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

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…

Well, we took a vote. Predator’s cooler, right?

The Predator (2018)
(SPOILERS) Is The Predator everything you’d want from a Shane Black movie featuring a Predator (or Yautja, or Hish-Qu-Ten, apparently)? Emphatically not. We've already had a Shane Black movie featuring a Predator – or the other way around, at least – and that was on another level. The problem – aside from the enforced reshoots, and the not-altogether-there casting, and the possibility that full-on action extravaganzas, while delivered competently, may not be his best foot forward – is that I don't think Black's really a science-fiction guy, game as he clearly was to take on the permanently beleaguered franchise. He makes The Predator very funny, quite goofy, very gory, often entertaining, but ultimately lacking a coherent sense of what it is, something you couldn't say of his three prior directorial efforts.

Right! Let’s restore some bloody logic!

It Couldn't Happen Here (1987)
(SPOILERS) "I think our film is arguably better than Spiceworld" said Neil Tennant of his and Chris Lowe's much-maligned It Couldn't Happen Here, a quasi-musical, quasi-surrealist journey through the English landscape via the Pet shop Boys' "own" history as envisaged by co-writer-director Jack Bond. Of course, Spiceworld could boast the presence of the illustrious Richard E Grant, while It Couldn't Happen Here had to settle for Gareth Hunt. Is its reputation deserved? It's arguably not very successful at being a coherent film (even thematically), but I have to admit that I rather like it, ramshackle and studiously aloof though it is.

I can't explain now, but I've just been murdered.

The Avengers
5.21: You Have Just Been Murdered
Slender in concept – if you're holding out for a second act twist, you'll be sorely disappointed – You Have Just Been Murdered nevertheless sustains itself far past the point one might expect thanks to shock value that doesn't wear out through repetition, a suitably sinister performance from Simon Oates (Steed in the 1971 stage adaptation of the show) and a cartoonish one from George Murcell (1.3: Square Root of Evil) as Needle, of the sort you might expect Matt Berry to spoof.

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville
Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
(SPOILERS) The cliffhanger sequel, as a phenomenon, is a relatively recent thing. Sure, we kind of saw it with The Empire Strikes Back – one of those "old" movies Peter Parker is so fond of – a consequence of George Lucas deliberately borrowing from the Republic serials of old, but he had no guarantee of being able to complete his trilogy; it was really Back to the Future that began the trend, and promptly drew a line under it for another decade. In more recent years, really starting with The MatrixThe Lord of the Rings stands apart as, post-Weinstein's involvement, fashioned that way from the ground up – shooting the second and third instalments back-to-back has become a thing, both more cost effective and ensuring audiences don’t have to endure an interminable wait for their anticipation to be sated. The flipside of not taking this path is an Allegiant, where greed gets the better of a studio (split a novel into two movie parts assuming a…

I think World War II was my favourite war.

Small Soldiers (1998)
An off-peak Joe Dante movie is still one chock-a-block full of satirical nuggets and comic inspiration, far beyond the facility of most filmmakers. Small Soldiers finds him back after a six-year big screen absence, taking delirious swipes at the veneration of the military, war movies, the toy industry, conglomerates and privatised defence forces. Dante’s take is so gleefully skewed, he even has big business win! The only problem with the picture (aside from an indistinct lead, surprising from a director with a strong track record for casting juveniles) is that this is all very familiar.

Dante acknowledged Small Soldiers was basically a riff on Gremlins, and it is. Something innocuous and playful turns mad, bad and dangerous. On one level it has something in common with Gremlins 2: The New Batch, in that the asides carry the picture. But Gremlins 2 was all about the asides, happy to wander off in any direction that suited it oblivious to whether the audience was on …

Whoever comes, I'll kill them. I'll kill them all.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) There’s no guessing he’s back. John Wick’s return is most definite and demonstrable, in a sequel that does what sequels ought in all the right ways, upping the ante while never losing sight of the ingredients that made the original so formidable. John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the minimalist, stripped-back vehicle and character of the first instalment furnished with an elaborate colour palette and even more idiosyncrasies around the fringes, rather like Mad Max in that sense, and director Chad Stahleski (this time without the collaboration of David Leitch, but to no discernible deficit) ensures the action is filled to overflowing, but with an even stronger narrative drive that makes the most of changes of gear, scenery and motivation.

The result is a giddily hilarious, edge-of-the-seat thrill ride (don’t believe The New York Times review: it is not “altogether more solemn” I can only guess Jeannette Catsoulis didn’t revisit the original in the interven…