The Faceless Ones: Episode Three
The second surviving episode is of noticeably inferior picture quality to part one. This is a curious story, filled with witty dialogue but with a curiously B-movie attitude to its science fiction content (down to referring to humans as Earthmen). It might almost be self-conscious about it, if the script were stronger and clearer. The Brit upper lip response to the aliens definitely comes across as knowing, though.
The opening sequence is very well-staged and niftily performed by Troughton, as the Doctor blocks up the outlets chilling the room and drapes his coat over the video camera.
When Spencer enters the Doctor freezes him with the pen he has and runs off. Action Trout! Take that, Pertwee!
Spencer: His intelligence is far above normal beings.
Blade: Above yours, perhaps.
There’s a nice theme of Spencer as the hapless stooge developing, and Pickering plays up the superiority and disdain. Spencer must atone for his incompetence by killing the Doctor (needless to say, he fails).
The Doctor at last finds someone willing to listen to him in Crossland, so I’m sure that with only three episodes to go the Inspector won’t be captured by the Chameleons. The Commandant is still banging on about the Doctor’s lack of identification, though.
The Doctor: Surely that’s unimportant.
Commandant: It is not unimportant to break the law.
Is Crossland’s smoking throughout the episode the most extensive example in the series? He’s constantly puffing away.
The Doctor doesn’t hold back in his theories, telling the Commandant he believes it is a plot by people who are not of this planet to mass kidnap young people. Using ray guns. You can’t really blame the Commandant, and Gordon is excellent at delivering his overt scepticism.
Commandant: You don’t think this fellow’s a little unbalanced, do you?
Crossland: He may be a wee bit unorthodox, sir, but he’s given us the only lead we’ve got so far.
Demonstrating the aliens’ pen (it freezes and shatters a cup) at least provides some physical support to the Doctor’s story, and it also results in fake-Meadows running from the room. It’s a wonder that the air traffic controllers can concentrate with everything going on in there. The Doctor is a bit optimistic in hoping that the Chameleons don’t get wind of what he’s doing, since Meadows just ran off to tell them. I suppose he doesn’t know that the Doctor has been given a free hand to investigate matters for twelve hours.
The burgeoning affection between Jamie and Sam sees him tell her “You’re a brave wee lassie” while she gives him a cheek-to-cheek hug. All quite unrestrained given the companion dynamics of the series so far. Perhaps she’ll be trying it on with the Doctor by the end of the story.
Spencer has a moment of fourth wall breaking as he instructs fake-Meadows to attach a device to the Doctor (it resembles a button). Spencer is a bit over-confident given his trouncing at the start of the episode.
Spencer: Even if he has discovered the secret of out mission here, they will never believe him. These Earth minds cannot stretch that far.
More quality banter between the Doctor and the Commandant.
Commandant: Aren’t you rather wasting your twelve hours, hanging around here, disturbing people?
The Doctor: I don’t think I’ve been wasting a minute, but I’ll go if you insist.
And the Doctor’s reaction to Meadows, who has just attached the button to him, is lovely.
The Doctor: Haven’t I met you somewhere before?
Meadows: I don’t think so.
The Doctor: You must have a double.
The Doctor and Jamie return to the hangar, the Doctor intent on gaining access to the room he was locked in.
The Doctor: Have you ever known me to be mistaken?
The Doctor: Ay?
The template for their repartee really is complete by this point.
With Captain Blade returned from Zurich, there’s a little more revelation in store as Crossland goes over to the plane to speak to him. The passenger cabin makes easyJet look like sheer opulence. All the money went towards the futuristic cockpit, which Crossland has been led to. He is informed that the Chameleons are not intent on murder, and that the death of Gascoigne was “an error”.
Blade: You Earthmen are more useful to us alive.
I don’t know what the Chameleons see in Crossland (an indeterminate accent, perhaps? Smoking skills?) but he proves to be a hit.
Blade: This Earthman is a particularly fine specimen, don’t you think?
Ann Davidson: Perhaps the Director himself.
Crossland: Look, I don’t know what you are planning for me but I must warn you of the long arm of the British law.
Blade: I don’t think it will reach where you’re going!
The cliffhanger is another strong one, with Crossland asked to look at the monitor of the passenger cabin, which is suddenly empty.
Before that, we have the Doctor and Jamie investigating the hangar office. There are a number of neat touches here; the Doctor’s glee at the prospect of viewing the TV monitor, Jamie’s concern that they should clear up the mess. And a nice line of dialogue.
The Doctor: Jamie, we’re getting warmer. Which makes for a change from the last time I was here.
The opportunity for a double-cliffhanger is not taken up, as Spencer activates the button and the Doctor cries out in pain. Jamie grabs the button, discards it and stamps on it.
Another watchable episode, but despite some amusing dialogue and individually strong scenes, this is failing to come together as anything special. And there’s a feeling of a story that is biding its time, aware that it has more episodes to fill than it has the plot for.