C035 The Faceless Ones


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Aliens commit identity theft and wield foreign stamps in Ben and Polly’s final serial



Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor and his companions Polly, Ben and Jamie – aka “PB&J” – stay on Earth in this Doctor Who serial, more or less, as they arrive at Gatwick Airport in London, on the very same day that Ben and Polly left London at the end of (C027) The War Machines.
(Spoilers: This serial marks their final appearance as The Doctor’s companions.)

As they’re wont to do, they quickly stumble upon some alien misdeeds. Polly, in fact, immediately becomes witness to a murder – death by raygun, to be precise – and it appears an airline known as Chameleon Tours is up to some very shady stuff indeed.

Slowly but surely, the time travellers uncover an alien plot to kidnap thousands of youngsters, and a conspiracy involving postcards, foreign stamps and downright identity theft, and only The Doctor & Co can save the day!

Here is the introduction to the Loose Cannon Productions reconstruction referenced in this podcast episode, featuring an interview with Anneke Wills and tonnes of cool Whovian trivia:

Here's what we think

Ponken

@ponken

3.4

Here's what you think

5 Responses to “C035 The Faceless Ones”

  1. I sent this review in, but guess you still had some issues with the email system. I’m too lazy to revamp it so it is going to cover some stuff that you and Stephen also said in your reviews. Here goes:

    The Faceless Ones: a six episode serial that could have been done in four. Episodes 1 & 2 could easily be combined. Polly sees a murder, and the Doctor and Jaime investigate the missing body while everyone in the airport investigates them. Episodes 3 & 4 also could be combined with Sam (who I will call Pre-Victoria or Pre-V) and the Detective joining Doc and Jamie in investigating, and people start believing them. That James Bond slow moving laser left to kill them all while the bad guys are elsewhere that went on for a third of episode 4 felt like nothing but filler, but it could have been a little more interesting if we had more than one photo for the whole time. I liked seeing Jamie’s opinion on planes change from “beasties” to something he’d actually board to stop Pre-V from endangering herself. From the end of episode 4 through the end of the serial was paced much better. I really like the Doctor’s plans in episode 5, which were not much different from Jamie’s. He’ll get on board and investigate. Did you notice all the Voord-hiding Jaime did on the plane? I also loved the use of the trope in episode 6 where the villain won’t negotiate until he’s the one threatened. Captain Blake watches Jenkins die and says that his equipment could have gone wrong. But as soon as he hears “the next to be eliminated will be Captain Blake” his story changes. “Release him, I said release him.”

    As far as ratings go Pre-V is entertaining especially playing off of Jamie’s chivalry. Pauline Collins, who played her, was offered to stay on as a companion, but turned it down. Coincidental to the nickname I gave her in The Faceless Ones, Pauline Collins returns in Tooth & Claw as Queen Victoria. I like Sam better than I like Victoria, who is a return to the helpless woman trope. I think she would have been a little more entertaining, especially with the on screen kiss than they shared. The Chameleons were an interesting creature of the week and I see that they return in a 6th Doctor Audio, but it’ll be a while before we get there. I find them quite similar to the Zygons, but I just re-watched The Faceless Ones after this week’s conclusion of The Zygon Invasion and it might just be in my head. I wonder if the Zygons were invented as ‘better’ effects version of the Chameleons. I am sad to see BP go, but not sad enough that it affects my score. Enough rambling, I give The Faceless Ones a 3.3 out of 5

    Reply
    • Dude, thanks for sending in your mini-review! I’m sorry I didn’t read it on the air. You’re probably right – our email must still have been on the Fritz at the time.
      Awesome point about Jamie actually acclimatising to modernities, like airplanes, along the way. Actually quite brave of him to board one of the beasties! And, hold up, what?! The Chameleons reappear in a 6th Doctor audiobook?! That merits a future AudioWho review. Okidoki, thanks again, and cheers for listening. Rock!

      PS: Excellent usage of the term “Voord-hiding”, amigo! ;)

      Reply
  2. Stephen | @sgamer82

    This is the one that could never, ever be filmed today.

    While thinking about “The Faceless Ones”, I’ve come to notice something about my reviews. I think how much I employ what Ponken calls my “big heart” tends to be based on how I feel the companions are treated. I enjoyed the otherwise reviled “Celestial Toymaker” partly because the companions were front and center. On the flip side, I was not fond of the “War Machines” because how how Dodo was taken out of the show.

    This brings me to perhaps my single biggest sticking point in what is otherwise an all right episode. While “The Faceless Ones” does better in regards to Ben and Polly, it still ejects them halfway through the story only to make a token farewell appearance at the end. In this case, I remember reading it was due to their contracts expiring mid-serial. Annake Wills was actually offered to stay on but declined, so Polly left with Ben. At least they actually got to tell the Doctor goodbye in person and not have Samantha or Jamie deliver a farewell letter.

    As a result of all that, Jamie got a lot of screentime, which I enjoyed but will agree with Ponken in his comment from “The Macra Terror” that it was hamfisted in. I think this is less true of Macra Terror, but definitely true here. What we did see of him showed some of what I’d hoped for in a companion from the past, such as his remarking that 18th century Scotland is more civilized or having a small freak out at the sight of the planes.

    For the side characters, I think Samantha was originally intended to be a new companion, but the actress turned down the option. That’s too bad as I think she might’ve made a good TARDIS traveller. I’m not as familiar with Polly’s successor companion as I’d like (mostly due to a preference for her successor) but what I do remember hearing/seeing she doesn’t have the same feeling of agency as Polly or Sam did; but I could be remembering wrong and, either way, that’s a point for later reviews. Given previous episode complaints of just how easily people begin trusting the Doctor, I did like how the Commandant was won over gradually, not becoming a firm ally until incontrovertible proof that the Doctor was right appeared.

    For the Chameleons, I think they were a bit of a weak villain in some ways. For a race arrogant enough to call itself the most intelligent in the universe to a Time Lord’s face, they didn’t seem particularly smart. Unless I misunderstood the ending, their secret hiding place for originals that nobody would think of was a bunch of parked cars. Further, my favorite part of such arrogant foes is watching them be brought low and break down as they realize they weren’t as clever as they thought they were. The kind of comeuppance we got for enemies like Mavic Chen, the Toymaker, or most recently Professor Zaroff. I didn’t really get that feeling here, since the leaders were quickly dispatched and those left simply resigned themselves to the ultimate fate of finding a way to save themselves the Doctor won’t interfere with. I also don’t feel the episode did a good job of hiding who was and was not a fake, which would have amped up the suspense and paranoia nicely. In comparison to the last serial, there was always a looming sense that the Macra were a present threat, even if the true nature of that threat wasn’t immediately apparent.

    All that said, I did like the episode. It was suspenseful, if not as much as I’d prefer, and the Doctor, Jamie, and Sam made a good team as they worked out the mystery. I have the feeling I’m going to be in the minority here, but I have to give this story a 3.2. It’s a good story, but in my eyes marred by a poor exit for Ben and Polly and overall weak-feeling villains.

    On a final note, given recent events in New Who, does anyone think that the Chameleons were perhaps a precursor to the Zygons that would come in, I think, Tom Baker’s era?

    Reply
  3. Peter Zunitch

    I totally agree with the mass opinion, this would have really moved as a four parter. However I think there was an even bigger opportunity missed here. Keep it a six part story, and have {the equivelant of} 1.5-2 parts devoted to a sub plot or side story involving Ben and Polly. They could have been off investigating a lead that ultimately ends up at the first aid station for instance. They could have been used to further both characters of blade and the nurse, and then ended up at the end of episode two in real peril at the first aid station. That way the rest of the eps could have been the hunt for them as well as the brother of “almost zoey”, who we never see and thus don’t really care about. And when they return at the end of ep 6, they could have been saved rather than returned and their near-death experience (the closest one yet) would;d have been their impetus for leaving. This is what a book or audio version of the story should have done at least. Ah revisionist history, how we love ye.

    This brings up the only other criticism I have. The aliens were stiff. Okay so they lost their individuality, or identities or whatever. Great idea…except then you’re left with aliens that by default are (rightfully so) played with little personality. Indeed only the director and partially the air traffic controller ever show any real emotion, and that’s a little dull for the audience. This, the slow plot and the missed final adventure opportunity bog this story down quite a bit.

    OTOH, the story is blessed with characters like the commandant and “not zoey” (whom I liked, but am somewhat glad she didn’t become a companion, as she would have been just another in a string of modern day [for the time] people to jump on board. Zoey is from a different time and it;s a breath of fresh air). Other characters were well played as well.

    PT was splendid as well, though neither he nor Jamie have truly hit their stride yet in character or dialog.

    I liked the atmosphere, the locations, the story, and the characters, but in the end I just don’t think they were explored enough. It was a little bit of a misses opportunity.
    3.6

    Reply
  4. Paul Fauber @wordsmithpaul

    The TARDIS landed on a runway at London’s Gatwitck Airport, where the Doctor, Ben, Jamie, and Polly scattered, fleeing the police. Polly ducked into a Chameleon Tours hanger, where she saw Spencer kill Detective Inspector Gasgoyne because he, “found the postcards. Fleeing, she told the Doctor and Jamie about the murder and led them back to the crime scene. The Doctor discovered the dead man had been electrocuted and decided to report the murder to airport authorities. Polly, though, was kidnapped following him and Jamie to he terminal. They entered the airport with passengers from an incoming flight and reported to an incredulous customs official, who demanded passports neither could produce. He reported them to the airport Commandant, who agreed to accompany them to the hanger, from which the body had vanished. The Doctor and Jamie found burnt fibers and a fresh scorch mark respectively. The skeptical commandant was not impressed after the Doctor revealed he’d found an unused, Spanish postage stamp on the body. Captain Blade arrived and opened a mundane packing case for the Doctor and Jamie on the Commandant’s authority. Having had enough, the Commandant brought the Doctor and Jamie back to the terminal, intending to turn them over to the police. They, however, spotted a woman who resembled Polly, but she claimed her name was not Polly. Meanwhile, Captain Blade and Spencer helped an alien creature to the airport first aid post.

    The Doctor, Jamie, and the Commandant questioned the girl who looked like Polly. She had just arrived from Zurich with a passport as well as papers letting her work in England. Also, she English had learned from her governess. The exasperated Commandant let her go and told the Doctor and Jamie to wait while he spoke to the police about investigating them. They fled. Meanwhile, at the first aid post, Nurse Pinto and Blade transferred the identity of air traffic controller Meadows to the suffocating alien which had recently arrived. Once the impostor was fine tuned, fake Meadows went to work. In the newspaper, the Doctor had behind, he noticed an ad for cheap Chameleon Youth Tours and told Jamie how chameleons changed their appearance. Upon discovering the girl who looked like Polly running the Chameleon Tours kiosk, the Doctor learned she knew about the murder Polly had witnessed, which he hadn’t mentioned. When the male TARDIS trio reunited, the Doctor decided to see the Commandant again and sent his companions to investigate Chameleon Tours. At their kiosk, Jamie found fake Polly dealing with Samantha Briggs, who was trying to trace her brother. Brian Briggs had disappeared after sending his sister a postcard from Rome. Jamie told Sam he’d overheard her and had a friend who might help her. Inspector Crossland was investigating young people’s disappearances and agreed to talk to the Doctor about the dead body Polly had seen. He hadn’t meet Inspector Gasgoyne earlier as planned. The Commandant was arranging to have the Doctor arrested when the fugitive bluffed his way out of the area and fled to the closed Chameleon Tours kiosk, where he went into the office and found he could monitor Ben. Exploring the firm’s hangar, he found Polly entranced in a packing case before Spencer arrived and attacked with a device like a pen. Ben’s body went rigid. As Jamie and Sam saw chameleon passengers writing postcards to be sent from their destination, she realized Brian might have done likewise. Hurrying to help Ben, the Doctor found Spencer’s weapon and the entranced Meadows. A call for help drew him into a room where be became trapped as freezing gas was pumped in.

    The Doctor plugged the gas nozzles and covered the camera to attract Spencer. Attacking his attacker with the device he’d found, the Doctor fled to the kiosk where Sam and Jamie introduced him to Inspector Crossland, to whom they told their story. Sam persuaded Jamie to leave the closed kiosk and help her search the hangar, where they found prewritten postcards for passengers’ parents. The Doctor predicted the dubious Commandant would never believe Chameleon Tours was kidnapping young people en mass and the stories of his adventures wouldn’t be convincing. Nevertheless, he demonstrated the penlike weapon he’d found, asking Meadows to hold out a cup of tea, which froze; fell to the floor; and shattered. Meadows fled and plotted the Doctor’s murder with Spencer. Sam and Jamie brought the postcard’s they’d found to the Doctor, prompting Inspector Crossland to persuade the Commandant to give the trio twelve hours to poke around the airport. The Doctor began learning about Chameleon Tours operations before taking Sam and Jamie to search the office at their kiosk. Meadows returned to place a device on the Doctor’s back. At the hangar, the searchers found a hidden room containing equipment for creatures unused to Earth’s atmosphere and monitors for other parts of the airport, including the first aid post. On their way to investigate, Spencer attacked, using the device on the Doctor’s back, which Jamie removed. Crossland kept Blade and stewardess Ann occupied during the search and was invited aboard the plane, which took off. His hosts let him to watch all the passengers vanish.

    Sam and Jamie disarmed Spencer, who arrived with a gun, but he used a pen weapon to incapacitate them and the Doctor . Laying them in a row, he set up a laser to cut a across the floor and them before leaving. In the air, Blade reported he had “an original” and would soon arrive. At Gatwick Airport’t first aid post, Nurse Pinto transferred Jenkins to a raw steak chameleon. In the deathtrap, the captives moved enough to retrieve a mirror that reflected the beam and destroyed the laser, from Sam’s purse. Once they could move, the Doctor sent Sam to watch the Chameleon Tours kiosk. Jenkins’ double was acclimating to being Jenkins as the Doctor arrived at the first aid post with Jamie acting as a injured party. The Doctor explained his patient suffered from a rare, tropical disease and required rest. He suggested the boy rest in he x-ray room. Nurse Pinto objected, explaining a patient had an appointment for an x-ray. Back at air traffic control, the Doctor leaned Inspector Crossland was missing while the Commandant’s assistant, Jean, learned Chameleon Tours passengers never arrived at their destinations. The Commandant arranged to have the next Chameleon flight followed by the Royal Air Force. Jamie leaned Sam had bought a ticket to Rome on the next Chameleon flight and took her ticket while kissing her. To help the Doctor investigate the first aid post, Jean swooned to that Nurse Pinto was summoned to air traffic control. The Doctor explored the x-ray room, finding black and white arm bands he retrieved as a panel behind which the real Nurse Pinto was concealed slid aside and back into place. As the Chameleon flight boarded, Sam realized Jamie used her ticket. In flight, Captain Blade realized an extra passenger was aboard and a fighter was pursuing them. He attacked the fighter with a light beam and caused it to crash. Then, the Chameleon flight stood still on radar and the Commandant believed it was crashing, but the Doctor disagreed. The plane had, in fact, transformed into a rocket and ascended into space.

    Aboard an unseen satellite in geostationary orbit, Ann discussed the fighter’s destruction with Blade before Jamie followed her to a drawer-lined room where she stored the miniaturized passengers. On Earth, the Doctor learned the dead RAF pilot was electrocuted and questioned Meadows with the Commandant’s permission. Displaying an arm band from the first aid post and claiming airport personnel were being replaced, he predicted Meadows would have an arm band. Meadows fled, but was caught and his arm band was revealed. He said 50,000 miniaturized young people were aboard an orbiting satellite, but their originals were at Gatwick Airport. Alco, their arm band could harm to aliens, who had lost their identities in a disaster, if their originals were found. The Doctor rescued Sam from the medical center, where the aliens had a processing machine and Nurse Pinto’s original was hidden. When she was proven to be an alien. Nurse Pinto killed a policeman and attacked Meadows’s double, who helped find the original nurse. Her female duplicate was destroyed. Sam revealed the aliens had Jamie. In space, he was tied up until Inspector Crossland freed him, learning the boy had consumed nothing on the plane because he’d felt ill in flight and suspected the Doctor may have convinced the Commandant something odd was happening. Crossland revealed he was the aliens’ Director and the last flight to Earth was leaving to pick up the remaining Chameleions The Doctor found files of airport employees being impersonated and dissuaded the Commandant from having them arrested. He proposed taking Meadows’ duplicate to the satellite to bargain for the humans’ release. The Doctor needed Nurse Pinto, who agreed to help. They bluffed their way aboard the plane as the search for originals, upon which the Doctor’s plan hinged, began. As the flight concluded, a duplicate Jamie told Blade and Director Crossland about the Doctor. Blade proposed destroying them, but Crossland decided to transfer the Doctor to a Chameleon. The airline passengers were told space on the satellite had been reallocated before the Doctor and Nurse Pinto were surrounded.

    Blade said the Doctor had been allowed to come to the satellite because the Chameleons wanted him alive. On Earth, Meadows’ interrogation revealed nothing, but the Commandant held up flights and directed Gatwitck Airport personnel to search for the Chameleons’s victims. On the satellite, the Doctor saw Jamie, but realized he was a Chameleon double. While trying to bargain, he found out Jamie’s original was “in a safe place.” Director Crossland announced he would select a body for the Doctor, who began sowing discord, suggesting the selection would be special like the Director. His original was aboard the satellite. The Doctor asked Blade and Spencer where their originals were and told the Chameleons their originals on Earth had been found and would be destroyed one by one. He said he would not have come to the satellite otherwise. Blade asked Jamie to contact Gatwick Airport, where the Commandant played along with the Doctor’s bluff. Sam and the Jean, found a clue. The Doctor sabotaged a processing machine as he continued sowing dissent and the Director sent for another machine. Sam and Jean searched a parking lot as Meadows’ double, who fled custody, attacked. Defeating him, they found the originals and told the Chameleons, who ignored them until Jenkins’ double was destroyed. Blade and Spencer covered the Director, who agreed to talk to Gatwick Airport. The Commandant talked to the Doctor, who offered the Chameleons the chance to go on living if the humans were restored and released. He also said they would need a different solution to their problem. The Director and Jamie fled, but were shot down by Blade. Following negotiations, the Doctor made some suggestions to help solve the Chameleons’ problems before finding the original Inspector Crossland and his companions. As the Airport got back to normal and the Commandant fielded complaints, the Doctor asked about the TARDIS. Jamie and Sam kissed goodbye while Ben and Polly realized the month and year were July 1966, when their adventures aboard the TARDIS began. Both decided to stay behind. as the Doctor and Jamie returned the ship. The Doctor told his remaining companion it was gone.

    “The Faceless Ones” is a mystery within a broader science fiction story. The hook is a murder with impossible elements that draw viewers along as the killers are revealed to be alien Chameleons, who can steal human identities in order to survive. They believed their plans were beyond human understanding. The Doctor and his companions’ hilarious efforts to persuade the authorities, notably the harried Gatwick Airport Commandant played by Collin Gordon, of the truth proved the Chameleons’ may well have been right

    Gordon worked with lead actor Patrick Troughton as well as co-actor Frazier Hines to bring writers David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke’s script to life for viewers. Their story was originally envisioned for Willaim Hartnell’s Doctor and set in a department store, where the Chameleons body snatching involved mannequins. Before it was filmed, the setting, like the Doctor, was updated. The BBC budget and Gatwick Airport enabled location filming there. Other changes occurred as well as actors Michael Crase and Anneke Wills, who played Ben and Polly respectively, left the show two episodes before their contracts ended at the end of this serial. The character of Samantha Briggs might have joined the Doctor and Jamie as they hunted for the TARDIS in the next story, but actress Pauline Collins declined the opportunity to become a companion. Despite this setback, Producers Innes Lloyd and Peter Bryant went on with their plan to continue presenting a sequel to the William Hartnell epic “The Daleks Master Plan” as “The Evil of the Daleks” would be revealed.

    A new title sequence for DOCTOR WHO featuring Patrick Troughton’s face had been introduced in the previous serial “The Macra Terror” and a new arrangement of the show’s haunting, iconic theme music was first presented in “The Faceless Ones” second episode. The BBC archives hold only the first and third episodes of this story, which were included in the “Lost in Time” DVD release, but the BBC Radio collection released a soundtrack for the entire serial on CD with linking narration around the dialogue by Frazier Hines. Terrance Dicks also novelized the story for Target Books.

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