18 June 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 169: The Faceless Ones, Episode Six

Dear diary,

The bad news: although Ben and Polly do actually turn up to say goodbye to the Doctor, it comes as a scene at the very end of the episode, following five-and-three-quarter episodes in which they're barely mentioned. With Dodo, it almost feels less of a shame, because she's only been there for a few stories, but with these two… Ben and Polly have been a part of the programme for around a year, they've been present at the very first regeneration, they've encountered Daleks and Cybermen and all manner of monsters in-between… and then they just sort of vanish. A real, real shame. Much as I love the Lloyd era of Doctor Who, and as much as I'm willing to sing its praises from the highest of the rooftops, this feels like a massive mis-step.

The good news: when they do show their faces to say goodbye, it's absolutely fantastic. It's the programme judging a departure absolutely right - had this come at the end of a story that really showcased the pair (as many of their adventures have) then it could be put down as one of the best ever leaving scenes. It's filled with emotion, as Polly tearfully makes her goodbyes, and Ben is ecstatic at the thought of being back in his own time - and even on the same day (what are the chances?). The whole thing feels very real, so it's a shame it's undermined by the seeming lack of care for the duo in the rest of this story.

It's the Doctor, I think, who really sells the moment to me though. I commented the other day that this incarnation seems to give an air of always being one step ahead of the game, and you get the impression that he's known since the moment they arrived at Gatwick that this may be a parting of the ways for his little group. Maybe that's why he's been so keen to accept others under his wing throughout the story - to get used to the idea of not having Ben and Polly around? For the Second Doctor, they really are a part of life. 'The thing is,' Polly tells the Doctor, 'this is our world…', and he sadly agrees with her: 'Yes, you're right. You're lucky. I never got back to mine…'. It's another lovely little hint at the Doctor's past, and it fits beautifully into the scene here.

He goes on to tell Ben that he can re-join his ship and become an Admiral, and that Polly can look after him. Thing is, in my mind, that's just not what happens. It's too nice, too neat. Real life just doesn't work like that. I've always had a future in mind for Ben and Polly, and making my way through their stories just cements it in my mind: of course the pair plan to be together, and I imagine that they agree to a date in the Inferno club (where else?) for a few days time. Polly never shows, though, instead sending a note to say that she can't - her family will never approve.

The don't see much of each other for the next twenty years, as they go about their separate lives, and eventually each of them settles down and marries someone else. I'd like to think that they do meet up on the night that Mondas approaches Earth in 1986 (there's a short story about it in one of the short Trips books), but they never end up together in my head. They always regret it, though. Bittersweet, perhaps, but that's always the way I've imagined life after the Doctor for this pair. It's a far cry from orphanages in India…

I wonder if I'd feel more forgiving towards the absence of these two from most of the story is Sam had opted to stay on with the Doctor and Jamie at the end? The offer is there, but she turns it down. She even asks Jamie if he might stay a little longer with her, but he's too close to the Doctor to abandon him, now. Much as I think the accent might get on my nerves in the long run, I'd enjoy Sam sticking with the pair for a little longer - the TARDIS has been stolen, after all, so they're going to be in the area for a while at least…

The story itself is perfectly good in this final episode, too, managing to be both epic in scale (this is probably the only time you're going to see me describe a car park at Gatwick as being 'epic in scale', but it is for Doctor Who at this point!), and intimate too as the Doctor makes his negotiations with the Chameleons. If anything, though, I think the thing I'm going to miss most is the narration using the phrase 'Raw-State Chameleon' every few minutes…

On the whole, I have enjoyed The Faceless Ones, but my interest in the story (and the way things hang together) has been on a bit of a downward trend across the six episodes. The latter half certainly wasn't as strong as the start of the tale - and it felt in places as though concepts and characters were simply abandoned when the writers got bored with them. Even Sam, who was such an obvious companion for a while, ends up being somewhat relegated in the last two episodes. A four-part version would, I think, have been fantastic. And now, we're onto a seven-parter! The first since Marco Polo, and the longest story (I'm discounting Daleks' Master Plan because, as I argued lots at the time, it's really lots of little stories) we've had since then, too. But it's the Daleks, who I've grown to love, so it's all to play for…

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