In the near future, the UK has become so polluted that people have to wear masks when they go outside. (Save your COVID-19 jokes, the villain here is pollution not a pandemic.) A mysterious corporation called Airzone claims that they have a solution but some are skeptical. Journalist Al Dunbar (Peter Davison) and environmentalist Anthony Stanwick (Sylvester McCoy) are determined to investigate on their own and discover what’s actually going on at Airzone. Unfortunately, Al discovers a bit too much and is murdered by the corporation.
However, Al is not prepared to let something like death get in the way of exposing Airzone. His ghost appears to both his mentor, Prof. Oliver Threthaway (Jon Pertwee), and to local weatherman Arnie Davis (Colin Baker). Freaked out by Al’s ghost, Arnie and his girlfriend, Ellie Brown (Nicola Bryant), launch their own investigation into the corporation and they discover that Airzone’s solution comes at a terrible cost.
This low-budget, straight-to-video production is best-known for featuring four actors who starred as the Doctor during the original run of Doctor Who. In fact, when this film was first made, it featured every living Doctor with the exception of Tom Baker. (Jon Pertwee would die just three years after the film’s release.) Nicola Bryant, who played Colin Baker’s companion on Doctor Who, plays his girlfriend here while Michael Wisher, who played Davros, shows up as a duplicitous politician. Even Alan Cumming, who was frequently mentioned as a possible Doctor should the series ever be renewed, has a small role. If you’re a fan of Doctor Who, you almost have to watch this movie for the cast along.
But is the movie itself any good? The special effects are cheap, the story is full of plot holes, and there’s a lot of dodgy acting from the supporting cast. The movie never explains why Al Dunbar’s spirit appears to Arnie Davis instead of someone who could actually do something to stop Airzone. Jon Pertwee’s role was reportedly added at the last moment and his appearances feel random. In fact, the film is flawed in much the same way that Doctor Who was often flawed. And like Doctor Who, it’s often fun despite those flaws. It’s fast-paced and, despite its weighty environmental theme, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
All of the former Doctors acquit themselves well in their roles. Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy, who were probably the best actors among the original Doctors, are the cast stand-outs but Colin Baker is far more sympathetic and likable here than he ever was on Doctor Who. I’ve always felt that Colin Baker had the potential to be a good Doctor but he was sabotaged by some of the worst scripts and production decisions in the history of the series and The Airzone Solution? shows what Baker could have done with the role if he’d been given the opportunity. Jon Pertwee was obviously not in good health when he appeared in The Airzone Solution? but he still hams it up with an entertaining gusto.
The Airzone Solution? will be best appreciated by fans of the original Doctor Who. It’s not great but it’s worth it just to see everyone gathered together.