Episode 35: The Faceless Ones


Episode 35: The Faceless Ones
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by David Ellis and Malcome Hulke
Directed by Gerry Mill
Wikipedia Entry

The Doctor and his companions fight against a dangerous alien race.

I listened to the audio of this weeks ago and it had no impact whatsoever beyond the acknowledgment that I had listened to it on my commute to work. It’s not a bad story but I found myself bored and it was frustrating.

The serial begins with the TARDIS landing on an airport runway. As a plane lands the Doctor and his companions scatter. Polly sees a man murdered and runs to find help. She is captured as the Doctor and Jamie begin to investigate the crime scene. Ben is later captured. The core of the story involves the Doctor and Jamie trying to find and save Ben and Polly as well as fight the aliens that have kidnapped young travelers. A young girl, Samantha Briggs, becomes involved as her brother has been missing and she suspects it has to do with a suspicious travel company, Chameleon Tours.

The premise starts out fine but this was a serial that should have been edited to four episodes instead of six. This was Ben and Polly’s last story and they are barely in the narrative. Polly has a bigger part than Ben’s but with the introduction of the side character of Samantha, they’re both pushed aside and ignored until their final goodbye. With a quick look, I discovered that the actors, Michael Craze and Anneke Wills, were contracted up to the first two episodes. They’re ending was pre-shot and inserted. It’s a damn shame because I really like Ben and Polly. From what I’ve heard and read of their adventures, they have been charming companions and not nearly as appreciated as they should. As much as I have enjoyed Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor Adventures, I wish that Ben and Polly had been introduced earlier in the Hartnell era. They played off Hartnell quite well and it would have been a delight to see more of those adventures.

The Faceless Ones is an entertaining episode but only towards the end of the serial. Samantha Briggs was an interesting temporary character and I think she would have been a great traveling companion as she had great rapport with Jamie.



Episode 34: The Macra Terror


Episode 34: The Macra Terror
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by Ian Stuart Black
Directed by John Davies
Wikipedia Entry

The Doctor and his companions visit an Earth colony in the future that is not what it seems.

I have discovered through my library’s online resources that many of the audio editions of the missing episodes are available for check out. I like reading the books but the hearing the story is more entertaining and I seem to retain the story more than from the book adaptations. Granted I’m stuck in traffic five days a week, so the audio presentation is a welcome relief to the horror that is the 405.

The story begins immediately after the end of The Moonbase in which Ben, Polly, Jamie, and the Doctor see the scary image of a claw on the TARDIS scanner. They land in the future, on another planet that has been colonized by Earth. Their visit contact with this new planet is with a colonist by the name of Medok, who is running away from the police. Medok is arrested by the Chief of Police who escorts the visitors to the colony. As the Doctor and his companions become accustomed to this new world, they discover that the colony is not what it seems. There are forces controlling the colony; forces that may not be human.

This was an entertaining story. I found myself yelling in my car as I listened to the adventure. (This is usually a good sign that I’m engaged in the story) It felt like an engaging radio drama. This is a rare case in which I’m glad that the episodes are missing because it was so engaging as an audio adventure. I’m wondering if I would have thought the episode cheesy if I had seen the Macra monsters. Sometimes leaving the imagination open to possibilities is more entertaining than the actual image presented. If you can find the audio edition, it would be worth the time and effort.

Episode 30: The Power of the Daleks

The Power of the Daleks

Episode 30: The Power of the Daleks
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben
Written by David Whitaker and Dennis Spooner
Directed by Christopher Barry
Wikipedia Entry

As the Doctor emerges from his first regeneration, he finds himself in a battle for survival against his deadliest enemy.

I’m excited for when I can stop reading adaptations. It’s not to say that I don’t enjoy reading them but I’m finding it hard to maintain this blog as my concentration wanes with each written adaptation. It’s taken me six months to finally start reading the Second Doctor’s first story. I’d like to finish the Second Doctor’s adventures by the end of the summer or September at the latest so I can dive into my growing DVD collection. Must push myself in the coming months.

The story begins as the Doctor emerges from his first regeneration into the Second Doctor. Ben and Polly are understandably confused by everything that has happened and are quick to doubt the Doctor when he claims that he is still the Doctor. As the story progresses, Ben and Polly begin to believe the Doctor’s claims but only through trial and a lot of tribulation.

The adventurous trio find themselves on the planet Vulcan where a colony has been created. The Doctor is mistaken for someone called The Examiner. The actual Examiner had been killed mere moments of his and the Doctor’s arrival. The Doctor pretends he is this Examiner to discover the lay of the land and why the man had been assassinated.

What the Doctor discovers is something far more deadly: the Daleks have returned. Unfortunately, the Doctor not only has to deal with the threat of the Daleks but the greed and desires of some of the colony’s officials.

The overall story was fun and I could imagine being entranced if I had the opportunity to watch instead of read the program. In terms of the guest characters, why are humans so stupid? Well, not stupid, but our desire for power does tend to lend towards destruction. This is a serial about the power of money and how, if it isn’t checked, becomes far more important to safety or even common sense.

Despite the exploration of this common trope, the story was well written and it was fun and exciting to read once I pushed myself into the story.

Historical Mentions

A fleet of heavy transport aircraft and dark helicopters bearing the logo of UNIT – the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce – settled down later that day by the Cyberman saucer. A select team of men led by Lieutenant Benton of the English division of UNIT secured the saucer, but found no signs of life.

This was the first mention of UNIT that I’ve encounters so far. It should be noted that this adaptation was written in 1993 so this mention would have been tacked on to create continuity towards the Third Doctor. Sarah Jane Smith is also mentioned in this prologue.

The Doctor refers to his regeneration as a renewal.

According to the Doctor, at the time of his first regeneration he had been traveling for seven hundred and fifty years.

The Doctor produces a flute, one of the Second Doctor’s signature products, while searching for his diary.

The metal triangle the Doctor takes from the laboratory is similar to a piece that Susan took from their first adventure on Skaro.


Episode 4: Marco Polo

Marco Polo

Episode 4: Marco Polo
First Doctor
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Susan
Written by John Lucarotti
Directed by Waris Hussein
Wikipedia Entry

The Roof of the World
The Singing Sands
Five Hundred Eyes
The Wall of Lies
Rider from Shang-Tu
Mighty Kublai Khan
Assassin at Peking
(All Missing)

At the roof of the world, the Doctor and his companions meet one of Earth’s greatest adventurers: Marco Polo.

This is one of the problems with watching the First Doctor adventures. Some of the episodes are missing. Marco Polo was a seven-part episode that entailed great costume changes and elaborate set designs. The audio track still exists as well as production stills and off-screen photos called ‘tele-snaps’. There are two different ways to enjoy the story. On The Daleks/The Edge of Destruction DVD there is a condensed version of the episode using the audio and the stills as a means to tell the story. There is also a book adaption published by Target Books. For the purpose of these two formats, this evaluation will be split into two.

Serial Evaluation
I really wish this episode has survived the great BBC purge. The audio presented on the DVD is only 30 minutes and only skims the surface of the story. Apparently there is a larger audio version of this available through BBC audio which I’ll have to seek out when I have a little bit more time (and money). The story entails the Doctor and companions coming into contact with Marco Polo on his travels to meet Kublai Khan. Marco wishes to take the TARDIS to Khan as a means to buy release so he may return back home to Venice. From there the episode is a struggle for survival through the caravan travel and a fight to regain access to the TARDIS. The companions make an impact on Marco and his traveling companions.

For what was presented in the 30 minute presentation, there’s also a discussion on a friendship that is formed with Susan and a girl named Ping-Cho. Much of their conversations stem from the fact that Ping-Cho has been engaged to marriage to a much older man to maintain relations with the warlord factions. It’s interesting to note Susan’s disagreement with how Ping-Cho has been forced to marry. There seems to be an underlining element of feminism that serves on the outskirts of some of the early Doctor Who story lines. It’s refreshing to see because Susan and Barbara are in perfect positions to be just pushed aside as the helpless females of the group. Yet, Ian and the Doctor are witness to their strength and acknowledge that they are vital part of their group.

Book Evaluation
The book adaptation was actually written by the same person who wrote the episode, John Lucarotti. It’s an incredibly short read for those of us who read fast. It’s still a short read for those who read slow as well. The pacing of the book reads like the episode installments in that there are moments in which the plot slows for establishment and then builds up to create tension. It moves in waves as each installment’s issues come to light, failure in the adventure leads to more exposition until finally a conclusion is created. I don’t want to seem as if I’m demoting the book because it clearly is an adaptation, but it was refreshing to see the tension build and imagine it as if it were an episode. Reading the novelization just enhanced my desire to see the episode instead of merely reading about the action.

The story is simple enough. As it was established in the 30 minute audio presentation, Marco Polo wants to keep the TARDIS and use it to exchange his freedom so he many return to Venice. The Doctor and his companions spend their time trying to convince Marco that they must let them leave as soon as possible. The Doctor, sneaky Time Lord that he is, plots and plans alternative routes of escape as the travelers move their way through Ancient China. There’s a sub-plot involving a warlord who wants to take over Kublai Khan’s power. The sub-plot hinders the Doctor’s plans, creating suspense throughout the story.

The ending has an interesting discussion on the source of power within our Ancient Histories. What does it mean to have power and how is power represented in everyday mundane interactions? Does power have a symbol and can leaders become great leaders by obtain objects or through their actions? Granted, these are elaborate questions for a conclusion presented in a limited amount of time. I couldn’t help but wonder these questions when we see the actions and thoughts of Kublai Khan as he interacts with the Doctor.

Overall, what was presented in the audio format was too short and left me wanting. The set designs looked gorgeous and the costumers looked elaborate. The book adaptation serves as a great example of what could have been. As more money had been poured into this episode than the previous one of The Edge of Destruction, it’s sad that one can not appreciate what looks like a stellar episode.

Historical Notes