The Children of Seth

Why do the shortest journeys seem to take the longest?

The Fifth Doctor

Synopsis

During one of Nyssa’s experiments, the TARDIS’ temporal scanner picks up a message: “Idra”. Just one word, but enough to draw the Doctor to the Archipelago of Sirius.

There, the Autarch is about to announce a new crusade. A mighty war against Seth, Prince of the Dark…

But who is Seth? What is the secret of Queen Anahita, Mistress of the Poisons? And what terror awaits on Level 14?

Review

The Children of Seth feels very different to most other Doctor Who adventures, and it is no surprise that the original idea comes from Christopher Bailey, who also wrote Kinda and Snakedance. Adapted by Marc Platt, it is a story of political machinations and manipulation of the public which Big Finish seem to love doing, but this is definitely one of the strongest examples of that kind of story. It benefits from having quite a small cast and, amongst that cast, having Honor Blackman and David Warner really raises everybody else’s performances.

As mentioned above, the story is one of political intrigue, but perhaps what makes it so effective is that it takes the time in the first part to establish the world without the Doctor and his companions being present, and does it in a way that feels pacey rather than dragging, leaving the audience longing for the TARDIS to materalise. Equally, it’s not as though the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are twiddling their thumbs in the scenes in the console room, with the defence intelligence drone having its circuits fried by the TARDIS’s superior circuits, which is more interesting than the usual TARDIS scenes of this era. The story is particularly dialogue heavy and there is not a word wasted, to the extent that I think that this story that will get better each time that it is listened to, as it can be quite difficult to pick everything up on the first go round. It’s not a particularly action led adventure, but the intrigue surrounding the identity of Seth and the machinations of Byzan really drives it forwards. The central idea of a common ‘bogeyman’ in the shape of Seth is a really intriguing one, especially when it is revealed that Seth is a creation of Anahita’s in her book The Trick of Darkness, a book which Byzan has destroyed all known copies of, and has been so complacent as to not even change the name. Whilst Byzan has managed to get into a position of power by reducing the roles of both Siris and Anahita, the real villain of the piece is Albis and the army of androids forbidden to take human form, and I love the fact that they don’t know how many people are androids in the general population.

The best performances come from Honor Blackman and David Warner, who bring Anahita and Autarch Siris to life so effectively. Blackman has the lion’s share of dialogue, and she is great in her interactions with the majority of the characters, especially the Doctor and Tegan. As someone whose power has been gradually eroded away by the rise of Byzan, it would be easy to see her as a good person, but she is depicted as being more ambiguous – she is described as the Queen of Poisoners, and lives up to her title when she poisons Byzan at the end of the story, and her husband, Siris, tells her to bring her poisons to where they go next. Siris has slightly less to do, but is sympathetically portrayed by David Warner, a leader suffering from dementia who has passed power on to Byzan. Warner and Blackman have believable chemistry together as a bickering couple but they do seem to genuinely care about each other.

The Fifth Doctor really is front and centre in this story, and Peter Davison puts in a good performance. He is particularly effective when he is blinded by his encounter with the defence net and is surrounded by brainwashed people in Level 14, generally referred to as Hell throughout the story. It’s funny to think of this Doctor in particular being used as a common enemy to rail against, as the Fifth Doctor is probably the most affable and likeable incarnation. The rapport between Davison’s Doctor and Queen Anahita make it believable that they have previously met and their relationship seems to be one of mutual respect. Nyssa again feels underutilised, disappearing from the narrative at times when she is banished to Level 14 and her memory wiped. However, Sarah Sutton is particularly creepy and effective when she is portraying Nyssa’s mind slipping away, with a childlike voice and giggling. On the other hand, this is really good story for Tegan, who has a lot of different things to do here as opposed to her usual characterisation, especially in the televised episodes. I really enjoyed her trying to take an interest in Nyssa’s experiment at the beginning of the story, despite the fact that she doesn’t really understand it and missing Nyssa’s joke about probability. She also gets to show a flirtatious side when she is trying to rescue the Doctor from his prison cell and probably has the most to do with Anahita, who she seems to respect despite her personal convictions about the monarchy. Janet Fielding is good here, which makes you realise how wasted she was for the majority of her run as a companion and Tegan ultimately plays an important role in the story’s climax.

An optimist, Tegan? Nyssa would have been having kittens by now.

The Fifth Doctor

Verdict: A good story with a realistic world, The Children of Seth brings this stretch of Lost Stories to a close with a bang. 8/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Honor Blackman (Queen Anahita), Adrian Lukis (Byzan), David Warner (Autarch Siris), Vernon Dobtcheff (Shamur), Matt Addis (Albis), Emerald O’Hanrahan (Mira) & John Banks (Radulf Varidi).

Writer: Christopher Bailey & Marc Platt

Director: Ken Bentley

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • When the story was originally submitted to the production office in the 1980s, working titles included Manpower and May Time.

Cast Notes

  • Honor Blackman previously appeared in Terror of the Vervoids and was also offered the role of Vivien Fay in The Stones of Blood but declined for fear of being upstaged by Beatrix Lehmann.
  • Adrian Lukis has appeared in Counter Measures as Professor Jeffrey Broderick and in the Main Range (Cobwebs), The Justice of Jalxar opposite Tom Baker and Jago and Litefoot story Return of the Repressed.
  • David Warner has appeared in a lot of Doctor Who stories, including Cold War opposite Matt Smith. Warner is probably most notable for playing an alternate version of the Third Doctor in the Unbound universe for Big Finish.
  • Vernon Dobtcheff previously appeared in The War Games and has appeared in numerous Big Finish audio stories, including The Cradle of the Snake and The Genesis Chamber.
  • Matt Addis has appeared in two other Lost Stories, The Macros and Point of Entry opposite Colin Baker, as well as The Wreck of the Titan and Robophobia.
  • Emerald O’Hanrahan previously appeared in Voyage to the New World and The Ghosts of Gralstead.
  • John Banks has appeared in many Big Finish audio dramas across numerous ranges, including Missy, The Diary of River Song and The War Doctor.

Best Quote

Numbers. Like an endless cascading grid, shifting, bombarding me with information. Here or there, they cluster or thin out and I think I can see shapes but I can’t read or make sense of them yet! But I’m still her in the other world, our world, I can still smell and touch it. I’m still here.

Fifth Doctor

Previous Fifth Doctor review: Hexagora

The Children of Seth is available from the Big Finish website.

Hexagora

Do you know what they reminded me of? Termite mounds on Earth. On a far greater scale, of course.

The Fifth Doctor

Synopsis

When a newspaper reporter goes missing, the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa uncover a case of alien abduction. The trail leads to the planet Luparis, and a city that appears to be a replica of Tudor-era London.

What are the monsters that lurk in the shadows? And what is the terrible secret at the heart of Luparis? To save a world, the Doctor must try and defeat the evil plans of Queen Zafira.

And one of her plans is to marry him…

Review

Part of the problems with Big Finish and their Lost Stories is that, in returning to the television eras of the respective Doctors, they undo the good work they have done with characterisation of Doctors and companions which did not really happen in the classic run. Here, the TARDIS crew get involved due to the disappearance of the boyfriend of Tegan, who is very much in her under-developed state.

As this story is based on a brief outline by Peter Ling and Hazel Adair, it must have been challenging to adapt into a full story for Paul Finch. There are some interesting ideas in her, like the faux-Tudor appearance of the town on Luparis and how the majority of the cast are dressed, which is an interesting idea and also gives the listener a visual reference of what the planet and people look like. However, to a certain extent, it feels as though Finch has overcomplicated this story which leads to Parts 3 and 4 feeling like they are exposition dumps and this becomes rapidly wearing, especially as a lot of these scenes are between Astorius and the Fifth Doctor. The central plot, that the Hexagorans are possessing humans in order to ensure their survival of an impeding Ice Age, is a good one, but when it is extended out to a potential invasion of Gallifrey and the involvement of the Time Lords feels like throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. Having the Doctor getting engaged by accident put me in mind of The Aztecs, where William Hartnell unwittingly does the same, but it feels as though the ending is a bit of a damp squib. The cliffhangers here aren’t very good either and none of them feel suitably impactful and fall flat once united with their resolutions. By the show’s very nature, cliffhangers are always going to have a handy ‘get out of jail free’ card, but here they don’t really feel very much like cliffhangers at all.

The story feels so brimming with ideas, but it seems to abandon its best one in favour of the Tegan-centric one. Nyssa here is given a potential great side-story, which ties into her origins as a noble from the planet Traken. Her noble standing is detected almost immediately after the TARDIS lands on Luparis and she is ear-marked by Lord Jezzavar as a potential Queen to overthrow Zafira, which is something that feels very in keeping for Tudor-era England. In keeping with the original run, of course, this plot line ends with a bit of a whimper when it gets to the Doctor’s wedding to Zafira and despite this sub-plot making it all the way to the fourth part, it does feel as though it is forgotten for a long period of the runtime. Instead, the focus is on Tegan, and her relationship with journalist Mike Bretherton, which is really unremarkable. This is partially due to the fact that Tegan is very much in her unlikeable and complaining mode from the television era and perhaps to Toby Hadoke’s weird Australian accent. Ultimately, I didn’t care about their relationship, which seems to be what the whole story seems to gear me towards and I think that Nyssa’s plot warranted more attention.

Despite this, there are highlights, namely the performances of both Peter Davison and Jacqueline Pearce. Davison manages to recapture the same energy in his voice from his original run, which makes it believable that this is happening in between televised adventures. Davison is a really good actor, but even he cannot save scenes of exposition that we see in the latter two parts, but he and Jacqueline Pearce really sparkle together. Pearce is probably the saving grace of this story, as she makes Queen Zafira feel both menacing and kindly. When the story relies on characters such as Jezzavar and Zellinger as the villains, who feel rather one-dimensional, Pearce takes that central role and plays it to perfection.

Verdict: I feel I say this a lot, but this story has an interesting central premise, but feels like it tries to do too much more. Peter Davison and Jacqueline Pearce do put in good performances. 3/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Jacqueline Pearce (Queen Zafira/Bev), Toby Hadoke (Mike Bretherton), Richard Mark (Lord Jezzavar), Dan Starkey (Lord Zellinger/Bill) & Sean Brosnan (Astorius).

Writer: Peter Ling & Hazel Adair, adapted by Paul Finch

Director: Ken Bentley

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • This story would have originally been intended to appear in Season 21, with the Fifth Doctor and Peri.
  • The story was originally to have been entitled Hex, however, this was changed due to the Big Finish companion, Hex.
  • After The Foe From The Future and The Valley of Death, this is the third story in the Lost Stories range to partially take place in 1977.

Cast Notes

  • Jacqueline Pearce appeared as Chessene in The Two Doctors. She also appeared opposite the War Doctor and the Eighth Doctor as Cardinal Ollistra.
  • Toby Hadoke is possibly best known amongst Doctor Who fans as the moderator on a number of Classic Series commentaries. He has also appeared in An Adventure in Space and Time, as well as numerous appearances in Big Finish audios.
  • Dan Starkey has played Sontarans in the revived series, most notably Strax. He has also appeared in a number of Big Finish audio plays and has also co-written Terror of the Sontarans with John Dorney and written Interlude.
  • Sean Brosnan marks his second appearance – he previously appeared in The Angel of Scutari and would go on to appear in Masquerade.

Best Quote

I’m surprised, Doctor. For a man of wisdom, I’d thought you’d recognise the benefits of being married to a queen.”

For a man of wisdom, I’d have thought you’d recognise the drawbacks.

Astorius and the Fifth Doctor

Previous Story: The Elite

The Elite

Helping a Dalek – has it come to this?

The Fifth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor offers Nyssa and Tegan a trip to the paradise world of Florana, but instead the TARDIS takes them to a domed city on a planet, scarred by warfare. A world where everyone is young, and fighting for the glory of the Elite…

Hidden away in the Cathedral of Power, the High Priest is watching. It knows the Doctor, and his arrival changes everything…

Review

I don’t think that it is possible to evoke an era better than The Elite manages to. Quite simply, this felt like it could have slotted in nicely between Arc of Infinity and Snakedance seamlessly. Whilst the writing felt different, John Dorney’s writing encapsulates the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan perfectly for me and, despite culminating in a bit of a slaughter at the end, didn’t feel as grim as a script written under the supervision of Eric Saward.

That’s not to say that it’s all perfect, however. There’s quite a sizeable guest cast here and I’m not sure that the story quite does enough with them. I personally struggled to tell Aubron and Alaric apart at times, and neither receive enough characterisation to distinguish them at times, and whilst Ryan Sampson does a solid enough job for the first three parts, he really flies off the rails and pushes the insanity well past 11 in the final part of the story. I would have liked the story to have more of Educator Stemp, however, as her character seemed to have some real promise and she is particularly good when she is sparking off Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton, but she ultimately suffers from not having much development. Ella is another character that I would have liked to have had more time with and she does interact nicely with Janet Fielding.

What the story does really nicely is evoke the feeling of Doctor Who in the early 1980s. Almost everything works really well, from the score which uses synthesisers to feels ultimately at home in this era, to the reduced role of Nyssa and some of the grittiness that Eric Saward, for some reason, felt so driven to include at all times. John Dorney, in taking on this story based on a premise by Barbara Clegg, is make it simultaneously a celebration of Peter Davison’s televised era whilst combining it with the development that the Fifth Doctor has enjoyed through Big Finish. There are scenes like the one in the TARDIS in the first part where the Doctor is obviously not sure about having Tegan back as a companion which acknowledge that more time has passed for Nyssa and the Doctor than has for Tegan. The squabbles between the Doctor and Tegan feel natural for the progression of the characters as seen on television, whilst Dorney allows the Fifth Doctor to snipe back at her times, but ultimately, when Aubron insults her intelligence, the Doctor is outraged. Despite their relationship not being fixed by the end of this story, the story almost feels like both the Fifth Doctor and Tegan coming to terms with being back together again, and all that this entails. A moment that feels as though this perfectly encapsulates Tegan coming to terms with travelling is when she and Nyssa are wandering around the city shortly after arriving.

Oh no no no! I know how this story ends. The Doctor tells us to stay put, we wander off, we get captured, lots of people are shot and it all ends badly. I’m sorry, Nyssa, but no. This time, we’re going to exactly what the Doctor says.

Tegan Jovanka

Another aspect that feels in keeping with the era is the appearance of a foe in disguise. In this case, the ‘High Priest’ is revealed to be a Dalek, and this is complete with Nicholas Briggs’ being credited under a pseudonym, which feels reminiscent of Anthony Ainley’s faux credits. As I am talking about the Dalek, it must be said that this is something a bit different for the Doctor’s evil adversary to do. We have seen the danger of a lone Dalek in the new series, in both Dalek and more recently Resolution, but this story sees one sole Dalek doing something a bit different: manipulating the development of society of the Elite through the Church to ensure the development of a Master Race. This Dalek is different, damaged from a crash that occurred ten years before the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan arrived on the planet of Florana and without the access to power the ‘Cleansing Fire’ which will summon the Dalek fleet. Whilst the reveal of the ‘High Priest’ to be a Dalek at the end of Part 2 didn’t really take me by surprise, it felt like a better reveal than the one of Time-Flight with the Master. Ultimately, by the time that the Doctor and Aubron discuss the nature of the Elite’s society, euthanising those who are deemed not to be of benefit to their society and those over the age of 30, the reveal seems like a matter of time.

We are making –

A Master Race!

Aubron and the Fifth Doctor

Dorney states in the behind the scenes interviews that he even expects that some listeners will jump ahead of the Doctor and realise that the Daleks are involved before this point, and Briggs’ voice is modulated differently but still sounds Dalek-like in its cadence. That being said, the moment where the High Priest is returned to its ‘throne’ and the Dalek heartbeat is heard is a lovely moment. We then come to the twist in Part 3. Once the Dalek is revealed to be at the heart of the Elite’s society, I certainly expected it to be a more traditional story involving the Doctor stopping the Dalek’s machinations, probably involving the arrival of the fleet. The first hint that this was not going to go the way I thought was when the Dalek wanted the Doctor’s help to get off Florana, the second when the seemingly traditional acolyte Thane turns on the Dalek and kills him. This is probably one of the best twists I can remember in a Doctor Who story, and can genuinely say that I didn’t see this one coming.

The main cast all do sterling work here, even if Sarah Sutton is side lined, brainwashed and possessed by the Elite to do their bidding. Even so, it’s enjoyable to hear Sutton joining in with the exterminating towards the end of the story. The focus here is really on Peter Davison and Janet Fielding. I really like Davison’s Doctor in general, but he is particularly great here. Dorney has given him the licence to be quite funny when the story allows it, and Davison delivers these moments nicely. Janet Fielding is often maligned, but she is good here too, and I particularly liked her scenes in the prison with Ella.

Verdict: The Elite is a great story which evokes the feeling of the Fifth Doctor’s era really well. 8/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Joe Coen (Aubron), Ryan Sampson (Thane), Derek Carlyle (Alaric), Joannah Tincey (Stemp), Nicholas Briggs (credited as Arthur Wallis, High Priest), John Banks (Garthak) & Ellie Burrow (Ella).

Writer: John Dorney, adapted from an idea by Barbara Clegg

Director: Ken Bentley

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • This story would have fallen after Terminus if it had been made in the 1980s, the story in which Nyssa left the TARDIS.
  • If this story had been broadcast, it would have seen Nyssa’s first meeting with a Dalek. In the intervening years, Nyssa had gone on to face the Daleks in a number of Big Finish stories before this adaptation was released.

Cast Notes

  • Ryan Sampson appeared in the Tenth Doctor story The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky as Luke Rattigan.
  • Joe Coen has appeared in Binary, The Edge and The Battle.
  • Derek Carlyle has appeared in a number of Big Finish stories, including The Death Collectors, Spider’s Shadow and Brotherhood of the Daleks.
  • Joannah Tincey appeared in A Thousand Tiny Wings, Industrial Evolution and The Skin of the Sleek/The Thief Who Stole Time.
  • John Banks has appeared in multiple Big Finish stories, and has appeared alongside the majority of incarnations of the Doctor, including John Hurt and David Tennant.
  • Ellie Burrow appeared in The Jupiter Conjunction and The Four Doctors.

Best Moment

Whilst I saw the reveal of the High Priest being a Dalek coming a mile off, the killing off of this Dalek was a real shock to me.

Best Quote

Let me guess, you’re going to be quite cross with me for a while. Funnily enough, I don’t find that a terribly frightening prospect. Pretty much business as usual!

The Fifth Doctor

Previous Fifth Doctor review: Arc of Infinity

Other Reviews:

Time-Flight

Dalek

Resolution

Arc of Infinity

It’s too late! Omega controls the Matrix!

The Fifth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor finds himself called back to Gallifrey as Omega makes another attempt to re-enter the universe from his anti-matter exile. Meanwhile, Tegan’s cousin goes missing in Amsterdam.

Review

Stories which see the Doctor return to Gallifrey are always a bit mixed bag, and sadly Arc of Infinity is one of the poorer ones and ultimately provides a disappointing start to the 20th anniversary season. There is a feeling that certain choices have been made simply on a whim of John Nathan-Turner and there are references to the show’s past, for instance, Romana and Leela get name dropped, however, it feels ultimately badly handled. I don’t think that the Gallifrey and Amsterdam plots stitch together perfectly and whilst I like the idea and the returning antagonist, I feel it could have been tightened up a bit.

I would like to talk a bit about the appearance of Gallifrey here, and why stories like this one probably lead to Russell T Davies taking the Doctor’s home planet off the table when he brought the show back. Gallifrey looks drab; almost like a mix between a coffee shop and a sofa salesroom. In the two previous visits to the planet of the Time Lords with Tom Baker, through directors, set design and locations, Gallifrey has at least looked interesting and alien. Here, it seems grey and lifeless. The Time Lords themselves are also pretty non-descript and their ridiculous collars just mean that the majority of their performances seem very stilted, which is probably not entirely down to the actors. It is easy to see, therefore, why Russell T Davies took Gallifrey off the board early on in the revival, why Steven Moffat, despite bringing it back from its fate in the Time War, did very little with it and Chris Chibnall has destroyed it all over again: it is very difficult to do something interesting with Gallifrey. Arguably, the last writer to achieve it was Robert Holmes in The Deadly Assassin.

The story also seems very disjointed between the sections set on Gallifrey and those set in Amsterdam. I don’t understand why the Earth based section of this story has to be set in Amsterdam and I think this was probably John Nathan-Turner just doing it because he felt he could get away with it. Unfortunately, it forces the writer Johnny Byrne into trying to make it relevant in some way, as opposed to the show’s first foray abroad in City of Death, where it feels much more organic for the Doctor and Romana to be in Paris. The titular arc, important to the return of Omega from the anti-matter universe, feels like an afterthought which just so happens to placed in Amsterdam. The return of Janet Fielding as Tegan feels much in the same vein, rendering her departure from the TARDIS at the end of the previous season ultimately pretty pointless. Time has obviously passed, as Tegan has managed to lose her job that she was so keen to get back to for the entirety of the last season, and the Doctor and Nyssa seem perfectly comfortable travelling with just the two of them. The Doctor’s face at the end of the story when Tegan announces that she will be travelling with them again probably summed up the feelings of a lot of the viewers of the time. The decision to bring back Omega is probably the best one as it manages to flesh him out a bit more, and I particularly like the scenes of him walking through Amsterdam like Frankenstein’s Monster. That being said, Omega only has one real motivation – to return to our universe – and this story doesn’t really add anything to this.

Amongst the central cast, Nyssa really stands out. Given some perhaps uncharacteristically aggressive moments, it might be that this is more in keeping with what Byrne, who also wrote her debut story, The Keeper of Traaken had in mind in her creation. It does have to be said that these actions might also be down to the fact that Louise Jameson was unavailable to reprise her role as Leela. Davison is okay here, more exasperated at the Time Lords than angry like some successive incarnations would be seen to be. Amongst the guests, Ian Collier does a passable Omega, but plaudits really go to Elspet Gray who really elevates some of the worst written scenes. Michael Gough is good here too, though having grown up with the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher helmed Batman films, seeing Alfred go head to head with the Doctor was conflicting for me! The less said about the ropey acting of Colin and Robin is probably best!

Verdict: Arc of Infinity is a bit of a mixed bag – a good idea that fails in execution and feels as though it could have done with another rewrite. 4/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Leonard Sachs (President Borusa), Elspet Gray (Chancellor Thalia), Councillor Hedin (Michael Gough), Paul Jerricho (The Castellan), Max Harvey (Cardinal Zorac), Colin Baker (Commander Maxil), Ian Collier (Omega), Neil Dalglish (Damon), John D Collins (Talor), Alastair Cumming (Colin Frazer), Andrew Boxer (Robin Stuart), Maya Woolfe (Hotel Receptionist), Malcolm Harvey (The Egron) & Guy Groen (Second Receptionist).

Writer: Johnny Byrne

Director: Ron Jones

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • This story started the 20th Anniversary Season, which saw each story bring back a component from the show’s past. Omega had previously faced off against the first three Doctors in The Three Doctors. Stephen Thorne, who played the character in that story was replaced by Ian Collier.
  • Tegan becomes the first companion to rejoin the Doctor after having left the TARDIS.
  • John Nathan-Turner appears in Part 4, trying to keep passers-by out of shot.
  • To keep the return of Omega a secret, Ian Collier was credited as the Renegade for the first two episodes. Despite Peter Davison also playing Omega in the final part, Davison is only ever credited as playing The Doctor.
  • It was originally intended for Leela to return in this story, however, Louise Jameson was unavailable to reprise the role. A hasty rewrite was done, with some of Leela’s actions being given to Nyssa.
  • Of all the stories shot outside of the UK in the classic era, this is the only one to open a season.

Cast Notes

  • Colin Baker, playing Commander Maxil here, would go on to play the Sixth incarnation of the Doctor. He is the first actor to play an another character on the show prior to his casting as the Doctor.
  • Michael Gough previously appeared in The Celestial Toymaker.
  • Leonard Sachs previously appeared in The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Eve.
  • Ian Collier previously appeared in The Time Monster.
  • Paul Jerricho would reprise his role as the Castellan in The Five Doctors.

Best Moment

Best Quote

You know how it is; you put things off for a day and next thing you know, it’s a hundred years later.

The Fifth Doctor

Previous Fifth Doctor review: Time-Flight

Time-Flight

Time-Flight - Doctor

The illusion is always one of normality.

The Doctor

Synopsis

When a Concorde disappears through a crack in time, the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan take another Concorde to follow, unaware that a mysterious conjuror Kalid is waiting for them.

Review

After the explosive climax to Earthshock, the conclusion to Peter Davison’s first season as the Doctor is difficult to describe as anything other than a letdown.  Time-Flight has a reputation that certainly precedes it – I was certainly aware that this was not a great story before watching this story – and it is frustrating to see Davison’s Doctor hampered by stories like this and Black Orchid.

This is certainly an example of the show having ambition well in advance of its meagre budget.  Aspects like the landscape of pre-historic Earth and the prop Concorde landing gear look laughable and very much like a set in front of a matt painting.  Additionally, filming onboard Concorde itself seems to, like a lot of the John Nathan-Turner era, have been done for reasons of generating publicity rather than considering the practicalities of it.  The scenes shot in the cabin and the flight deck of Concorde look very claustrophobic and not easy to work in – there is one scene with the Doctor talking to the flight crew which feels as though the camera is literally right behind Peter Davison.  The one thing that does look like money has been spent on it is the Master’s disguise as Kalid, which does look rather impressive, even though it is only used for the first two parts.  Given the scope of the story and the cast and production team’s seeming antipathy towards this serial, it is perhaps surprising that one of the script editors or John Nathan-Turner suggested holding it over to the next season in order to do this story full justice.

Time-Flight Kalid and the TARDIS

Peter Grimwade’s story is certainly ambitious, however, it is safe to say that his writing is not as good as his direction, and the narrative is full of characters that feel superfluous.  I do feel that this is not entirely his fault though, as this story is unfortunate to follow Earthshock and doesn’t entirely deal with the death of Adric satisfactorily.  This isn’t a problem exclusive to Doctor Who.  For those of you unfamiliar with your James Bond films, Blofeld kills Bond’s new bride in the closing minutes of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, yet when James Bond returned in Diamonds Are Forever, he acts as though the worst thing Blofeld has ever done is park in his space.  The story does certainly start with a sombre tone, picking up straight after the Doctor has dropped off the survivors of the encounter with the Cybermen, but this does get quite rapidly dropped as a plot element.  I’ve heard that the Master originally was not supposed to feature and was a late addition and this certainly makes quite a lot of sense.  His appearance here does seem quite derivative of his earlier appearance in Castrovalva, especially considering that he spent most of his time in disguise in that story too.  Grimwade’s story does have some interesting ideas, like the Xeraphin and the Jekyll and Hyde style relationship that seems to dog their race, however, there are too many other things going on here to go into it in further details.

There is quite a large cast here but a lot of them aren’t given an awful lot to do, with the Master mind-controlling the majority of the passengers and crew of the first Concorde, and Nyssa and Tegan largely sidelined.  However, there are four standout performances that mean that this story isn’t absolutely dreadful.  The first is Peter Davison, who really throws himself into the story despite his personal feelings towards the story.  The second is Anthony Ainley, who, though the Master doesn’t really need to be in this story, brings a suitable sense of pantomime menace to proceedings.  The third and fourth are Richard Easton and Nigel Stock as Captain Stapley and Professor Hayter.  Richard Easton portrays such a likable character who falls completely under the spell of this energetic and youthful Doctor and is eager to help as evidenced in the scenes where he attempts to thwart the Master taking parts of the Doctor’s TARDIS.  Nigel Stock brings some cynicism and some wonderful barbs into the episode which does not really give the actors very much to work with.

Verdict: Time-Flight brings Davison’s first season as the Doctor to a somewhat lacklustre conclusion.  An ambitious story which should perhaps have been refused on grounds of practicalities, however, it does feature some good performances from Davison, Ainley, Easton and Stock. 2/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Anthony Ainley (Khalid/The Master), Richard Easton (Captain Stapley), Keith Drinkel (Flight Engineer Scobie), Michael Cashman (First Officer Bilton), Peter Dahlsen (Horton), Brian McDermott (Sheard), John Flint (Captain Urquhart), Peter Cellier (Andrews), Judith Byfield (Angela Clifford), Nigel Stock (Professor Hayter), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Hugh Hayes (Anithon) & André Winterton (Zarak).

Writer: Peter Grimwade

Director: Ron Jones

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The first part of this story was the most successful in terms of viewing figures of John Nathan-Turner’s entire era as producer.
  • Adric’s appearance served not only to fulfill Matthew Waterhouse’s contract but also to mean that his name would have to appear in the Radio Times, thus not spoiling the character’s death at the end of Earthshock.
  • This story was the first television program permitted to film at Heathrow Airport and the first to film on Concorde.
  • Although Janet Fielding leaves at the end of this story, there was never any intention to make this a permanent departure, and she reappears in Arc of Infinity.
  • Peter Davison labels this story as his most disappointing experience.
  • Anthony Ainley is credited as Leon Ny Taiy for the first episode.

Cast Notes

  • Keith Drinkel would go on to appear in the audio drama Catch-1782.

Best Moment

The scenes in Part One with the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan at Heathrow Airport are good – I especially like how quick the Doctor is to be accepted by the authorities after namedropping UNIT and the Brigadier.

Best Quote

I thought you were going with the Doctor.

So did I…

Captain Stapley and Tegan Jovanka