The Faceless Ones
Probably the biggest complaint is the human form of the aliens, though it makes a nice change not to have aliens with black and white motivations, and a second Doctor who doesn't just want to obliterate them. Also, of course, the cliffhanger to this one is one of the scariest ever, as a fleshless alien sits breathing heavily on a bed. It's horrific for what was still regarded as a kid's programme in most quarters, and they clearly couldn't have gotten away with it in large doses. Just one point - isn't calling their covert organisation "Chameleon Tours" a bit of a giveaway?
We all know the stories about this one originally due to be a four-parter, set in a shopping department ("The Big Store") and while the setting is good, it's definitely overlong. This is the third time I've seen The Faceless Ones, and while the first couple of viewings pull you along on plot progression, once you know what happens you realise that there really isn't any.
If found this one might be pretty good, with lots of close-ups of the faceless alien, but the central story - aliens target holidaymakers in the 18-25 age range (presumably on a self-service holiday in Faliraki) - makes it one of the more whacked-out plots they ever did. And take no notice of those who say Pauline Collins would have been a better companion than Deborah Watling was. She's a gobby scouse minger who should have been drowned at birth. Cruel but fair.
Duller than I remembered, while the plot is now really getting underway, the aliens are the campest, most stilted players this sides of The Dominators. Likeable Bernard Kay does a turn as that handy plot device - the authority figure who believes the Doctor - while the total absence of Ben and Polly until episode six craps all over them and shows no respect to the characters who helped bridge the first and most important regeneration.
While Malcolm Hulke (who co-wrote this) deserves many of the plaudits dealt at him, he was rarely a subtle writer. After co-writing the brilliant but overearnest The War Games, he went on to write many of the most lauded Pertwee stories, with narrative subtlety rarely the order of the day. Lazy writing devices here include giving an alien truth serum to discover the plot, and a neat gadget on peoples arms that can defeat the aliens.
But despite the nonsense central idea and worryingly slow pace, this is the best episode so far, with the Doctor actually beginning to formulate a plan. As we're still in masterplanner territory (a guise that would begin to slip in season five, and be almost completely absent in season six) then this is the least of his tactician bouts, but it's still engaging in its own low-key way.
Average as buggery, but certainly not awful, The Faceless Ones is both unfairly overlooked and deservedly forgotten. Yet even in mediocrity such as this, Troughton still manages to shine in one of his early appearances.
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