Friday, April 20, 2012

Doctor Who: 035 The Faceless Ones

When the TARDIS lands on a runway at Gatwick Airport in 1966 in front of a landing plane, the Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jamie are forced to run for their lives. When the airport police see them, they're forced to run from the police as well. The TARDIS crew splits up and Polly hides in a hangar for Chameleon Tours, where she promptly witnesses a murder. This is how The Faceless Ones begins.

This 6 episode serial is sadly missing episodes 2 and 4-6. Thankfully, there are a full set of telesnaps and the audio track allowing reconstructions to be made. Oddly, this is the one for which I have the most reconstructions. I have the newer Loose Cannon reconstruction, the Joint Venture reconstruction, the Elaphe reconstruction, and an unidentified reconstruction that uses green subtitles (and spells Frazer Hines' name as "Frazier Hinze" in the credits). For the existing episodes 1 and 3, we turn to the Lost in Time DVD set.

I came to this story with no expectations what-so-ever. I've not heard anything about this story, good or bad, and it doesn't feature any recurring creatures, so I didn't know what to expect. What I got was a story reminiscent of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a sinister twist. This is quite a good story and I would love to see more episodes found for it. I'd actually say it's probably the best Troughton story to this point... Let's recap quickly:
  • Power of the Daleks - pretty good... the freshly regenerated Doctor is getting his bearings and Daleks almost always make for an exciting story.
  • The Highlanders - meh... fairly run of the mill historical that introduced Jamie as a companion.
  • The Underwater Menace - pretty sound story with a mad scientist trying to blow up the Earth.
  • The Moonbase - pretty good... again, like the Daleks, the Cybermen usually make for a pretty good story.
  • The Macra Terror - fairly decent story with a cheesy monster prop.
Yes, I'd definitely say this is his best to date. Troughton has really slipped into the role of the Doctor by this point and while humorous at times, the humor doesn't seem to be quite as slapstick and over the top as some of the earlier stories. Oddly enough, while the recorder featured very heavily in several of the earlier stories, it's not used in this story at all. I definitely find myself warming to Troughton as the Doctor by this point. I'm not going to spoil this story with too many plot points, but there were several places that it took me by surprise and I would love to see it in its entirety again. It also seems to be paced fairly well and uses its 6 episodes to good advantage.

I watched all the reconstructions I had for this story and I'd have to say that the newer Loose Cannon and the Elaphe ones are probably the best. The unidentified one was good (other than green subtitles and getting Jamie's name wrong), but it used absolutely no video footage. In addition to the telesnaps and existing footage, the newer Loose Cannon one uses CGI animation for several of the scenes. The funny thing is that the effects they produced are probably better than what originally aired. ;) Loose Cannon also uses faux telesnaps in a few places to enhance the story. I wouldn't have known they weren't original if I hadn't seen the other reconstructions. The only inconsistency I found between reconstructions was in episode 4 of the Joint Venture recon: the Doctor is examining a room and pushes a button which silently opens a secret panel. In the JV one, the captions say he examines the secret area while the other 3 say he doesn't notice the panel open. The story itself bears out that he didn't notice: later he questions someone and asks for the location of something hidden in the secret area.

This is Polly and Ben's last story: when they discover they're back in the time and place they left, they decide to stay. Afterward, the Doctor and Jamie go to retrieve the TARDIS from the airport police only to find it's been stolen, which leads us to our next story The Evil of the Daleks, the 7-part finale for season 4.

With 4 of the 6 episodes of this serial missing, our total for season 4 goes up to 27 and our total for Troughton goes up to 22.

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