Chapter 115. Doctor Who – The Faceless Ones (1987)

Synopsis: The TARDIS lands at London Airport and when a startled Jamie flees from his first sighting of an aeroplane, his friends are soon separated. Polly hides from the airport police in a nearby hanger, where she witnesses a murder. Jamie befriends a young woman in search of her missing brother as the Doctor tries to explain his presence to the authorities. Somewhere in the airport, a very quiet invasion is taking place, organised through the travel agency Chameleon Tours…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Obstruction On Runway Five
  • 2. The Suspects
  • 3. Man Without A Face
  • 4. The Transfer
  • 5. The Missing
  • 6. The Trap
  • 7. The Abductors
  • 8. The Secret Of The Chameleons
  • 9. Death Ray
  • 10. Captured
  • 11. Spaceship
  • 12. The Traitor
  • 13. Flight Into Peril
  • 14. The Bluff
  • 15. The Deal

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from a 1967 story by David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke.

Notes: We’re reminded of the origins of the three companions, beginning with ‘that terrifying business of the War Machines,’ including the one where Ben and Polly met Jamie, and we’re informed that Ben and Polly have asked the Doctor to bring them back home. 

The manager of the airport is called Charles Gordon: his title ‘Commandant’ is an unflattering ‘Gestapo’-inspired nickname given to him by his staff, not his actual rank. The first Chameleon is a little less gory than it appeared on TV:

There were no features, and except for the eyes nothing you could call a face. Nothing but a completely blank sphere, across which ran pulsating veins…

Samantha Briggs is introduced as ‘a round-faced, dark-haired girl who looked as if she might normally be a rather jolly, cheeky type’ and she has ‘a faint nasal twang to her voice’ that’s evidence of a Liverpool accent. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver in a couple of scenes [a device not introduced on screen until Fury from the Deep]. There’s a tiny additional scene after everything’s been resolved [see Final Analysis below] and Dicks corrects the date that Jamie longs for (he’s three years off his original time on TV).

Unusually, the story retains the cliffhanger from the original transmission, even though it’ll be a while before it’s resolved in print. Oh and chapter 13’s ‘Flight Into Peril’ is a neat reworking of the ‘Escape to Danger’ trope.

Cover: As an aeroplane takes off, the TARDIS materialises on the runway, painted by Tony Masero.

Final Analysis: I’m going to get misty-eyed every time we get to a Terrance Dicks story from now on, I suspect, even if it’s another fairly solid transcription of what happened in the original scripts. As on TV, Samantha is invested with so much personality that it’s still a shock when she doesn’t join the Doctor and Jamie on their adventures – just as it’s still a shock when Ben and Polly decide to stay on Earth. Dicks does make a few small changes, such as the addition of the sonic screwdriver, which just help to move things along, and then there’s the conclusion, where Jamie is less than satisfied, and Dicks perhaps suspects that the reader might be too:

‘You mean they’re just going to get away with it, Doctor?’ muttered Jamie. ‘Och, it doesna seem fair!’

‘It isn’t, Jamie. But we can’t undo the wrong they’ve done without their help.’ The Doctor smiled wearily. ‘You don’t always achieve perfect justice, you know. Sometimes you just have to do the best deal you can!’

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