Biggles: Adventures in Time (1986) — Time twins vs. World War I

“Come on, Debbie, it’s not that bad. It’s only World War I.”

Justin’s rating: All zany on the western front

Justin’s review: If you think you’ve had an odd day, you’ve got nothing on ’80s ad executive Jim Ferguson (Alex Hyde-White). First, he’s visited by the ghost of Grand Moff Tarken (Peter Cushing in his last screen role) asking him if it’s happened “yet.” Then lightning yanks him back to 1917 and World War I. After saving a pilot named Biggles (Neil Dickson), Jim comes to the understanding that the two of them are “time twins,” allowing the bridge across the decades to form.

As Jim randomly keeps popping back in time while trying to hold together his professional and private life, he comes to realize that he may be instrumental to saving the proper course of events. It turns out that the Germans developed a special sonic weapon that could change the war, and if Jim and Biggles don’t take it out, then Jim’s entire world may change for the worse.

There’s a whole lot of weirdness seeping into the cracks of this movie, with the ’80s crashing into the teens without batting an eye. I had to laugh when a thrilling (honestly!) biplane attack was underscored by an ’80s synth song belting out “Do you wanna be a HERO! HERO!”

Honestly, Jim takes to time traveling — into a war zone, no less! — much better than I would, especially with how random the time jumps end up being. There’s a lot of Quantum Leap-style shenanigans here, such as Jim sleeping in WWI uniforms in case the time lightning got him at night (naturally, it gets him while he’s naked and shaving the next day). Or when Jim appears back in the present wearing a nun’s habit (trust him, there’s an explanation). Or his girlfriend accidentally traveling with him to the trenches while wearing a bright white fur coat. Or Biggles coming forward in time to the wild ’80s.

I liked how Biggles accepted Jim as a friend and ally right from the get-go, giving their ongoing adventures a true sense of comradeship. Biggles himself may come off as Jim Kirk larger-than-life, but not ridiculously so.

It’s a decent enough time traveling tale with above-average acting and below-average special effects. But the strangest part is the fact that it’s loosely based on a very old book series by W.E. Johns chronicling the adventures of dashing fighter pilot Biggles. I don’t know who thought that a U.K. series that first published in 1932 would appeal to anyone in U.S. 1986, so I’m guessing this had to do more with “we had the rights sitting around and threw seven million at it” than anything else. Allegedly, this film’s existence owes a measure of thanks to the pulp adventure resurgence that Indiana Jones helped popularize.

But Biggles was an absolute bomb on release. The reworking of this British pop culture staple to put an American protagonist at the forefront absolutely infuriated U.K. crowds. And nobody in America wanted to see it, either. C’mon… that title isn’t helping anyone. Biggles is a cat name, not the must-see movie event of the summer.

With a snappy 90-minute runtime and a whole lot of time jumping to keep the plot moving, I was really pleased how entertained I ended up being with this film. The comedic-adventure-war tone is kept light, glossing over the true horrors of war or late ’80s capitalism. Not exactly a “must see,” but at least a “you wouldn’t hate yourself if you did see.”


  • Gotta love the cheesy lightning effects and that “HERO HERO HERO” theme song!
  • When Grand Moff Tarkin visits your front door, you know it’s going to be a weird day
  • “I’m just going to… go.”
  • Advertisers using sexy women? What a breakthrough!
  • The biplane flight camera is pretty thrilling
  • The evil German iron mask is pretty Darth Vaderish
  • “Time orphan” sounds cool
  • Nuns are a little taken aback when naked guys appear in their convents
  • Hello Miss Double Agent Exposition Girlfriend!
  • Boy, I can’t wait to buy my Action Nun Jim doll!
  • The trench scene was pretty intense
  • Poor dummies, they don’t deserve the fate of a firing squad
  • “In that case, I also have my mace.” Go Debbie!
  • The special weapon test is pretty freaky – especially when Debbie puts her hand through that guy’s face
  • Jim showing up in the present while he’s shooting a machine gun
  • Biggles comes to the ’80s!
  • Biggles freaking out when he sees the punks
  • This soundtrack is doing nobody any favors
  • If you can fly a plane you can fly a helicopter… even if you’ve never seen one before?
  • Helicopter in WWI!
  • “I say, would you chaps consider surrendering?”
  • Dueling grenades
  • Fat dudes keep jelly beans in their pockets
  • That end scene — great cliffhanger!

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