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The Faceless Ones – the one at Gatwick Airport

November 19, 2015



Have you ever thought that some of the people you see working at airports might not be quite human?

If ever an alien species with the ability to kidnap human form actually did decide to infiltrate a human airport, I would have to recommend 1960s Gatwick.  I’m aware that airport security is far far tighter than it was fifty years ago, but even by the standards of the day, 1960s Gatwick is a shambles.  The Doctor manages to repeatedly evade capture and the airport police are so bizarrely dim that the Doctor and Jamie succeed in outwitting them by the fairly simple expedient of holding newspapers in front of their own faces (in Jamie’s case – upside down).

July 20th 1966 is, as many of you will know, the Doctor’s busiest day.  Ben and Polly are free to resume their former lives with no discernible break, but the Second Doctor defeats the Chameleons on the same day that the First Doctor thwarts the War Machines (WOTAN). And there are some Daleks to be taken care of as well.

Actually The Faceless One – even in its fragmentary and reconstructed form – is really rather good.  Before the days of psychic paper – the Doctor had to establish his authority in the face of stiff necked authority types by sheer chutzpah and force of intellectual imagination (the truncated adventures of the twenty-first century simply don’t have time for him to do this any more).  And the Faceless Ones themselves – the so-called “Chameleons”-  in their natural state – are very scary.  Actually, in terms of what they are and what they do – they are prototype Zygons.   And the great advantage of having monsters that are very creepy looking in their own form but which can assume human form is that you can also allow some fine actors to perform their villainy unencumbered by prosthetic stickiness.  Bernard Kay and Donald Pickering are particularly chilling.

Indeed, it thanks to them that the whole plan of kidnapping 50,000 young people and stealing their bodies by advertising cheap holidays flying out of Gatwick Airport seems quite plausible.

And then there’s Pauline “Shirley Valentine” Collins in a priceless early TV role.


The BBC’s 1960s costume budget was so tight that hats rarely fitted properly.

Samantha Briggs (see above) would have made a superb companion.  She is feisty, determined and charming in her own eccentric way.  If you tell her to sit quietly and stay out of trouble – the last thing she’ll do is sit quietly and stay out of trouble.  She would have been the great Merseyside companion, an asset to the franchise – but it wasn’t to be.

It’s particularly sad that Samantha Briggs never became a companion because the whole story arc (hateful jargon) seems to be setting her up as a companion.  Ben and Polly disappear relatively early while Samantha’s role increases. Furthermore, her character is discussed when she’s not around – which is generally a kind of “auditioning” hint.  There’s a real spark between her and Jamie.

And so we would have to wait another forty years before we saw Pauline Collins in Doctor Who again – this time as Queen Victoria.





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