The Faceless Ones

Oh, for goodness sake. What is it with companions barely featuring in their last serials? I knew Ben and Polly’s days were numbered, but having them disappear in episode two of a six parter, then just having a quick goodbye scene at the end, robs us of the emotional impact that a good companion’s exit should have. It’s bad for the viewers, and it’s plain disrespected for the actors.

But I won’t let that sour taste overshadow what was a brilliantly enjoyable serial. I love a good body swap story, and the slow reveal of the Chameleons’ evil plan was superbly done. There’s also a strong guest cast, particularly Shirley Valentine and Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum. The former even gets a couple of snogs with Jamie, which probably seem raunchier in telesnap form than they did on video, somehow.

Speaking of Jamie, the plus side of Ben and Polly’s sidelining was that he was given his first chance to really shine. His confusion over modern things is still funny, but he’s now a much more competent time traveller, and a legitimate deputy to The Doctor. This serial also showcases the Second Doctor and Jamie as a proper double act for the first time, and all of a sudden everything falls in to place.

What’s remarkable at this stage is just how different the show is now compared to the start of this season, and it’s all down to Patrick Troughton. The Doctor occupies a vastly different role in these stories, and is much more energetic and proactive. His plans are more complicated and his risks are more calculated, and both of these things lead to extra danger. He’s just so compelling to watch, and the show is much better as a result.

One last thing… why the fuck does Polly have long hair again now, when she had it cropped during the last serial? I’ve Googled, and nobody seems to know…


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