Ah, poor old Time Shite, I mean Time-flight. It’s no mystery why this clunker is so poorly regarded. It’s a dull and unengaging story, has another rubbish disguise for The Master and monsters that look like grey turds on legs. And Concorde, for no discernible reason other than it got some publicity in the papers, though you have to wonder who needed it more, the plane or the show. There is a school of thought that says the Beeb were ready to cancel the show when Tom Baker left, much as they considered ending the recent revival when David Tennant decided to move on.
Whilst we can only be grateful that they didn’t in the case of the latter, in the case of the former I’m not entirely sure that it might not have been the merciful thing to do considering how things turned out. But nobody could have known that so let’s get back to Time Shite or The One With Concorde – another icon that came to an ignominious end.
If the show was really at risk from the moment Jayne Entee took over you can’t fault her for her skill in keeping it firmly in the public eye via the newspapers in order to minimise the risk of cancellation. As for the plane itself, its use in the story is minimal and you get the impression that it was only in the story for the photo-op its inclusion afforded. Maybe Jane thought that, since Barry Letts had got the Royal Navy involved with The Sea Devils she had to go one better. Not sure that on that count she succeeded, so let’s move on to the story, there’s no point in us putting it off any longer!
You would think, given the title, that this story would be the dynamic love child of Airport ’82 and The Land That Time Forgot, but no. Thankfully there are no rubbish Pertwee-esque model dinosaurs but there is a rather tediously dull story about an alien intelligence getting kidnapped by The Master. Yawn. No wonder this story came fifth from the bottom in the recent DWM Fifty Years poll.
But it’s not all bad, the camp comic relief cabin crew are quite entertaining and you can’t shake the feeling that this is JNT giving us an unmade Pertwee instead of his usual Mock Hartnell Era shtick. And just think how much better this story would be if it had been a 1971 or 1972 Pertwee vs Delgado outing instead of The Time Monster or Colony In Space. I’m sure Letts and Dicks could have improved this clunker no end but the sheer presence of Dr Jon and Dear Old Roger alone would lift it. And in that Parallel Whoniverse version, I bet you one of the cabin crew, probably the one with the moustache, would have done a Latep and taken a shine to Jo. Whether he would have had it away with her in the Concorde khazi though is another matter!
Meanwhile, back in 1982, the first problem with “One Of Our Concordes Is Missing” is the slow opening and a really poor roll back and mix for the plane vanishing. Was there really no budget for the model Concorde they use elsewhere in the story to fade out a bit less unconvincingly via CSO? Having tightened up the opening a bit I moved on to getting Pertwee, I mean Davison, into the story as quick as I could. I’d already included the opening Tardis scenes at the end of the Earthshock fan edit so here I could start with the Doctor already at the airport.
And since this is pretending to be a Pertwee story we cut out the C19 stuff and have Dr Peter already on the case as if he was Dr Jon who’s just driven down to Heathrow with Jo in Bessie. It’s not long before he gets nobbled by the Grey Turd Men [shades of Captain Kremmen there!] and smothered in soap bubbles, meaning part one is done and out of the way after about six minutes. And I took the opportunity to hide the top of the painted backcloth rather more succesfully than they did in the original!
Leaving the Doctor in a bit of Soapy Bubble [!] I then went to the end and edited episode four, cutting things back as much as I could and sorting out Tegan not being onboard when the Tardis takes off. In the TX version she wanders off for a shufti around the airport for no good reason other than to have her come back too late. Of course, a real person wouldn’t do that, but Tegan isn’t a real person, she’s a character whose behaviour is subject to regular attacks of irrationality and inconsistency, depending on what not very good writer is doing the episodes that week.
You can get around that if you have a script editor who knows how to fix inferior writer’s errors, like Uncle Tewwance or Bob Holmes. Unfortunately we’ve got Eric sodding Saward instead, who really got lucky when he landed the Script Editor’s job. He then stayed lucky by virtue of not being rumbled due to his policy of employing writers who were even worse at scripting than he was, or at least just as bad, with the possible exception of Philip Martin and Bob Holmes himself.
You would think that the man in charge of fixing the problems in other people’s scripts would, by definition, be a better writer than the writers whose work he is fixing simply because he can see how to fix what the poor writer, who has probably written at least one draft too many, can’t. But not in this case. Put a good Script Editor together with a good Producer and you get Letts & Dicks or Hinchcliffe-Holmes, but whoever did the matchmaking for Eighties Who was clearly having an off day when they put Eric Turdword and Jayne Entee together. As a couple, they were well matched, since he was as bad a Script Editor as she was a Producer. If Barry & Terry and Phil & Bob were like Tom and Barbara from The Good Life then these two were more Beverley and Laurence from Abigail’s Party…
So with Tegan’s departure sorted, it was time to work our way back to the huge info-dump that is the scene inside the Xeraphin’s easter egg thingy where it all gets a bit Star Trek with two blokes in leotards who represent their dual nature, one good one bad. Yawn. Professor Hayter [or should that be Hater?] is a miserable old sod and you can’t help but cheer when he gets done in joining the Xeraphin. That counts as yet another mistake by having something horrible happen to a character we don’t care about because he’s a git. To illustrate what I mean, let’s digress for a moment for A Tale Of Two Professors.
In scenario #1, we have grumpy git Professor Hayter getting done in – so far, so familiar. Now consider scenario #2 and substitute Professor Chronotis for Hayter and imagine that same scene otherwise unchanged. Do you care a lot more about the Professor’s fate now than you did before? Of course you do! And if you don’t, you clearly understand as little about writing fiction for television as Saward himself.
The problems with Prof Hayter should be laid at the door of Saward and Director Ron Jones before you start having a go at poor old Nigel Stock, the least to blame of anyone. So, since Hayter was a grumpy git and not a nice, fuddy-duddy professor type, he was in the fan editing crosshairs from the word go. His death doesn’t touch us, in fact we’re glad he’s gone, and if that was the intention then things were worse than we thought earlier than we knew.
So I had the start of the story up to the end of part one and halfway through part three to the end. Now all I had to do was plug the gap in between!
It’s quite a while from seeing Bilton and Scobie getting nobbled by the turd men to seeing where they end up so in this version those scenes come one after the other. Of course that meant having an early reveal for The Master but by this time I knew that I wanted to exorcise Kalid from the edit altogether so that wasn’t a problem. The “Master in Disguise” trope is yet another example of how Jane Entee and Eric Turdword got it wrong.
Back in The Good Old Delgado Days, the Master disguised himself for a valid story reason – usually in order to gain entry to somewhere that he otherwise wouldn’t stand a chance of getting into without being spotted, like UNIT HQ for instance. Jane Entee completely misunderstands this and so the Ainley Master disguises himself for no good reason other than a “shock” reveal at the end of episode cliffhanger.
Only it’s no shock at all as we can all tell it’s Ainley a bloody mile off, but worse than that, it does rather undermine the drama of your story when your audience is wondering why The Doctor has suddenly developed a severe case of stupiditis and can’t tell that The Portreeve or Kalid or Sir Gilles is really The Master in disguise. Granted, it was sometimes a bit of stretch when Delgado put the old rubber face mask on, but at least he had the sense to disguise himself in front of minor characters and as briefly as possible – like the telephone engineer in Terror of the Autons or the General in The Claws of Axos.
The whole idea would have worked much better if the disguised Master was played by a different actor, that way you really would get a shock reveal. Imagine, for instance, how much better this story might have been if Professor Hayter had turned out to be The Master in disguise. Go back and watch those scenes of his before he gets done win with that in mind and see how much more effective they are. That’s what I would have done if it were me and not Jane Entee in charge.
It stands to reason that your audience will be much more involved in the story if they are keeping an eye out for any character who shows the slightest bit of villainous intent in case they turn out to be The Master in disguise. That helps engage the audience as it allows them to congratulate themselves if they get it right. But no.
The idea that The Master isn’t villainous and dangerous but unhinged and bonkers wasn’t RTD’s invention, it all started way back here. It’s the only explanation for his frankly bizarre behaviour that makes any sense. The only reason for The Master to stay “in character” when nobody’s around is that he’s a Method Actor.
Maybe the enmity between him and the Doctor all stems from their rivalry as part of the Gallifrey Footlights. Perhaps it all started when The Master didn’t get the lead in the Prydon Academy Players production of “The Merchant of Varos” at the Gallifrey Globe, who knows! Apart from anything else, I find it awfully hard to watch Kalid without thinking of the The Arabian Knights cartoon that used to air as part of The Banana Splits – “Rozahn kohbar! Size of an elephant!”. So no dodgy disguise for The Master, sorted. Next thing to do was to get The Doctor to the citadel, meet The Master and get into the Xeraphin Egg as quickly as possible.
Another thing that doesn’t help the story’s poor reputation is the fact that the supporting cast give us some wonderful examples of “Dr Who Acting”, which is very different from the kind of acting you do when you’re trying to behave like a real person in an unreal situation. And the blobby xeraphin thing in the altar looks almost as bad as the similar one in Sapphire And Steel Story Two, the anti-visection one with the family of time travelling researchers on the roof of the tower block, the one where David Collings makes his first appearance as Silver. I still say he would have been a better Fifth Doctor than Davison…
This was one of those edits where the 71 Edit, at 35m, was just too abrupt and so I had to go back and reinstate a lot of stuff I would otherwise have ditched, which brought the 72 Edit out at a much better 43m. Sometimes you can cut back on the story back more than you really should in your desire to get rid of what you don’t want or like. And the edit was complicated by the fact that there was no isolated music score on the DVD, meaning I had to resort to using cues from Arc of Infinity, also scored by Roger Limb, to help cover the joins. So this version of Time Shite was an awkward edit of a clunker of a story that improves what it can where it can. And the biggest improvement of all is to remove Kalid completely, and if getting rid of that fake fakir means a few extra bits of unwanted footage then that’s a price worth paying!