The Faceless Ones (Animation)

I had dropped out of the habit of getting the animated reconstructions.  I bought Shada (which wasn’t quite the same thing as later releases) and The Power of the Daleks, but had not bought The Macra Terror and had not thought about getting The Faceless Ones urgently.  I had the audios and the surviving episodes and clips and did not think I would gain much more from the animations.

I recently bought The Macra Terror and was impressed enough to quickly by The Faceless Ones too.  They give a better idea of the story and how it would have looked.  The animation of The Faceless Ones seem more fluid and detailed than the previous releases, although I was surprised they gave the titular Faceless Ones crude faces (eyes, nose, mouth) when the surviving photos show that they had no face at all, not unlike the people from The Idiot’s Lantern .

I was glad that they have chosen to animate overlooked stories like The Macra Terror and The Faceless Ones alongside more obvious crowd-pleasers like The Power of the Daleks and Fury from the Deep (coming soon).  I do hope for a swift release of The Evil of the Daleks, although I imagine it would be an expensive production, given the number of characters and settings.

The Faceless Ones has a fairly strong plot, about the kidnapping of holidaying teenagers by aliens who are identity thieves of a rather different kind.  Strangely, the Invasion of the Body-Snatchers card is not really played very much here, with only a few scenes where it is unclear who a character is.  It makes a change from the usual Troughton base under siege and the story has a 1960s vibe previously only seen in The War Machines (broadcast the previous year, but set on the same day).

The final episode in particular is strong as the Doctor exploits the divisions between the aliens (classic Troughton deviousness) while his friends try to keep up with his bluffing.  It’s good to have a visual record of this at last.

The plot is stretched a bit thin, with some padding with death-traps, although the Goldfinger-style laser scene is better animated than on audio alone.  Malcolm Hulke (here getting his first Who credit, alongside David Ellis) was not the greatest plotter, but his usual strong characterisation is present here, particularly the Commandant (who transforms believably from uncomprehending bureaucrat to valuable ally over six episodes) and Scouse teenager Sam Briggs, who comes across as even more contemporary than Ben and Polly, who are sadly absent for most of their final story.

There’s good acting too, particularly Donald Pickering as the villainous Captain Blade and Bernard Kay as Inspector Crossland – two actors who made a number of strong Doctor Who appearances, but never seem to be spoken of by fans in the way that, say, Michael Wisher or Michael Sheard are.

One of the amusing things about this story is the way that the Chameleons, who are not exactly a premier league enemy, are convinced of their own superiority, and the intelligence of their Director.  At least they have self-belief.

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