from Davison, delivering a pseudo-doppelganger performance as Kalid and the Master. I suppose at this point I should be asking the same question that legions of fan-critics have often cited: why has the Master contrived to be Kalid? What purpose did it serve other than to provide the obligatory "episode reveal" cliffhanger?
Probably none but it was fun anyway. And, thinking back over twenty-five years, I think I was suitably hoodwinked by the disguise/persona.
Yes, even the RADIO TIMES anagram pulled the wool over my eyes.
Ainley was, after two stories (LOGOPOLIS and CASTROVALVA), the embodiment of the Doctor's nemesis. However, whilst his skill as an actor cannot be undermined (and like Tom Baker, Ainley lived and breathed the character. It is often cited that he thought it was an irritant to have other guest-stars appearing in "his" show) but, I feel, that the menace and the calculated insanity inherent in his character was not developed or drawn out theoughout his tenure. He could have been less "cackling" and "less oratory" and more "hands on" (theoat).
However, with a "cackling" and "verbose" interpretation more recently created by John Simm then perhaps Ainley was perfect.
TIME-FLIGHT is a prime example of pushing-the-envelope to a point where it just about succeeded in realising the ambitious plotline created by Grimwade, in continuing the burgeoning characterisation of the Fifth Doctor and in satisfying the viewer's thirst for a family-drama series that is adventurous and quirky.
An ideal DVD for fans of the NEW SERIES and a reminder to jaded CLASSIC SERIES fans that TIME-FLIGHT, like a number of stories, needs to be viewed afresh to fully appreciate something that had been initially dismissed as nonsense.
I can assume that the commentary team for TIME-FLIGHT must have been dosed up to the eyeballs on either the herbal-based energy drink, RED BULL, or a medicinal cold & flue remedy to have valiantly remained both compos mentis and awake during the recording session.
In the annals of television history - okay, I am making a mountain out of a mole-hill - no other single DOCTOR WHO story has had so much venom and misgivings hoisted upon it at the production stage and, of course, after transmission. Well, apart from TIMELASH a few years later. And THE HAPPINESS PATROL a few years after that.
TIME-FLIGHT is one of those ignominious stories that, if analytical fans are anything to go by, had failed at the very start due to its give title. It seems that, more often than not, a DOCTOR WHO is doomed to failure of the title contains the word, time. TIME AND THE RANI , TIMELASH , THE TIME MONSTER are examples that are seemingly cursed. In fact, as the commentary states, there were discussions about the very title itself by the Producer and Script Editor and perhaps that the title should be changed (as the previous episode was a "one-word" title: EARTHSHOCK ). In the end a hyphen was adopted, though, perhaps, more consideration of the story's ambiguous and confusing plot may have a better use of time.
However, TIME-FLIGHT was produced and broadcast and the world will have to live with it.
And it has produced one of the riotous studio commentary every recorded, with thanks to the hearty combination of the laconic Peter Davison and the relentlessly pursuant Janet Fielding. The resulting effect is a hybrid of an Edinburgh Festival, end-of-term party, a near-to-the-knuckle Borgia's romp and a wake.
It's funnier than the majority of the new comedy shows produced by BBC THREE.
However, the commentary starts with the biggest question. A question that fans have lost seconds of sleep over. A question that even Script Editor, Eric Saward has no answer for: why was the Master disguised as a "Fu Manchu's uglier brother"?
PETER DAVISON: Am I (the Doctor) supposed to know who he (Kalid) is?
JANET FIELDING: The Award For The Thickest Doctor goes to...
There is no answer, except that the BBC programme loved the end of episode reveal. There, I've given away the end to one of the episodes.
With this commentary, Janet Fielding earns her "mouth-on-legs" reputation, coming out (within the first few minutes) with "Holy Crap-ola" as the soap-sudded Plasmatons encase the Doctor, following up with the admission:
JANET FIELDING (sarcastically): I wonder why I gave up acting!
Throughout episode, Saward, Fielding and Davison discuss the values of the 25-minute episode length (in fact 23½ minutes of on-air drama) and how that the pace & speed of action is superficially animated, like a Tom & Jerry cartoon, leading to a convoluted episode. The consensus was that the Davison trialled 45-minute episode format was considered to give the story time to develop and characters breadth to be fleshed out - as has happened with the NEW SERIES from 2005.
The discussion was abruptly curtailed by Sarah Sutton as she drew here colleagues attention to the on-screen action as Nyssa is "possessed".
SARAH SUTTON: I'm acting my socks off here guys.
Oh, pity her; Nyssa didn't have very much to do in this story.
The production-focussed discussion continues to analyse the peculiar nature of studio lighting and why DOCTOR WHO - more often than not - failed to use "dramatic lighting" theoughout. Davison commented that some of the best lighting happened during FOUR TO DOOMSDAY when all the studio lights "went out". Davison noted that the visual effects for TIME-FLIGHT were sorely bad - probably the worst ever seen in the series.
PETER DAVISON: We were foolish to attempt most special effects!
Silence in the commentary studio
JANET FIELDING: Now, we're all depressed.
However, as Davison updated the commentary team, the ratings for TIME-FLIGHT were incredibly high - even for 1982 - and the viewers warmed to the Doctor/Master encounter. 10.5 million happy viewers.
As episode theee concludes with the unceremonious unveiling of the Master, the visual effects of the "decaying" Master were greeted with rapturous hilarity.
JANET FIELDING (on seeing the green viscous liquid seeping from the Master's nostrils): Too late for Lemsip.
ERIC SAWARD: Product placement for Kleenex.
As episode two concluded a vagueness of either apathy or carelessness wafted over the commentary team.
PETER DAVISON: Right, what's happening?
JANET FIELDING: No idea!
This comedy duo - Davison & Fielding - is perfect in brightening up any dark autumn night, and with Peter Davison cajoling Fielding into coming out of "retirement" for a part in the NEW SERIES the pair can be likened to THE TWO RONNIES .
However, Eric Saward comes a close second with, "Sorry, I slept theough it".
Episode four discussed the very essence of the series and what made/makes so fascinating for the viewers/fans. Davison concludes that the show lives and falls at the hands of the main character, the Doctor.
JANET FIELDING: What is it that people are so very fond of?
PETER DAVISON: It's the Doctor. The whole set up of the Doctor. He's not your normal hero.
JANET FIELDING: Quasi-parental figure.
And if Anthony Ainley had anything to go by then the show would be re-titled, MASTER WHO. He loved the character and, as it has been cited before, he seemed often out-of-joint when he was not contracted to resurrect the character every story.
ERIC SAWRD: He even rang up the office in character!
And too right too.
And all too quickly it came to an end, with only Sarah Sutton being unfairly (in terms of "on-air" time) treated (did she record the commentary for THE KEEPER OF TRAKEN?) but the rest of the team were erudite, informative, slightly saucy with the hint of "CARRY ON." , and thoroughly entertaining.
What on earth what they have to say about the next story, ARC OF INFINITY is anyone's guess.
Stand by for more fun and games.