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 episode 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. 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 the episode. 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.

Synopsis Edit

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.

Plot Edit

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 even 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. The Doctor finds traces of disturbance. The Concorde starts a planned descent and lands. Leaving the Concorde, everyone believes that 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. However, 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 is 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. They 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. He has resisted the illusion. Andrew Bilton and Roger Scobie, see members of GVF's crew and passengers carrying the TARDIS towards the Citadel and investigate. Bilton and Scobie 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. He 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. She starts getting visions and hearing voices. They are unwelcome to Kalid. 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. The Doctor heads to the Citadel and 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. They disperse. Nyssa and Tegan follow the former's instincts and proceed through the Citadel. Along their way, they come across Adric, previously believed to have been killed when the interstellar freighter he was trapped on crashed into Cretaceous Earth. Adric 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, which the Doctor destroyed when he lethally grinded it into the Cyber-Leader's ventilation unit aboard the TARDIS.

Knowing this, they press on, causing "Adric" to dissipate. 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. His disguise falls away to reveal the Master.

Part three Edit

The Master is trapped in this time zone. He is looking for a way out and 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. However, it has a split personality. It has let itself be used by the Master and Nyssa. Nearby are small shrunken bodies. The Doctor identifies them 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. It has phenomenal psychic abilities. Hayter sacrifices himself to the creature to let it communicate. He is absorbed into the entity.

The Xeraphin manifest as Anithon. It explains the entity came to Earth to escape the war. It came 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. 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 bad 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.

Everyone leaves prehistoric Earth. The second Concorde is made serviceable. It carries Stapley, his crew and the passengers from the other Concorde back to Heathrow. The Doctor reverses the track of the time contour and brings the plane back to Heathrow with his TARDIS. The Doctor programmed the temporal limiter he gave the Master to arrive after he did. 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. The evil Time Lord is sent 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. Her sorrow as she sees the TARDIS dematerialise tells a different story.

Cast Edit

Uncredited cast Edit

Crew Edit

Uncredited crew Edit

References Edit

Cricket Edit

Food and drink Edit

  • The Professor suggests Angela should think of fish and chips, in order to ground herself in reality.

Individuals Edit

  • 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.

Organisations Edit


Time travel Edit

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

Story notes Edit

  • Working titles for this story were Zanadin and Xeraphin. (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 Radio Times credits, which were printed a week early, to maintain the surprise of Adric's death in the preceding story, Earthshock. (DOC: Toby Hadoke's Who's Round 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: Toby Hadoke's Who's Round 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.
  • Time-Flight marks the end of what is, as of June 2019, the longest consecutive run of classic Doctor Who serials on Bluray. The run starts with the standalone release of Shada, originally intended as the season 17 finale, and continues through seasons 18 and 19 to this story.
  • 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".
  • Janet Fielding claimed on the DVD commentary that she didn't remember it being this bad until she rewatched 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 wre considered for Captain Stanley.
  • Bernard Archard, Geoffrey Bayldon, John Carson, Peter Cushing, Maurice Denham, Michael Gough and William Lucas were considered for 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, 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  Scobie and 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. 
  • The first time a drama production had been allowed to film at Heathrow Airport and on board an actual Concorde.
  • Some of the character names had to be changed because there were people working for British Airways with those surnames.
  • The script was previously submitted for the previous season and didn't originally feature the Master.
  • 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

Ratings Edit

  • 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.

Myths Edit

  • 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.

Continuity Edit

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.



  • Commentary by actors Peter Davison (the Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) and script editor Eric Saward.
  • Mouth on Legs - Actress Janet Fielding talks about playing Tegan Jovanka.
  • Deleted Scenes.
  • Jurassic Larks - Behind-the-scenes action from the studio recording sessions.
  • Out-takes - Fluffs and technical gaffs from the story's production.
  • Interview - A short interview with the story's writer, the late Peter Grimwade.
  • 1983 Doctor Who annual (PDF DVD-ROM)
  • Radio Times Listings.
  • Programme Subtitles.
  • Photo Gallery - Includes unreleased incidental music by Roger Limb.
  • Coming Soon Trailer.


  • 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.
  • Editing for DVD release completed by Doctor Who Restoration Team.

Box set Edit

Video releases Edit

Digital releases Edit

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

External links Edit

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