Thursday, May 14, 2015

Time-Flight - "I don't know what English cricket is coming to."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Time Flight - Details

Season 19, Story 7 (Overall Series Story #123) | Previous - Next | Index

Five pines for his scarf.
Image via Circular Time
Let's start with the Doctor apparently so confused he thinks you can be in the Late Jurassic and nearly in the Pleistocene.
Detail from a table at RocksInMyHeadToo
Feeling chilled, he says, "Definitely Jurassic. There's a nip in the air, though. We can't be far off the Pleistocene era [sic]." At the risk of coming across as pedantic, if you're going to throw around geological timeline terminology, why not just look at encyclopedia or what have you, and get it right? The Pleistocene is an epoch, not an era. And 140 million-ish years seems more than a little far off, even from a Time Lord's perspective.

I don't know the millions of years or the difference between epochs, periods, eras, and eons off the top of my head. (Are we in the Holocene, or is this the Anthropocene?) But, if I'm referencing them in my story, I'm certainly going to take a few minutes to research so I don't bollocks them all up. The writer who wants to use the terms, but not bother to use them accurately, is a writer who can't be trusted. *Gives Peter Grimwade the side-eye*

Little failures like this are all the more frustrating because the sloppiness signposts the fact the interesting bits that make this story feel promising for stretches of the first two episodes are going to be wasted. We come into this story wanting to give it the benefit of the doubt, giving it a chance to win us over, and it squanders our goodwill even while it does a few things pretty well.

What's great straight off the blocks? Adric's not in it! What? Too soon? Tell that to the Doctor, who looks glum for a moment, shrugs it off, and suggests a holiday.

The nod to Berkeley, too, that's fun for the former student. My degree doesn't look so ill-advised when it helps catch the reference to idealism being a naive philosophy.

If we ignore nitpicks, we can't look past the bizarre decision to have the Master hamming it up as Khalid the Chinese/Arabian (?) sorceror for no imaginable reason. Sure, it's a way to hide Anthony Ainley and let him show showboat a little, but there wasn't way to make him being disguised make sense? And the disguise had to remind us of the trouble we had with Despicable Chang?

Oh, and remember how there was some relief about not having to put up with Adric any longer? Dang if they didn't make him the precedent for bringing back former companions as manipulative illusions in "The Five Doctors." He's only there for a minute, but it's enough to remind us a minute of Adric is a minute too much.

The last two episodes are tedious without being aggressively dreadful. It's just the further unraveling of a reasonably promising set-up that teased us with the promise that if they would just try, they could salvage this thing. In retrospect, of course it was going to be nonsense. It had has flashes of promises and a certain audacity, nothing says I'm willing to go up a weight class like challenging the effects team to convince us there are two Concordes traveling back to an alien-infested Jurassic era on the classic series budget.

The solace we take from it really now being the last we'll see of Adric after his unmourned demise is toyed with by the departure of Tegan at the end of the story. If only her being left behind at Heathrow, where she'd been so insistent she wanted to be for so long, weren't going to be undone ...

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