Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Faceless Ones

A strangely-titled beast, ‘The Faceless Ones’ returns us to a story in six parts after another string of four part adventures. After a story that was a bit ‘weird’ in ‘The Macra Terror’, we find the Doctor and his companions returned to Earth in present day England for this one. It’s played pretty straight, and involves a fair bit of filming at Gatwick airport, a departure (pun unintended I swear) from any sort of location shoot Doctor Who had enjoyed previously.
Doctor and Jamie behind the tyres of a 'flying beastie'.
I was impressed that Episode One in fact starts off with the Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie running around the runway under planes. There’s a chilling and mysterious murder to kick start the saga, oh and the episode exists! However, four of the six episodes of ‘The Faceless Ones’ do not exist.
Polly, avec long hair. Compare please to her pic in 'The Macra Terror'
The strangest thing about this story is Polly’s hair. In episode one of the Macra Terror her hair is cut very short, but suddenly it’s back to full length in the opening episode of ‘The Faceless Ones’. The only guess I could make was that pre-filming for ‘The Faceless Ones’ took place before ‘The Macra Terror’, an entirely studio-bound story, began shooting. Anneke Wills had not had her hair cut yet, and then had it cut just before shooting started for ‘The Macra Terror’. Then they realised they had all this film shot with long-haired Anneke, and had to get her a wig for the studio scenes in ‘The Faceless Ones’. As conspiracy theories go, it’s not one of the most interesting, but it’s the best I could come up with.

This story features pens that freeze people, doppelgangers aplenty and the writing out of Ben and Polly. It is sad to see them go. Michael Craze had been told his contracted wouldn’t be renewed, and Anneke decided to leave with him. In all fairness, they had taken on Frazer Hines (the production team) back in ‘The Highlanders’ almost on a whim, and the three companions did appear to be one too many. It would have been nice if we’d had more adventures with Polly. As it stands for Michael Craze and Anneke Wills, only one story exists complete in the archives, and it’s their first – ‘The War Machines’.
They were apparently contracted for all six episodes plus two of the next story. It’s a bit odd then that they were written out of ‘The Evil of the Daleks’, as well as episodes four and five of ‘The Faceless Ones’. They just reappear at the hanger at the end of episode six to say goodbye! Bit unfair on both that they couldn’t have a decent send-off, but at least they go to say ‘goodbye’, which is more than poor Jackie Lane got with Dodo.
Pauline Collins guest stars are Samantha Briggs in this story, and they hoped she would agree to become the next companion. A lot of the action centres around her and Jamie, and that may be why Ben and Polly disappear for so long, however she decided not to sign a contract and only features in this story. Samantha and Jamie did make a nice pair doing their investigating, there was good chemistry between them and it would have been interesting to watch that relationship develop. Frazer Hines’ role as Jamie had been limited up to this point, and it’s the first time Jamie gets to hold a fair strand of the plotline.
Another notable cast member is Bernard Kay, back again for his third (I think) role in Doctor Who. This time he plays Police Inspector Crossland, who in the end becomes the director of the Chameleons, a faceless race of aliens wanting to replace young people and take over the Earth. He plays the two roles very differently and very well. And we have Donald Pickering, the perfect villain, cast in the role of Captain Blade.
 The plot, written by first-time Who writer Malcolm Hulke and David Ellis, struggles to hold up for six episodes – it was originally planned as a four part adventure. There is an awful lot of investigating going on through the middle of the story. The Doctor has trouble convincing anyone that he’s not a lunatic, people escape, get captured again, evidence disappears, classic stuff to pad things out.
Pauline Collins, Bernard Kay and Frazer Hines.
Donald Pickering
Speaking of Patrick Troughton, he is very strong in ‘The Faceless Ones’, and in this story the Doctor really takes the lead. He plays the straight and serious stuff – which he is getting more of now – brilliantly and his Doctor is warm and honest and basically fantastic! Troughton may have taken a little while to sort out what would be the main characteristics of his Doctor, but now that he has he has quickly overtaken Hartnell as ‘my favourite Doctor’. Well, he only had one Doctor to overtake as they’d only been one!
The final part and a bit sees some of the action taking place up in space. The cgi in the reconstruction may have been better than what was originally done – the satellite that the Chameleons are based apparently frustrated the director, Gerry Mill, a lot. A bit slow in places, poor treatment of Ben and Polly, but Troughton, Hines and Pauline Collins make this story quite good.


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