Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Night Flight to Nowhere

Before we start, let's just compare this picture of Davo with the last picture from The Haven (the previous story in Journey through Time), which, in the book, appears on the page opposite this one.

It looks strange and wrong for two faces that are so similar to be next to each other like that.

It also suggests a lack of originality in the artists for them to draw Davo's face in exactly the same way.

Night Flight to Nowhere features the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa. And because it also features Heathrow Airport, a jet plane, the Master, and the Master's plan to steal the plane, it closely resembles (in feeling though not in plotting) the TV story Time Flight. This isn't a good thing to be like.

The story begins with the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa just hanging around at Heathrow waiting to meet one of Tegan's friends, and spends much of the first page (out of seven) trying to establish characterisation by having the Doctor be exasperated with Tegan.

"I can't wait to see her again!" Tegan offered, trying her best to cheer the Doctor up. "We were best friends on my stewardess training course, you know!"
The Doctor did know; Tegan had told him over and over again. He sighed. One day he would get himself a companion who didn't talk so much. He remembered that Tegan had never really stopped since the day she had accidentally stumbled into the Tardis while on her way to her first job as an airline stewardess.

Is this the story purposefully showing Tegan as the sort of person who would repeatedly tell the Doctor things he already knew, or is it accidentally undermining itself by lampshading the artificiality of the exposition required to get the plot going? I think the latter, but because it's Tegan I'm not entirely sure.

They see Tegan's friend Julie Harris, but Julie blanks Tegan and this is - apparently - a sure sign that all is not well.

Julie Harris walked like a robot, her legs and arms stiff, her eyes glass-like as if she had been hypnotised.

The Doctor decides to investigate, and almost immediately he sees the Master. This is the first time an antagonist from the TV series has appeared in the Doctor Who Books Project, but the reveal is handled very casually instead of making a big, dramatic moment out of it.

At the boarding point, a group of businessmen were filing through. In the centre of them, a darkly-set man looked around, a slight smile of satisfaction on his lips. He was in sight for only a second and then he had moved on, but the Doctor found himself running after him, only to be stopped once more at the gate.
"This flight!" barked the Doctor to the security guard. "Who chartered it?"
"This flight, sir?" answered the guard, checking his roster. "Why, the gentleman who just passed through. Rupert Masters of the Masters Corporation."

Oh come on! Mew! The Master isn't really trying these days, is he? Or has he decided to double-bluff UNIT by choosing a pseudonym that they'll think too obvious to check up on? The Master's plane takes off and the Doctor spends most of the third page of the story flying the Tardis to land on the plane while it is flying.

Basing his figures of course, speed and altitude only on a copy of the Master's flight plan that he had acquired from the airport, the Doctor intended to rematerialise the Tardis thousands of feet up in the air, aboard the speeding plane!

Of course!

The Doctor stepped out, followed by Tegan and Nyssa, looking shaken but otherwise unharmed.
"Welcome, Doctor," said the Master.

The story needs to get moving so the Master captures them straight away.

He puts them in chairs in front of "a large spinning disc" so that they will be hypno-eyesed like the rest of the passengers. To save time, he also explains his plan - he has captured lots of important mannys who are on the plane so that he can replace them with android duplicates.

He reveals that Julie Harris is an android, and he plans to make copies of the mannys that are as good as her so that they can take the place of the original mannys and then he will take over the world. Except...

Julie Harris walked like a robot, her legs and arms stiff, her eyes glass-like as if she had been hypnotised.

So about par for the course for one of the Master's plans, lol. The Master leaves them to get hypno-eyesed and they escape in the following paragraph. They follow the Master to the flight deck.

"It's too late, Doctor! Look!" the Master boasted, pointing out of the front windscreen.
Ahead of the plane was a nightmare. The Doctor knew immediately what it was. The Master had used his Tardis to rip a hole in the fabric of space, a rip which manifested itself in a bright red gash that spread down from the heavens! A gash through which the plane was about to disappear!

I think that is what is known as 'Freudian'. The writer may have had some issues about some things that I don't understand, being only a cat.

It is hard to tell who is playing the Master in this story from these pictures. To me it looks more like Roger Delgado's first Master than that of Anthony Ainley (who was playing the Master on TV at around the time this story would have been written), especially in the second and third pictures he is in. Compare:


The Doctor and the Master have a fight and the Master is knocked out, disposed of in as casual a manner as he arrived.

The Master proved to be the smallest of the Doctor's problems. Ahead of the plane, the gash came closer and closer, glowing like the entrance to hell and, try as they might, none of them could deviate the plane from its course!

That sentence contains quite enough deviating in my opinion. They rescue all the passengers using the Tardis, and then this silly story ends with some bafflingly pointless philosophising from the Doctor.

With Nyssa in her room, and Tegan searching the airport for the real Julie Harris and the rest of the crew, the Doctor had a rare chance to be alone.
He wondered what had happened to the Master in the gash. Would he survive? Would he return? With a nod of inevitability, the Doctor realised that the answer was definitely, very definitely, yes.

I wonder if this ending is the writer making a subtle dig at the repeated returns the Master makes from certain death during the Davo era?
With a nod of inevitability, Big Gay Longcat realised that the answer was definitely, very definitely, no.

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