Arriving at Gatwick Airport, the Doctor finds that a great number of young people are disappearing, including Ben and Polly. Together with Jamie and Samantha Briggs, the sister of one of the missing people, he investigates what the Chameleons are up to.
The Faceless Ones is latest Troughton era Doctor Who story to receive the animation treatment to allow us now to enjoy it in its full glory. The release gives the options to watch all six parts in animated format in colour or black and white, or to watch the surviving two episodes alongside the animation. Whilst writing my notes on this story, I watched the colour animated version, however, I have also watched parts of the two other options. I have really enjoyed the animation of these stories in the past and I am pleased to report that this one is no exception, helped in no small part by a great story.
As much as I enjoyed seeing this story in its full glory, there are some problems that I have here. It is a testament to how different television was in 1967 that this was how the departure of a companion was dealt with, as Ben and Polly are largely absent from the story, with the production team deciding to focus more on Jamie and Samantha Briggs played by Pauline Collins, who was being eyed up as a potential companion. Unfortunately, once Anneke Wills and Michael Craze stop appearing on screen it is all too easy to forget about them and their plight until they briefly turn up again at the end of Episode 6. It is also difficult to imagine any production set in modern times which would spend so much time fleshing out a character so much as Samantha Briggs is here, without having secured her signature as a companion going forwards. As it is, in terms of her departure from the story and her kiss with Jamie, it does feel unresolved. In modern television, contracts would have been signed months in advance of production starting, ensuring that the actor was committed to stay with the programme. This is something that will certainly return to be an issue with other actors, significantly, Caroline John, Louise Jameson and Mary Tamm, so I suppose we should be grateful we got a departure scene for Ben and Polly. The story being six episodes long makes it potentially too long, but I found it gripping for the whole of its running time, although the conclusion did feel a little rushed.
The story revolves around the mystery of missing young people who have travelled on Chameleon Tours, and Polly gets kidnapped very early on in the story when she discovers a body in their hanger. The Chameleons take the forms of some of the people they have kidnapped, leaving to a sense of unease about who is an alien which is pulled off really well. The shape-shifting nature of the Chameleons means that it is believable that the Doctor and his companions are regarded with suspicion by the Commandant of Gatwick Airport and the airport staff. Once the Doctor discovers the nature of the duplicates, the search is on for the originals as the copy cannot be sustained without the original being frozen. The Chameleons look fantastic in their usual form and the animation makes them look better than they did in the story, and it is actually quite nice to have a bit of a wait until we actually see them in their base form. The Chameleons have managed to go quite a while unchecked, as they state that they have been able to kidnap a large number of young people, which does stretch credulity slightly as it seems that people have only just started to notice that their loved ones have gone missing.
As Polly and Ben are sidelined for a lot of the story, the Doctor and Jamie are allowed to shine here. Troughton is fantastic as usual, and even in animated form, you find your eyes drawn to his performance, whilst Jamie gets a romantic interest in the form of Samantha and shows some initiative in his investigations away from the Doctor, including him hiding on the plane which prevents him from being shrunk. Pauline Collins is also good as Samantha, who enters the story looking for her brother who has travelled with Chameleon Tours. The rest of the performances are solid and I particularly enjoyed the performance of Bernard Kay in the join role as Inspector Crossland and the Director of the Chameleons.
Verdict: A solid Second Doctor story with a good storyline, if a lacklustre departure for Ben and Polly. It’s great to have this as a complete story and I’m really looking forward to the release of Fury from the Deep later this year. 8/10
Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Pauline Collins (Samantha Briggs), James Appleby (Policeman), Colin Gordon (Commandant), George Selway (Meadows), Wanda Ventham (Jean Rock), Victor Winding (Spencer), Peter Whitaker (Inspector Gascoigne), Donald Pickering (Blade), Christopher Tranchell (Jenkins), Madalena Nicol (Nurse Pinto), Bernard Kay (Crossland), Gilly Fraser (Ann Davidson), Brigit Paul (Announcer), Barry Wilsher (Heslington), Michael Ladkin (RAF Pilot) & Leonard Trolley (Supt. Reynolds).
Writers: David Ellis & Malcolm Hulke
Director: Gerry Mill (original production) & AnneMarie Walsh (animation)
Behind the Scenes
- This story sees the departure of Ben and Polly as played by Michael Craze and Anneke Wills respectively. They are notable for being the first characters to act as companions to two incarnations of the Doctor, having first appeared in The War Machines.
- This is the final appearance of Michael Craze as Ben Jackson in any medium. Craze passed away on 7 December 1998, however, the part has been played by Elliot Chapman for Big Finish and by Jared Garfield in Twice Upon A Time.
- Only Episode 1 and 3 exist in their original form in the BBC Archives.
- The story was originally written for William Hartnell’s Doctor by Malcolm Hulke and David Kerkham (whose pen name was David Ellis) and set in a department store. Script editor Gerry Davis liked the Chameleons but decided to change the location.
- At the time of broadcast, this was only the second story set in the modern day, with the first being The War Machines. Coincidentally, the two stories are set on the same day.
- Pauline Collins was offered the opportunity to become the new companion to the Doctor, an opportunity which she declined. Collins would go on to play Queen Victoria in Tooth and Claw.
- Bernard Kay previously appeared in The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Crusade.
- Donald Pickering was in The Keys of Marinus and would go on to appear in Time and the Rani, along with Wanda Ventham, who previously appeared in Image of the Fendahl.
- Christopher Tranchell was in The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Eve and The Invasion of Time.
The passengers disappearing on the plane at the end of Episode 3.
We could eliminate a whole squadron of their toy planes, and they’d never get on to us. Their minds can’t cope with an operation like this. Remember the teachings of our Director – the intelligence of Earth people is comparable only to that of animals on our planet.Blade