It’s another story set on ‘modern day’ (i.e. 1960s) Earth, and as luck would have it, it’s set on exactly the same day as the War Machines ended.
That’s a coincidence that must really piss off Ian & Barbara.
But I digress. It’s The Faceless Ones and sadly, it’s time to say goodbye to Ben & Polly and hello to the new companion, Samantha. Oh, she’s not actually staying on either?
Doctor Who – The Faceless Ones Review: What’s This One About?
Aliens are running a very dodgy package holiday company out of Gatwick Airport, Ben & Polly get written out almost as abruptly as poor old Dodo, Shirley Valentine is the companion that never was and the great Bernard Kaye proves he can’t do a Scottish accent.
And inexplicably, Polly’s hair is long again.
Thoughts – Polly’s Hair
Right, I’m dealing with this first, because as I said in the Macra Terror review, it’s always troubled me.
Polly’s hair. How? Why?
In the Macra Terror she has a haircut. The telesnaps prove it, as do the Australian censor clips. Wikipedia (which is not always the greatest source I’ll grant you) says that the haircut was deliberately written into the Macra Terror because she’d had one in real life, and thus wore hair extensions for the first few scenes.
I’ve done my research and – as you can see in the picture – she was in an episode of the Avengers in the same year and has the same short haircut in it as she did in the Macra Terror.
So why has she got long hair again in the Faceless Ones? It wasn’t filmed out of sequence – after all, she was written out in episode 2 and only brought back for a cameo in episode 6 to say goodbye along with Ben (meaning their exit was slight less ignominious than Dodo in the War Machines) – so it’s not like that is the reason.
It doesn’t make any sense. They’ve made the conscious decision to have Anneke Wills wear hair extensions.
So are we supposed to take it (and I’m sure writers of Past Doctor Adventures will) that months – nay years – have passed between the end of the Macra Terror and the beginning of this?
You might think this is a minor thing, and in fairness you’d be correct, but it has always troubled me. And when I say it troubles me, it just seems to trouble pretty much only me. Do a google search and all you’ll find is my Macra Terror review and one thread on the subject on some other forum.
The Story Itself
As a story, the Faceless Ones is alright, but not a classic. Much like the War Machines, it feels a little bit out of place being set on contemporary Earth. It’s a Pertwee story a few years too soon.
Once again there’s an Authority Figure who starts off not trusting the Doctor but who eventually becomes his own personal dogsbody. In this case it’s the Airport Commandant, played by Colin Gordon.
The problem with Gordon is the way he approaches the part. Compare him to the likes of Bernard Kaye and Donald Pickering in this story and you might see what I mean. While the other two actors play their roles straight, you get the feeling that Colin Gordon is acting as though he’s ‘playing up for the kids’. His portrayal is more at home in something like Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em. It’s not like he’s playing it out-right for laughs or anything, but the exaggerated expressions and the bluster is the polar opposite of the way Patrick Barr plays Hobson in the Moonbase.
At six episodes, this story is probably too long and it suffers from repetition. Spencer tries and fails to kill the Doctor and/or one of his companions a good 4 or 5 times, while the Doctor and Meadows have the same ‘I know you’re really a Chameleon’ confrontation more than once as well.
It also moves quite slowly. The cliffhanger to episode 3 is the realisation that the aeroplanes that Chameleon Tours use have alien technology on board (which we could have guessed since it was made abundantly clear in episode 1 that they were aliens), episode 4 finishes with the bombshell that the planes are actually rockets that fly to a spaceship just outside Earth’s atmosphere, and episode 5 ends with the Doctor getting there.
So what actually happens in the 50 minutes of TV between that? Not much. If I was watching at the time I wouldn’t be too happy at the pace at which the story was unfolding.
Episode 6 is reminiscent of an episode of The Goodies as well. Storytelling be-damned, let’s just have a montage of people running around outside to fill up the 25 minutes.
So yeah, overall six episodes is too long. It could have been far better if it was only a four parter.
The Companions and The Companion That Never Was
So Ben & Polly are off. You’ll have gathered over the past few reviews that I thought Polly was one of the better female companions. Up until the previous story she played a major part in the plots of all the Second Doctor stories so far. It’s a shame to see her go, as she’s certainly a more well rounded character than Victoria and she’s less annoying than Zoe.
As for Ben? His character was most likely devised to do all the physical stuff for William Hartnell’s Doctor. Once Hartnell was replaced with the younger Patrick Troughton his character became limited, and the writing was on the wall for him once Jamie turned up. Three male leads is one too many for Doctor Who, and he was the worst of the three.
The two of them really came as a pair so it was only right for them to go together. Could Jamie & Polly have worked alone as companions with the Doctor? Probably not. The dynamic of the Doctor, Jamie & Zoe/Victoria worked with Jamie as the senior companion, always looking
out for the younger girl. With Jamie being younger (both as a character and in real life) than Polly, it wouldn’t have worked anywhere near as well.
So yes, it’s for the best that they both left. And while it’s a little bit of a slap in their faces to write them out in episode 2 of a six part story, it does wonders for Jamie’s character, because for the first time he’s given something to do. His character finally comes to the fore and if you watch Episode 3 (which still survives along with Episode 1) you’ll notice that he manages to do more in that episode than he did in the previous 16 episodes combined.
And what about Pauline Collins? She was approached to be the next companion and the Faceless Ones was clearly written with a mind to her staying on. But she turned it down.
All I can say is….
Thank God For That.
- It’s mainly because Episode 3 is the one I reference most for this story, but I’ve always been of the opinion that the Doctor looks…erm…unclean in this story.
- I didn’t see the need for Jamie or Crossland to lose their Scottish accents once they became Chameleons. I suppose though that if Doctor Who has taught us and will continue to teach us one thing it’s that BBC English is the Default Accent of the Entire Universe
- From the file marked ‘Oh, I’ve seen her before’, the Commandant’s assistant – Jean Rock – is played by Wanda Ventham, aka The Sitcom Mother in Law. You’ll have seen her playing a mother in law in shows like Coupling, Only Fools & Horses and Men Behaving Badly
- She would also turn up – alongside co-star Donald Pickering no less – in Time & The Rani. But as all Doctor Who fans know, you mustn’t speak about that story for it is the worst one ever. Ever.
- Captain Blade and Spencer have some cheek. They spend the first 5 and a half episodes trying to kill the Doctor and then try and chum up to him when they realise he’s their only hope. Chancing bastards.
- While the episodes that have survived are good enough, I would have liked to see how effectively they did the plane-turning-into-a-rocket effect later on in the story. I’d also liked to have seen the scene with Ben, Jamie & The Doctor in the photo booth. But you can’t have it all, I suppose.
Another One From The File Marked: Things You Don’t Do If You Want to Keep an Elaborate Deception Going…
Chameleon Tours have a system where they are stealing young people, miniaturising them and keeping them on board their space ship.
Already that seems like a system designed to fail. So every time they run a flight, they never return ANY of their passengers. None of them ever get home. And yet the only people investigating this are a couple of Detectives and Samantha Briggs.
Then they also have a very odd set-up where the bodies of everyone they take the form of are kept in the back of cars left in the airport car-park.
And the only things that stops them from dying are white armbands put on the bodies in the car-park. If the armbands are taken off, then those Chameleons cease to exist. Oh, and even when they leave Earth for the last time, they aren’t even bothering to take those bodies with them. They are just leaving them there and hoping nobody ever finds them.
So they have an immensely risky – and stupid – operation going and it’s a wonder that nobody has asked any questions of them or rumbled the whole thing. They are either very fortunate or the British authorities are useless.
It’s fair to say that if you’re in charge of Chameleon Tours the one thing you shouldn’t do at this point is push your luck.
So what would you do if someone (Polly) has seen you killing a Detective and has brought her friends back to your hanger to investigate.
- Capture her and kill her?
- Capture her, replace her with a Chameleon version of herself and have her reintegrate back with the Doctor, Jamie and Ben and try and get them off Chameleon Tours’ scent?
- Capture her, replace her with a Chameleon but have that Chameleon pretend to be someone completely different and indeed of a different nationality, despite wearing exactly the same clothes and having the same English accent. And then have her work front of house at the Chameleon Tours desk where her inquisitive friends – who she pretends not to know – will ask her questions?
If you think option three is the least likely to attract attention to the running of your company, then welcome to Chameleon Tours.
Doctor Who – The Faceless Ones Review: Final Thoughts
While this has a better story than the Macra Terror, it doesn’t have the coolness factor of wacky luvvie crabs. But it is an interesting watch just for its incongruousness.
As it stands though, it’s one of the weaker Second Doctor stories.