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Alien abductions at Gatwick Airport
on 22 December 2006
"The Faceless Ones" is a largely earthbound adventure set, uniquely, in the bustling surroundings of Gatwick Airport. Aided in the two surviving episodes (available on the DVD set "Lost In Time") by a good use of location filming on the runways and the airport concourse and elsewhere by careful use of ambient sound including the PA system, the setting is fairly convincingly conveyed.
The plot of the story is standard alien abduction / replication fare, such has been seen in many sci-fi programmes since, including "The X-Files". However, David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke's script handles the matter in a typically low-key "Doctor Who" way, managing to be both engaging but also somewhat slow-moving. The six-part story takes the time to avoid ludicrous intuitive leaps on the part of the regulars, and the supporting characters, on both sides, are treated with the respect they deserve. Captain Blade (Donald Pickering) performs his role of impassive villain well, and there's a decent guest turn by Pauline Collins as Liverpudlian would-be-companion Samantha Briggs. The story really belongs, however, to Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines, who take the limelight as the Doctor and Jamie and do so with aplomb.
"The Faceless Ones" is the last outing for companions Ben and Polly, and the means of their departure is one of my main reasons for not giving the story a higher rating. Actors Michael Craze and Anneke Wills were clearly only contracted for two episodes' worth of filming, and as such both characters (whether in original or in duplicate) vanish completely from the narrative by the third episode, only reappearing for their departure scene at the end of episode six in what was clearly a pre-filmed sequence. This ignominious exit for two popular characters is, to my mind, second only to Dodo's departure in "The War Machines" for shabbiness.