Doctor Who: Time-Flight/Arc Of Infinity Boxset (DVD TV series review).

A double story boxset again. This seems quite prevalent of the stories from the Peter Davison era.

Time-Flight by Peter Grimwade

cast: Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding, Anthony Ainley, Nigel Stock, Richard Easton, Michael Cashman and Keith Drinkel

With Heathrow Airport already confused at the disappearance of an approaching Concorde to land, they are even more confused with the arrival of the TARDIS after passing through an object in its same co-ordinates. Nyssa (actress Sarah Sutton) and Tegan (actress Janet Fielding) wonder how the Doctor (actor Peter Davison) will sort out Heathrow security when he says the magic word, ‘UNIT’. A phone call to them and Heathrow gives them their full co-operation.

The Doctor figures out that the missing Concorde is lost in time and needs a second Concorde to follow the same co-ordinates, carrying his TARDIS as cargo. Its crew consists of Captain Stapley (actor Richard Easton), First Officer Bilton (actor Michael Cashman) and Flight Engineer Scobie (actor Keith Drinkel). As the Doctor predicts, they follow the same time-line into the past although the crew isn’t convinced as it appears they land back at Heathrow. This isn’t quite what Nyssa sees and the Doctor convinces them to think of the Indian rope trick and nothing is quite what it seems. The airport vanishes and is replaced by a wasteland.

From there, things move very quickly. Hypnotised crew and passengers take the TARDIS from the Concorde and Bilton and Scobie join them. The Doctor is temporary paralysed by creatures called the plasmatons and, later, so is Nyssa. They also encounter Professor Hayter (actor Nigel Stock) from the previous Concorde who managed to resist being hypnotised but thinks he’s in Russia. The secret to what is going on is in the nearby citadel.

Leaving Tegan to care for Nyssa, the Doctor, Stapley and Hayter go on to the citadel. While they encounter the people working on some object, the Doctor continues and finds his TARDIS and a being called the Kalid who wants his time machine. The Doctor thinks more is going on and that the Kalid isn’t really in command.

On recovery, Nyssa says they must go on to the citadel but they take a different route inside and reach the centre where she destroys the core. The Kalid is apparently killed but his deception is revealed as the Master (actor Anthony Ainley). They discover that he is stuck in the past and need the citadel core, the manifestation of the alien species Xeraphin to power his TARDIS. Unfortunately, he needs circuitry from the Doctor’s TARDIS as well. The alien Xeaphins have a good and bad side and the Doctor and his companions have to help the former

Inevitably, there is some compromise allowing the Doctor to rescue the original Concorde’s crew and passengers and gets everyone home. The Master finds his own plans outwitted…well, you’ll have to watch to catch all the details. There are a lot of details.

Looking objectively, you do have to wonder how everyone got out of either Concorde without the steps at Heathrow. Even if the emergency slide was used, it would be difficult to use it to climb back in.

It is rather interesting seeing people enter the TARDIS on its side but go upright once inside, after the Doctor adjusts a control inside. You would think the TARDIS would be able to do that automatically but I suspect it’s a problem with his time machine. If you’re watching this story with your sprogs, you’ll have to explain to them what and why the Concorde was so important. It does make me wonder if the story could be done today using sub-sonic aircraft.

The audio commentary is with actors Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding with script editor Eric Saward. It’s also amazing that of all of them, only Davison was given a DVD to watch before recording these and he still can’t remember much about the show, other than the low budget. Saward reveals that Grimwade (pronounced Grim-way which I didn’t know before as I thought it was Grim-wade) had submitted this story through 4 different story editors before finally being accepted. Oh and Nigel Stock out-giggles everyone although it looks like the flight crew were pretty close. It’s interesting no one queries why the Master’s TARDIS always looks like a Roman column when you consider it is supposed to have a working chameleon circuit. I do find it slightly weird where their lack of knowledge lies although, in the fourth episode, there is some analysis of the Doctor enabling the fantastic. Beyond that, it’s mostly about acting which is most significant.

Now for the extras. In the 14 minute ‘Mouth On Legs’, Janet Fielding goes over her recruitment to the UK by Ken Campbell and fitting the part of mouthy Australian for ‘Doctor Who’ and how controlling producer John Nathan-Turner was with her clothes and hair. How she resolved not to do the Mara cackle and ended up hitting people with a Mara stick instead before ending on lack of acting employment after leaving.

The 4 minutes of ‘Deleted Scenes’ was more like some of them being extra long and being cut back.

The 19 minute long ‘Jurassic Larks’ focuses on the problems filming this story and one of the best examples of what happens. Having the TARDIS on its side and them realising how fragile it was made me wonder why didn’t they just use the real one? Mind you, towards the end, they also show a TARDIS miniature and its elaborate interior just to flash its top light. A decade later, circuitry would be much smaller. Speaking of TARDISes, we also see the other side of the Master’s time machine which can also double as a corner cabinet. Oh, you’ll be pleased to know that the plasmatons have terrestrial names. Finally, we get an example of what happens when the filming stops at 10pm and you have to wonder how the people get off the stage without knocking anything over.

The 14 minutes of ‘Outtakes’’ has a focus on how many times Peter Davison fluffs his lines. A 4 minutes interview with scriptwriter Peter Grimwade centres on why directors should never direct their own stories. The 8 minutes of ‘Photo Gallery’ is mostly in black and white.

I found ‘Time-Flight’ an odd story. Yes, I can understand the low budget but there are some oddities. I mean, why have the Master in disguise other than to misdirect the viewer? It must have been effective because the Doctor didn’t realise he was in the presence of another Time Lord like he usually does but the Master didn’t even know he was going to arrive. Having access to the Doctor’s TARDIS for spare parts just speeded things up. Then again, with so many fans knowing about the filming and content before it was ever completed, this was also the early misdirection to keep them guessing.

Arc Of Infinity by Johnny Byrne

cast: Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding, Leonard Sachs, Michael Gough, Ian Collier, Colin Baker, Paul Jerricho, Neil Daglish, Elspet Gray, Max Harvey, Andrew Boxer, Alastair Cumming and John D Collins

The start of the twentieth season of ‘Doctor Who; begins with the ‘Arc Of Infinity’, a place where matter and anti-matter can pass each other safely.

There are four threads at the opening of this story. The first on Gallifrey has an anti-matter alien conferring with a Time Lord about the theft of another Time Lord biological code from the matrix and thinks the Doctor is an ideal choice. The theft is noted and stopped mid-way but later one of the Time Lords supervising the Matrix is killed.

On Earth and in Amsterdam, two hitch-hikers, Robin Stuart (actor Andrew Boxer) and Colin Frazer (actor Alastair Cumming) opt to save money by sleeping the night in a crypt. Colin wakes to a noise and is investigating is zapped by an alien. Robin wakes and can’t find him. Eventually he does and discovers Colin is acting like a zombie and flees. As he lost his passport, Robin is reluctant to go to the police but seeks out a hostel which had already been reserved for both of them and discovers Colin’s cousin is coming in by aeroplane.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor (actor Peter Davison) and Nyssa (actress Sarah Sutton) have been repairing the TV monitor’s audio function when the TARDIS is attacked. The mysterious alien attempts to bond with the Doctor and use him as a conduit for stability in the positive matter universe but doesn’t quite succeed.

President Borusa (actor Leonard Sachs) orders the retrieval circuit to be used to bring the Doctor to Gallifrey and after a brief trail, it is decided that he should be executed for his part in a consipracy, despite the insistence there is a traitor in the Council. Time Lord Security Commander Maxil (actor Colin Baker) is ordered to carry out the sentence. Nyssa gets some help from Damon (actor Neil Daglish), who was one of the original discovers of the Matrix theft and with a brief visit with the Doctor is asked to provide a replacement space-time element, which Mazil took away, to get the TARDIS working again. Despite Nyssa attempting to rescue the Doctor, he insists that the sentence should be carried out.

On Earth, Colin’s cousin arrived and Robin meets her, Tegan Jovanka (actress Janet Fielding). She thinks this is more the Doctor’s territory but insists they investigate. It’s rather weird that Tegan complains about the dirt in the crypt and yet hasn’t changed from the white togs she wore from the airport.

How much further to go without giving away major spoilers. Of course, the Doctor doesn’t die but he does meet his unnamed adversary as his mind is placed in the Matrix. The evidence on Gallifrey puts Lord President Borusa (actor Leonard Sachs) in the frame but it’s really another Time Lord. Finally, all things are sorted out and they manage to get the Doctor and Nyssa in their TARDIS to Earth and stop the villain and rescue Tegan.

The fourth episode does seem oddly rushed. Colin and Robin’s place in the story is literally thrown out the window as if someone was throwing pages away and ended up as a phone call that they were all right. Other than bringing Tegan back, they were really superfluous to the plot. You do have to wonder if Colin ever wonders what happened to his cousin, who literally vanishes from the Earth…again.

Odd question. After the Doctor has repaired the audio circuit, he leaves the TARDIS control room but nothing is given as to what he was going to do. As a throwaway plot device, its real purpose was to allow the Doctor to talk to his fellow Times Lords. I’m trying to recall if it was ever used again.

The reference to only one other Time Lord to be executed can only be the War Chief from ‘The War Games’. I’m a bit puzzled as to what happened to the Ergon, especially as Nyssa shot it with its own matter converter gun which should have converted not killed it, so it should still be around somewhere, unless it was part of Omega’s imagination.

You do have to wonder why the Doctor took Maxil’s physical look when he did his next regeneration. Maybe he unconsciously thought it would toughen him up a bit.

Very oddly, the audio commentary is not mentioned on the back cover on inner leaflet, so it must have been decided later down the line. Away, there is one with actors Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton and half-way through the first episode also included actors Colin Baker and Janet Fielding. Davison is a bit confused about why Tegan would appear in Amsterdam, forgetting that the last time they saw her she was still an air hostess. She didn’t really need her lost cousin in Amsterdam to arrive there, just a short flight. I’m left wondering if Janet Fielding ever changed her kitchen decor. None of them knew that Omega’s costume was a containment suit. Then again the reason why the Doctor was protected so much was because Omega needed his body alive to make the transition. This doesn’t mean the audio commentary was sober as they were laughing a lot.

I’m hoping it was only a problem with my DVD, but the opening 12 minutes jumped of the 35 minute ‘Anti-Matter From Amsterdam’ where various cast members, with the exception of Janet Fielding, remember their time in the Netherlands.

The 15 minute ‘The Omega Factor’ looks at Omega’s origins. The 3 minutes of ‘Deleted Scenes’ were most extensions of the existing scenes. ‘Under Arc Light’ at 11 1/2 minutes shows what it’s like under Omega’s helmet plus some scenes on Gallifrey. Had I known about the alternative CGI effects, I would probably have watched the audio commentary with them on. There’s 8 minutes of ‘Still Gallery’.

An odd thing that occurred to me after this story is that several members of the Time Lords Council have been involved in worse trouble than ever the Doctor has been since he first stole his TARDIS which makes them a rum lot overall.

GF Willmetts

March 2019

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC. 2 DVDs 186 minutes 2*4 episodes 23 minute stories. Price: about £ 9.79 (UK). ASIN: BBCDVD2327).

2 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Time-Flight/Arc Of Infinity Boxset (DVD TV series review).

  • Morbius was executed – though his brain survived, having been removed by Mehendri Solon…

    • Hello Julian
      It depends on how you look at it. Morbius’ brain survived the execution and as that was later know, he wasn’t really killed. Unlike the War Chief whom we never saw again.


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