The Faceless Ones: Episode Six
The final part unfurls its Malcolm Hulke colours more clearly than anything that has gone before. Now the characters can engage in conversations and, to some extent, reason. The villains are not allowed to be total villains, and justice is not served through their destruction. Indeed, it’s arguable that Blade and Spencer get off extraordinarily lightly by the standards of any era of the show.
The Director: What do you hope to achieve?
The Doctor: The chance to plead with you for the lives of 50,000 young people.
The Director: They’re only human beings.
The Doctor: What are you?
The Director: We’re the most intelligent race in the Universe.
I suppose this was only four years into the series, and such a claim might not have been quite so laughable then. But they’re so clearly not that much more intelligent than humans. Sure, they have superior tech, but it’s all to naught if they don’t have the dexterity to devise a fool (or human)-proof plan.
Even a Scouser is onto them (at one point she claims “Ah you haven’t got all the brains in London, you know”).
The Doctor’s judgement on replica Jamie is amusing, but he doesn’t pass similar comment on Crossland’s loss of regionality.
The Doctor: You’ve lost his Scots accent. I prefer the original.
He also manages to get these super-intelligent beings to admit that real Jamie’s in a safe place not far from there. Further cutting them down to size, he breaks with the blow ’em up approach of his stories so far and outwits them.
The Doctor: The special people up here feel more secure if their originals are actually in the satellite.
The Director: Be quiet.
The Doctor: The Director has nothing to worry about because his original, Detective Inspector Crossland, is actually on board.
The Doctor: (to Blade and Spencer) But, er, where’s your original? And where’s yours?
It’s a fairly crude scheme, but it does the trick. He keeps on chipping away, even as we cut to another scene then back to him as he’s being readied for copying.
The Doctor: Tell me, what happens if you disintegrate in the middle of my being processed?
The gambit of convincing them that the originals have been found at Gatwick isn’t overly convincing, but it’s just about excusable in buying enough time to actually find them.
And… they’re in cars. In the car park at Gatwick. WTF? Perhaps the Director just had an overly optimistic view of the smarts of the rest of his species? But with fake ratface dissolving as evidence that they have indeed been found, the Director makes a fair point to his stooges.
The Director: You told me they were all hidden where they could not possibly be found until the life was drained from them.
I think this is the first time we have it spelled out that the process is gradual and that they don’t need to retain the originals indefinitely.
This turn of events means that internal divisions save the day, as Blade point his gun at the Director. And the Doctor shows that he is quite willing to negotiate with the terrorists who have taken planeloads of passengers hostage.
The Doctor: Stand by while I negotiate. I will guarantee your continued existence if you will return to Gatwick all the young people you have abducted.
Blade: What kind of continued existence would we have, Doctor?
The Doctor: In your former state, I’m afraid. Your scientists will have to think of some other way out of your dilemma.
Spencer: It’s better than death. We accept.
The Doctor: All right, we accept.
Trout isn’t set on dispensing justice, and he doesn’t define them as one the evils that exist in some corners of the Universe. The good guys don’t kill the bad guys. It’s Blade who shoots his leader dead.
The Doctor: I’m glad to see you alive.
Jamie: What do you mean?
The Doctor: I’ll tell you one day.
Given the rather messy situation, the Doctor might have been best to stick around and help mop up. But he leaves it to the Inspector. Presumably Britain will use the alien tech to develop their space programme during the Pertwee years.
The Doctor: Now, Ben and Polly and back to Gatwick.
Further evidence of the Hulkester at work is the Doctor proffering an olive branch; he will even try to set them on a course of self-improvement (does he do this before setting off to find the TARDIS?)
The Doctor: So long as you keep your side of the bargain, you may return to your planet unharmed. Perhaps your scientists will be able to find a way out of your dilemma. I may be able to, er, give them one or two ideas of my own.
Before the Ben and Polly’s exit comes my favourite line in the episode, maybe in the story. The Doctor and Jamie take their leave of the Commandant, who casually addresses the highlander.
Commandant: Goodbye, Scotty.
There’s also a snog between Jamie and Sam. She’s gagging for it, that Scouser. Puts Amy to shame.
Jamie: I better say goodbye.
Sam: I’ll see you around then.
Despite the half-arsed way that we arrive at the leaving scene, it manages to be quite affecting. It’s the same day that Ben and Polly left with First Doctor
The Doctor: You really want to go, don’t you?
Ben: Well, we won’t leave Doctor, if you really need us.
Polly: The thing is, it is our world.
The Doctor: Yes, I know. You’re lucky, I never got back to mine. All right then, off you go. Ben can catch his ship and become an admiral. And you, Polly. You can look after Ben.
Polly: I will. You will be safe, won’t you?
Jamie: I’ll look after him.
Ben: I’m sure you will, mate.
Awww. Except for the bit about Polly looking after Ben. Because that’s all girls are good for isn’t it? The Doctor seems to have decided that they will become a couple while espousing some rather regressive sentiments. She’d have been more liberated remaining in eighteenth-century Scotland with F-finch.
While there are no shortage of lead-ins to the next adventure prior to this, the one here is fresh and attention-grabbing. Perhaps it’s due to the modern trappings, or maybe just the absence of any respite.
The Doctor: Well, I didn’t tell the others but we’ve lost the TARDIS. It was outside, but it’s not there now.
Jamie: You mean somebody’s stolen it?
The Doctor: I don’t know. That’s what we’re going to find out. Come on.
An enjoyable conclusion, which propels the story towards several unexpected destinations. There’s the odd clumsy plot development (the car park hiding place), but the conciliatory approach taken by Hulke is welcome.
Overall: A rare six-parter where the best is saved for the last third. As a departure point for Ben and Polly, it’s lousy (particularly as the Doctor and Jamie remain on Earth as the next story kicks off). And Sam quickly becomes a source of annoyance. Ongoing adventures with Nurse Pinto and Detective Inspector Crossland aboard the TARDIS would have been much more appealing.
The escape and capture of the mid-section gives way to the revelation of more sympathetic villains than the era has been used to so far. It’s just a shame Lloyd and Davis took their cues for the run of stories that followed from the most uninspired of the season (The Moonbase) rather than the more experimental approach here.
(Rating below is for the episode. Overall rating for the story is three-and-a-half stars.)