THE FACELESS ONES

Episode 1

The Faceless OnesSue: That isn’t something you see on Doctor Who every day – stock footage of a plane.
Neil: That isn’t stock footage, Sue.

As soon as our heroes step out of the TARDIS, they are faced with imminent danger. In fact, it happens so fast, Ben and Polly are running for their lives before they can utter a single word of dialogue.

Sue: What are they running from?
Me: I think that plane is supposed to be heading straight for them.
Sue: If they did this today, the wheels would miss the TARDIS by a few inches, instead of it looking like the plane is landing at a completely different airport. Great idea, though.

The TARDIS crew split up.

Sue: I like the contemporary Earth-based stories. They’re so much easier to deal with.
Me: Oh look, it’s Sherlock Holmes’ mum.
Sue: What?
Me: It’s Wanda Ventham. Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum.
Sue: He’d be an excellent Doctor Who.

On a brighter note, thanks to Toby Hadoke’s commentary for this episode in Running Through Corridors, I am primed for the incredible moment where an actor accidentally removes a door handle as he enters a room. Sue misses this completely but you can hardly blame her. Here, take a look:

Me: What a pro!

Jamie and the Doctor are held-up at Immigration and Customs.

Sue: Why doesn’t the Doctor wave his psychic paper at the official?
Me: He hasn’t got that yet.
Sue: That’s a shame. This episode could have been over by now.

Polly suddenly claims that she doesn’t remember her friends, but the episode ends on a far more traditional cliffhanger, as a misshapen creature is led towards a sterile medical centre.

Sue: That’s the worst case of eczema I’ve ever seen.

And then Sue notices something important.

The Faceless OnesSue: I’ve noticed something important.
Me: What’s that?
Sue: The credits.
Me: What about them?
Sue: The Doctor is called ‘Doctor Who’.
Me: Have you only just realised that?
Sue: Yes. And now I’m annoyed that we wasted so much time arguing about it when the answer was right there all the time. I can’t believe we didn’t check the credits in the first place!

 

Episode 2

Sue: Is the music different all of a sudden?
Me: Yes. Do you like it?
Sue: I prefer the Matt Smith version. And why did they wait until the second episode to use it? That’s a bit slapdash.

When Jamie and the Doctor can’t get through to Polly, they decide to make a run for it instead, at which point a gloriously pompous commandant calls the police.

Sue: They’re looking for a scruffy drunk and a bloke in a skirt. It shouldn’t be too hard to find them.

Sue’s description is then repeated almost verbatim in the actual dialogue (they leave out the drunk part).

Sue: Frazer Hines’ voice-over on this recon sounds like he’s narrating an episode of Come Fly With Me.

The image of Ben, Jamie and the Doctor hiding in a cramped photo booth raises a smile, and then Samantha Briggs turns up.

The Faceless OnesSue: It’s Shirley Valentine!
Me: Pauline Collins to her friends.
Sue: I love Pauline Collins. She was great in those Upstairs, Downstairs episodes that you made me watch last month. Her hat is terrible, though. It doesn’t even fit her! I bet the Doctor ends up wearing it, too.

Feeling frustrated, the Doctor threatens to blow up air traffic control with a fake bomb.

Sue: You can’t even make jokes about bombs in airports nowadays. You don’t even have to be in the airport when you make them. It’s a different world now.

The cliffhanger involves Ben finding Polly lying motionless in a box.

Sue: That’s a very disturbing image. So is Polly dead? Is she leaving the series? Will Shirley Valentine be the new companion? She’ll have to tone her Liverpudlian accent down if she does.

 

Episode 3

Me: Is the new theme music growing on you yet?
Sue: I like the tinkly-winkly bits in the background.
Me: It’s my second favourite version of the theme music.
Sue: Do you have any idea how sexy you sound when you talk like that?

Talking of sex…

The Faceless OnesSue: Shirley Valentine has a serious crush on Jamie. Get a room!
Me: It’s 1967. The sexual revolution and all that. Samantha is probably on the pill.
Sue: She’d better be. If she joins the crew, they’ll be at it like rabbits.

As the Doctor tries to reason with some very recalcitrant airport staff, Sue makes an interesting point.

Sue: Is this the first story with the Brigadier in it? Does he turn up soon?
Me: No, UNIT doesn’t exist yet.
Sue: Is this where they got the idea for UNIT from? The Doctor working with authority figures to thwart an alien invasion? And where’s Torchwood? They’ve been around since Victorian times, haven’t they? And I only remember that because John Barrowman mentioned it in that American thing you made me watch last night.
Me: Funnily enough, Pauline Collins set Torchwood up in…
Sue: Stop it, Neil. My head hurts.

And then a line of dialogue sends a chill down Sue’s spine.

Sue: Abducting children is a bit near the knuckle, isn’t it? You couldn’t get away with that today.
Me: It’s okay, they’re teenagers, not children. And Matt Smith’s first series vaporised a playground full of kids, remember?
Sue: Oh, that’s all right then.

Whenever we’re presented with moving images, Sue is keen to analyse the episode’s direction.

Sue: It’s pretty good. That’s a nice deep three-shot with Troughton eavesdropping on all the people who think he’s insane. I like the fact that no one takes him seriously, even though he’s clearly the smartest person in the room.

The cliffhanger goes down well too, as the odious Blade reveals to a bemused DI Crossland that the plane’s passengers have disappeared.

Sue: I’m enjoying this. I don’t see how they can string it out to six episodes, though.

 

Episode 4

Blade really is a piece of work.

The Faceless OnesSue: Could he be any more evil? He’s got a slimy David Cameron look about him.

Jamie, Samantha and the Doctor are left to die on a hanger floor as a laser beam slowly arcs towards them.

Sue: It’s turned into James Bond again. Why don’t the villains ever hang around to watch their victims die, just to be on the safe side?
Me: Maybe they’re squeamish.

When the Doctor starts fiddling with the Chameleons’ equipment, he does so with a bog-standard screwdriver.

Sue: Hasn’t the Doctor got a sonic screwdriver yet?
Me: Not yet.
Sue: He hasn’t got much, has he? No psychic paper, no sonic screwdriver, no UNIT, a faulty TARDIS, and bad hair. The poor sod.

Jamie snogs Samantha, but it’s just a pretext for stealing her plane ticket.

Sue: How will Jamie get on that plane without a passport?
Me: They get out of that plot-hole by blaming it on administrative incompetence. At least somebody is thinking this stuff through, no matter how bizarre it seems.
Sue: By the way, where are Ben and Polly? Have they gone on holiday as well?

We chuckle when Troughton dismisses the capabilities of the modern fighter jet that’s been sent to intercept the plane Jamie is travelling on. And we laugh even more when, instead of going straight down, the Doctor suggests the plane may have gone straight up.

Sue: Transformers. Aeroplanes in disguise.

 

Episode 5

The Faceless OnesThe plane’s passengers have been miniaturised and stored in a drawer.

Sue: Wow. That’s a striking image. Actually, it reminds me of your Doctor Who doll collection.
Me: For the last time – they aren’t dolls!
Sue: Okay, so let me get this straight: 50,000 teenagers are missing. How long has this been going on for? Wouldn’t anybody notice this? Or care? Not counting Shirley Valentine, of course.
Me: Perhaps it’s only been a fortnight and the aliens are going to bugger off before the shit hits the fan.
Sue: How can an explosion destroy your identity, anyway? And why are they storing that nurse in a cupboard? Why don’t they shrink her down and pop her in a pencil case?

Despite this anomaly, Sue is still impressed with the Chameleons’ crazy plan.

Sue: I suppose it makes sense for them to steal the bodies of 18-30 passengers. If they’d infiltrated Saga Holidays, they would have been completely screwed.

When DI Crossland turns out to be a Chameleon, Sue believes she’s spotted a recurring theme.

Sue: Doctor Who likes doing stories with doubles in them. It must save them from having to pay for a large a cast.

The Doctor blags his way onto the Chameleons’ satellite, but the Chameleon version of Jamie betrays him with a voice that’s had its Scottishness removed.

Sue: So you steal a person’s identity, but you don’t steal their voice. How does that work, exactly? Is this how they get around Shirley’s accent when she joins the programme full-time? Maybe they’ll interfere with her voice so she’ll end up talking all proper-like. It wouldn’t be the first time a companion has changed their accent.
Me: Dodo used to do it mid-sentence.
Sue: And where are Ben and Polly? This is turning into a very long holiday.

 

Episode 6

The Faceless OnesThe Chameleons want to steal the Doctor’s identity.

Sue: Who’d want the body of a scruffy drunk?

The Doctor tells Blade his double isn’t safe, which means he could lose his identity at the drop of a hat.

Sue: I like how he’s bluffing his way through this. It’s starting to feel like proper Doctor Who now.

As the Doctor sabotages the Chameleons’ processing machine, Sue remains fixated on his screwdriver.

Sue: So what kind of screwdriver does the Doctor use at this point? It is a Philips? A Pozidriv? A Frearson? What?
Me: I haven’t got the foggiest idea.
Sue: And you call yourself a fan?

The Doctor’s bluff becomes a genuine threat when the authorities discover some inert bodies hidden in the airport car park.

Sue: Why didn’t they shrink them? They could have taken the bodies to the satellite with them as hand luggage.
Me: They can only miniaturise people on the plane, I think.
Sue: You know, there’s a mad logic to this, if you can be bothered to search for it.

The Doctor continues to push Blade’s buttons, reminding him that while the Director is safe, he could cease to exist at any moment.

Sue: Oh, this is very Doctor Who now. He’s playing the bad guys off against themselves.

When Blade turns his weapon on the Director, something remarkable happens. The Doctor offers to open peaceful negotiations with the aliens.

Sue: Right, well he’s definitely the Doctor now. He didn’t just blow them up, and he didn’t watch somebody else blow them up, either. He showed humanity and forgiveness. And that’s what the Doctor is all about.
Me: Is this the point where you feel like you’re watching ‘real’ Doctor Who?
Sue: Yes. Yes, I think it is.

Sam and Jamie enjoy a farewell snog.

Sue: Hang on a minute. Shirley isn’t going with them?
Me: They offered to take her on as a companion, but she turned them down.
Sue: I missed that bit. Rewind it.
Me: No, I mean the producers asked her to stay on as a companion, but she refused.
Sue: Surely you can’t be serious.
Me: I am serious. And stop calling her Shirley!
Sue: What a shame. She’d have been great. So Ben and Polly are back instead, then.

Ben and Polly suddenly realise they’ve arrived on Earth the same day they left it back in The War Machines.

Sue: As if! I’m not having that. That’s poor scriptwriting. It’s too much of a coincidence.

When the Doctor bids farewell to Ben, he tells him to become an admiral. When he bids farewell to Polly, he tells her to look after Ben.

Sue: It’s as if a totally different writer has stepped in at this point, because the script has gone from very good to very annoying. I’m surprised the Doctor didn’t tell Polly to get married and have lots of babies.
Me: Will you miss Ben and Polly?
Sue: Not really. I got by without them for three episodes, so why grieve over them now?

 

The Score

Sue: I really enjoyed that. The plot was a bit convoluted – it could have been a lot shorter – but it was very interesting. And I finally feel like I’m watching proper Doctor Who.

8/10

Sue: I’m tempted to give it a 9.
Me: You can give it whatever you like.
Sue: Oh, sod it then:

9/10

 

2

Comments

  1. GR19  April 10, 2012

    Benedict Cumberbatch would be an excellent doctor. Just saying

  2. DPC  April 14, 2013

    Love this story.

    Episodes 1 and 3 are highly atmospheric…

    The story’s denouement is a tad pedestrian (nuke war causes them to lose the identities and appearances), but the quality of the acting and atmosphere do make up for it.

    The audio and reconstructions are entertaining, but nothing can beat the surviving footage…

    9/10 for sure