The moment they step out of the doors of the just-landed TARDIS, the Doctor and his friends must contend with one rather major problem – their time machine has parked itself on a runway at Gatwick Airport and, as Jamie puts it, there’s a “flying beastie” coming in for a landing right now. A foot patrolman spots the four time travelers and chases them. The Doctor and Jamie go one way, and Ben and Polly in another; eventually Polly is separated from Ben, but while she’s hiding in a hangar warehouse building, she witnesses a gruesome murder committed with a futuristic weapon that doesn’t belong on Earth in 1967. Worse yet, the killers have seen her face, and eventually trap her. At the airport terminal, the Doctor and Jamie own up to being responsible for the strangely out-of-place police box on the tarmac, but they also realize that something else is even more amiss. Reunited with Ben, and with the help of a young woman who is searching for her missing brother, the Doctor goes to investigate the hangar where Polly disappeared, belonging to Chameleon Tours. He finds more evidence of otherworldly equipment, and proof that wherever passengers are booking their flights to aboard Chameleon Tours’ planes, they aren’t arriving there. The airline is being run by a race of displaced aliens who have lost their identities due to a disaster on their home planet – and the solution they’re pursuing is a kind of identity theft that could eventually rob Earth of its entire population.
Guest Cast: James Appleby (Policeman), Colin Gordon (Commandant), George Selway (Meadows), Wanda Ventham (Jean Rock), Victor Winding (Spencer), Peter Whitaker (Gascoigne), Donald Pickering (Blade), Christopher Tranchell (Jenkins), Madalena Nicol (Pinto), Bernard Kay (Crossland), Pauline Collins (Samantha Briggs), Gilly Fraser (Ann Davidson), Brigit Paul (Announcer), Barry Wilsher (Heslington), Michael Ladkin (Pilot), Leonard Trolley (Reynolds), Robin Dawson, Barry du Pre, Pat Leclere, Roy Pearce (Chameleons)
Broadcast from April 6 through May 13, 1967
Note: Two actresses in this story appeared in (much) later Doctor Who adventures; Wanda Ventham appeared 20 years later in Sylvester McCoy’s debut story, Time And The Rani, while Pauline Collins’ next Doctor Who appearance would come nearly four decades later in the David Tennant episode Tooth And Claw, in which she guest starred as Queen Victoria. Her character in The Faceless Ones, Samantha Briggs, had been considered as a potential companion but the show’s producers decided against that, in favor of introducing Victoria Waterfield in the following serial. Episodes two, four, five and six of The Faceless Ones are missing from the BBC’s vaults; the first and third episodes appeared in the Lost In Time DVD set, and the complete story is available in audio form. Ironically, despite the story’s title, The Faceless Ones marked the introduction of a new title sequence which prominently featured the new Doctor’s face, an element that would remain a tradition through the end of Sylvester McCoy’s era. “Spangly” sounds were added to the theme music to go along with the visual changes.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: Where The War Machines, at the tail end of William Hartnell’s era,
started bringing Doctor Who into the modern day with a serious storyline, The Faceless Ones does the same, except that its serious storyline is executed in a way that occasionally approaches Austin Powers levels of trippy. A race of aliens that preys almost exclusively on attractive young people almost sounds like a godsend for a modern-day Sci-Fi Channel series; in this case, judging by the two surviving episodes (and the complete audio recordings of the missing installments), it seemed to be an attempt to add some glamour to Doctor Who.
This was the final outing for Ben and Polly, who joined the first Doctor in The War Machines and thus became the first “regeneration companions”. But the way the two were written most of the time, they didn’t work well in anything that wasn’t a present-day or “15 minutes into the future” (i.e. Tenth Planet). And despite that, they barely make a showing in The Faceless Ones, which is unusual – and perhaps and indicator of the lack of enthusiasm that Doctor Who’s scriptwriters had for the increasingly crowded TARDIS. (Another indicator is the fact that Michael Craze and Anneke Wills were contracted to appear through part two of The Evil Of The Daleks, the following story, and were indeed paid as if they appeared in those episodes, though they were written out here after appearing in only the first, second and last episodes.) With the arrival of Victoria in Evil, the real salad days of Patrick Troughton’s reign would kick in.
It’s also refreshing to see a story whose alien baddies show remorse for their actions, and seek (and get) the Doctor’s forgiveness and help, rather than needing to be blown to bits or otherwise shown to the door. Though it seems insignificant, this helps to really establish the Doctor’s “root for the underdog” nature that would become central to the character in later years and incarnations.