‘The Faceless Ones’ (TV)

‘THE FACELESS ONES’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

An Adventure at Gatwick Airport with the Doctor, Jamie, Polly and Ben

As of March 2020, I’ve been close to Gatwick Airport at ‘The Capitol II’ convention!

It’s amazing how much time has passed. The first time I reviewed ‘The Faceless Ones’ was via its TV soundtrack on audio CD as well as the surviving ‘Episodes 1 and 3’ of the story. Now we have ‘The Faceless Ones’ complete with animation episodes on 3-disc DVD/Blu-rays sets. Isn’t that so exciting?

I pre-ordered ‘The Faceless Ones’ on Blu-ray when it was announced back in June 2019. It’s only fair that I update my review with new thoughts on what I make of the animation episodes. I enjoyed ‘The Faceless Ones’ in its complete form through its surviving episodes and its black-and-white animation.

I was puzzled once I heard ‘The Faceless Ones’ was going to be all animated on DVD/Blu-ray. I wondered why. The animation team just needed to animate ‘Episodes 2, 4, 5 and 6’ of the story as ‘Episodes 1 and 3’ were still in existence. But then they were doing a colour version of the story too.

Unlike ‘The Macra Terror’ DVD/Blu-ray release however, emphasis is placed on the black-and-white version of the story rather than the colour version, since the black-and-white version is on Disc 1 and the colour version is on Disc 2. There is also a telesnap reconstruction version of the story on Disc 3.

On Disc 1, there is also the option given to you to either watch all of the six ‘Faceless Ones’ episodes as animation or to watch all of the six ‘Faceless Ones’ episodes as animation with the original ‘Episodes 1 and 3’ intact. I chose the latter when I watched the complete ‘Faceless Ones’ on Blu-ray.

Anyway, enough of that! Let’s talk about the story. ‘The Faceless Ones’ is a thrilling and gripping six-part adventure of the classic ‘Doctor Who’ TV series. It stars Patrick Troughton as the Doctor with Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon, Anneke Wills as Polly Wright and Michael Craze as Ben Jackson. 🙂

Sadly, despite the story now complete in animation, ‘The Faceless Ones’ is still another one of the missing stories from the black-and-white days of the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series from the 1960s. I’m pleased that at least two episodes of the TV story remain intact so that we know what it looks like. 🙂

This story is by David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke. The latter would make his first contribution to the TV series. I found this story particularly gripping, especially for its earthbound setting at Gatwick Airport in London, 1966. There is a lot of mystery and tension going on when bad things occur at the airport.

When I first saw ‘Episodes 1 and 3’ of the story, it was on the ‘Lost in Time’ DVD collection. There was also a piece of surviving footage of ‘Episode 2’ from the story found on the ‘Lost in Time’ DVD, featuring the Doctor questioning Polly’s good English. A piece of ‘Episode 4’ has been found lately. 🙂

Back in August 2017 when I originally reviewed this story, I heard the TV soundtrack on audio CD with linking narration by Frazer Hines. I enjoyed Frazer’s engaging narration throughout the story. It helped me with being gripped into the story, as was the case for many missing TV tales on audio CD.

‘The Faceless Ones’ has the TARDIS land on an airport runway at Gatwick Airport in 1966. The Doctor and his friends Jamie, Polly and Ben step out and soon run for their lives as a plane flies overhead. Pretty soon, they’re caught in a tangle of trouble as Polly witnesses a murder taking place at a hanger.

It turns out that all is not what it seems. ‘Chameleon Tours’ especially have mysterious employees who are abducting young people after enticing them on their package holidays to foreign shores. Will the Doctor and his friends be able to unveil the truth and stop the menace of the Chameleons?!

From watching the two surviving episodes as well as listening to the TV soundtrack on audio CD, I had the impression that this story was setting up what was to come with earthbound stories in the 1970s of ‘Doctor Who’. This had been done before in ‘The War Machines’, more on this subject later.

After seeing the story in its complete form on Blu-ray with the original ‘Episodes 1 and 3’ and the animation episodes, I found the story even more gripping especially with its earthbound setting. I could tell my Mum was enjoying this tale, despite most of it being animation episodes throughout. 🙂

In the story, it doesn’t seem like there’s a potential alien menace for the Doctor and his friends to deal with. The people at ‘Chameleon Tours’ seem human. But it turns out the ‘human’ appearance of these Chameleon employees are merely a disguise. Underneath, there are hideous aliens at work! 😮

I like the Gatwick Airport setting for the story. It delivers a familiar atmosphere and it was intriguing how the setting was used to tell an action-packed story and set up how the alien menace were dealing with their domination of the Earth. It enables the story to be tenser and thrilling than before.

Patrick Troughton excels in his role as the Doctor in this adventure. I really like how Patrick has balanced his performance of the Doctor with comedic and serious edges. He becomes concerned when someone’s been murdered in an airport hanger and is frustrated by the airport’s bureaucracy.

Pretty soon, the Doctor is given all the help he can get by the airport staff in order to solve the mystery at Gatwick Airport. I did like those moments when he outwitted airport staff that aren’t what they seem. He soon ends up on the Chameleons’ Space Satellite where the plans are revealed.

Frazer Hines is great as Jamie in this ‘Doctor Who’ story! I feel that Jamie has been given a larger bite of the cherry as the companion for this story. With Ben and Polly absent for most of the tale, Jamie is able to have more scenes with the Doctor and also help out in solving the Gatwick Airport mystery. 🙂

I enjoyed Jamie’s relationship with Sam Briggs as well as him taking her ticket to get aboard one of the ‘Chameleon Tours’ planes to reach the Space Satellite. Jamie soon gets captured, but it allows Frazer Hines to play a duplicate ‘Jamie’ created by the Chameleons and…without a Scottish accent!!!

In this story, Pauline Collins guest stars as Samantha Briggs, a young plucky girl from Liverpool who comes to Gatwick Airport in search of her brother. I was surprised to see Pauline Collins in this tale, especially since I didn’t recognise who she was when I first saw her. She looks so young in this story!

Pauline Collins would later Queen Victoria in the ‘Doctor Who’ episode ‘Tooth and Claw’ with David Tennant. I enjoyed Pauline’s performance as Sam Briggs, especially since she seemed to have a romantic thing with Jamie in this. I’m sure Frazer Hines enjoyed those scenes with Pauline Collins! 😀

Behind-the-scenes, it transpires that Pauline Collins was offered the chance to continue playing Sam Briggs as a companion in the TV series. WOW! It would have been fun to see Sam having adventures with the Doctor and Jamie in the TARDIS. Sadly however, Pauline Collins declined the very kind offer.

Donald Pickering guest stars as the mysterious Captain Blade of ‘Chameleon Tours’ in the story. Donald Pickering has appeared in ‘Doctor Who’ before in ‘The Keys of Marinus’ and would later appear in ‘Time and the Rani’. I did enjoy that seriousness and menace he brought to Captain Blade.

There’s also Colin Gordon as the Commandant of Gatwick Airport in the story. The Commandant is a rather sceptical person who disbelieves the Doctor’s claims that someone has been murdered in one of the airport hangers. Gradually and reluctantly, he helps the Doctor with solving this mystery here.

There’s also Wanda Ventham as Jean Rock, the Commandant’s assistant at Gatwick Airport. Wanda would later appear in two more ‘Doctor Who’ stories including ‘Image of the Fendahl’ and ‘Time and the Rani’. Jean Rock is a pleasant person who helps the Doctor, especially when she feigns illness. 😀

There’s also Bernard Kay as Inspector Crossland, who comes to Gatwick Airport to investigate and find out what’s happened to his colleague – Inspector Gascoigne. Bernard Kay has appeared in other ‘Doctor Who’ TV stories, including ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’, ‘The Crusade’ and ‘Colony In Space’.

The story’s guest cast also includes George Selway as Meadows; Gilly Fraser as Ann Davidson; Victor Winding as Spencer and Madalena Nicol as Nurse Pinto. Many of these characters aren’t what they seem. They happen to be Chameleons in human form dealing with whoever threatens their plans. 😐

This leads me onto talking about Anneke Wills as Polly and Michael Craze as Ben. Oh dear! Polly and Ben! This happens to be their last story together in the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series. And their exit from the TV show is very shabbily handled. They don’t appear much in the story as they’re mostly absent.

Ben and Polly appear only in the first two episodes and make their final appearance in the sixth episode at the end. Polly unfortunately gets captured by Blade and Spencer in the first episode after witnessing a murder. Ben also gets captured once he’s found Polly in one of the crates in ‘Episode 2’.

Anneke Wills however does get to play a Chameleon version of Polly when she appears at the end of ‘Episode 1’. This is when the fake Polly doesn’t recognise the Doctor and Jamie and claims not to know them. This was intriguing and tense once the Polly we know and love seems to act strangely. 😮

I’m unhappy with how Polly and Ben were written out as there wasn’t much investment in their exit from the TV series in the story’s last episode since they were mostly absent from it. Anneke Wills and Michael Craze weren’t happy with their exit either as they just said goodbye to the Doctor and Jamie.

It’s interesting to note that the day Polly and Ben leave the TARDIS happens to be on the same day as when they first entered the TARDIS in ‘The War Machines’ on the 20th of July 1966. Polly and Ben can now return home to have normal lives, without having to seem like they’ve been away on any adventures. 🙂

It also seems the 20th of July 1966 was a busy day for the Doctor in relative terms. Not only did he have to deal with WOTAN and the War Machines as well as the Chameleons at Gatwick Airport, but he and Jamie would soon deal with the Daleks, taking place in the next story called ‘The Evil of the Daleks’.

The DVD/Blu-ray special features are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s the black and white version of the story. This includes a ‘Play All’ option where you can watch all six animated episodes of the story and there’s a ‘Play All’ option where you can watch the story with the original ‘Episodes 1 and 3’ along with the animated ‘Episodes 2, 4, 5 and 6’. There’s also a DVD/Blu-ray audio commentary moderated by Toby Hadoke, with Anneke Wills, Frazer Hines, Chris Tranchell (who played Jenkins in the story) and studio vision mixer Clive Doig for the original ‘Episodes 1 and 3’ as well as the animated ‘Episode 4’; an interview with the late actor Bernard Kay conducted by Toby Hadoke for the animated ‘Episode 5’; and with original production designer Geoffrey Kirkland with Toby Hadoke, later joined by Anneke Wills for Polly and Ben’s departure from the TV series for the animated ‘Episode 6’.

On Disc 2, there’s the colour version of the story. This also has the DVD/Blu-ray commentaries for ‘Episodes 4, 5 and 6’ of the colour version, which are duplicated from the black-and-white version of the story from Disc 1.

On Disc 3, there’s the episode reconstruction version of the story, featuring telesnaps for ‘Episodes 2, 4, 5 and 6’ along with the original ‘Episodes 1 and 3’. This has linking narration provided by Frazer Hines from the TV soundtrack audio CD for ‘Episodes 2, 4, 5 and 6’ of the story with option subtitles. That confused me as I thought it was going to be an info-text commentary option for ‘Episodes 2, 4, 5 and 6’ when in fact it wasn’t and it was subtitles for Frazer Hines’ narration of those episodes. Disappointing! There’s also the ‘Face to Face with The Faceless Ones’ making-of documentary which is about the animation version of the story rather than the actual making of the story back in 1967, which was equally disappointing. There’s also stock footage from the original production of the story; surviving film fragments and a trailer for the next ‘Doctor Who’ animation release on DVD/Blu-ray – ‘Fury From The Deep’ with Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling. There are also PDFs for the camera scripts of the story.

‘The Faceless Ones’ has been enjoyable and a very gripping adventure in the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series, especially in animated form. I’m pleased I’ve been able to see ‘The Faceless Ones’ with a combination of the original ‘Episodes 1 and 3’ and the rest of it containing some excellent animation.

It’s sad that Polly and Ben’s departure in the TV series wasn’t strong enough as it should’ve been. But I enjoyed the suspense featured throughout this earthbound adventure and how the Doctor and Jamie tackled the Chameleon menace. Who know what lies in store when they look for the TARDIS?!

‘The Faceless Ones’ rating – 8/10


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4 thoughts on “‘The Faceless Ones’ (TV)

  1. Awesome review of a rather chilling story, these are my type of storytelling, creepy & unsettling there’s some genuine shocks & scares throughout this story which echoes Invasion Of The Body Snatchers & Pat Troughton on fine form.

    My only issue is as you say Ben & Pollys exit was very weakly handled & just leave, there lack of screen time in the final episode doesn’t help but this was the way it was back in the day, Ben, Polly & especially Dodo all had weak exits.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Simon.

    Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘The Faceless Ones’. Glad you enjoyed this story and it’s very gripping, tense and unsettling throughout especially when the Doctor and Jamie are trying to find their friends Ben and Polly and when the Chameleons are causing trouble. Yes, Patrick Troughton is on fine form during this story, as he finds his feet as the Doctor in this one.

    I was very disappointed with Ben and Polly’s departure from this story as I’m sure Michael Craze and Anneke Wills were. I wish we could be more emotionally invested in their departure, since all they do is leave in the final episode. That wouldn’t be done nowadays with companions having ‘grand’ exits in their departure episodes.

    Thanks for this Simon.

    Tim. 🙂

    Like

  3. Brilliant review Tim, such a shame that 4 episodes are still missing although to be fair the animation is good, strangely i prefer the missing episodes stories via the soundtrack recordings, don’t know why but they feel more scary & atmospheric, yup I’m very strange lol.

    This is my kinda Doctor Who story which has echoes of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, plot-wise it moves at a good pace & is a creepy eerie adventure what let’s it down are how badly Ben & Polly are written especially Polly, to have Polly kidnapped & then missing for 4 episodes to then have her return in the sixth episode to say goodbye to the Doctor & Jamie is appalling treatment for such a great character, Ben isn’t served much better, i think back then writer’s couldn’t handle a crowded Tardis like it did later on with the awesomeness that is season 19.

    Fantastic detail & in depth review my friend, thoroughly enjoyed your review on this & you highlighted the pro’s, con’s & extras brilliantly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Simon.

      I enjoyed the animation version of ‘The Faceless Ones’ very much. I agree, the TV soundtrack audiobooks feel more scary and atmospheric, especially when you have to rely on your imagination. But I’m glad we can enjoy the animation version of ‘The Faceless Ones’ with the original ‘Episodes 1 and 3’ intact.

      Yeah it’s an awful shame about Polly and Ben’s departure from the series and that it wasn’t well-handled. It’s like how Vicki and Dodo left, although Dodo got it off far worse and at least Vicki had a sweet way to exit the series despite the behind-the-scenes drama caused. I would’ve preferred it to have Polly and Ben featured throughout ‘The Faceless Ones’ to give them a worthy send-off. But still the story is thrilling and suspenseful throughout. I know my Mum enjoyed it very much, especially through the combination of original and animation episodes. I’m glad the writing of crowded TARDISes like in the Peter Davison and Jodie Whittaker eras are handled better to certain extents.

      Very pleased you enjoyed my updated review on ‘The Faceless Ones’, Simon. Many thanks for your comments.

      Tim. 🙂

      Like

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