Doctor Who: Time-Flight
(4 episodes, s19e23-e26, 1982)
This is what happens when supersonic goes supertemporal.
A Concorde is completing a trans-Atlantic flight to London when it disappears without a trace. On the TARDIS, the travelers have wrapped up the loose ends from Earthshock but not the grief from Adric’s sacrifice. Tegan asks the Doctor to go back and save him, but the Doctor cannot because it would unravel human history. He tells them that Adric died in the same way as his brother Varsh by giving his own life for those of others. Each the travelers mourns in their own way as the Doctor sets course for the Great Exhibition of 1851, but temporal turbulence from the Concorde incident forces the TARDIS to materialize initially over the runway at Heathrow and then inside a terminal. The Doctor rushes out and makes contact with airport security, using his UNIT credentials to get involved in the Concorde mystery.
Tegan tells Nyssa that, in the 1980s, police boxes have gone the way of flower power. She seems to forget that she actually stopped near one before joining the Doctor in Logopolis, which takes place only a year in the relative past. While both parts of her idiom are technically correct (and phased out around the same time), canonically police boxes are still around.
The Doctor has the TARDIS loaded onto another Concorde to repeat the first flight’s route and plan. The second plane falls into the same time-warp as first, but land at a place similar to Heathrow. The façade is broken when Nyssa spots a pile of skeletons and the travelers (and Concorde crew) discover that they have landed 140 million years in the past. Tegan spots the other Concorde, and with it a crashed spacecraft and a citadel in the distance.
The crew of the first Concorde, under control of an alien being unfortunately designed to look like the oriental mystic stereotype, take the TARDIS to the citadel. When crewmen from the second Concorde interfere, they are taken away by creatures that look like melted wax and soap bubbles. The Doctor is also captured by these beings, known as Plasmatons (blobs of protein in the atmosphere assembled into humanoid form), but is soon released. They encounter Professor Hayter, a passenger on the first flight whose work has trained his mind to evade the illusion.
The mystical alien realizes that Nyssa can detect his influence and encases her in a plasmatic shell. Tegan stays with Nyssa while the Doctor, Hayter, and Captain Stapley continue on. Hayter and Stapley work on freeing the entranced humans while the Doctor explores the caves and finds his TARDIS and the alien, who goes by the name Kalid. The Doctor deduces that Kalid is not the source of the psychic energy, but rather a conduit.
As Hayter and Stapley free the enslaved humans, Kalid focuses on stopping them, which frees Nyssa. Nyssa and Tegan continue to the citadel as Kalid attempts to force the Doctor to cooperate by menacing the Concorde groups. The ladies come across an apparition of Adric, but deduce that it is not real. Kalid continues his attempts to stop them with visions of the Melkur and the Terileptil, but the women rebuff each before coming to a futuristic tank-like device which they hit with a large rock. The act disrupts the psychic energy and reveals Kalid’s true identity: He is the Master.
After the destruction of Castrovalva, the renegade Time Lord was stranded in this time period and needs a new source of power for his TARDIS. He forces the Doctor to surrender the TARDIS key and steals the craft, intending to move it to the sanctum where the ladies disrupted the sarcophagus. The Doctor and Hayter find the newly freed humans from the future and task them with breaking into the sanctum. The Doctor discovers the Master’s TARDIS, which is where the remaining humans are being kept, and that the Master is looking for the source of the time-warp, which is centered on the sanctum. Once they break through, the Doctor and Hayter discover that there is something alive in the sarcophagus. Turns out that it is the entire Xeraphin race, once thought destroyed in the Vardon-Kosnax War. Nyssa nearly sacrifices herself to be a mouthpiece and conduit for the Xeraphin, but Hayter takes her place instead.
The Master rematerializes at the control room thanks to the Doctor’s earlier override of the coordinate controls. Stapley tries to sabotage the TARDIS, but he only helps the Master after being caught. The Master takes several control boards before sending the TARDIS into the atmosphere to hold position over the citadel.
The Xeraphin manifest as Anithon, who explains that they came to Earth to revive their race, but radiation poisoning forced them into hibernation. The Master arrived and tried to harness their power for his TARDIS, and the act resulted in a split between good and evil within the Xeraphin. The avatar splits into the good Anithon and evil Zarak, and the latter works with the Master to transport the sarcophagus to the evil Time Lord’s TARDIS.
The Master’s TARDIS takes off, and the Doctor’s TARDIS arrives with help from an avatar of Professor Hayter. Once the travelers are free of the sanctum, the Doctor deduces that the Master doesn’t have enough power to leave the area. Nyssa pilots the TARDIS with the Concorde crew to the planes while Tegan and the Doctor track down the Master. They all converge on the Concordes where the Master’s TARDIS has changed into the other plane but cannot leave due to Stapley’s sabotage. The Doctor negotiates terms, exchanging two operational planes, a functional TARDIS, and all of the humans for one part that the Master needs.
Everyone leaves prehistoric Earth. The serviceable Concorde ferries the twentieth-century humans, Nyssa, and the Doctor to London, with the TARDIS giving the plane the boost it needs to return home. The TARDIS materializes nearby, and the temporal limiter that the Doctor surrendered to the Master comes with a small catch: The Master’s TARDIS tries to materialize in the exact space-time coordinates as the Doctor’s, but ends up getting bounced to modern-day Xeriphas, where the Doctor hopes that the newly revived Xeraphin will keep the Master (and his newly fried temporal circuits) busy for some time.
The Doctor and Nyssa leave in the TARDIS, content in the assumption that Tegan is back where she wanted to be. Unfortunately, her expression tells a different story.
This was an average story bouyed up by the travelers. The companions work well together, and without Adric to share the spotlight, both women get a good chunk of the action and plot. Additionally, I’m really starting to see the attraction to Peter Davison’s Doctor and his continued fatherly evolution. The only negative is the acting, where there a few spots that still fall flat with the Fifth Doctor’s character.
Overall, this was a decent way to end the Fifth Doctor’s freshman series, but there’s still plenty of room to grow.
Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”
UP NEXT – Nineteenth Series Summary
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.