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

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

Would you like Smiley Sauce with that?

American Beauty (1999)
(SPOILERS) As is often the case with the Best Picture Oscar, a backlash against a deemed undeserved reward has grown steadily in the years since American Beauty’s win. The film is now often identified as symptomatic of a strain of cinematic indulgence focussing on the affluent middle classes’ first world problems. Worse, it showcases a problematic protagonist with a Lolita-fixation towards his daughter’s best friend (imagine its chances of getting made, let alone getting near the podium in the #MeToo era). Some have even suggested it “mercifully” represents a world that no longer exists (as a pre-9/11 movie), as if such hyperbole has any bearing other than as gormless clickbait; you’d have to believe its world of carefully manicured caricatures existed in the first place to swallow such a notion. American Beauty must own up to some of these charges, but they don’t prevent it from retaining a flawed allure. It’s a satirical take on Americana that, if it pulls its p…

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

You're waterboarding me.

The Upside (2017)
(SPOILERS) The list of US remakes of foreign-language films really ought to be considered a hiding to nothing, given the ratio of flops to unqualified successes. There’s always that chance, though, of a proven property (elsewhere) hitting the jackpot, and every exec hopes, in the case of French originals, for another The Birdcage, Three Men and a Baby, True Lies or Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Even a Nine Months, Sommersby or Unfaithful will do. Rather than EdTV. Or Sorcerer. Or Eye of the Beholder. Or Brick Mansions. Or Chloe. Or Intersection (Richard Gere is clearly a Francophile). Or Just Visiting. Or The Man with One Red Shoe. Or Mixed Nuts. Or Original Sin. Or Oscar. Or Point of No Return. Or Quick Change. Or Return to Paradise. Or Under Suspicion. Or Wicker Park. Or Father’s Day.

Is CBS Corporate telling CBS News "Do not air this story"?

The Insider (1999)
(SPOILERS) The Insider was the 1999 Best Picture Oscar nominee that didn’t. Do any business, that is. Which is, more often than not, a major mark against it getting the big prize. It can happen (2009, and there was a string of them from 2014-2016), but aside from brief, self-congratulatory “we care about art first” vibes, it generally does nothing for the ceremony’s profile, or the confidence of the industry that is its bread and butter. The Insider lacked the easy accessibility of the other nominees – supernatural affairs, wafer-thin melodramas or middle-class suburbanite satires. It didn’t even brandish a truly headlines-shattering nail-biter in its conspiracy-related true story, as earlier contenders All the President’s Men and JFK could boast. But none of those black marks prevented The Insider from being the cream of the year’s crop.

I’m what you might call a champagne problem.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
(SPOILERS) The idea of teaming the two most engaging characters from the recent Fast & Furious movies for a spin-off seems like a no-brainer for making something better than Fast & Furious at its best (somewhere around 6 & 7), but there’s a flaw to this thinking (even if the actual genesis of the movie wasn’t Dwayne Johnson swearing off being on the same set as Vin again); the key to F&F succeeding is the ensemble element, and the variety of the pick’n’mix of characters. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – I can’t help thinking the over-announced title itself stresses an intrinsic lack of confidence somewhere at Universal – duly provides too much of a good thing, ensuring none of the various talents employed are fully on top of their game.

What about the meaningless line of indifference?

The Lion King (2019)
(SPOILERS) And so the Disney “live-action” remake train thunders on regardless (I wonder how long the live-action claim would last if there was a slim hope of a Best Animated Feature Oscar nod?) I know I keep repeating myself, but the early ‘90s Disney animation renaissance didn’t mean very much to me; I found their pictures during that period fine, but none of them blew me away as they did critics and audiences generally. As such, I have scant nostalgia to bring to bear on the prospect of a remake, which I’m sure can work both ways. Aladdin proved to be a lot of fun. Beauty and the Beast entirely tepid. The Lion King, well, it isn’t a badfilm, but it’s wearying its slavish respectfulness towards the original and so diligent in doing it justice, you’d think it was some kind of religious artefact. As a result, it is, ironically, for the most part, dramatically dead in the water.

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

... you’re being uncharacteristically non-hyper-verbal.

Movies on My Mind Week Ending 7 May 2016
The Irishman
The Irishman (formerly I Heard You Paint Houses, based on Charles Brandt’s account of mob hitman Frank Sheeran, who was chums with Jimmy Hoffa, whom he professed to have offed) has been gestating for what seems like forever. I’d been wondering about its expiry date, as the names attached throughout have been the ever-longer-in-the-tooth holy trio of De Niro, Pacino and Pesci.
Now it seems there's a tight window (we’ll know by this time next week) for financing coming together. It seems the plan is to using de-aging technology (most recently seen making Downey Jr look less than zero in Civil War) to work its regressing magic on these wise guys. I’m a bit uneasy about that, as no matter how good it is, it’s distracting. Not that I think Scorsese would go there if he didn’t think he could pull it off, but it will still be there in the viewer’s mind.
Hopefully he’ll make going back to the Mob worthwhile; I’d presume so, as if his word…