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 33: The Moonbase


Episode 33: The Moonbase
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by Kit Pedler
Directed by Morris Barry
Wikipedia Entry

The Doctor encounters a threat from his past; a threat that forced his first regeneration.

After a rough landing, the Doctor and his three companions discover that they have landed on the Moon in the year 2070. As they explore the planet, they come across a Moonbase where the Earth’s weather is now being controlled. Jamie is injured so the Doctor, Ben, and Polly seek entrance to the Moonbase to take of their injured companion. (Jamie’s injury was created to help with his unexpected role of series regular. Jamie would later take some of Ben’s lines in later installments)

The Moonbase crew is dealing with a strange disease which causes the base to be quarantined. Those affected with the disease display their symptoms with an inky-substance under their skin; the first affected speak of a silver hand. As more crew-members are affected with this strange disease, the Doctor and his companions come to the realization that this disease might hide a darker, evil threat that the Doctor hoped to never see again.

Oh this episode was stellar. Everything about it worked. The acting, the direction, the set design; all of it was fantastic. Unlike, the previous episode in which the missing footage was replaced with just audio and photo stills, the missing footage here was animated and was a great improvement to the photo still method. There was news last week that The Power of the Daleks would be released in the near-future as a fully animated production. I can’t wait and I’ll be editing my original review afterwards.

Admittedly, there are silly moments in the episode. The hole in the Moonbase is fixed by a food tray? But it works for the story and the tension was wonderful. I wasn’t distracted by my phone or laptop while watching this program, which means it was fun. The Cybermen, a villain I genuinely enjoy, were creepy and I couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like to have seen them for the first time, without any knowledge that they were the creatures behind the disease. That reveal at the end of the first installment was chilling as well as the cliffhanger at the end of the third installment.

And can we discuss the guest characters? They made sense in the context of the story. The Moonbase is managed by a man named Hobson, played by Patrick Barr. Normally, the manager of a doomed or failed mission is played as a bumbling fool, someone who doesn’t listen. While Hobson may have his faults, he’s a smart character. He’s there to protect the Earth but will look out for his crew in the fiercest way possible. Hobson plays off the Doctor incredibly well, which makes sense since the making-of documentary discusses Barr and Troughton’s friendship.

Overall impression? Great episode and a lot of fun. Worth the time and effort to seek out and watch.

Episode 32: The Underwater Menace


Episode 32: The Underwater Menace
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by Geoffrey Orme
Directed by Julia Smith
Wikipedia Entry

It’s a race against time as the Doctor tries to save the world against a power-mad scientist.

This isn’t my favorite episode but it’s not the worst episode I’ve watched. What makes this episode extraordinary is that this is the first time I’ve actually seen Patrick Troughton in action since I’ve started this blog. I had watched The War Games ages ago but my impressions of his Doctor have escaped my memory. With The Power of the Daleks and The Highlanders, I had only heard Patrick’s voice or read about the Doctor’s antics in the written adaptations. Once he’s finally on screen, he’s wonderful and it made me giddy with joy while watching his performance. Anytime that Patrick was on the screen, I kept thinking of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor; the bumbling actions that hid a highly clever personality. While Smith was inspired by other programs as well as Albert Einstein in the creation of his take on the Doctor but I can’t help but see the similarities between Two and Eleven.

Unfortunately, you don’t really see the Doctor in action until the second installment of this episode. The DVD has photo stills and an audio soundtrack for the first and last installments. The problem is that the audio doesn’t give you an indication of what exactly is going on. It was distracting and frustrating. I was able to fill in the puzzle during the second installment but it doesn’t flow well because of this confusion. I had to go back to the written adaptation, which was entertaining, to understand what exactly was going on.

The story begins with Jamie in awe of the TARDIS. As a man of the mid-1700s, he’s understandably wary of future technology. Unlike the First Doctor’s companion Katarina, Jamie handles the technology with ease and rolls right with and, sometimes, into the punches. The companions and the Doctor land near the ocean, on a volcanic island. When Ben, Polly, and Jamie start to explore, they find they are being followed. Polly is kidnapped with the Doctor, Ben, and Jamie captured shortly afterwards. They soon discover that they are in somewhere around Mexico, sometime in the early 1970s. Their captors are preparing their prisoners for a ritual sacrifice. These captors are survivors of Atlantis and still celebrate their old Gods. After some quick thinking, and quick talking, they are rescued from death by the mad Professor Zarloff. The Professor recognizes the Doctor’s intelligence and separates him from the companions. Jamie and Ben are to work in the mines and Polly is to become a fish person.

Circumstances change and the team is reunited by the third installment. Professor Zarloff’s designs to raise up Atlantis involve a plan to blow-up of the Earth. Naturally, the Doctor makes every effort to stop him.

There are many themes at play in these installments. There is a religious story mixed with the mad scientist story mixed with a conspiracy story mixed with a socialistic angle. It’s a tale that is everywhere. There’s even a scene in which the Atlantis fish people are seen swimming around the ocean. It felt like outakes of some B-movie version of Disneyland footage. It’s fun to watch but the overall story feels scattered. Zarloff is played over-the-top, which can be fun in a campy way but with everything going on at once, it’s overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time. Zarloff’s character would have been amazing in some 1960s American science-fiction film.

I did sit and watch the making-of documentary, which involved cast and crew interviews. This episode was originally meant to follow The Power of the Daleks but the scheduled director, Hugh David, thought the script was crap and publicly claimed that the budget was too much. There was a reworking of the script/broadcast schedule and The Highlanders was created to follow The Power of the Daleks with Hugh David directing that amazing episode. The Underwater Menace was pushed around until it was finally scheduled for after The Highlanders.

Patrick Troughton also thought the story was crap and the companions, now three instead of two, had lines cut to share with each other. Polly’s character, who had been a mighty force in The Highlanders (something I touched upon on in my last review), was written weak and not the strong, independent 60’s character she had been designed. I fell in love with Anneke Wills watching this mini-documentary, as she discussed why her character was created with this modern 60’s mentality. I had already loved Polly but the woman playing this fantastic character is a treasure. Sometimes writers are stuck in the past with no understanding of characters.

Overall, it’s not a bad episode but it’s still not the best. If there had been some editing of the story wherein the focus was on a smaller cast of characters, it might have been amazing. Patrick Troughton shines because he was a professional and made the best of what he had. Here’s hoping that this was a one-off thing and the rest of these adventures don’t follow this pattern.

Episode 31: The Highlanders


Episode 31: The Highlanders
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by Elwyn Jones and Gerry Davis
Directed by Hugh David
Wikipedia Entry

The Doctor and his companions land in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden; Scotland 1745.

Random note: Did you know that Diana Gabaldon is a Doctor Who fan and named her lead male character after Jamie? While I’m not a fan of Outlander, I thought the connection was fun. (I really tried to get into the book, but I wasn’t feeling it. I might try watching the show. With my crazed schedule of late, I’m not making any promises)

The story begins as the trio land in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden, which was the final uprising of the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charles.

“A few hours previously, the largely Highland Scottish troops of Prince Charles Edward, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, had drawn up their battle lines against the English and German Army led by the Duke of Cumberland, who were fighting for King George. What was at stake was the entire future of the British monarchy.”

For more information about the Battle of Culloden, here is a bibliography list from Wikipedia.

As the story unfolds, Ben, Polly, and the Doctor land in a cold, wet land. Ben immediately recognizes the weather as English-like weather. The problem is that they don’t take the moment to consider that it might not be the same timeline they originally came from. When a ten-pound cannonball lands near them, the Doctor knows the TARDIS has landed in a battle. Ben and Polly believe it to be a reenactment happening and run off to investigate. The Doctor, the cautioned participant for once, follows to ensure their safety.

Meanwhile, fleeing the battle is the Laird of Clan McLaren, Colin McLaren along with his children, Alexander and Kirsty, and the clan bagpiper, Jamie McCrimmon. Colin has been injured and the group is looking for shelter, fast. They come across an uninhabited  cottage; a cottage that had moments earlier been discovered by the The Doctor and his companions. Confusion occurs on both sides. As Ben and Polly hail from London, the McLarens believe them to be the enemy. Ben and Polly are confused as to why someone would want to attack them, still not realizing that they are in the past. The Doctor is just trying to call everyone down. Eventually, the McLarens allow the Doctor to examine Colin and Polly and Kirsty go off to fetch fresh water. Ben foolishly sets off a musket, allowing the Redcoats, who are searching for rebels.

The Doctor, Colin, Jamie, and Ben are captured and place in jail instead of being hanged because of nefarious plot by Solicitor Grey, who is the Royal Commissioner of Prisons. Grey has been shipping prisoners to the colonies, specifically Jamaica and Barbados; an illegal act that Grey hopes will provide him with generous funds. Meanwhile, Polly and Kirsty have a run-in with a British officer, Lt. Algernon Ffinch. They steal his money and, later, blackmail him to avoid capture.

The story ends with the Doctor and Ben enabling the prisoners to fight against their captors. Kirsty and Colin sail away to avoid capture from the English. Jamie accepts the invitation to travel with the Doctor, Ben, and Polly.

The Highlanders is a fun time travel romp. The characters were fun and the use of history was great throughout the story. As someone who is not as familiar with British and Scottish history as she might want to be, the overall story didn’t feel dumbed down and left enough for me to understand as well as provide enough of a lure for me to explore later.

Polly continues to be amazing. She’s fun, feisty, and not afraid to be tough and feminine. There’s a fun balance of this modern woman with Kristy, who is the daughter of Colin McLaren, the leader of the clan McLaren. At first I was annoyed with Kristy because of the way she is presented in the narrative. It’s unfair to compare Polly’s modern mentality with Kristy’s 1700s mentality. This is what Kristy has been taught and I believe that she has never had an example in which a woman could stand and fight before Polly appeared. Granted, I should just get off my soapbox and not freak out about a Doctor Who adaptation, but it bugged me so hence the mention. Still, it was fun to read the interactions between these two women and it provided a nice break in the story.

Poor Algernon Ffinch. While I may have glossed over him in the story explanation, he was a fun character to discover. A fob and an idiot, Ffinch is fodder for the story, but it’s fun to see him fluster around Kirsty and especially Polly. He has a happy ending in the end but he was also a nice break in the more tenser portions of the story.

Overall, it was a very entertaining story. I still adore Ben and Polly and their interactions. I love this sassy version of the Doctor. And I love the introduction to Jamie, a character that would continue to travel with the Second Doctor until the end of Patrick Troughton’s run.

Jamie, suddenly afraid of the strange looking object, hung back. He was going with these strange people into something he only dimly comprehended. Where would they take him? Would he ver see his native glen again?

As he hesitated, Polly turned back and grasped his hand. “Don’t be afraid,” she said, “it’s much nicer inside than it is out. There’s so many wonderful surprises waiting for you, you’ll see.”

Jamie allowed himself to be drawn through into the small police box. The door closed behind him and he saw to his astonishment the large, hexagonal, brightly-lighted interior of the time machine.

Special Notes
On the Lost in Time DVD boxset there is a listing for some surviving Highlanders footage. When I went to watch it, there was barely anything.

Historical Mentions and Notes
This was the last time the series would focus primarily on historical events until the Fifth Doctor episode of Black Orchid. 

The Second Doctor is shown to be very fond of hats


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 29: The Tenth Planet

Tenth Planet

Episode 29: The Tenth Planet
First Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben
Written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis
Directed by Julia Smith
Wikipedia Entry

At the edge of the world, the Doctor discovers there’s another planet in our solar system and it contains a threat that could wipe out humanity.

Well, it took about two years after my initial plan but here we are: the last William Hartnell/First Doctor episode. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’ve loved watching these First Doctor episodes and I’m sad to see them finished but I’m also looking forward to the Patrick Troughton episodes. The Steven episodes prepared me for this moment as I’ve been eager for something new for quite some time. I’m just sad that I won’t have a larger amount of time with Polly and Ben with the First Doctor. I really enjoyed their interactions.

Besides being the final William Hartnell episode, this was the first introduction to the Cybermen. Their backstory is that they were originally humans on a twin planet called Mondas. In order to survive, these humans began to add cybernetics to their bodies, slowly destroying their humanity by eliminating their emotions and empathy. In Modern Who, their backstory comes from a parallel universe instead.

These original Cybermen have a complex costume, with wires and tubes attached to the front of their bodies. I found them to be gruesome and frightening as it is obvious that these are creatures willing to do whatever it takes to survive. Should one compare the costumes from the original design to the upgrade in Modern Who?  I don’t believe so as they are both a product of their time. Both are creatures to be feared as they are both powerful with their single-mindedness to control the world and eliminate weakness.

Having been a fan of the Cybermen since I’ve watched them on Modern Who, I was excited to see their first appearance. The Tenth Planet did not disappoint and I was on edge after the first installment. The suspense that was created with the first appearance of the Cyberman lingered throughout and was handled quite well by the actors and the special effects team. The final installment is missing and was recreated through animation with the remaining audio soundtrack. Kudus to the animation team that created and maintained great suspense throughout the presentation. The entire episode was well-done even with the lack of William Hartnell as he was ill in the second and third installments. Michael Craze, who played Ben, took many of the lines intended for the Doctor, with the scientific lines given to the character called Barclay, who was the Chief Scientist in the episode.

I will miss the First Doctor but it’s time to move on. I am grateful for what Hartnell created and it is because of his legacy in those first seasons that we have Doctor Who still today.

Historical Mentions
This was the last episode of the First Doctor and the first time that a regeneration was shown.



Episode 28: The Smugglers

The Smugglers

Episode 28: The Smugglers
First Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben
Written by Brian Hayles
Directed by Julia Smith
Wikipedia Entry

A visit to 17th century Cornwell lands the Doctor and his companions in a smuggling ring and pirates.

The Doctor is surprised to find two new companions in his TARDIS as he travels away from 1966 and away from his previous companion, Dodo Chaplet. Naturally, the Doctor is cantankerous but he handles the transition well. The wonderful chemistry that the Doctor had established in The War Machines continued with The Smugglers and it is fun to see them all get along splendidly.

The plot, which involves pirates, smugglers, and one honest lawman, was fun. It’s a shame that this episode is lost. Granted, it could be that the adaptation translation was well-written and the episode was poor. Either way, I wish I could see the footage.

As this was Polly and Ben’s first outing as official companions, I’d like to report that they handled themselves quite well. Polly has a clever mind and Ben balances that cleverness with a bit of a cheeky attitude and braun. Because this is Early Classic Who, Polly does play the damsel-in-distress part, but, luckily, not as often as one would assume. She holds her own quite well in some of the fights. Ben has the hero part down well. He’s quick to fight for honorable causes or for just simple survival. I had mentioned in the last episode, The War Machines, that this new duo reminded me of a younger Ian and Barbara. I would still agree with that statement as they are fitting into those role quite nicely.

Overall, a great adaption and a wonderful first story for the new companions.


Episode 27: The War Machines

The War Machines

Episode 27: The War Machines
First Doctor
Companions: Dodo, Polly, Ben
Written by Ian Stuart Black and Kit Pedler
Directed by Michael Ferguson
Wikipedia Entry

On a visit to Earth, the Doctor discovers a super-computer who is creating War Machines intent on taking over the world.

I love this episode. I love it and wish we had more like it. At least more like it during Stephen’s run. The story is great. The character interactions are wonderful and the writing/direction is tight and beautiful. Love it. Love it. Love it. Love it!

This episode highlights the problems I have had with the Stephen era. I didn’t like the character and, honestly, I thought he was too negative for the series. Yes, he had some bright spots here and there but I never connected with him. With the new companions, Polly and Ben, I fell in love instantly. There was great chemistry with these two new characters and they worked well with the Doctor and Dodo. This new pair reminded me of a younger Ian and Barbara, which is what this series needed. Again, I felt that Stephen was far too serious and Dodo was never given the chance to be as light-hearted as she was in this episode. Even when the Doctor was interacting with Polly and Ben for the first time, it just felt right. I couldn’t help but have my heart swell with giddiness with the chemistry.

When the story moves to the party scenes, with Polly and Dodo mingling and meeting Ben, it’s a great representation of that time: carefree with the world of possibilities at their feet. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of other worlds and the seriousness of important subjects. As I mentioned in The Gunfighters, there needed to be a balance, more light-hearted with the serious drama. This was the first episode in a long time that it felt that this balance had been achieved. This felt like a much-needed reboot and we’re all better off because for it.

The villain of the story, a super-computer, was brilliant. The War Machine devices were similar version of the Daleks, which was distracting. We’re never given an explanation of the alienness of the WOTAN computer. Was this secretly a Dalek invasion? Even with the distraction of the Dalek-like War Machine, I can see this type of story being played out in Modern Who. Speaking of Modern Who, the military presence in the third installment reminded me of UNIT. I know that the official version of UNIT wouldn’t happen until the Second Doctor’s run, specifically the episode The Invasion, but I can’t help but wonder if this is a precursor to UNIT. I’ll say more once I get to The Invasion, but this might be where the foundation for UNIT was created. An alien threat in which regular weapons are ineffective? A mysterious man who knows how to defeat the alien threat? Let’s set-up a taskforce to fight the baddies!

The Doctor is called Doctor Who a few times throughout the second installment. It’s a little strange but luckily it doesn’t last beyond this small scene.

Dodo’s departure was crap. The character deserved better than a footnote. The actress, Jackie Lane, had her contract end during the production and it was not renewed. It feels weak, though I don’t believe that Dodo was never given a real opportunity to shine. Quite a pity since she had such potential at the beginning of her run, even more so at the beginning of this episode.

Overall, despite some bumps and bruises, The War Machines is a solid affair and worth the effort.

Historical Mentions
This marked the last appearance of Dodo and the first appearances of Ben and Polly.

According to the episode’s Wiki page, this marks the last appearance of the St. John Ambulance emblem on the TARDIS. It will be not be seen again until the Eleventh Doctor’s run.