"Time-Flight" - 2/5; "Arc of Infinity" - 3/5; Special Features - 4/5.
This boxed set contains two consecutive Doctor Who serials, linked by companion Tegan's departure from and subsequent return to the TARDIS crew (D'oh! Why'd she have to come back?).
"Time-Flight", by occasional "Doctor Who" director Peter Gimwade, brings the series' nineteenth season to a rather shambolic and cheapskate end. Full of ideas and ambitiously written, "Time-Flight" could have been fantastic with a movie budget and a more carefully edited script, but, filmed at the end of a long season by a tired cast and a crew who had run out of money, sadly that was not to be.
"Time-Flight" suffers significantly from its set design. Those parts of "Time-Flight" that were filmed on location at Heathrow Airport are definitely its most convincing. The same cannot, unfortunately, be said for the scenes set on Prehistoric Earth, filmed in studio on a perspective set with an obvious painted sky that robs the scenes of much of their credibility. Further location filming on a blasted heath somewhere would surely have been more convincing.
On the other hand, "Time-Flight" manages to convey the two Concordes' journeys between the present day and prehistoric Earth remarkably well using a combination of stock footage and modelwork, given the technological constraints and special effects budget available to the series at the time of "Time-Flight"'s production.
"Time-Flight" is slightly over-cluttered with a large number of supporting characters who seem remarkably un-fazed by the whole affair, in particular the eager Captain Stapley (Richard Easton), his slightly camp crewmates Andrew Bilton and Roger Scobie, and academic aircraft passenger Professor Hayter (Nigel Stock), plus a few other minor characters who don't really bear mentioning. The villain of the piece, the mysterious Kalid, who has lured the Doctor to prehistoric earth in the hope of gaining control of his TARDIS, is slightly tiresome with his unintelligible chanting, but his makeup is surprisingly good despite the budget (and, later on, as the story's main twist is revealed, we find out why).
Unfortunately these shortcomings are not compensated for by the story's highly contrived and nebulous plot. Indeed, the only part of the whole affair that really rings true is the decision that Tegan, who has travelled under duress with the Doctor for some time, is faced with at the end of the story: having been returned to present-day Heathrow, will she now continue to travel with the Doctor and explore new worlds, or will she return to the normal life that she had thought she so much wanted?
"Arc of Infinity", by Johnny Byrne, opened the twentieth season of "Doctor Who", in which producer John Nathan-Turner sought to bring back an enemy from the series' past in each serial. For "Arc of Infinity", he brought back the original Time Lord, Omega, coincidentally last seen in the series' tenth anniversary story, "The Three Doctors". It was also a stipulation of producer John Nathan-Turner that part of the story be filmed in Amsterdam, hence the rather odd juxtaposition of scenes filmed on the streets of Amsterdam (the B-story, revolving around former companion Tegan), with studio-bound scenes set on the Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey (the A-story, revolving around the Doctor, Nyssa and the Time Lords).
The Tegan B-story is of marginal relevance to begin with, and does not come together with the main story until the end of the serial, allowing the Doctor to have most of a televised story with just Nyssa as the companion. This is beneficial to both the Doctor, who was usually surrounded by multiple squabbling companions, and the likeable but quiet Nyssa, normally marginalised during the "crowded TARDIS" stories of her time on the show. Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton make the most of the opportunity that the unique scenario presents to develop their relationship (and Nyssa gets to kick some Gallifreyan butt).
However, the rest of the story is a bit of a mess. The means of Omega's return are poorly explained, although Ian Collier is good in the role, particularly during the final confrontation in Amsterdam. The Gallifrey sets are conceptually bland and don't really speak of the grace and affluence that the Time Lords supposedly possess (even if they are rotten to the core). The best thing in the story is probably Colin Baker as the officious Commander Maxil of the Gallifreyan guards: he actually gets to shoot Peter Davison, in a scene rather ironic given his future casting as Davison's successor in the title role. On the other hand, the less that is said about the acting of Tegan's cousin and his backpacker friend, probably, the better! Given the potential offered by the foreign location shoot and the return of Omega, it seems that "Arc", whilst enjoyable enough, could have delivered a lot more than it actually did.
Despite the relatively shambolic nature of the stories, they get a deluxe treatment on DVD as usual, digitally remastered and equipped with entertaining (although often critical) cast commentaries (including both Peter Davison and Colin Baker on the "Arc" commentary), documentaries on the making of the stories and various extracts from the archives. A good set for established and loyal fans, although not, perhaps, the best release for classic series newbies!