The Faceless Ones: Episode Two
Wills’ inability to approximate a Swiss accent is explained away (“I had an English governess”) in unconvincing fashion. And the Doctor and Jamie become illegal-entrant fugitives.
The Doctor: Jamie, I don’t think we’re very welcome here. When I say run, run.
The reveal of the full facelessness of the Chameleons occurs quite early on; I suppose the title was too big a promise to hold back on. The process is played out as one adopts the visage of George Meadows, an air traffic controller. He doesn’t look between 18 and 25.
Some effort is made to show them acclimatising to the new form, with adjustment of controls on an armband to alter their sight and change voice. Divesting a face of its features is usually sinister (Sapphire and Steel) and the decayed quality here makes it surprisingly visceral for a Troughton story (especially since the construction of the story is of the “international intrigue” type rather than gothic horror).
A recurring gag throughout involves the measures taken by the TARDIS crew to avoid detection in the airport.
The Doctor and Jamie (who is presumably just looking at the pictures) hide behind open newspapers, at which point the Doctor notices an advert for Chameleon Tours and starts joining the dots. They are “Budget tours for young people between the ages of 18 and 25” and Trout observes that the name is a give-away. It could be applied to “people who change their personalities to suit their own ends”.
Now joined by Ben, they confront not-Polly, now working for Chameleon Tours. Curiously, the Doctor began the previous scene by saying he did not think Michelle Leuppi was Polly. But in this scene he attempts to get her to remember who she is. Ms Leuppi does a fairly cruddy job of deflecting attention (“Please just leave me alone”) and Captain Blade tells her to leave on the next flight.
Michelle Leuppi: What about that man?
Blade: Don’t worry about him. We have ways of dealing with such people.
The best bit of comedy business (why did it have to be this one missing of the first three?) has the Doctor, Ben and Jamie hiding out in a photo booth. They discuss what to do next, but when the curtain is pulled back adopt cheesy smiles for the camera. They decide to split up, always a method of inviting trouble but, since Ben’s about to exit the story until Episode Six, needs must. Ben is sent off to be captured, I mean investigate the hangar, Jamie keeps an eye on Polly while the Doctor heads off to see the Commandant again.
Bernard Kay’s pipe-smoking, indeterminately regional, Inspector Crossland is introduced. He’s looking for his disappeared colleague. I think he’s supposed to be Scottish, but I can’t be certain. Kay’s a welcome presence and his accent is much less of an issue than that of the episode’s other new character.
That’s because the character is super-Scouser Sam Briggs. Pauline Collins chirpy presence is so big that you feel shell-shocked after only a scene with her. The Airport can scarcely contain her.
However irritating I may find Victoria, that’s because she’s so insipid. If Sam Briggs had joined the TARDIS on its travels I suspect all would have been lost. You can bet Steven Moffatt thinks she’s a fantastic character. It’s true that Collins has great chemistry with Hines, but Hines has great chemistry with just about everyone. Just as surely as he will hump their leg at some point.
Sam Briggs is a bolshy nightmare, managing to be both amusing and enormously annoying. I ended up feeling rather sorry for Michelle Leuppi. After all, Sam’s brother (Brian Briggs, FFS!) was clearly off to Rome looking for an easy shag. Even if he hadn’t been abducted I expect he would have go himself into trouble, most likely for stealing a moped. Sam says the police in Rome confirmed BB wasn’t in his hotel room, but she received a postcard.
Michelle Leuppi: Yes, that does seem odd. Would you like me to make some inquiries?
Sam: Well what do you think I’ve come all the way down from Liverpool for?
Sam’s wearing an ill-fitting hat from the worst nightmares of a milliner, illustrative of Scousers’ complete lack of taste. She probably thieved it.
Michelle: What did you say his name was?
Sam: Brian Briggs. Would you like me to spell it for you?
She’d go down like a steaming pile of lama shit in Detsen Monastery, that’s for sure. She plonks herself next to Jamie (still using his newspaper disguise) and it isn’t long before she takes a shine to him. She obviously wants his hairy Highland cock.
Jamie (talking about the Doctor): I wish I had his brains.
Sam: You’re all right, you are.
The Doctor creates a terrorist incident with a tennis ball (this is shameless filler, as he turns up, the Commandant refuses to listen, and then he beats an exit).
The Doctor: One step closer and I’ll blow you all to smithereens!
He tosses the ball to the Commandant and hightails it. I’d like to see the current Doctor try the same thing at 2013 Gatwick.
This episode doesn’t do a whole lot plot-wise (there’s more progression in the following one), but it isn’t lacking for incident. The Doctor returns to Jamie and Sam (the latter has been fobbed off by Michelle that BB was on the Rome flight but they don’t know what happened to him next – which is a reasonable response despite what the Scouse air raid siren maintains).
There is more use of surveillance, as the Doctor witnesses Ben’s immobilisation with a pen gun in the hangar (bye-bye Benny) and heads off there. Sam accuses Jamie of being thick as shit when they discover a load of stamped postcards.
Sam: You’re a right one, aren’t you? Don’t you see this could explain the postcard I got from Brian?
An excellent cliffhanger sees the Doctor arrive in the hangar, and happen across the real Meadows in a packing case. Then he hears a really freaky voice in distress (Spencer, presumably).
Voice: Somebody help me, please. I’m suffocating.
He enters the office, which is locked, and comes under freezing gas attack.
Well-paced, frequently amusing and introducing additional characters that are good (Crossland) and not-so good (Sam Briggs). But what an underwhelming and insulting way to (effectively) excise two companions from the series.