Time-Flight (TV story)

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Time-Flight was the seventh and final serial of season 19 of Doctor Who.

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 part 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, and the 60th anniversary poll in DWM 591 saw it join the others as the consistently lowest-ranked Fifth Doctor story. 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 part four. 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.


While investigating a vanishing Concorde at Heathrow Airport, the Doctor and his companions are thrown millions of years back in time, where a mysterious alien called Kalid is trying to control the ancient powers of the Xeraphin.


Part one[[edit]]

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 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 Adric is dead. He hastens them to move straight from their grief to acceptance, knowing that Adric would not want the group to mourn him. He also notes 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. Nyssa and Tegan finally accept Adric's death and remark that 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. They 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. During the flight, the Doctor finds traces of disturbance. When the Concorde lands and everyone departs, they believe they have landed safely back at Heathrow.

Suddenly, Nyssa screams. Seeing a number of skeletons, she realises that something is wrong. The Doctor notices as well, but Tegan and the crew still believe they have are at modern Heathrow. The Doctor and Nyssa urge them to challenge this perception and they realise the reality of the empty landscape. They have travelled a hundred and forty million years into the past, into the Jurassic era; it has been distorted by huge amounts of psychokinetic energy. They spot the missing Concorde, 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, who are moving the 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, who has resisted the illusion. Andrew Bilton and Roger Scobie follow the people carrying the TARDIS, but 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.

Part two[[edit]]

The force in charge of this strange domain is Kalid, who seems to be an oriental mystic. He uses a glowing green globe to control psychokinetic energy and shape the prehistoric landscape of Earth.

Nyssa has a particular empathy with this energy, and she starts getting visions and hearing voices. They are unwelcome to Kalid, and 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 while the Doctor heads to the Citadel, where he 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 and they disperse. Nyssa and Tegan follow the former's instincts and proceed through the Citadel. Along their way, they come across Adric, who 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 for mathematical excellence, which the Doctor destroyed when he lethally ground it into the Cyber-Leader's ventilation unit aboard the TARDIS. Knowing this, they press on, causing "Adric" to dissipate with a scream. Continuing on, they encounter apparitions of the Melkur, who was destroyed on Traken; and the disfigured Terileptil, who was burnt 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. Hayter opens the base of a console and discovers mere electronics were the source of Kalid's power. Suddenly, Kalid rises from the floor, divesting himself of a mask and costume, revealing himself to be the Master in disguise, who observes that the Doctor never understands...

Part three[[edit]]

The Master is trapped in this time zone and is looking for a way out, but he 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. Nearby are small shrunken bodies, which the Doctor identifies 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. Hayter sacrifices himself to the creature to let it communicate and is absorbed into the entity.

The Xeraphin manifest as Anithon. It explains how they came to Earth to escape the war 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, but 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 "evil" side of the Xeraphin responds. Within moments the sarcophagus is in the Master's TARDIS, providing him with a new power source.

Part four[[edit]]

The Master tries to flee in his ship, taking with him those passengers still deluded, 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.

The second Concorde is made serviceable and the crew and the passengers from the other Concorde return to Heathrow. The Doctor reverses the track of the time contour and brings the plane back to Heathrow with his TARDIS. The Doctor reveals that he programmed the temporal limiter he gave the Master to arrive after he did, and when the Master tries to land, the Doctor's TARDIS is already in the spot. He bounces the Master's TARDIS away into the Time Vortex, sending it 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 the TARDIS. They assume that now Tegan is back in her own time, she will be happy to stay. However, her sorrow as she sees the TARDIS dematerialise tells a different story.


Uncredited cast[[edit]]


Uncredited crew[[edit]]



Food and drink[[edit]]

  • Hayter suggests Angela should 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.



Time travel[[edit]]

  • The Master generates a time contour to capture the Concorde.

Story notes[[edit]]

  • Working titles for this story were Zanadin, Xeraphin and Flight into Time. (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 Time-Flight, 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 combined cast list for parts one/two in Radio Times, which was printed a week early, to maintain the surprise of Adric's death in the preceding story, Earthshock. (DOC: THWR 97).
  • Plans were underway for AudioGO to produce an audiobook of the novelisation of this story narrated by Matthew Waterhouse. Although Waterhouse agreed to participate, the demise of AudioGO put paid to the project. (DOC: THWR 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.
  • This serial marks the end of the Doctor trying to get Tegan home.
  • Peter Davison considers this to be the worst story of his tenure, stating it was a "very good story, but we had run out of money. We filmed the prehistoric landscape of Heathrow Airport in Studio 8 [at TV Centre] with a model Concorde in the back of the studio. The monsters were bits of foam. We didn't do the story justice." He found it frustrating knowing that what they were rehearsing was going to "look like a pile of crap". The story's low budget would explain why Heathrow Airport's Air Traffic Control as depicted on-screen consists of only two men in a small room.
  • Janet Fielding claimed on the DVD commentary that she didn't remember it being this bad until she re-watched it.
  • Sarah Sutton disliked the story, largely because she had no idea what was going on in it.
  • Terence Alexander, Peter Arne, Keith Barron, Brian Blessed, John Carson, Michael Craig, Paul Darrow, Peter Gilmore, Michael Gothard, John Hallam, Terrence Hardiman, Del Henney, Glyn Houston, Martin Jarvis, William Lucas, Conrad Phillips, Anthony Valentine and Frank Windsor were considered for the role of Captain Stanley.
  • Bernard Archard, Geoffrey Bayldon, John Carson, Peter Cushing, Maurice Denham, Michael Gough and William Lucas were considered for the role of Professor Hayter.
  • Dallas Adams, Sean Arnold, Colin Baker, Andrew Burt, Tom Chadbon, Michael Cochrane, Ian Collier, Forbes Collins, Eric Deacon, Jack Galloway, Richard Heffer, Paul Jerricho, Ian McCulloch, Clive Merrison, Terry Molloy, Edward Peel, Martin Potter, Jeff Rawle, Carl Rigg, Patrick Ryecart, Malcolm Stoddard, Donald Sumpter, Robert Swann, Malcolm Tierney and Stephen Yardley were considered for the roles of Scobie, Bilton and Sheard.
  • Eric Saward wanted the Master to be killed off in this story, as he felt the character had outlived his welcome.
  • During one meeting, Peter Grimwade ran an errand with Christopher H. Bidmead at Heathrow Airport, which inspired the notion of involving Concorde. Bidmead thought that this would be a nice way to bridge the writer's fantastical notions with reality, while Grimwade himself hoped it might lead to a chance to ride aboard Concorde. 
  • Some of the character surnames in the story had to be changed because negative checks by the BBC's Legal Department revealed there were actual British Airways employees with those names. Irving became Markham and then Urquhart, while Rathbone became Stapley. Flight Engineer Tulley was subsequently rechristened Scobie.
  • Peter Grimwade originally submitted the script for Season 18, where it would have served as the season finale.
  • Sarah Sutton recalled that it was very cold on location, so much that it drove Janet Fielding to tears.
  • Ron Jones claimed that it was impossible to realise a prehistoric heath indoors, but acknowledged that it would have taken too long and been expensive to do outdoors.
  • Eric Saward felt the script could have worked with a more dynamic director.
  • The Concorde used for the production was G-BOAC, the flagship of the BA fleet at the time. The registry can be read from the radar screen in the ATC scenes. The other registry, G-BAVF, was not a Concorde, but a Beechcraft 58 twin-engined light executive aircraft.
  • When playing the Master disguised as Kalid, Anthony Ainley demanded that he be given a bald cap to wear over his wig.
  • Peter Grimwade hoped to direct his script himself, but he was assigned to direct Earthshock.
  • Andrew Morgan was asked to direct, but he was unimpressed by the script and was then offered another opportunity he found more enticing.
  • A scratch was subsequently discovered on some of the Concorde footage. Since there was no way to re-record the material, judicious edits were required.
  • In addition to the work at Heathrow, Ron Jones had hoped that some of the scenes on the prehistoric heath might also be filmed on location or, alternatively, at the BBC Television Film Studios He was disappointed to learn that the budget would not permit this.
  • There was considerable unhappiness regarding the Plasmaton costumes, which had been constructed by the freelance firm Imagineering. The intent had been to create something inhuman, but insufficient thought had been given to the eyesight of those wearing the outfits. Unable to see, the Plasmaton performers had to remain virtually immobile, and were scarcely able to generate a sense of menace.
  • Part three ran short, so Eric Saward asked Peter Grimwade to develop a further seven minutes of action, so Grimwade provided various new and extended scenes, including more material involving Bilton and Stapley spying on the Master, and later trying to pilot the TARDIS; and additional exposition about the Xeraphin.
  • A double stood in for Anthony Ainley during Kalid's transformation at the end of this episode so Ainley could prepare for the rest of the scene. The double nearly choked to death when his mouth and nose began to fill with the green fluid.
  • According to Eric Saward, it took several hours for the production team to decide if the title of the story should be hyphenated or not. (DCOM: Time-Flight)


  • 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 at the end of the story as Janet Fielding's contract expired. When John Nathan-Turner was able to re-sign her, Arc of Infinity was rewritten to have Tegan re-joining the Doctor. (There's nothing to indicate this.)

Filming locations[[edit]]

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • Heathrow Airport is clearly visible in the background as the aircraft takes off from the Jurassic period.
  • When the Master re-enters his TARDIS in part four, the TARDIS prop visibly wobbles.


Home video and audio releases[[edit]]

DVD releases[[edit]]

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.


Special features:[[edit]]


  • Due to a printing error, the words "Tegan and" are bolder than usual in the synopsis on the back cover of some of the releases.
  • Similarly, due to a printing error, "Coming Soon trailer" is listed twice in the Special Features list on the back cover of some of the releases.
  • Editing for DVD release completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.

Box set[[edit]]

Video releases[[edit]]

Digital releases[[edit]]

  • The story is available for streaming in Canada & the US through BritBox or Amazon Instant Video in the UK.
  • It is also available to download through iTunes.

External links[[edit]]