Skip to main content

We’re the most intelligent race in the Universe.


Doctor Who
The Faceless Ones: Episode Six


 The final part unfurls its Malcolm Hulke colours more clearly than anything that has gone before. Now the characters can engage in conversations and, to some extent, reason. The villains are not allowed to be total villains, and justice is not served through their destruction. Indeed, it’s arguable that Blade and Spencer get off extraordinarily lightly by the standards of any era of the show.

The Director: What do you hope to achieve?
The Doctor: The chance to plead with you for the lives of 50,000 young people.
The Director: They’re only human beings.
The Doctor: What are you?
The Director: We’re the most intelligent race in the Universe.

I suppose this was only four years into the series, and such a claim might not have been quite so laughable then. But they’re so clearly not that much more intelligent than humans. Sure, they have superior tech, but it’s all to naught if they don’t have the dexterity to devise a fool (or human)-proof plan.


Even a Scouser is onto them (at one point she claims “Ah you haven’t got all the brains in London, you know”).


The Doctor’s judgement on replica Jamie is amusing, but he doesn’t pass similar comment on Crossland’s loss of regionality.

The Doctor: You’ve lost his Scots accent. I prefer the original.


He also manages to get these super-intelligent beings to admit that real Jamie’s in a safe place not far from there. Further cutting them down to size, he breaks with the blow ’em up approach of his stories so far and outwits them.

The Doctor: The special people up here feel more secure if their originals are actually in the satellite.
The Director: Be quiet.
The Doctor: The Director has nothing to worry about because his original, Detective Inspector Crossland, is actually on board.
The Doctor: (to Blade and Spencer) But, er, where’s your original? And where’s yours?


It’s a fairly crude scheme, but it does the trick. He keeps on chipping away, even as we cut to another scene then back to him as he’s being readied for copying.

The Doctor: Tell me, what happens if you disintegrate in the middle of my being processed?


The gambit of convincing them that the originals have been found at Gatwick isn’t overly convincing, but it’s just about excusable in buying enough time to actually find them.


And… they’re in cars. In the car park at Gatwick.  WTF? Perhaps the Director just had an overly optimistic view of the smarts of the rest of his species? But with fake ratface dissolving as evidence that they have indeed been found, the Director makes a fair point to his stooges.

The Director: You told me they were all hidden where they could not possibly be found until the life was drained from them.

I think this is the first time we have it spelled out that the process is gradual and that they don’t need to retain the originals indefinitely.


This turn of events means that internal divisions save the day, as Blade point his gun at the Director. And the Doctor shows that he is quite willing to negotiate with the terrorists who have taken planeloads of passengers hostage.


The Doctor: Stand by while I negotiate. I will guarantee your continued existence if you will return to Gatwick all the young people you have abducted.
Blade: What kind of continued existence would we have, Doctor?
The Doctor: In your former state, I’m afraid. Your scientists will have to think of some other way out of your dilemma.
Spencer: It’s better than death. We accept.
The Doctor: All right, we accept.

Trout isn’t set on dispensing justice, and he doesn’t define them as one the evils that exist in some corners of the Universe. The good guys don’t kill the bad guys. It’s Blade who shoots his leader dead.


The Doctor: I’m glad to see you alive.
Jamie: What do you mean?
The Doctor: I’ll tell you one day.


Given the rather messy situation, the Doctor might have been best to stick around and help mop up. But he leaves it to the Inspector. Presumably Britain will use the alien tech to develop their space programme during the Pertwee years.

The Doctor: Now, Ben and Polly and back to Gatwick.

Further evidence of the Hulkester at work is the Doctor proffering an olive branch; he will even try to set them on a course of self-improvement (does he do this before setting off to find the TARDIS?)

The Doctor: So long as you keep your side of the bargain, you may return to your planet unharmed. Perhaps your scientists will be able to find a way out of your dilemma. I may be able to, er, give them one or two ideas of my own.


Before the Ben and Polly’s exit comes my favourite line in the episode, maybe in the story. The Doctor and Jamie take their leave of the Commandant, who casually addresses the highlander.

Commandant: Goodbye, Scotty.


There’s also a snog between Jamie and Sam. She’s gagging for it, that Scouser. Puts Amy to shame.

Jamie: I better say goodbye.
Sam: I’ll see you around then.


Despite the half-arsed way that we arrive at the leaving scene, it manages to be quite affecting. It’s the same day that Ben and Polly left with First Doctor

The Doctor: You really want to go, don’t you?
Ben: Well, we won’t leave Doctor, if you really need us.
Polly: The thing is, it is our world.
The Doctor: Yes, I know. You’re lucky, I never got back to mine. All right then, off you go. Ben can catch his ship and become an admiral. And you, Polly. You can look after Ben.
Polly: I will. You will be safe won’t you?
Jamie: I’ll look after him.
Ben: I’m sure you will, mate.


Awww. Except for the bit about Polly looking after Ben. Because that’s all girls are good for isn’t it? The Doctor seems to have decided that they will become a couple while espousing some rather regressive sentiments.  She’d have been more liberated remaining in eighteenth century Scotland with F-finch.

While there are no shortage of lead-ins to the next adventure prior to this, the one here is fresh and attention-grabbing. Perhaps it’s due to the modern trappings, or maybe just the absence of any respite.

The Doctor: Well, I didn’t tell the others but we’ve lost the TARDIS. It was outside, but it’s not there now.
Jamie: You mean somebody’s stolen it?
The Doctor: I don’t know. That’s what we’re going to find out. Come on.


An enjoyable conclusion, which propels the story towards several unexpected destinations. There’s the odd clumsy plot development (the car park hiding place), but the conciliatory approach taken by Hulke is welcome.

Overall:


A rare six-parter where the best is saved for the last third. As a departure point for Ben and Polly, it’s lousy (particularly as the Doctor and Jamie remain on Earth as the next story kicks off). And Sam quickly becomes a source of annoyance. Ongoing adventures with Nurse Pinto and Detective Inspector Crossland aboard the TARDIS would have been much more appealing.

The escape and capture of the mid-section gives way to the revelation of more sympathetic villains than the era has been used to so far.  It’s just a shame Lloyd and Davis took their cues for the run of stories that followed from the most uninspired of the season (The Moonbase) rather than the more experimental approach here. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

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…

The world is one big hospice with fresh air.

Doctor Sleep (2019)
(SPOILERS) Doctor Sleep is a much better movie than it probably ought to be. Which is to say, it’s an adaption of a 2013 novel that, by most accounts, was a bit of a dud. That novel was a sequel to The Shining, one of Stephen King’s most beloved works, made into a film that diverged heavily, and in King’s view detrimentally, from the source material. Accordingly, Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep also operates as a follow up to the legendary Kubrick film. In which regard, it doesn’t even come close. And yet, judged as its own thing, which can at times be difficult due to the overt referencing, it’s an affecting and often effective tale of personal redemption and facing the – in this case literal – ghosts of one’s past.

I'm reliable, I'm a very good listener, and I'm extremely funny.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
(SPOILERS) When I wrote my 23 to see in 2019, I speculated that James Cameron might be purposefully giving his hand-me-downs to lesser talents because he hubristically didn’t want anyone making a movie that was within a spit of the proficiency we’ve come to expect from him. Certainly, Robert Rodriguez and Tim Miller are leagues beneath Kathryn Bigelow, Jimbo’s former spouse and director of his Strange Days screenplay. Miller’s no slouch when it comes to action – which is what these movies are all about, let’s face it – but neither is he a craftsman, so all those reviews attesting that Terminator: Dark Fate is the best in the franchise since Terminator 2: Judgment Day may be right, but there’s a considerable gulf between the first sequel (which I’m not that big a fan of) and this retcon sequel to that sequel.

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

It’s like being smothered in beige.

The Good Liar (2019)
(SPOILERS) I probably ought to have twigged, based on the specific setting of The Good Liar that World War II would be involved – ten years ago, rather than the present day, so making the involvement of Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren just about believable – but I really wish it hadn’t been. Jeffrey Hatcher’s screenplay, adapting Nicholas Searle’s 2016 novel, offers a nifty little conning-the-conman tale that would work much, much better without the ungainly backstory and motivation that impose themselves about halfway through and then get paid off with equal lack of finesse.

You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012)
The final finale of the Twilight saga, in which pig-boy Jacob tells Bella that, “No, it's not like that at all!” after she accuses him of being a paedo. But then she comes around to his viewpoint, doubtless displaying the kind of denial many parents did who let their kids spend time with Jimmy Savile or Gary Glitter during the ‘70s. It's lucky little Renesmee will be an adult by the age of seven, right? Right... Jacob even jokes that he should start calling Edward, “Dad”. And all the while they smile and smile.

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.

And my father was a real ugly man.

Marty (1955)
(SPOILERS) It might be the very unexceptional good-naturedness of Marty that explains its Best Picture Oscar success. Ernest Borgnine’s Best Actor win is perhaps more immediately understandable, a badge of recognition for versatility, having previously attracted attention for playing iron-wrought bastards. But Marty also took the Palme d’Or, and it’s curious that its artistically-inclined jury fell so heavily for its charms (it was the first American picture to win the award; Lost Weekend won the Grand Prix when that was still the top award).

But one soldier, against seventeen. What are you going to do?

Soldier (1998)
(SPOILERS) Now that a bona fide Blade Runner sequel has arrived, we can stop clutching at straws of movies that may/not be set in the same universe. Ridley Scott, growing more senile with each passing minute, considers Alien to exist in the same continuity, but David Webb Peoples got there first with “sidequel” Soldier, enthusiastically partnered by Paul WS Anderson. Unfortunately, no one benefits from the association, as Soldier is a downright terrible movie.