March 23: The Faceless Ones Episodes 5 & 6

Episode 5 sees things starting to fall into place; the Doctor gets a lead as he proves that Meadows has been replaced by a Chameleon, and Meadows shows his willingness to cooperate -- self-preservation is clearly a higher priority for him than loyalty.  Although this is the part where we learn that the Chameleons lost their identities in a "gigantic explosion."  I'm not sure how that works, but I guess we can give them the benefit of the doubt.  Meanwhile, Jamie sneaks aboard the Chameleon space station but is soon caught, and Sam is at the mercy of the Chameleon nurse.  It's quite entertaining, and things progress as the Doctor enters and the nurse is killed when the white armband is ripped off her double (although oddly, the Doctor asks Meadows where the nurse keeps her original despite having discovered it last episode -- maybe he's just making sure Meadows isn't lying).

And then Jamie's identity is taken over by a Chameleon too!  That's very effective, not just because it means the Doctor has now lost all three of his companions to the Chameleons, but also because possessed Jamie talks in a standard Received Pronunciation accent instead of his usual Scottish one; a nice subtle way to make it clear that Jamie's also not Jamie.  But we're moving into the final phase, as the Doctor heads on board the final Chameleon flight, posing as a Chameleon himself.  Except the Chameleons haven't been fooled, and he's captured basically right after he arrives on their space station...

Captain Blade informs the Doctor that they know he's not a
Chameleon. (The Faceless Ones Episode 6 - from Doctor Who
Photonovels: The Faceless Ones - Episode Six
) ©BBC
Episode 6 is pretty thrilling too, as Gatwick Airport is engaged in a race against time to find the originals of the people the Chameleons are impersonating before the Chameleons leave for their home planet, taking 50,000 young people with them.  There're some shenanigans with Troughton as he destroys a processing unit, and a fight in the parking lot among Meadows, Sam, and Jean Rock that was probably entertaining.  There's also a great moment where they finally find the originals and pull the white armband off one of the people getting ready to process the Doctor; the Chameleons quickly change their tune once it's clear that Gatwick Airport isn't bluffing.  And, interestingly, the Doctor doesn't readily condemn the Chameleons for their actions; he makes them return everyone they've kidnapped, but he allows them go on their way (so long as they don't go back to their old ways) and even suggests he might be able to help them.  It's a surprisingly gentle resolution, particularly for this era of the show.

And finally, on film, we get to see Ben and Polly again (having been gone since episode 2), only for them to say goodbye.  It turns out that it's the same day Ben and Polly left (which suggests that War Machines were terrorizing London while Chameleons were kidnapping people across Europe), and so they want to resume their own lives.  Farewell then to Ben and Polly, who were also seemingly written out of a story halfway through like Dodo -- but at least this time we got a final goodbye scene with them.

The Faceless Ones is a good, enjoyable tale.  You get a sense of the show finding a viable direction, as the idea of people putting their lives into the hands of the people operating the planes mixes with the fear of loss of identity.  There are also some good authority clashes with the Doctor that turn into a grudging trust, and really the first Jamie/Doctor interplay we see.  It's also paced well, which helps no end.  The final result is the best story since Troughton made his debut in The Power of the Daleks.