Doctor Who #585: Time-Flight Part 1

"Behind every illusion there's a conjurer."
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Mar.22 1982.

IN THIS ONE... Two Concords fly to the Jurassic where their crews fall prey to an alien illusionist.

REVIEW: After failing to get free flights to Australia by putting Tegan in a Quantis uniform, JNT finds more willing patrons in Concord. Time-Flight is an incredible piece of product placement that adds a full episode of airport and airplane locations where once the script might have simply called for touch down in prehistory right after Adric's crash, where lo and behold, a time-lost plane and its crew would already be there. At least that's how it looks from here. We're stuck in a huge detour that brings us right back to where we were at the end of Earthshock. After a short eulogy for the fallen companion, and a not-very-convincing rationale for not pulling a timey-wimey trick to save the boy (after all, neither the Doctor, the surviving crew of the freighter or even the audience saw Adric's death and there's ample time for a TARDIS to materialize on the bridge and save him before the ship explodes; not that I'm arguing for his return you understand), the TARDIS is caught up in another craft's slipstream (a phenomenon the episode can't agree to call any one thing, it's a time contour, warp and slip depending on who's talking) and we're off to reprise The Faceless Ones. Yep, as soon as the Doctor stops angling for Heathrow, that's where he's forced to land. At least this time he can invoke his UNIT credentials and get the story moving.

In Adric's absence, Nyssa becomes co-pilot in addition to technobabble dispenser, and is AGAIN left to babysit the guest characters. She's got a lot of fans, I know, but Nyssa never did anything for me. I'm rediscovering why. At least she's also given the Susan/Leela psychic/intuitive bits to play. Whoever Kalid is (and I won't spoil it for you if you can't decipher that laboured anagrammatical pseudonym in the credits), she's the first to see through his illusions. Concord crew and passengers doing a wizard's bidding in the Jurassic era while they imagine themselves on holiday in New York is a fun idea, and "Kalid" gives a fun performance cackling alien incantations at a big crystal ball. I do worry that his accent and garb are meant to be those of a racist portrayal of the Yellow Menace, but the alien skin veers us away from that, I suppose.

Let's talk effects because they really let this episode down. There ARE highlights, like the TARDIS interior righting itself and the crashed model ship, but those are simple/traditional tricks. Whenever the script calls for something more difficult (and Peter Grimwade, as mainly a direction, should have known better... or is he just better at this sort of thing than Ron Jones who actually got to translate Grimwade's script into visuals?), it's a real mess. You've got some great locations, even snow, but these a supplemented by rather awful stills. One of these is used in the CSO sequence that's supposed to dispel the illusion of the airport and turn into the Jurassic, except there's a big flash of light to cover the transition so... It's just an ugly CSO sequence putting the characters in a location we know they actually visited! Prehistoric backdrops with obvious curtain folds take us back to the early days of the program in terms of technical achievement. Gray lump monsters, super-imposed soap suds, it just gets worse from there.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - The "lost in time" hook is just crazy enough to be fun, but you've got to sit through a Concord commercial to get there, and when you do, technical issues spring up.



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