Time-Flight was the seventh and final serial of season 19 of Doctor Who. It was written by Peter Grimwade, directed by Ron Jones and featured Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, Sarah Sutton as Nyssa and Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka.
For those interested in viewing statistics, it's a highly significant story, because different surveys of audience reaction have produced widely polarising results. The most statistically valid of these measures — the actual television ratings — show that episode one was the most successful episode in John Nathan-Turner's entire producership. The 26th-most-watched episode of British television in the week of initial transmission, it was the only time he cracked the top 30. However, the story also shed about two million viewers from beginning to end.
Fan opinion — which, of course, is never the subject of truly valid statistical investigation — has changed dramatically over the years. Those who responded to DWM 69's season 19 poll held it in reasonably high regard, placing it as the fourth-best serial of the year, ahead of Castrovalva, Four to Doomsday and Kinda. Decades later, those fans responding to DWM 413's "Mighty 200" poll in 2009 cited it as the 196th of the 200 stories that were then produced. Similarly, fan response to the "first 50 years" poll in DWM 474 in 2014 cited it as the 237th out of the 241 stories up to that point in time. A part of the explanation for this massive shift in negative momentum may be that fan leaders such as Paul Cornell and David J. Howe savaged the story in references works like The Discontinuity Guide and The Television Companion, whose influence multiplied when BBCi, and later BBC Online, incorporated those opinions into the official Doctor Who website. Thus people skimming the official site in the 2000s and 2010s could well believe that opinion of the BBC runs along the lines of, "Somebody, somewhere should have thrown this script in the bin the moment it had Concorde crash landing in Jurassic England..."
Narratively, the story contained what appeared, at the time of transmission, to be the final appearance of Tegan. Tegan was left behind at Heathrow Airport at the conclusion of the episode. This appeared to end her story, since many stories that year had begun with an on-going attempt to get her back to Heathrow. She would later return at the beginning of the next season. It also serves as Adric's last regular appearance (albeit only as a hallucination), after his death in the previous serial Earthshock. This episode followed directly after the death of Adric and attempted to show the TARDIS crew coping with his loss, but noticeably downplayed their reactions, coming off a story that ended on the highly emotional bombshell that Adric was killed. The Doctor hastened Tegan and Nyssa to move straight from their grief to acceptance, seeing as how Adric would not want the group to mourn him. He also noted Adric's life wasn't wasted; Adric died trying to save others, just like his brother, Varsh, and had made a choice in sacrificing himself, this being what he wanted.
While investigating a vanishing Concorde at Heathrow Airport, the Doctor and his companions are thrown millions of years back in time, when a mysterious alien called Kalid is trying to control the ancient powers of the Xeraphin.
On a regular flight from New York to London, a Concorde designated Golf Victor Foxtrot (GVF) is nearing Heathrow Airport when its signal breaks up. All trace of the aircraft is lost — the Concorde has disappeared.
Having dropped Scott, Briggs and Berger off safely in their own time, and with the Cyber-fleet dispersed, the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan prepare to depart 26th century Earth. When Tegan tries to persuade the Doctor to travel back and rescue Adric from the doomed freighter, the Time Lord angrily tells her and Nyssa that, even with the TARDIS, there are laws of time even he cannot break and they should never ask him to do such a thing again. After this angry outburst, the Doctor explains, more gently this time, that they must accept that Adric is dead, which Nyssa and Tegan finally do, even though they will miss him. The Doctor suggests a visit to the Great Exhibition of 1851 to cheer them up, towards which they depart. En route, they encounter heavy turbulence and are forced to materialise. The Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan find themselves hovering over a runway at Heathrow. The dematerialise again and end up in a terminal at Heathrow where, thanks to the Doctor using his UNIT credentials, they are enlisted by Department C19 to help in the investigation of the missing aircraft.
The trio board a similar Concorde, Golf Alpha Charlie, and follow the same flight path to try to discover the cause of the disappearing Concorde. The TARDIS is stowed on board. Stapley, the Concorde's captain, and his senior crew welcome them aboard. The Doctor finds traces of disturbance. The Concorde starts a planned decent and lands. Leaving the Concorde, everyone believes that they are safely at Heathrow, they find they have travelled a hundred forty million years into the past.
The crew believe they have landed in modern Heathrow. The Doctor and Nyssa urge them to challenge this perception and realise the reality of the empty landscape. It is distorted by huge amounts of psychokinetic energy. They spy Victor-Foxtrot on the empty plain. Beyond it is an impressive citadel in the far distance and the remains of an alien spacecraft.
The Doctor and his friends find the crew and passengers of the first Concorde. They are moving his TARDIS toward the Citadel on the instructions of an alien entity. Everyone is totally immersed in the illusion of a modern Heathrow — all, that is, save one passenger, Professor Hayter. He has resisted the illusion. Andrew Bilton and Roger Scobie, see members of GVF's crew and passengers carrying the TARDIS towards the Citadel and investigate. Bilton and Scobie are captured and transported to the Citadel where they are hypnotised. The GVF crew's progress is marshalled by the Plasmatons - blobs of protein from the atmosphere, assembled from random particles that are held together by the same kinetic energy.
Nyssa has a particular empathy with this energy. She starts getting visions and hearing voices. They are unwelcome to Kalid. He tries to cut her off from the others with a protoplasmic shield. Tegan stays with Nyssa while the Doctor ventures on to the Citadel with Hayter and Stapley. There they find the crew of Victor-Foxtrot, blindly trying to remove the walls of a sealed chamber.
Stapley and Hayter try to free the others from the mental illusion. The Doctor heads to the Citadel and meets Kalid. The green-tinged magician has evidently brought a slave force to prehistoric Earth. He taps into the psychokinetic powers of the place and uses the energies to menace Hayter, Stapley and the others to try to secure the Doctor's cooperation in entering his TARDIS.
This exertion has broken Kalid's mental hold over the plasmatons around Nyssa. They disperse. Nyssa and Tegan follow the former's instincts and proceed through the Citadel. Along their way, they come across Adric, previously believed to have been killed when the interstellar freighter he was trapped on crashed into Cretaceous Earth. Adric warns that he will die again if Nyssa and Tegan continue onwards, and urges them to retreat. However, Nyssa outs Adric as a mere apparition upon noticing his star-shaped badge, which the Doctor destroyed when he lethally grinded it into the late Cyber-Leader's ventilation unit aboard the TARDIS. Knowing this, they press on, causing "Adric" to dissipate. Continuing on, they encounter apparitions of the Melkur (who was destroyed on Traken) and the disfigured Terileptil (who was burned to death in 17th-Century London); Nyssa and Tegan respectively denounce the villains' existence and continue. Eventually, they enter a chamber in the Citadel that has been closed to Kalid and the mentally deluded passengers. Nyssa throws an artefact into the centre of a tank-like structure in the centre of the sealed room. The results are immense. Kalid's mental channelling is interrupted and he collapses in agony. His disguise falls away to reveal the Master.
The Master is trapped in this time zone. He is looking for a way out and needs a new source of power for his TARDIS. The power in the closed chamber could be it, but the passengers are taking too long to get to it. He forces the Doctor to give him the key to the TARDIS and steals the craft to try to enter the chamber another way. The Doctor and Hayter rush to the chamber to reach it first. As they do, the Concorde passengers finally break through the wall.
Inside, the Doctor and Hayter are reunited with Nyssa and Tegan. The sarcophagus at its centre holds a being of immense power. However, it has a split personality . It has let itself be used by the Master and Nyssa. Nearby are small shrunken bodies. The Doctor identifies them as the Xeraphin, a race of ancient beings believed destroyed during the Vardon-Kosnax War.
Instead, the entire race seems to have transformed itself into a single gestalt intelligence in the tank. It has phenomenal psychic abilities. Hayter sacrifices himself to the creature to let it communicate. He is absorbed into the entity.
The Xeraphin manifest as Anithon. It explains the entity came to Earth to escape the war. It came in the crashed spaceship on the plains. The Xeraphin were so harmed by radiation that they shed their bodies and became a single entity. The Xeraphin built the Citadel and planned to re-emerge from the sarcophagus once the radiation danger was over. The Master's arrival disturbed the balance. The gestalt has developed a split personality of good and evil. Each side competes for their tremendous power, but yearns to become a proper species once again.
The Doctor has left the coordinate override switched on, and Captain Stapley has performed sabotage. The TARDIS won't take the Master into the central chamber. His next gambit is to build an induction loop to remotely access the sarcophagus and exert his will over it. The bad Xeraphin responds. Within moments the sarcophagus is in the Master's TARDIS, a new power source.
The Master tries to flee in his ship, with those passengers still deluded with him as slaves. He leaves the Doctor and his friends stranded. However, due to the sabotage by the Captain, the Master cannot leave prehistoric Earth. After some chaffering over missing parts, the Doctor has all the passengers released and some parts taken from his own TARDIS. In return, the Master gets a new temporal limiter.
Everyone leaves prehistoric Earth. The second Concorde is made serviceable. It carries Stapley, his crew and the passengers from the other Concorde to Heathrow. The Doctor reverses the track of the time contour and brings the plane back to Heathrow with his TARDIS. The Doctor programmed the temporal limiter he gave the Master to arrive after he did. When the Master tries to land, the Doctor's TARDIS is already in the spot. He bounces the Master's TARDIS away. The evil Time Lord is sent to modern-day Xeriphas, where the Doctor hopes the Xeraphin will exact their revenge.
In a rush to leave, the Doctor and Nyssa head off in his TARDIS. They assume that now Tegan is back in her beloved Heathrow she will be happy to stay. Her sorrow as she sees the TARDIS dematerialise tells a different story.
- The Doctor - Peter Davison
- Nyssa - Sarah Sutton
- Tegan Jovanka - Janet Fielding
- Kalid/The Master - Leon Ny Taiy/Anthony Ainley
- Captain Stapley - Richard Easton
- Flight Engineer Scobie - Keith Drinkel
- First Officer Bilton - Michael Cashman
- Horton - Peter Dahlsen
- Sheard - Brian McDermott
- Captain Urquhart - John Flint
- Andrews - Peter Cellier
- Angela Clifford - Judith Byfield
- Professor Hayter - Nigel Stock
- Adric - Matthew Waterhouse
- Anithon - Hugh Hayes
- Zarak - André Winterton
- Assistant Floor Manager - Lynn Richards
- Costumes - Amy Roberts
- Designer - Richard McManan-Smith
- Film Cameraman - Peter Chapman
- Film Editor - Mike Houghton
- Film Sound - John Gatland
- Incidental Music - Roger Limb
- Make-Up - Dorka Nieradzik
- Production Assistant - Joan Elliott
- Production Associate - Angela Smith
- Production Manager - Liz Mace
- Senior Cameraman - Alec Wheal
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Studio Lighting - Eric Wallis
- Studio Sound - Martin Ridout
- Technical Manager - Peter Granger
- Video Effects - Dave Chapman
- Videotape Editor - Rod Waldron
- Vision Mixer - Nigel Finnis
- Visual Effects - Peter Logan
- Script Editor - Eric Saward
- Writer - Peter Grimwade
- Producer - John Nathan-Turner
- Director - Ron Jones
- The Doctor suggests how to get over the death of Adric by going to The Great Exhibition of 1851 to watch some cricket legends play. He says he wants to see a few overs with Wisden and Pilch. He claims to have hit a straight six into the pavilion by putting his TARDIS in the space where the Master's was materialising, forcing the Master to go back into the time vortex.
Food and drink
- The Professor suggests Angela might think of fish and chips, in order to ground herself in reality.
- The Doctor mentions Varsh in relation to Adric's death.
- Sir John Sudbury is the Doctor's contact within UNIT's department C19.
- When Nyssa and Tegan try to reach the sanctum, images of Adric, the Melkur and the disfigured Terileptil appear in order to dissuade them from going on any further.
- Dave Culshaw and Angela Clifford were on Golf Victor Foxtrot.
- The Doctor mentions UNIT. He name drops Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and wonders if he's a general by now.
- The Master's TARDIS has a working chameleon circuit, but its dynormorphic generator has been exhausted, leaving him stranded on prehistoric Earth where he has made a deal with the Xeraphin.
- The TARDIS interior can be levelled with reference to its exterior doorway. Nyssa says that she wishes they had "known about that when we were on Castrovalva".
- The Master generates a time contour to capture the Concorde.
- Working titles for this story were Zanadin and Xeraphin. (DWM 472)
- British Airways were given a copy of the script before filming. They asked for changes to parts of the story that could be considered detrimental to the company, including one line where a flight attendant refers to the passengers as "punters". (DCOM: Time-Flight)
- This story is perhaps the only evidence of product placement throughout the whole of Doctor Who. Time-Flight was the first television story allowed to film at Heathrow Airport and the first to be allowed to film in an actual Concorde aircraft.
- Anthony Ainley is credited under the pseudonym Leon Ny Taiy in part one's credits to disguise the fact that Kalid was actually the Master. "Leon Ny Taiy" is an anagram of "Tony Ainley", a similar trick to disguising the identity of the Portreeve in Castrovalva.
- Nigel Stock (Professor Hayter) is credited as "Hayter" in Radio Times.
- The story follows on directly from Earthshock, at the conclusion of which companion Adric was killed aboard a space freighter which crashed into the Earth. At the beginning of this story, Nyssa and Tegan plead with the Doctor to go back and save him, but the Doctor refuses on the grounds that, even with the TARDIS, there are laws of time that cannot be broken. In part two, Waterhouse makes a cameo appearance as an apparition version of Adric. Waterhouse stated in an interview it was a good point to leave, as Time-Flight "was a terrible story".
- Adric's cameo as an apparition in this story both satisfied the actor's contract and John Nathan-Turner's intent that the story contain Waterhouse in the Radio Times credits, which were printed a week early, to maintain the surprise of Adric's death in the preceding story, Earthshock. (DOC: Toby Hadoke's Who's Round 97)
- Plans were underway for AudioGO to produce an audiobook of the novelisation of this story narrated by Matthew Waterhouse. Waterhouse agreed to do it, but the demise of AudioGO put paid to the project. (DOC: Toby Hadoke's Who's Round 97)
- When the TARDIS first lands in the terminal building at Heathrow, a woman announces over the speaker system that Air Australia apologises for the delay of one of its flights. At the end of the story, when Tegan is walking through the terminal, the same woman announces that the Air Australia flight is ready for boarding.
- Part one - 10.1 million viewers
- Part two - 8.5 million viewers
- Part three - 9.1 million viewers
- Part four - 8.3 million viewers
Part one marked the last time the classic series exceeded 10 million viewers. By the final seasons viewership had dropped to the 3-4 million range. Discounting the 1996 TV movie, a rating exceeding 10 million viewers would not be achieved again until Rose.
- Tegan was written out as Janet Fielding's contract expired, when John Nathan-Turner was able to resign her Arc of Infinity was rewritten to have Tegan re-joining her. There's nothing to indicate this.
- Heathrow Airport, Hounslow, Middlesex (Filmed in January 1982)
- BBC Television Centre (Studio 8), Shepherd's Bush, London
- Heathrow Airport is clearly visible in the background as the aircraft takes off from the Jurassic period.
- The Master reappears. The Doctor thought that the Master might have been destroyed when the illusory city of Castrovalva vanished. (TV: Castrovalva)
- Tegan will later rejoin the Doctor and Nyssa. (TV: Arc of Infinity)
- The Doctor quells possible hostility from airport security by name-dropping UNIT. He wonders if Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart is a general by now. (TV: Terror of the Zygons in 1975)
- The TARDIS previously landed in the future location of Heathrow, but in August 1666. (TV:The Visitation)
- Upon commenting on prehistoric London's cold weather, he states that "at times like this, I wish I still had my scarf." (TV: Robot through TV: Castrovalva)
- On 20 July 1966, the Second Doctor and his companions Ben Jackson, Polly Wright and Jamie McCrimmon visited another London airport, Gatwick Airport. (TV: The Faceless Ones)
- When Nyssa and Tegan try to reach the sanctum, images of Adric, the Melkur (TV: The Keeper of Traken) and the disfigured Terileptil from London in 1666 (TV: The Visitation) appear in order to dissuade them from going on any further.
- Nyssa mentions that the Master killed her father Tremas. (TV: The Keeper of Traken)
- The Doctor tries to take Nyssa and Tegan to the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, but they arrive at Heathrow Airport. Later in his personal timeline, the Eighth Doctor and his companions Charley Pollard and C'rizz would visit the Great Exhibition, where Charley met and befriended the elderly Duke of Wellington. (AUDIO: Other Lives) During his eleventh incarnation, the Doctor would later return to the Great Exhibition in the company of Amy Pond and Rory Williams and encounter the Hypothetical Gentleman. On that occasion, he mentioned that he had to be careful not to run into himself. (COMIC: Hypothetical Gentleman)
- The Doctor tells Nyssa and Tegan that he cannot travel back in time and save Adric as his death is part of established events. He previously told Adric himself the same after Autumn Tace was killed by the Star Men. (AUDIO: The Star Men)
- Gevaudan previously detected Nyssa's psychic abilities. (AUDIO: Zaltys)
Home video and audio releases
This story was originally released in a double-pack with Arc of Infinity in Region 2 and Region 4, but released singly in Region 1.
The R2 and R4 cover art of this story and Arc of Infinity shows the "Peter Davison Years" as 1981-1984. All other Davison-era releases have claimed the years as 1982-1984, in deference to the January, 1982 broadcast of Castrovalva. However, there is justification for calling the era 1981-1984, as that's the period of time Davison actually worked on the programme. Like Jon Pertwee, Davison fell victim to the BBC's decision to push back the premiere of his first series to the start of the new calendar year. Neither actor is generally credited for their first year on the job, making their eras appear a little shorter than they actually were. While Pertwee only filmed about half of Season 7 in 1969, almost everything of Season 19 was filmed in 1981. Indeed, Davison's first work on the series — his regeneration scene — had been filmed on 9 January 1981, almost a full year prior to the release of Castrovalva. Ironically, the only part of Davison's initial year not filmed in 1981 was this story. All told, Davison's time in front of the cameras as the Doctor lasted from 9 January 1981 to 12 January 1984 — almost precisely the three-year tenure he had been advised by Patrick Troughton to undertake, and the length of his three-year contract.
- PAL - BBCDVD2327
- Region 4 - 5 September 2007
- PAL -
- Region 1 - 6 November 2007
- Commentary by actors Peter Davison (the Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) and script editor Eric Saward.
- Mouth on Legs - Actress Janet Fielding talks about playing Tegan Jovanka.
- Deleted Scenes.
- Jurassic Larks - Behind-the-scenes action from the studio recording sessions.
- Out-takes - Fluffs and technical gaffs from the story's production.
- Interview - A short interview with the story's writer, the late Peter Grimwade.
- 1983 Doctor Who annual (PDF DVD-ROM)
- Radio Times Listings.
- Programme Subtitles.
- Photo Gallery - Includes unreleased incidental music by Roger Limb.
- Coming Soon Trailer.
- Editing for DVD release completed by Doctor Who Restoration Team.
- The story is available for streaming in the US through Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant Video in the UK.
- It is also available to download through iTunes.
- Time-Flight at the BBC's official site
- Time-Flight at BroaDWcast
- Time-Flight at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- Time-Flight at The Locations Guide