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

4 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

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