Skip to main content

Haven’t I met you somewhere before?


Doctor Who
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 was 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 skepticism.


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 12 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 12 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?
Jamie: Aye.
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.
Blade: Exactly.
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. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Nanobots aren’t just for Christmas.

No Time to Die (2021) (SPOILERS) You know a Bond movie is in trouble when it resorts to wholesale appropriation of lines and even the theme song from another in order to “boost” its emotional heft. That No Time to Die – which previewed its own title song a year and a half before its release to resoundingly underwhelmed response, Grammys aside – goes there is a damning indictment of its ability to eke out such audience investment in Daniel Craig’s final outing as James (less so as 007). As with Spectre , the first half of No Time to Die is, on the whole, more than decent Bond fare, before it once again gets bogged down in the quest for substance and depth from a character who, regardless of how dapper his gear is, resolutely resists such outfitting.

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

Big things have small beginnings.

Prometheus (2012) Post- Gladiator , Ridley Scott opted for an “All work and no pondering” approach to film making. The result has been the completion of as many movies since the turn of the Millennium as he directed in the previous twenty years. Now well into his seventies, he has experienced the most sustained period of success of his career.  For me, it’s also been easily the least-interesting period. All of them entirely competently made, but all displaying the machine-tooled approach that was previously more associated with his brother.

I’m giving you a choice. Either put on these glasses or start eating that trash can.

They Live * (1988) (SPOILERS) Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of They Live – I was a big fan of most things Carpenter at the time of its release – but the manner in which its reputation as a prophecy of (or insight into) “the way things are” has grown is a touch out of proportion with the picture’s relatively modest merits. Indeed, its feting rests almost entirely on the admittedly bravura sequence in which WWF-star-turned-movie-actor Roddy Piper, under the influence of a pair of sunglasses, first witnesses the pervasive influence of aliens among us who are sucking mankind dry. That, and the ludicrously genius sequence in which Roddy, full of transformative fervour, attempts to convince Keith David to don said sunglasses, for his own good. They Live should definitely be viewed by all, for their own good, but it’s only fair to point out that it doesn’t have the consistency of John Carpenter at his very, very best. Nada : I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick a

Ladies and gentlemen, this could be a cultural misunderstanding.

Mars Attacks! (1996) (SPOILERS) Ak. Akk-akk! Tim Burton’s gleefully ghoulish sci-fi was his first real taste of failure. Sure, there was Ed Wood , but that was cheap, critics loved it, and it won Oscars. Mars Attacks! was BIG, though, expected to do boffo business, and like more than a few other idiosyncratic spectaculars of the 1990s ( Last Action Hero , Hudson Hawk ) it bombed BIG. The effect on Burton was noticeable. He retreated into bankable propositions (the creative and critical nadir perhaps being Planet of the Apes , although I’d rate it much higher than the likes of Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo ) and put the brakes on his undisciplined goth energy. Something was lost. Mars Attacks! is far from entirely successful, but it finds the director let loose with his own playset and sensibility intact, apparently given the licence to do what he will.

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) (SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek , but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan . That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

Isn’t sugar better than vinegar?

Femme Fatale (2002) (SPOILERS) Some have attempted to rescue Femme Fatale from the dumpster of critical rejection and audience indifference with the claim that it’s De Palma’s last great movie. It isn’t that by a long shot, but it might rank as the last truly unfettered display of his obsessions and sensibilities, complete with a ludicrous twist – so ludicrous, it’s either a stroke of genius or mile-long pile up.

Beer is for breakfast around here. Drink or begone.

Cocktail (1988) (SPOILERS) When Tarantino claims the 1980s (and 1950s) as the worst movie decade, I’m inclined to invite him to shut his butt down. But should he then flourish Cocktail as Exhibit A, I’d be forced to admit he has a point. Cocktail is a horrifying, malignant piece of dreck, a testament to the efficacy of persuasive star power on a blithely rapt and undiscerning audience. Not only is it morally vacuous, it’s dramatically inert. And it relies on Tom’s toothy charms to a degree that would have any sensitive soul rushed to the A&E suffering from toxic shock (Tom’s most recently displayed toothy charms will likely have even his staunchest devotees less than sure of themselves, however, as he metamorphoses into your favourite grandma). And it was a huge box office hit.

It's something trying to get out.

The Owl Service (1969-70) I may have caught a glimpse of Channel 4’s repeat of  The Owl Service  in 1987, but not enough to stick in the mind. My formative experience was Alan Garner’s novel, which was read several years earlier during English lessons. Garner’s tapestry of magical-mythical storytelling had an impact, with its possession theme and blending of legend with the here and now. Garner depicts a Britain where past and present are mutable, and where there is no safety net of objective reality; life becomes a strange waking dream. His fantasy landscapes are both attractive and disturbing; the uncanny reaching out from the corners of the attic.  But I have to admit that the themes of class and discrimination went virtually unnoticed in the wake of such high weirdness. The other Garner books I read saw young protagonists transported to fantasy realms. The resonance of  The Owl Service  came from the fragmenting of the rural normal. When the author notes that he neve

These are not soda cans you asked me to get for you.

The Devil’s Own (1997) (SPOILERS) Naturally, a Hollywood movie taking the Troubles as a backdrop is sure to encounter difficulties. It’s the push-pull of wanting to make a big meaningful statement about something weighty, sobering and significant in the real world and bottling it when it comes to the messy intricacies of the same. So inevitably, the results invariably tend to the facile and trite. I’m entirely sure The Devil’s Own would have floundered even if Harrison Ford hadn’t come on board and demanded rewrites, but as it is, the finished movie packs a lot of talent to largely redundant end.