Doctor Who #588: Time-Flight Part 4

"We've been away for a hundred and forty million years." "What about the overtime?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.30 1982.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor and Concorde beat the Master to Heathrow, and as if this were a race, that defeats him.

REVIEW: You're in good hands with the Concorde crew, at least, going by this episode in which three pilots fix a plane's hydraulics with minimal cannibalism of a second plane and manage the smoothest of take-offs in Jurassic Britain. I have no context for disputing the commercial's show's claims about this airline, so I'll accept it. Where we're NOT in particularly good hands is with Grimwade's script. Still no explanation for the Kalid disguise (so it looks like the Master was subbed in for the written villain by producer fiat; just checked, that's exactly what happened). The Master and Doctor trading circuit boards has all the dramatic tension of a block of wood. The Doctor is ready to believe Captain Stapley can actually steer the TARDIS (the Hayter avatar is only marginally more justifiable). And the ending is told rather than shown, with the Master's TARDIS simply disappearing as the Doctor assures us he's stranded on Xeriphas, where the Xeraphin are quite free of his control. Yes, well, if you're sure, Doctor.

There are some good things about Part 4, however. The Concorde's take-off is a good effect (especially after the flub of calling for a shimmering effect on Victor Foxtrot and not actually adding one). I love the joyous moment when the Doctor reveals they will arrive at Heathrow before the Master. The Concorde crew's energy is fun and infectious, both as they work to fix the aircraft and when they delight in telling their boss the more fanciful details of their adventure. Tegan finally gets to play stewardess (too bad for that ACTUAL Concorde air hostess, who simply disappears at the end), and I like how she's nostalgic for her old job (not that she ever got to do it except in this episode), but ultimately chooses to continue traveling with the Doctor. Except...

He takes off without her in order to avoid pesky questions from a man who 24 hours earlier was put in his place by a call from UNIT. So was there REALLY any good reason for taking off so abruptly? I mean, Tegan misses her "time-flight" by mere seconds! Like much of this serial, it's all a big hoax perpetrated on the audience. Tegan WILL return at the start of the next season. The moment gives some oomph to this rather oomphless season finale, and I suppose the Doctor could well have taken Tegan's absence as a sign she was finally home and not coming back even for a goodbye. I don't think a companion has been left so unceremoniously behind since Dodo. Good thing this isn't the last we see of her (and I'm sure Sarah Sutton appreciates the character-building gap created for extracanonical stories).

The Target novelization has some (very) slim explanations not found in the televised episodes (that the Xeraphin maintained and influenced the Master's disguise, for example), but generally has the same plot holes and tedious technical fixations.

- The actors bring lots of energy to the close of one mess of a serial, and that's enough to redeem it.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Low - Peter Grimwade is a better director than writer, and yet they bought two more scripts from him after this mess. Not that he's the only culprit. There are a great number of dodgy effects and the Concorde plug to contend with as well. Skipping it, I'd only miss Tegan's final little moment, but that would be more for continuity than quality.



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