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Report: The Faceless Ones BFI London Southbank Special Event Saturday 29th February 2020

Doctor Who The Faceless Ones the animated version is released on the16th March 2020 on DVD and Blu-ray and to celebrate the BFI (British Film Institute) on the London Southbank ran a special event, Attending were actors Frazer Hines and Anneke Wills who starred in the serial which was first broadcast in six weekly parts from 8 April to 13 May 1967

BFI hosts Dick Fiddy ( BFI Archive Television Programmer) and Justin Johnson (Lead Programmer for BFI)
BFI hosts Dick Fiddy ( BFI Archive Television Programmer) and Justin Johnson (Lead Programmer for BFI)

Before the traditional start to the event, the quiz for the audience the BFI hosts Dick Fiddy (BFI Archive Television Programmer) and Justin Johnson (Lead Programmer for BFI) allowed promotion of an upcoming one-day charity event:

G’Day of the Doctor on Saturday 9th May

Facebook page for G’Day of the Doctor

G’Day of the Doctor is running on Saturday, 9 May at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in SE11 London  (one of London’s most iconic LGBT+ venues )  from 1pm-6pm where there will be various fan groups working together raising funds for victims of the Australian wildfires. Inspired from an idea by Katy Manning who is there alongside other celebrity guests attending the event. It was revealed that they will be also be showing a special screening in colour of episode 2 of the Dalek Masterplan. Tickets go on sale from the 9th March but get them quick as numbers are limited to 150.

Promotion for G'Day of the Doctor
It was Katy Manning idea for G’Day of the Doctor

Message from Ben Craze

This story has three companions Jamie, Ben and Polly. There was a certain poignancy with the absence of Michael Craze ( who played Ben) as this was the last story for Ben and Polly but Justin Johnson had a surprise to show the audience. A video message from Michael Craze’s son Ben and his family who couldn’t be at the event. It was a delightful and adorable clip also including Michael Craze’s young granddaughters before the credits started for episode 1.

Michael Craze as Ben Jackson
Michael Craze as Ben Jackson. Remembered by his son and grand-daughters

Animating The Faceless Ones

Anne Marie Walsh, the animation director, from BBC Studios, came to the stage along with Mark Ayres who is a frequent contributor to the rescoring of new Doctor Who releases. Anne Marie Walsh also directed previous animations such as the Macra Terror and the mini-episode of Wheel in Space. Both Anne Marie and Mark were keen to point out the differences in animation compared to live-action. Anne Marie used the existing live episodes for reference in drawing characters and also inspire dynamism for animation as it is cut differently.

Anne Marie Walsh, the animation director, from BBC Studios with Mark Ayres (right)
Anne Marie Walsh, the animation director, from BBC Studios with Mark Ayres (right)

The original camera scripts which survived were used as inspiration but there was not an attempt to copy shot for shot what the live episodes would have been. Animation has its limitations for long shot movement such as people running. They tended to concentrate on mid and close shots when animating. Personally I think the animation itself is more successful with some characters than others in this production and the style wasn’t entirely to my taste. Asking Anne Marie for her inspiration for the style of animation she said it was very much the comic book style and Martin Gerraty, who did the graphic design work to remove creases from faces and clothes.

The Tardis crew animated by BBC Studios
The Tardis crew animated by BBC Studios
Footage from The Faceless Ones
How does the actual Tardis crew compare in animation (Footage from The Faceless Ones)

Talking about how animation and sound is a collaboration Mark Ayres explained how the soundtrack was taken from off-air recordings made by a fan Graham Strong.  He was a young fan in the 1960s and their quality was better than the original BBC master 16mm film although he confirmed the opening and closing credits were taken from the master. The soundtrack was sent to the animators who created storyboards from the camera script. Where Mark added sound it has been used to enhance certain scenes such as location action shots which would have been shot without sound.

Graham Strong gave his original recordings to Mark Ayres for safekeeping before he passed away in 2018
Graham Strong gave his original recordings to sound recordist Mark Ayres for safekeeping before he passed away in 2018

The Faceless Ones reviewed

Only two original live episodes 1 and 3 exist in the archives and although a black and white animated version is available as extra content the event organisers decided to show the complete colour version to an eager audience. For a taste check out  Trailer for The Faceless Ones

As a very long story, I do think for animation The Faceless Ones adaption could have quite easily been slimmed into 4 episodes.  Watching the full animation for over two hours in one sitting on a big screen I found quite tiring, to be honest, and I think it’s best watched in the serialised nature it was intended as the credits are there for every episode. The set-up for the story is quite slow at the beginning with the Doctor trying to persuade the commandant about the disappearances but on the plus side, we get time to know the characters such as Blade, Ann Rock, the commandant which is a luxury modern Who doesn’t always give us.

Having animation makes me concentrate more on the audio and I enjoyed the commandant very much and Captain Blade for different reasons. Captain Blade gave me the shivers through the voice and the animation made his eyes quite harsh and staring. With the commandant as has happened previously, there are bits in scripts you never imagined are comedic when you are on your own but suddenly you see them through other people’s eyes and because they are laughing it becomes funny which is what happened.

DOCTOR: Very well. Next, I believe Chameleon Tours to be merely a front, a cover.
COMMANDANT: For what?
DOCTOR: For the mass kidnapping of young people.
COMMANDANT: And is all this supposed to be taking place in my airport?

There was a hilarious visual joke included where Ben, The Doctor and Jamie are hiding in a photo-booth from the police/authorities and someone draws back the curtain and they all put on a big cheesy smile. There are also little things added as in-jokes to the animation such as a wanted poster in the police station with Roger Delgado, a newspaper headline with Magpie Electricals defeated as a headline plus some others to keep an eye out for.

The introduction of Samantha was an interesting development bringing a human personal element to the story. She brought out a protective Jamie which was endearing at times. They worked really well together and brought much-needed spark and warmth against the chameleon’s coldness. Her introduction though did mean that Ben and Polly

SAMANTHA: There’s something funny going on here.
JAMIE: Why?
SAMANTHA: My brother’s vanished, and that lot just couldn’t care less

Samantha Briggs played by Pauline Collins
Samantha Briggs played by Pauline Collins – a possible companion?

were side-lined which is such a shame for their last story as Polly finding the dead policeman could have been made of a lot more of for her character. I think it is a crying shame they were not used more fully considering they were paid up to Episode 2 of Evil of the Daleks. I’ve always liked the Duchess and the “well that’s marvellous” cockney.  Both were likeable people but not made more memorable in this story if that makes sense. Their goodbye seemed a bit sudden and stilted.

DOCTOR: You really want to go, don’t you?
BEN: Well, we won’t leave, Doctor, if you really need us.
POLLY: The thing is, it is our world.
DOCTOR: Yes, I know. You’re lucky, I never got back to mine. All right, then. Off you go. Now go on, Ben can catch his ship and become an Admiral, and you Polly, you can look after Ben.

Although the Chameleons seemed to submit rather meekly to the Doctors terms considering everything they did, in the end, I still really enjoyed the story. I have listened to the audio and watched the two surviving episodes with the location filming at Gatwick which really helped to lift the story and its better structured than the 5th Doctor story Time-Flight.

Anneke Wills and Frazier Hines Interview

Animation and voices: Both came to the stage for an interview and Q & A after the complete story had been shown and noting Polly’s last line in the episode said she would spend her life looking after Frazer Hines. Both seemed delighted with their animated representation for this story noting how the animation is getting better and better. Anneke Wills spoke about how she has also done an audio reading of the BBC Faceless Ones book and had challenges with creating the voices of Samantha, Jamie and had shed a tear at the final scene. Frazer Hines loved doing a different accent as he could then separate his characters.

Anneke Wills and Frazier Hines
Anneke Wills and Frazier Hines

Working on Who: Both discussed how they would rehearse for part of the work and then record which compared to the way production is now filming in blocks. It was a luxury really Anneke recalled but they learnt to work with different actors. The recording was done with the director in a gallery and Frazer recalled how one director Morris Barry had changes made to a set because his cameras were in the wrong position. With time constraints in-studio he was furious with a live take where The Doctor and Jamie reach out for Victoria but end up holding hands in Tomb of the Cybermen. Neither Patrick or Frazer warned him they were going to do it although it was planned by the actors.

Favourite stories: For Anneke, it was the Smugglers and she recounted the pleasure of her and Michael Craze spending a night in a pub in Mousel in Cornwall when as young actors without any money they never got a chance to have a holiday. She has recently read The Smugglers for BBC audio which is coming out in November.  For Frazer, he cited the Highlanders as it was his first story. He has spoken to Ann Marie Walsh about it but it may not see the light of day due to a reluctance to draw the tartan kilts!

Leaving in the Faceless Ones: Anneke remembered the filming at Gatwick and the first studio session and then they were just gone. With Frazer’s entrance, Michael Craze had been anxious at another male lead.  For Frazer, he didn’t feel any competition as he knew Michael from auditions. Anneke acknowledged there were probably too many companions so in a story such as The Moonbase Jamie became consigned to bed with a fever imagining the Phantom Piper. She knew that the character Ben was being phased out and due to loyalty to Michael Craze decided to leave as well. She had also taken advice from her partner Michael Gough that as an actor it was best to be flexible and take new opportunities

Signed card and BFI info sheet
Signed card and BFI info sheet

Available for the event. On the back, the postcard has the BFI & BBC Studios Logo and the event date. Autographs were extra as with previous recent releases there was a special postcard produced by the BFI for the event showing an amazing cover. Before the signing with actors Frazer Hines and Anneke Wills, we were advised there wouldn’t be any selfies allowed, presumably due to the current concerns regarding coronavirus COVID-19. There was still a long queue to see them both and chat though before another fantastic BFI event ended.

Doctor Who The Faceless Ones is released on 16th March 2020 from £12.99 (DVD) and £17.99 ( Blu-Ray)

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