Tuesday, 9 August 2011

35: The Faceless Ones - Not The Best Departure For Ben & Polly & Eee By-By-By Gum Is It Long!!

Written By: David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke.
Companions: The Doctor, Ben Jackson, Polly, Jamie McCrimmon.
Monsters/Villains: Chameleons.
Brief Synopsis: The TARDIS lands on a runway at Gatwick Airport. Many youngsters are going missing, and it's all something to do with Chameleon Tours.
Rating: 7/10.

On the back of The Macra Terror, this is more like it! The TARDIS tumultuously materialises on a runway at Gatwick airport. The location shooting in The Faceless Ones gives it a real grandness. It's a shame Ben and Polly don't get much to do in their last story, but nonetheless it boasts an entertaining plot. 

Jamie is terrified as he sees an aeroplane (or airplane for my American readers) for the first time and quakes at the flying beasty. The police show up and the TARDIS foursome scatter. The TARDIS is removed. Polly ends up in a hanger belonging to Chameleon Tours (CT), where she witnesses a man dressed as a pilot, shoot and kill a man using a ray gun. The pilot, Spencer catches sight of Polly as she flees the scene; he levels his weapon at her but thinks better of it when he sees two motorcycle policeman. Polly manages to find Jamie and the Doctor hiding amidst a planes landing gear.

Donal Pickering as Captain Blade.
Spencers superior Captain Blade examines the dead man discovering that he was a Detective Inspector Gascoigne. Polly takes the Doctor and Jamie to the hanger and they examine the body. The Doctor deduces that the man was electrocuted by a gun not yet developed on this planet. Blade comments that no one will believe the Doctor, but they need Polly as she could identify Spencer. They grab her and disable her as she leaves but the Doctor and Jamie don't notice. The Doctor and Jamie go back for Polly, but she's nowhere to be seen, so they head off to seek out the authorities to tell them what has happened. They pass through the airport and proceed to immigration. To be met by Jenkins. "It's Andred!" Is my inicial reaction as I recognise Christopher Tranchell who will go on to play the rather more memorable role of Head of the Chancellery Guard, aside Tom Baker in The Invasion of Time. They try to report their news but Jenkins is more interested in their passports or lack thereof and contacts the airport Commandant.

"Excuse me, aren't I going to see you some time later?"
Christopher Tranchell as Jenkins.
Ben also wonders into the Chameleon Tours hanger, where he meets Captain Blade. He tries to find a way out and lies, saying he started working at the airport that day, which just manages to let him escape. Meanwhile the Doctor has taken the Commandant to the CT hanger, but the body has been moved. The Doctor finds an un-franked spanish stamp and Jamie spots a scorch mark on the wall. They are about to look for the body in a packing crate, when Captain Blade enters. He allows them to open the crate but all they find are plastic cups. Captain Blade decides that there is room for Polly on the next flight. As the Doctor, Jamie and the Commandant are passing immigration Polly is getting on the flight. She doesn't recognise the Doctor or Jamie or even her own name. Along with Spencer, Blade prepares a needle, opens a sort of fridge and injects a alien arm. The two help the being out of the hanger and escort it into the x-ray room in the medical bay in the terminal. They help it on to a couch and we see that it is clearly not of this earth.

Meadows, an air traffic controller is lying on an adjacent couch. Nurse Pinto arrives and they equip a black arm band onto Meadows and a white arm band on to the alien. Polly is claiming to be a Micha Lopey from Zurich. The Commandant is growing weary of the Doctor's excuses and we get a Troughton staple as he tells Jamie: "When I say run, run. Run!" Classic stuff. Ben manages to find the Doctor and Jamie. Back in the medical bay the alien gradually takes on Meadows' physical appearance. Nurse Pinto checks the new Meadows. Blade adjusts switches on the new meadows arm band and seems to test and adjust his eye-sight and speech, then his smell and taste and finally he questions Meadows knowledge of his own identity.

Ben spots Polly working at the Chameleon Tours Kiosk. The Doctor tries to jog her memory and she slips up by mentioning that she doesn't remember seeing someone shot; something the Doctor hadn't mentioned. Blade calls Polly in to his office and informs her that she has failed her mission, and will be leaving on the next flight, back to base.

The wonderful Bernard Kay as Detective Inspector Crossland.
In the flight control centre the new Meadows goes back to work and Detective Inspector Crossland of Scotland Yard arrives. He has come to investigate a group of missing persons who all flew with Chameleon Tours and is meant to be meeting his friend D.I. Gascoigne.

Hiding in a passport photo booth.
The Doctor, Ben and Jamie are still on the loose and hide in a passport photo machine, where they make a plan. Ben will examine the hanger, Jamie will keep an eye on Polly at the Chameleon Tours kiosk, and the Doctor will go to see the Commandant.

Pauline Collins as Samantha Briggs.
We then meet the companion that never was: Samantha Briggs. She has travelled from Liverpool to investigate the disappearance of her brother Brian. At the CT kiosk, she speaks to Polly and produces a postcard from Brian in Rome, where he supposedly never arrived and there has been no sign of him. Blade is absent so Samantha agrees to wait and sits down next to Jamie. 

Blade returns and instructs Polly to get rid of Samantha and to close the kiosk and get on the next flight. Polly tells Samantha, her brother got on the flight to Rome, but what he did when he got there, they dont know. In the hanger, Ben finds some new packing cases, opens one, and finds Polly inside. He tries to call the Commandant, but the phone is dead.

Ben finds Polly in a packing crate. Best present ever!
Jamie introduces Samantha to the Doctor, who investigates the unmanned kiosk and finds post cards and various unfranked international stamps. The Doctor plays with a model aeroplane and the camera on the screen changes. He sees, the kiosk, the medical room and then the hanger, where Ben is attacked by Spencer with a pen shaped device.

Crossland questions Jenkins the immigration officer, who tells him about the Doctor and Jamie, and their story about the body in the hanger. Anne, a stewardess from CT gives out postcards to the young passengers for the flight to Zurich. She explains that they can write to their parents and then CT will post the cards for them when they arrive in Switzerland. Then Crossland shows up and wants to speak to Jamie.

Victor Winding as Spencer.
In the hanger the Doctor finds and pockets Spencer's pen device and opens a packing crate and to discover the real Meadows. The Doctor hears a voice saying, "somebody please help me, I'm suffocating." It sounds as if it is coming from inside the office, the Doctor goes to investigate. Once inside, we discover that it is actually a loud speaker. A panel closes over the speaker and the door, trapping the Doctor inside. A small vent opens in the wall, icy vapour emerges and the Doctor instantly begins to freeze.

The Doctor cleverly blocks the vent and covers the camera watching him forcing Spencer into the room. Pretending to freeze, the Doctor uses Spencers device against him knocking him out. The Doctor comes across Jamie and Samantha who are talking to Crossland and identifies the dead man in the hanger as GascoigneSamantha guilts Jamie into coming with her to examine the hanger.

George Selway as Meadows.
Captain Blade is leaving for Zurich, whilst Spencer will remain and must kill the Doctor. In the air traffic control room the Doctor tells Crossland and the Commandant about seeing Meadows, and notices that the same man in the room. The Doctor reveals that he believes Chameleon Tours to be a front for the mass kidnapping of young people and demonstrates Spencers pen-weapon which turns a cup into ice. Seeing this "Meadows" runs off. Jamie and Samantha burst into the control room and show the assembled congregation some postcards pre-written by passengers found in the CT hanger. With all this evidence the commandant agrees to give the Doctor free roam of the airport for twelve hours to solve the mystery. Meadows and Spencer plot to take care of the Doctor. Meadows covertly attaches a small device to the back of the Doctors coat.

In the CT hanger the Doctor can't find any evidence of the ice vent or the hatch over the door. He hunts for and finds the secret entrance in the hanger office, but the door closes behind him. He sees the first aid room on a monitor and decides to head there, but Spencer activates the device and the Doctor falls to the ground clutching his back, immobile.

Meanwhile Crossland asks Spencer at the Kiosk to speak to Blade. He boards the departing CT plane and is invited to the cockpit to question Blade. In the cockpit Blade draws the laser gun and admits to having used it to kill Gascoigne. Blade comments that Crossland is a fine example of a human, and may be suitable for the controller himself. Whilst in the air, Blade reveals the secret of Chameleon Tours: he turns a dial in the cockpit and as Crossland watches on the monitor all the passengers aboard vanish.

Back in the hanger, Samantha runs in and Jamie attacks Spencer from behind, but he has another freezer pen and knocks out both Jamie and Samantha, laying them next to the Doctor. He is about to shoot them with the laser but has a better idea, he takes out a portable laser beam projector and in a classic badly-thought-out-villain move, leaves the trio to their fate. The Doctor awakes but finds himself paralysed. The laser beam moves closer to the three captives. Samantha and Jamie awake but they cannot move either.

The beam is moving closer toward them and Samantha discovers that she can move an arm. The Doctor instructs her to hand her compact mirror to Jamie, who uses it to reflect the beam back to the projector, destroying it. Conveniently just as the trouble is averted the three regain physical control of themselves. They decide to split up; Samantha goes to the kiosk to keep an eye out for Spencer, and the Doctor and Jamie make for the first aid post.

Jamie is pretending to be injured as the Doctor helps him into the first aid room. The Chameleon, Nurse Pinto has been working on another raw state Chameleon conversion, this time it's Jenkins, the immigration officer. The "Nurse" refuses the Doctor entrance to the other room in the medical centre.

Colin Gordon as the Commandant.
In the control room, the commandants aide, Jean rock receives a call from Athens, and we  learn that CT never deliver any passengers. The commandant also informs the Doctor, that Crossland who had gone to investigate CT has also now vanished. The Commandant plans to have the next CT plane followed by the R.A.F. At the kiosk Samantha has bought a ticket on the next CT flight to Rome, £28. We would think that's cheap but Jamie has never seen so much money in his life. In a sadly uncharacteristic moment Jamie kisses Samantha and during the distraction he removes the ticket from her bag and keeps it.

The Doctor makes a plan with Jean to get Nurse Pinto out fo the medical centre, so he can  have a look around. Jean pretends to faint and the Commandant calls for Nurse Pinto. Instantaneously, the Doctor enters the medical bay and heads for the x-ray room. Inside he  examines the transfer equipment and finds some hidden switches which open a door behind him revealing the real nurse pinto. He flips the switch again, closing the door, having seen nothing. Chameleon Jenkins arrives. The Doctor pockets a black and a white arm band. Jenkins is about to shoot when a passenger enters. The Doctor fobs the patient off on Jenkins and quickly leaves.

At the kiosk, passengers are boarding the CT flight to Rome. Samantha can't find her ticket. Spencer watches her on a monitor. Jamie is already aboard posing as S. Briggs. Samantha is nearly turned away when Spencer calls through, saying that someone has found her ticket. She goes through to see Spencer and he draws a laser gun on her.

A plane.
Aboard the flight, Jamie who is terrified, runs to the back of the cabin to be sick. Chameleon stewardess Anne seals the passenger cabin and vanishes the passengers. Blade notices the R.A.F fighter plane following them and shoots a beam of light at the pilots head forcing the plane to lose control. In Air Traffic Control they see on the radar that the Chameleon plane is impossibly still. The Doctor correctly deduces that the plane is not falling but rising upwards into space. In the air the plane transforms from a passenger carrier in to a rocket that bares a very close resemblance to a passenger carrier and it rendezvous with a vast conical shaped satellite, two doors open and the plane enters.

A rocket. Hmmm?
At this point I can't help but think that no one seems to be the slightest bit worried where Ben and Polly have gone. We haven't seen them or mentioned them since episode two! And, the Commandant still doesn't believe what is happening. He is the ultimate in stubborn.

A raw state Chameleon.
Blade and Anne who is carrying a metal container exit the plane. Jamie comes out from hiding, he goes to follow them, but ducks when two Chameleons come aboard and begin to remove the hand luggage of the vanished passengers. He manages to slip out of the plane. Jamie hides in a stock room where Anne is transferring the contents of her metal container into a draw. When she leaves he examines one of the many draws and finds six miniaturised people. Anne re-enters the room with a laser gun. Two raw state Chameleons enter and take Jamie away.

Back on earth they have found the remains of the RAF plane, and learned that the pilot was electrocuted. Meadows returns to his post and the Doctor questions him about the arm bands. Frightened, Meadows makes for the door but Jean throws a chair in front of him and two technicians restrain him. The Doctor threatens to turn the switches on his arm band and Meadows reveals that the planes are taking the passengers to a satellite 150 miles up in to space. The young people are being abducted as the Chameleons suffered a catastrophe on their planet, a gigantic explosion, and they are loosing their identities. Their people are dying out so their scientists produced a process to take on the physical characteristics of another being. They plan to abduct 50 thousand people from earth. The passengers are miniaturised in flight and the originals, are stored somewhere on the airport. Meadows refuses to reveal that location saying that Nurse Pinto is the only one who knows where their originals are kept.

Along with two policemen they go to the medical centre, where Pinto is strapping Samantha to a bed. Pinto is forced to pull up her sleeve and they confiscate her ice pen. The Doctor frees Samantha and Meadows tells them where to find Pintos original. Chameleon Pinto produces a hidden ray gun which she uses to kill the policeman. She aims at Meadows, but he presses a button on her arm band and the Chameleon Pinto dissolves into a blob of goo. The real Pinto starts to awake and they remove her arm band. Sam worries where Jamie is, but I keep thinking what about Ben and Polly?!

On the satellite Jamie is tied to a chair, when Crossland comes in. He sets about freeing Jamie and reveals that the food on the plane is part of the miniaturisation process and that it didn't work on Jamie because he was sick. Crossland tries to found out everything that Jamie knows until he reveals that he is in fact the Chameleon Director.

In the medical bay the Doctor found all of the personelle files of the airport staff that have been taken over. The Commandant wants to arrest the people but the Doctor wants to get on the next flight, which is set to be the last in CT Tours season. The Doctor will pretend to be the Chameleon Meadows shifted into his form. The Commandant will search for the originals. The real Pinto joins the Doctor and pretends to be a Chameleon too. They pass Blade's inspection and board the flight bound for the satellite. Blade tells the Chameleon passengers to report to the accommodation centre for instructions.

In a conversion suit the Director is adjusting the arm band on a new duplicate Jamie, when Blade enters announcing that he knows that the Doctor and Pinto are impostors and that he wants to kill them. The Chameleon Jamie (who has lost his Scottish accent) reveals that the Doctor is not of this Earth or this century, that he has travelled through time and space, and his knowledge is even greater than theirs. The Director wants to turn the Doctor into a Chameleon. 

The Doctor and Pinto meet Blade and try to run but are surrounded by Chameleons. The Doctor wants to plead for the lives of the humans and points out that some of the Chameleons originals are on the satellite and some are at Gatwick. Blade contacts Gatwick air control and speaks to the Commandant, who falsely confirms that they have found the originals. Sam and Jean have a eureka moment when they discover that CT have lots of buses. Jean and Sam are looking at license plates, when the escaped Meadows launches himself at Samantha. The pair manage to restrain Meadows, and Samantha spots Jenkins and all the other originals sitting, motionless in cars.

Blade tells the Director that the Doctor was bluffing that they had found the originals. The Commandant tries to contact the Chameleons informing them that they have found the originals but they ignore him. The Commandant's team lay out the bodies, and remove Jenkins arm band, dissolving his Chameleon counterpart to prove their discovery.

So that's where the originals were.
Blade wants to insure his safety and the safety of his original and draws his gun on the Director and orders 'Jamie' to contact Gatwick; Spencer backs him up. 

Chameleon Blade, Jamie and the Director/Crossland.
The Doctor asks them to free Pinto and says he will guarantee their continued existence if they return all the miniaturised young people. The Director lies saying that the equipment required to reverse the procedure is on their home planet. Blade outs him saying the planes carry the miniaturisation equipment and asks what kind of continued existence the Doctor is promising. The Doctor says it will be in their former state, but Blade and Spencer accept, as this option is better than death. The Director and 'Jamie' try to run but Blade fires killing them. The Doctor relays the good news to the Commandant

Spencer takes the Doctor to the real Jamie, and Crossland but we still don't see Ben or Polly, but hear that they are apparently okay as well. The humans are boarded onto the planes and returned home. Back at Gatwick, The Commandant ensures the TARDIS is returned to the Doctor. 

Jamie says goodbye to Samantha and they share a goodbye kiss. Samantha Briggs was intended to be a new companion but Pauline Collins turned down the role. It was probably a good decision as she ended up with a very impressive career; she even returned to Doctor Who as Queen Victoria in the David Tennant story Tooth and Claw. She is probably best known for the titular role in the movie Shirley Valentine.

Pauline Collins as Queen Victoria in Tooth and Claw.
The Doctor, and finally Ben and Polly are chauffeured to a hanger, where they are joined by Jamie. 

Polly and Ben want to stay in London for a bit, where there are no monsters or Cybermen. Where it's normal. Jamie wants to go to a civilised place like 1750. Polly and Ben are back, it's 20th July 1966 when they left. The Doctor can see they want to go. Ben touchingly says, "We won't leave, Doctor, if you really need us." Polly says, "It is our world." To which the Doctor adds "You're lucky. I never got back to mine." And with those few words it's another tiny little step towards discovering the answer to the ultimate question, Who is the Doctor? But it'll be the end of Troughton's tenure before we really learn anything more substancial. 

Goodbye Ben and Polly, I'm genuinely sad to see you go...
The Doctor wishes them both well and in a rather sexist way says, "Ben can catch his ship and become an Admiral and Polly can look after Ben." Ben and Polly walk out of the hanger and the Doctor's life forever. And with that the Doctor says to Jamie, "We've got things to do. We've lost the TARDIS."

And then there were two.
I really enjoyed The Faceless Ones regardless of all the missing episodes but Eee by - by - by gum it was long! A good thing that has come out of my pilgrimage thus far is that, although I still feel with the new series the episodes are sometimes not long enough to establish character or plot, after watching the likes of The Faceless Ones I have a new found respect for their brevity.

Join me next time for The Evil of The Daleks. In Which the Daleks, do something evil...

1 comment:

Andy Mackay said...

great synopsis u can't help but think that the BBC wiped all these early episodes so that no one could compare them with the dross they turnd out later. I found just reading your synopsis more stimulating than actually watching a sylvester mccoy serial.