Doctor Who
The Faceless Ones

Starring: Patrick Troughton
BBC Radio Collection
RRP 13.99
ISBN 0 563 53501 6
Available now

The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie to Gatwick Airport in 1966. Polly witnesses a strange murder in the vicinity of a hangar belonging to Chameleon Tours, a company offering cheap holidays to young adults. His suspicions aroused, the Doctor learns that Chameleon Tours passengers have not been returning from their destinations...

A television serial that relied on the visual gimmicks of faceless creatures that replace human beings by copying their physical forms is obviously going to lose something in its transition to the audio medium. However, this is the only medium in which we can currently enjoy this Troughton tale (a couple of episodes do exist visually, but their poor quality has thus far denied them a commercial release), so we'd better make the most of what we have.

This story does offer several points of interest that do work on audio. The most notable of these is the character of Samantha Briggs (Pauline Collins) who teams up with the Doctor and Jamie in order to find her missing brother. This plucky character forms a close bond with Jamie (Frazer Hines), and quickly learns how to manipulate the chivalrous Scot with her feminine wiles. She and Jamie enjoy a more physical relationship than usual for '60s Who - well, they kiss twice! Samantha would have become a companion if Collins had accepted Producer Innes Lloyd's offer of a regular role in the series.

Lloyd would ultimately recruit Deborah Watling as Victoria (in the following story, The Evil of the Daleks) to replace Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills), both of whom depart at the end of this serial. As with Jackie Lane's Dodo Chaplet before them, Ben and Polly are rather unceremoniously written out during Episode Two. After that, they appear only briefly in a pre-filmed scene in the final episode, during which they take their leave of the Doctor.

Another change that occurs in Episode Two is the adoption of a reworked version of the opening theme, which features "tinkly" elements that would be retained right up until the end of Tom Baker's penultimate season.

It's also worth listening out for several guest voices. Bernard Kay, a prolific actor who made several appearances in Who, plays Inspector Crossland. Wanda Ventham (here playing Jean Rock) and Donald Pickering (as Captain Blade) would eventually be reunited in Time and the Rani.

The plot is a little slow, as is often the case with six-parters, and the motivation of the alien Chameleons is ill-defined to say the least. They claim to have lost their "identities" and are "dying out" as a result, although it is never made clear how one could lead to the other. Perhaps by "identity" they mean their genetic make-up, the loss of which could cause sterility - but who knows?

In any case, it is always worth hearing Pat Troughton's performances as the Doctor (far too few of which exist visually), even if he does fluff his pronunciation of "Chameleon" in Episode Three! The cliffhanger ending to this tale leads directly into The Evil of the Daleks, which has already been released on audio cassette, but is more than ripe for re-issue on CD should the BBC Radio Collection care to oblige...

Richard McGinlay

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