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Film / Biggles: Adventures in Time

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Do you want to be a hero?
Biggles, re-released under the title Biggles: Adventures in Time, is a 1986 movie featuring the fictional flying ace Biggles. It stars Neil Dickson as Biggles and Alex Hyde-White as Jim Ferguson, a character created for the movie, with Peter Cushing appearing in his final feature film role as Biggles' commanding officer, Commodore Raymond.

Inspired by the recent success of Back to the Future, and attempting to provide a hook for the American market, the film has a time travel plot in which Jim Ferguson, an inhabitant of present-day New York, is transported back to World War I and helps Biggles defeat a German superweapon.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Agent Mulder: Averted. Debbie initially claims to believe Jim's story about travelling through time to World War One, only to immediately go back on this claim a minute later and turn into:
  • Agent Scully: After actually being sent back to 1917 with Jim, Debbie keeps trying to find ways to convince herself that what she's experiencing isn't real and that there's a rational, logical explanation, despite evidence to the contrary literally being all around her. She even demands that a German soldier call the US Embassy at one point.
  • And the Adventure Continues: At the end of the film, Jim is once again sent back in time (during his own wedding no less) to save Biggles and his team before they are eaten by cannibals in New Guinea. The film ends as they make their escape from the cave they're in with the cannibals in hot pursuit, with Jim asking Biggles where they're going.
  • Artistic License – History: The Germans didn't build a enormous sonic weapon, which got destroyed by a police helicopter. Of course, Some of the things they DID do makes something like this seem positively sane in comparison.
    • The MP28/II appears in 1917, apparently used as a production stand in for the MP18. However, this would still not make any sense, as the gun didn't enter production until 1918, a year after when the WWI sections of the film take place.
  • A-Team Firing: Subverted. Toward the end of the film, Hauptmann von Stalhein makes a pass at the protagonists in his plane, and opens up with machine gun fire with everyone taking cover on the ground. After he passes over, everyone stands up and it seems that, despite him peppering the entire area with gunfire, he somehow missed all of his shots. Only he didn't; Biggles' lover Marie was actually hit and seriously injured. She survives however.
  • Badass Boast: As Jim protests Biggles getting in the pilot seat of a Metropolitan Police Bell Jetranger helicopter:
    Biggles: If you can fly a Sopwith Camel, you can fly anything.
  • Butt-Monkey: Jim Ferguson. The time hole seems to have some kind of sick pleasure with mistiming his trips to cause the maximum amount of trouble for him.
  • Can't Take Anything with You: Averted. Anything that Jim is holding when the time portal sends him back to 1917 is taken with him. This includes a towel, a razor, his fiancée and a Police Helicopter.
    • It also works both ways, as one time Jim travels back to 1986 with Biggles' photograph and another firing a machine gun at the Germans, which doesn't help him when he arrives in the same spot he vanished from as he ends up accidentally firing it at the cops.
  • Captain Obvious: When Jim and Biggles take the police helicopter back to 1917 as they are flying over the thames, Jim announces to Biggles that they just went back in time. As if it wasn't obvious from how London had just disappeared and a French Battlefield was suddenly in its place.
  • Continuity Snarl: Making this film fit into the timeline of the books is pretty much impossible. In the books Biggles didn't meet Marie until a few weeks before the end of the war, and her betrayal and apparent death left him traumatised, drinking heavily, and possibly suicidal to the point where his commanding officer tried to have him posted back to Britain — definitely not in a state to carry out secret missions. Not to mention the fact that he didn't meet Bertie and Ginger until after the war. It's probably best to just assume that this is a completely different timeline.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Jim tries to be one of these at one point, spending the whole night attired in proper WWI-era fashion and carrying an Uzi, but the storm doesn't takes him that night and all he gets from it is scaring the living daylights out of a maid. When he goes to shower himself, that is when he is taken.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Debbie. While she doesn't appear to be unintelligent in any capacity, when she's sent back in time, she turns rather ditzy as she refuses to believe that yes, she has gone back to WWI, with proof of this fact being all around her. However, when the group are captured by Germans, she manages to create a much needed distraction when she maces a German officer in the face, kicks him to the floor and fires off his gun, which allows the others to overpower their captors before they can finish tying them up.
  • Fake in the Hole: Jim holds off a group of German troops by turning on his cordless razor and throwing it, yelling "GRENADE!"
  • Ghost Town: The protagonists eventually come across a deserted French town that looks as if it has been bombed to hell. It turns out to be the testing site for the German sound weapon, which after repeated tests has scorched the entire town into nothing but charred ruins.
  • Inconvenient Summons: The second time Jim is drawn back in time, he has just taken a shower and is clad in only a towel.
    • The summons, as well as the return trips, in general are mostly inconvenient for Jim, but NEVER Biggles.
  • Nice Guy: Biggles. Despite the unusual circumstances, he quickly befriends Jim after the latter saves his life, patiently explains what's going on, and gets along well with him and his fellow soldiers.
  • Oh, Crap!: A few moments of this throughout the film.
    • The Germans and the nuns share a collective one when Jim throws his electric razor to pretend it's a grenade. Everybody dives for cover.
    • Jim when he hears the telltale thunder that indicates he's about to be sent back again. He even says "aw shit" aloud.
    • Debbie when she comes face to face with a German soldier in the cave system.
    • Biggles and company have one when they realise they're about to be used as test subjects for the German superweapon, and then the Germans after they're overpowered and locked out of their own protective bunker.
    • Jim has a minor one when the time hole sends him back to 1986 whilst in the middle of firing at a squad of Germans, and doesn't immediately realise that he's now firing at London Police officers. When he finally does, he instantly drops the gun and books it.
    • von Stalhein has a major one when he sees the Metropolitan Police Helicopter flying over the battlefields of France. His reaction is justified as he has never seen anything like it before.
  • Our Time Travel Is Different: Time travel in this film is depicted as an unnatural lightning storm that sends a person either backward or forward in time whenever they are randomly struck by a bolt. Going somewhere requires getting hit by the lightning and takes a few moments, whilst going back appears instantaneous, and while many hours can be spent in another time, when the traveller returns home, they will appear where they vanished with only a few seconds having passed. For some reason, it also appears to only happen to select people in different time periods who are apparently connected somehow, and appropriately sends them to help out whenever one or the other is in trouble (or soon will be.) Throughout the film, Jim repeatedly finds himself being sent back to 1917, whilst Biggles travels to 1986 on one occasion to save Jim from the police.
  • Reluctant Hero: Jim, at first. He initially doesn't want anything to do with Biggles, Raymond or World War One, and wants the random time travelling to stop so that he can carry on with his normal life. He eventually warms up to Biggles and decides to help him stop the Germans from turning the tide of the war.
    Biggles: "You still with me Ferguson? What do you say?"
    Jim: "I say, let's kick some ass, old boy."
  • Secret Weapon: The Germans have developed a sound-based super weapon that is the main driving force of the plot. Raymond fears that it may be used by the Germans to win the war and change history. It appears to transmit high energy soundwaves that creates an affect similar to ionising radiation, and can destroy almost anything, from human bodies to artillery guns. Biggles and Jim manage to blow it up at the end of the film by using the speaker system mounted on the side of their helicopter to bounce the high frequency sound it creates right back at the transmitter dish, causing an overload that eventually destroys it.
  • Sequel Hook: Ends with Jim being zapped back in time again to aid Biggles out of another jam.
  • Temporal Mutability: Varies. Mostly is a case of You Already Changed the Past, but any item which could cause a major change to history as we see it is summarily and rapidly lost or destroyed with prejudice as soon as it's served its purpose.
  • Took a Third Option: After discovering Jim in his hotel room dressed as a nun and in possession of a firearm, Chuck calls the hotel switchboard and requests they call an ambulance for him, casually mentioning that Jim has a gun. Naturally, they call the police, and Chuck is almost arrested before they see Jim with a gun.
  • Universal Driver's License: Biggles, transported in time from World War I to the late twentieth century, is able to work out how to fly a helicopter after a few minutes experimentation. He even says, without apparent irony, "If you can fly a Sopwith Camel, you can fly anything!" The Camel was renowned for the remarkable torque of its rotary engine, to the point where you didn't make a 90 degree left turn; it was easier AND FASTER to go 270 degrees to the right. For Biggles, his first attempt to lift off in the helo would have been like trying to fly his Camel straight upwards. He'd have understood what was happening better than most.