I suppose Time-Flight isn’t highly regarded by Doctor Who fandom, which surprises me – not because it’s good, but because it isn’t all that terrible. There are so, so many worse episodes to come.
Reeling from the death of Adric, the Doctor decides a trip to the Great Exhibition will cheer everyone up. True to form, they arrive at the one place the Doctor has completely failed to arrive at: modern-day Heathrow Airport. Tegan is finally home.
Of course, it’s not that simple. A concord supersonic jet has gone missing and the Doctor knows where its gone. With the somewhat reluctant help of the crew of another concord, the Doctor follows the first back in time to 140 million years ago. The less said about the Doctor’s comments on the time period, the coming ice age or the possibility of see a brontosaurus the better.
Here a mysterious, deformed conjurer named Kalid has control over a psychic mass of material and uses it to his bidding. He creates illusions to convince the skyjacked passengers and crew of the concords that they are home and uses them to do his bidding. He bids them to take the TARDIS.
The Doctor discovers that Kalid is not who he seems and the Doctor must prevent him from harnessing the source of power that has been brought to Earth in a wrecked spaceship.
Like the Sea Devils many years ago you can certainly tell when an outside organization lends its help to Doctor Who. In this case, British Air seems to be getting a lot of commercial mileage out of this story. Younger readers may not realize that, in the long-distant past, not only was man capable of going to moon, we could also fly passenger jets across the oceans at supersonic speeds. Nowadays it seems hard to believe that a flight across the Atlantic could take less time than than security checks and layover.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the the cooperation of British Air, the special effects in this episode are some of the poorest during the Davison era. The attempts to integrate stock concord shots with prehistoric sets is utterly unconvincing.
The story rambles on a bit and at no time do I ever feel anyone is really in danger. Kalid, of course, turns out to be the Master who has managed to escape Castrovalva but is stranded with a disabled TARDIS in the Jurassic. Rather than be menacing, the Master spends his time skulking around in an almost pantomime fashion and occasionally laughing menacingly. This unfortunately sets the tone for all the future appearances of Anthony Ainley’s Master.
Perhaps the most telling example of this is the lengths the production goes to disguise the reveal of the Master at the end of episode two. In episode one he is in grotesque makeup and his character is credited not as “Anthony Ainley” but as the anagram “Leon Ny Taiy” but in fact, during much of the episode there was no reason for him to be disguised. He was disguised even before the Doctor arrived. When he meets the Doctor, the Doctor is neither impressed with nor willing to surrender his TARDIS to Kalid, despite Kalid’s threats to kill the Doctor’s friends. When the Master’s identity is revealed, the Doctor immediately surrenders the TARDIS key upon the first threat to the same friends.
In short, the Master was hiding from people who didn’t know him (and were, for that matter, hypnotized to see whatever he wanted) and, his plot was actually diminished by the act of hiding. It was strictly put on for the audience, and that’s the problem. When you start writing your episode around gimmicks for the fans, you’re doomed.
With Adric gone, but not completely forgotten, Nyssa got quite a bit more storyline in the episode as did, to a lesser degree, Tegan who bows out of the TARDIS crew at the end of the episode.
No, this episode is not as bad as it is often credited, but it does suffer a number of flaws that keep it in the lower half of the mediocre range.