Written by:
Peter Grimwade
Directed by: Ron Jones
Starring: Peter Davison
Year: 1982
Video Availability: Try sendit.com

One of the most slated stories of the entire series, it'd be only too easy to slag Time-Flight and so… I won't. While 22 years ago this story picked up all the credibility that JN-T and Barry Letts had managed to restore to the programme and smashed it to the ground, it's quite a laugh if you're in the right mood.

While famously far too ambitious for the series' budget, this opening episode isn't actually half bad, and the filmed shoots in Heathrow and on Concorde lend an air of realism to the serial… albeit an extremely temporary air. In fact, I have to make the obvious remark about this being even more of a historical document now that Concorde has been disbanded. The BBC should put it out on DVD and give away a free Concorde toy for some extra sales. Actually, no they shouldn't. Bet the commentary'd be funny though. Highlight of the episode has be the triumvirate of immensely camp and loveably wooden pilots that occupy the piece. The sideways Tardis scene is cool, too, although it does strain credulity a little.

I do have to express some negatives, even if it's only the outrageous ineptness of the title, possibly the worst title in the history of Who. Yes, even worse than Time and the Rani. And while the Doctor and Nyssa's impassive reaction to Adric's death is a nice touch, it's brushed over far too unrealistically, with a quick "We feel his loss as well" - then the next second they're on their holidays, cracking one-liners. This isn't helped by more stagy Tardis scenes. I know I've said this in a million other Davison reviews, but there's something about the way Tardis scenes are shot in his era that just doesn't sit right. Maybe it's because the camera's always in so close - remember the Blimp, sitting far away from the console in Vengeance on Varos? Okay, Colin's Tardis scenes were crap, but they never looked quite as awkward and uncomfortable as the ones in this period.

Biggest insult of the episode comes with Peter's "UNIT" get-out. Who or what are UNIT? Cry the casual audience. Except they have no answer, and even avid viewers would be expected to recall semi-regulars who hadn't appeared in the show since 1976. 1975 if you're after the mentioned Brigadier. That's seven years, alienating the core child audience. Yes yes, we all know it, but how many of the millions tuning in did?

Things really take a downward step at the oops-the-budget's-gone-already prehistoric landscape. It's so bad they don't even bother to dub over the squeaky footsteps on the studio floor. Events are referenced off-screen ("Tegan! Wait!") because they haven't got the budget to recreate it all for long shot. "I've developed a very healthy respect for the Doctor…" How have you? You've only known him for five minutes, and you've spoke to him like a c*** the whole time.

"Chamal a-lub-a-lub". Okay, let's talk Ainley. This is the last Master story I've covered, reviewing these things in random order. So it is I've already seen Ant ham it up opposite Colin, do okay opposite Sylvester and then turn into a CGI snake for Paul McGann. On the opposite end of the scale I've seen him as a scheming cadaver in The Deadly Assassin and a suave but lethal opponent in Terror of the Autons. But it's appropriate that Time-Flight should be the last Master story I come to review, as it shows him for what he really is - an intergalactic arsehole. He's got a time machine that can go anywhere, at any time. So what does he do? Spend all his time tracking down the Doctor, coming up with patently ludicrous schemes and dressing like a twat. I do feel with a story as heavily covered as Time-Flight then this review is more clichéd than usual, expressing points of view you've probably read in many other places. Apologies for that, but as I'm there I might as well bring up the senseless disguise for the Master. He controls a hypnotised populace, so there's no reason for him to wear a disguise in the first place. But even if they broke their conditioning - how would they know who he was anyway? Yes, it's all there for a crap episode two cliffhanger, but in terms of the logic of the story, it makes no sense whatsoever. However, most feeble send-up of this comes from the generally likeable Discontinuity Guide which suggests he says "Chaka Demus and Pliers" in episode two. No he doesn't, he clearly says "Kaka demons" - and you're just showing off.

Listen to the jaunty jingly music when they go over to the Concorde. Ain't it a stinker? And what about Tegan's "I saw Concorde once on the tarmac at Melbourne." Who gives a shit? Shut yer face, you silly tart! Umm… didn't I say I was going to look on the bright side of this one? Sorry. It is bad, though, innit?
* *

How do you know they're called Plasmatons?!!!?!!!? Maybe the Doctor just has an involuntary tendency to make up silly names for whatever monsters he encounters. However, the increasing inanity and unrealistic dialogue for the secondary cast can be forgiven for my favourite moment of the story. Peter's a funny guy as his commentaries attest, but he's straight jacketed in the role and never allowed to show it. But check out his scene with Antony Ainley (who is hamming so badly he even kisses the Tardis at one stage), just after the "It seems a power greater than yours is protecting them" line. Peter can be seen quite clearly pissing himself at Ainley's "acting", and it adds wonders to the enjoyment, if not the quality, of the story.

It's total horseshit though, with Davison given indefensible lines like "what are you doing, sitting at the end of a time contour like a spider in a web?" I'd love to be original and praise Time-Flight, but with Ainley sending up a racial stereotype and some truly appalling guest actors (Judith Byfield as top of the list) this could very well be one of the worst Doctor Who stories of all. Just when you think things can't get any worse, Matthew Waterhouse makes a cameo, while that foam Hydra is utterly pathetic.
* ½

"As gullible as ever, my dear Doctor.." Why is he being gullible? If you want to make your opponent look credulous and a bit thick, then putting on ten stones of padding, a rubber mask and putting on a cod Chinese accent is a bit of a far-fetched way of going about it. Yes, you've made him look dense, if you will, but you've also made yourself look a complete dick in the process.

You know, I'd forgotten just how bad Judith Byfield is - in fact, I reckon she's the worst actor to appear in the entire series, effortlessly topping rivals like Leee John and Jenny Laird. I still can't find it in myself to slate the male pilots, though. Even though their dialogue is unbelievably antiquated for the 80s (one of them says "rum idea" in the first episode) they remind me of a try-out for that little-seen sitcom about camp airpilots, The High Life. ("Dearie me!")

"They're supposed to have lived on the planet Xeraphas before it was devastated by crossfire in the Vardon-Crosnax war." Give me strength. It's weird that the basic thrust of the "desperate Master's last chance" plot was reused for Grimwade's Planet of Fire two years later, but was so much better written. This could well be the worst script ever written, with flowery unnaturalistic dialogue that would make Pip and Jane blush, along with chunks of exposition that would have Terry Nation looking on in awe. And considering the companions now number one less, Nyssa and, especially, Tegan, are given nothing to do. Which is a blessing in a way, obviously.

The Xeraphin emerge and turn out to be two bloke in silver leotards with some black veins stuck on their heads. Meanwhile, the Master's plan appears to be a blue box with some wires stuck in it. Utter crap.
* ½

That's it, I'm spent. Other than saying what a lousy actress Sarah Sutton is, I've said nearly all I have to say about this one. I've been kind enough not to cough up any real bile for it, and I do enjoy it in a funny kind of way, but it's not good, is it? Most of this final episode involves the prehistoric set, a fake Concorde wheel and a toy aeroplane model - a deadly combination. This is also the story most reliant on "I'll explain later".

Time-Flight is Davison's most technobabble reliant story. Even the first five minutes of episode one include the lines "It could be the relative drift compensator"; "feedback from the solar comparator" and "It could draw us into spatial convergence". To distance the audience with bullshit Voyager science is one thing, to resolve a story by bullshit science is doubly insulting. Five whole minutes of the middle of the episode are given over to the Doctor and the Master swapping bits of BBC Micros with silly names ascribed to them. "Where's my quantum accelerator?" "Give me my temporal limiter first." "Not until you hand me my lateral flux anal rimmer." It's terrible, and why does the Master think he should say "au revoir" and then laugh like he's made a pun? Don't even get me started on Tegan's air hostess bit, which is supposed to be endearing but is merely enraging. Anyway, as I was saying, the story concludes with a completely bullshit resolution. The Master tries to land back on Earth, but the Doctor has assumed the same co-ordinates, so his Tardis is knocked back. The end. F****** appalling.

A final coda is given with a completely pointless development where Tegan is accidentally left behind. It places the writers in jeopardy as it just means they have to find a non-contrived way to write her back in at the start of the next season. And anyone who's seen Arc of Inifinity will know it's anything but non-contrived. A final shout out, then, to Janet Fielding, giving possibly her worst performance ever. Ron Jones, you are crap.

There's no level on which this story succeeds. The script, acting, production, visual effects, score… everything about Time-Flight is rock bottom. I hate to reiterate opinions so often repeated that they've almost become fact, but - while you can watch this for perverse amusement with a drink - on any genuine terms this really is dire.