Skip to main content

You’re still thinking in Earth terms, Commandant.


Doctor Who
The Faceless Ones: Episode Four


Another spy yarn device makes an appearance in this installment, the weakest of the six. Spencer disables Jamie and Sam and they awake with the Doctor, immobilised with a deadly laser beam inching towards them. Crumbs.


 This sequence is reasonable, if uninspired (Jamie deflects the beam with a mirror provided by the Doctor). The Doctor’s conclusion that they were to die because “We were too dangerous” covers for the inconsistency with Ben and Polly being duplicated, but not very well. He asserts that this means the Chameleons’ plans are almost complete, but setting an elaborate Bond villain method of killing them, which couldn’t be easily explained as an accident by anyone discovering the bodies, suggests logic is secondary to filling out an episode.

Oh goodness me, I'm a hoppity bunny.

Particularly as next we have the trio splitting up again, Sam sent to observe Spencer at the Chameleon Tours kiosk while the Doctor and Jamie go to the medical centre.


 While this is occurring, ratface is being duplicated.



Jamie: How am I doing, Doctor?
The Doctor: Very well, but don’t over do it.


 Their incursion is truncated when the Chameleon nurse informing them that someone is coming for an X-ray, while Spencer and ratface observe his activity.


 Further running in circles occurs with the Commandant expressing disbelief in the Doctor’s explanation for what is going on. While none of this is exactly tedious (Colin Gordon is always entertaining), it is place-holding.

The Doctor: However, you know what I think has happened.
Commandant: Yes, and you know what I think about your ridiculous theory. People from outer space, indeed.


 A glimmer of plot progression occurs when Jean reveals she has done some investigating of her own. She called all the other airports and learnt that Chameleon Tours didn’t deliver any passengers to any of them. The Commandant suspects they’ve been taken to a secret airfield.

The Doctor: You’re still thinking in Earth terms, Commandant.
Commandant: And I intend to continue doing so.


 The ever-aggravating Sam’s bolshy desire to embark on the next Chameleon Tours flight shows how cloth-eared she is. Jamie’s light-fingered purloining of her ticket by acting all amorous is amusing though (particularly as it’s a Scouser getting stolen off).

Sam: Hey, kid!

As is his reaction to the cost of the flight (£28); “That’s a fortune!


 Ruses are the order of the episode, with Jean faking faintness in order to entice Nurse Pinto to leave the medical centre. So the Doctor can have a proper nose around.


 The real Nurse Pinto is revealed behind a wall, and the Doctor discovers some control device cuffs that he will later threaten Meadows with. But the whole Meadows thing is so roundabout as to be reckless. He’s been allowed to do as he pleases for several episodes now without restriction.

The Commandant’s defensive response to being accused of keeping Jean too busy to eat is very funny.

Commandant: I’ve never stopped her having her lunch!


It’s a testament to slack ’60s airport security that Jamie embarked as S Briggs. I suppose he was wearing a skirt. Spencer holds the real S Briggs at ray gunpoint.


The episode enlivens a little with a queasy Jamie heading for the Gents while the rest of the passengers are miniaturised (was there any reason why the Doctor, Jamie and Sam couldn’t have been put aboard the plane rather than laserised?)


 Dispatching the pilot of the pursuing fighter by frying the electrics in his plane is suitably ruthless, and the disappearance of the Chameleon flight off the radar screen allows the Doctor to press his point about where the passengers have been sent. The Commandant informs him that a fixed point on the radar screen means that a plane is going straight down (crashing).


The Doctor: What about straight up?
Commandant: Darn thing would be in outer space.
The Doctor: Exactly.




A mostly inessential episode, with escape and capture and investigating that yields results we knew already or could have been dealt with a week or so earlier. Fortunately, things are about to improve.  

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mondo bizarro. No offence man, but you’re in way over your head.

The X-Files 8.7: Via Negativa I wasn’t as down on the last couple of seasons of The X-Files as most seemed to be. For me, the mythology arc walked off a cliff somewhere around the first movie, with only the occasional glimmer of something worthwhile after that. So the fact that the show was tripping over itself with super soldiers and Mulder’s abduction/his and Scully’s baby (although we all now know it wasn’t, sheesh ), anything to stretch itself beyond breaking point in the vain hope viewers would carry on dangling, didn’t really make much odds. Of course, it finally snapped with the wretched main arc when the show returned, although the writing was truly on the wall with Season 9 finale The Truth . For the most part, though, I found 8 and 9 more watchable than, say 5 or 7. They came up with their fair share of engaging standalones, one of which I remembered to be Via Negativa .

Schnell, you stinkers! Come on, raus!

Private’s Progress (1956) (SPOILERS) Truth be told, there’s good reason sequel I’m Alright Jack reaps the raves – it is, after all, razor sharp and entirely focussed in its satire – but Private’s Progress is no slouch either. In some respects, it makes for an easy bedfellow with such wartime larks as Norman Wisdom’s The Square Peg (one of the slapstick funny man’s better vehicles). But it’s also, typically of the Boulting Brothers’ unsentimental disposition, utterly remorseless in rebuffing any notions of romantic wartime heroism, nobility and fighting the good fight. Everyone in the British Army is entirely cynical, or terrified, or an idiot.

Isn’t it true, it’s easier to be a holy man on the top of a mountain?

The Razor’s Edge (1984) (SPOILERS) I’d hadn’t so much a hankering as an idle interest in finally getting round to seeing Bill Murray’s passion project. Partly because it seemed like such an odd fit. And partly because passion isn’t something you tend to associate with any Murray movie project, involving as it usually does laidback deadpan. Murray, at nigh-on peak fame – only cemented by the movie he agreed to make to make this movie – embarks on a serious-acting-chops dramatic project, an adaptation of W Somerset Maugham’s story of one man’s journey of spiritual self-discovery. It should at least be interesting, shouldn’t it? A real curio? Alas, not. The Razor’s Edge is desperately turgid.

It’s not as if she were a… maniac, a raving thing.

Psycho (1960) (SPOILERS) One of cinema’s most feted and most studied texts, and for good reason. Even if the worthier and more literate psycho movie of that year is Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom . One effectively ended a prolific director’s career and the other made its maker more in demand than ever, even if he too would discover he had peaked with his populist fear flick. Pretty much all the criticism and praise of Psycho is entirely valid. It remains a marvellously effective low-budget shocker, one peppered with superb performances and masterful staging. It’s also fairly rudimentary in tone, character and psychology. But those negative elements remain irrelevant to its overall power.

My Doggett would have called that crazy.

The X-Files 9.4: 4-D I get the impression no one much liked Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), but I felt, for all the sub-Counsellor Troi, empath twiddling that dogged her characterisation, she was a mostly positive addition to the series’ last two years (of its main run). Undoubtedly, pairing her with Doggett, in anticipation of Gillian Anderson exiting just as David Duchovny had – you rewatch these seasons and you wonder where her head was at in hanging on – made for aggressively facile gender-swapped conflict positions on any given assignment. And generally, I’d have been more interested in seeing how two individuals sympathetic to the cause – her and Mulder – might have got on. Nevertheless, in an episode like 4-D you get her character, and Doggett’s, at probably their best mutual showing.

You have done well to keep so much hair, when so many’s after it.

Jeremiah Johnson (1972) (SPOILERS) Hitherto, I was most familiar with Jeremiah Johnson in the form of a popular animated gif of beardy Robert Redford smiling and nodding in slow zoom close up (a moment that is every bit as cheesy in the film as it is in the gif). For whatever reason, I hadn’t mustered the enthusiasm to check out the 1970s’ The Revenant until now (well, beard-wise, at any rate). It’s easy to distinguish the different personalities at work in the movie. The John Milius one – the (mythic) man against the mythic landscape; the likeably accentuated, semi-poetic dialogue – versus the more naturalistic approach favoured by director Sydney Pollack and star Redford. The fusion of the two makes for a very watchable, if undeniably languorous picture. It was evidently an influence on Dances with Wolves in some respects, although that Best Picture Oscar winner is at greater pains to summon a more sensitive portrayal of Native Americans (and thus, perversely, at times a more patr

You’re a disgrace, sir... Weren’t you at Harrow?

Our Man in Marrakesh aka Bang! Bang! You’re Dead (1966) (SPOILERS) I hadn’t seen this one in more than three decades, and I had in mind that it was a decent spy spoof, well populated with a selection of stalwart British character actors in supporting roles. Well, I had the last bit right. I wasn’t aware this came from the stable of producer Harry Alan Towers, less still of his pedigree, or lack thereof, as a sort of British Roger Corman (he tried his hand at Star Wars with The Shape of Things to Come and Conan the Barbarian with Gor , for example). More legitimately, if you wish to call it that, he was responsible for the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu flicks. Our Man in Marrakesh – riffing overtly on Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana in title – seems to have in mind the then popular spy genre and its burgeoning spoofs, but it’s unsure which it is; too lightweight to work as a thriller and too light on laughs to elicit a chuckle.

The best thing in the world for the inside of a man or a woman is the outside of a horse.

Marnie (1964) (SPOILERS) Hitch in a creative ditch. If you’ve read my Vertigo review, you’ll know I admired rather than really liked the picture many fete as his greatest work. Marnie is, in many ways, a redux, in the way De Palma kept repeating himself in the early 80s only significantly less delirious and… well, compelling. While Marnie succeeds in commanding the attention fitfully, it’s usually for the wrong reasons. And Hitch, digging his heels in as he strives to fashion a star against public disinterest – he failed to persuade Grace Kelly out of retirement for Marnie Rutland – comes entirely adrift with his leads.

I don't like the way Teddy Roosevelt is looking at me.

North by Northwest (1959) (SPOILERS) North by Northwest gets a lot of attention as a progenitor of the Bond formula, but that’s giving it far too little credit. Really, it’s the first modern blockbuster, paving the way for hundreds of slipshod, loosely plotted action movies built around set pieces rather than expertly devised narratives. That it delivers, and delivers so effortlessly, is a testament to Hitchcock, to writer Ernest Lehmann, and to a cast who make the entire implausible exercise such a delight.

Look out the window. Eden’s not burning, it’s burnt.

Reign of Fire (2002) (SPOILERS) There was good reason to believe Rob Bowman would make a successful transition from top-notch TV director to top-notch film one. He had, after all, attracted attention and plaudits for Star Trek: The Next Generation and become such an integral part of The X-File s that he was trusted with the 1998 leap to the big screen. That movie wasn’t the hit it might have been – I suspect because, such was Chris Carter’s inability to hone a coherent arc, it continued to hedge its bets – but Bowman showed he had the goods. And then came Reign of Fire . And then Elektra . And that was it. Reign of Fire is entirely competently directed, but that doesn’t prevent it from being entirely lousy.