13 December 2021: not really a review of Flux added.
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"So typical of the Doctor's predilection for the third-rate."
What if Concorde disappeared off the radar and ended up in the Pleistocene era, where the passengers and crew find themselves at the mercy of a powerful Time Lord with a brilliant scheme to enslave an entire race for his own evil ends?
Well, we'll never know, will we? Instead, in Time-Flight we find out what happens when Concorde disappears into the Plasticene era, full of polystyrene rocks and Fairy Liquid, where the characters are about as cardboard as the scenery and the plot is as stupid as it is pointless.
It's just horrible. The idea of Concorde shooting backwards in time's not a bad one, but whatever potential there is is totally overwritten by the ghastly execution.
For a start, it's a shame that Time-Flight couldn't learn from its own history: having no money's not necessarily a barrier to a great story, as The Mind Robber and Inside The Spaceship show. The problems start when you try to do stuff that needs a reasonable investment on the cheap. The "outside" sets in Time-Flight, with their painted backdrops and the sound of feet hollowly ringing on the floor, are no improvement on the worst of the First Doctor sets nearly twenty years before. The blue-screen scenes and toy-Concorde model work are hilariously unconvincing. And Time-Flight's interior sets are a standard-bearer for the Doctor Who cliche of wobbliness.
If that was all that was wrong with it, we wouldn't be complaining. (Much.) After all, if we thought glossiness was a cardinal virtue, we wouldn't be Doctor Who fans in the first place, would we? The trouble is that everything else is wrong as well.
Characterisation is appalling: apart from Captain Stapley and his crush on the Doctor, none of the supporting cast have anything even passingly resembling a personality. Tegan gets to tell off the Doctor about Adric and to stamp her little foot when she can't go to the Great Exhibition, but the rest of the time she's obediently doing what the Doctor tells her and even objecting when Nyssa overrules him. Yeah, right. Poor old Nyssa spends most of her time lolling around in a bubble bath being possessed by aliens. And the Master, even though he throws in plenty of evil chuckles, is more like someone late for work who can't get their Toyota started than an arch-fiend. (We particularly love the way he orders Angela into his TARDIS, throwing in as a casual afterthought "I am the Master, you will obey me". Well, now you've explained it, that's all right then. Why didn't you say so before?)
And the Doctor? Rubbish. One of the characters says: "The Doctor has to get back his... equipment", and we couldn't agree more. As far as we're concerned, he lost his equipment around the time he last regenerated.
Then there's the horrible use of fanwank, sorry continuity. UNIT, the Doctor's remark about Concorde being smaller on the inside than it is on the outside, "I wish I still had my scarf", the boring repetition of the Logopolis materialising-around-another-TARDIS device, and on and on. It's not only embarrassing, it's a lazy substitution for something original happening.
But even all of that isn't the worst part. Can you guess what that is?
You've got it. Could this be the worst Doctor Who plot ever? None of it makes any sense whatsoever. If we listed everything that was wrong with it, we'd exceed our server capacity, but let's cast an eye over a few of the more obvious howlers. So the Master needs a new power supply for his TARDIS, right? Skipping past the question of TARDISes running out of juice, if the Master's so keen to get a new battery, why is he wasting his time faffing about with the dressing-up box? How does the Doctor's TARDIS manage to work, and with pinpoint accuracy too, with half its innards missing? If the Xeraphin are so wise and all-knowing, how come it takes them a journey halfway across the universe to work out that all they need to do to escape radiation sickness is to mush themselves into a big ball and wait? What, exactly, does the absorption of Professor Hayter into the Xeraphin have to do with anything? And how does either Time Lord know the other isn't handing over a duff component? Intuition?
And when the plot isn't completely baffling, it's just a string of cliches. Tegan and Nyssa trying to remember the apparitions aren't real, people struggling to overcome the effects of mind control, the oh-so-weighty There's Good And Evil In All of Us theme... been there, done that. (And got the t-shirt.)
Crap plot, crap characters, crap sets, crap Master, crap Doctor. You could always use it for fertiliser, we guess. Other than that, we can't think of a single reason for it to exist at all.
MORAL: Always buy spare parts from an authorised dealer.
NO WONDER HE'S ALWAYS GOING ON STRIKE
Who would have guessed that Heathrow, the world's busiest airport, is looked after by a single air traffic controller? The next time we fly into London, we plan to ring first to make sure he's not off sick.
LET'S GO BACK AND KILL HIM AGAIN
One mildly interesting feature is that in more than twenty years of televised time travelling, the discussion about saving Adric's the first time the question of directly intervening in someone's personal history has come up.
When they land at Heathrow in the TARDIS, they're clearly in trouble, and the Doctor keeps saying they'll be taking off in a minute. So why is he hanging around?
I'LL PUT IN A WORD FOR YOU
Richard Easton (Captain Stapley), had a major role in The Brothers, also starring Colin Baker.
IT'S NOT REAL
That terrible two-headed glove puppet thing was giving us Kinda flashbacks.
YOU NEVER HAVE A HANKIE WHEN YOU NEED ONE
When "Kalid" shrivels away, what do we see coming out of his nose? Green goo, of course! Did the BBC buy a tankerful cheap?
The whole sequence with the aircrew members in the TARDIS is infuriating. First of all, there are three of 'em, and they have the element of surprise: why don't they sneak up behind the Master and whack him on the head? Then there's all that stupidity inside the TARDIS. For some mysterious reason, they decide the big red knob (oo-er) can't possibly be the door control, so they don't even try it, even though they fiddle around with just about everything else on the console. Then, even though they're peering at the Master and see him open the door, they still don't work the door control. (Mind you, it was a silly plan anyway, since they know the Master has a key.) Then to cap the whole thing off, the Doctor, dumbstruck at the Captain's apparent brilliance in flying the TARDIS, invites him to fly it again, saying "You have control". As if!
When Tegan and Nyssa are trapped inside the Sanctum, why doesn't it ever occur to them to look for the door they came in by?
As the Master hurries through the bit of the set where he played Kalid, his foot audibly smacks into the corner of the square dais.
ANYONE GOT A PHONE? I WANT TO CALL MY AGENT
As Nyssa stands next to the sarcophagus, ranting away, you can see a hand waving around inside it.
The Doctor comes out of the TARDIS, telling Tegan to come with him. She runs out after him, looking back over her shoulder, and smacks right into the Doctor. He grabs her to stop her falling, but you can tell by her face how much the whole thing took her by surprise.
THAT BLOODY TISSUE COMPRESSER
There's a nice, if unintended, joke when Nyssa says "There's something wrong" right before a model shot of what's obviously a toy Concorde.
WE'RE STILL WAITING
Does the Doctor set a record in this for the number of times he says "I'll explain later"?
As the Master and the passengers pass the Masterís TARDIS, walking on whatís supposedly the ground but is actually a bendy bit of set, the top of the TARDIS jiggles.
How do they get into the Concorde without steps?
As the Concorde takes off, a bird flies across the screen.
AND DON'T LET THE TARDIS DOOR HIT YOU IN THE ARSE ON THE WAY OUT
The false raising of our hopes when it looks like Tegan's gone for good is sheer cruelty.