Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones

The Doctor Who episode “The Faceless Ones” from the Patrick Troughton era is a gripping mystery set largely in Gatwick Airport, where aliens have infiltrated and are working to abduct human young people. Most of the action revolves around the Doctor’s attempt to determine what exactly is going on, who is responsible, and why they are doing it.

It is the revelation of the aliens’ motive, relatively late in the episode, that makes for the most interesting intersection with religion. The aliens in question are from a world that had suffered a catastrophe which had resulted in their loss of their identities – their having become disfigured and so unrecognizable. Having discovered a way to be transformed into the likeness of humans they abduct, they have come to Earth in an effort to save their race. This reminded me of the ancient Jewish stories of powerful entities, the offspring of angels and humans, having had their bodies destroyed during the Flood, so that since then they seek to possess humans of whom they are envious because they still have bodies – in other words demons. Yet the “Chameleons” of this episode, like so many Doctor Who aliens, start as mysterious and terrifying menaces and end up as enemies who, despite their claimed superiority, are enough like us that we can empathize with them in the tragedy of their disfigurement, even as we acknowledge the need for humanity to fight back against them.

At the end of the episode, Ben and Polly depart, since they have arrived at more or less the same time they had first departed with the Doctor, and so it was as if they had never left. The Doctor says they are lucky, since he never got back to his world. While this might be viewed as at odds with the later depiction of the Doctor as a renegade on the run from his own people, in fact it can be easily harmonized, since if he had gotten back to Gallifrey just after he had left in the first place, then presumably he might have gotten away with it.

Unlike other lost episodes I’ve listened to, this one doesn’t work quite as well as an audiobook, perhaps because the version I had available to me lacked narration.

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