Character Profile: Ben Jackson and Polly Wright

And so the last vestiges of the First Doctor’s era are swept away as Ben and Polly depart the TARDIS and, eventually, apparently, wind up in India.

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Ben Jackson and Polly Wright were two characters who were very much of their time and place. Polly was a swinger in the 1960s term, working at a swinging bar, and living in swinging London, in 1966. Ben was a Royal Navy sailor who thought of himself as a bit of a ladies man and was happy to get into a scrape or two.

The two made a very excellent pairing, and played well together, especially when alongside Hartnell’s more dowdy and dour First Doctor. They presented a very youthful and vibrant contrast to him; even more so than previous younger companions, like Steven and Vicki, or Steven and Dodo.

Sadly, they weren’t as much of a fit with the more wonky and crazy Second Doctor, and once Jamie turned up in the Second Doctor’s second story, they were relegated to near-permanent background status. This is a shame, as there was still much that could be done with the characters. But perhaps the TARDIS was simply too crowded; it wouldn’t have this many passengers in it until late in the Fourth Doctor’s time.

The real shame is the way the characters exited the show. They were shown the door at the end of episode two of “The Faceless Ones”, and though they did appear briefly in a farewell at the end of the story, it was still kind of annoying how much they were gone in that story.

Anneke Wills largely retired from acting after playing Polly, as did Michael Craze with Ben. Both had a few minor roles in TV, but nothing major. Wills went on to become something of a spiritual-type of person, even spending time living at Rajneespurum, a name familiar to anyone in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1980s. As for Craze, he spent time managing a pub and appearing at various conventions before dying surprisingly young in 1999.

Wills has turned to the role of Polly through Big Finish. The character of Ben continues with Big Finish as well, having been recast. I must say it’s nice to have them both back.

In the end Ben and Polly aren’t given quite as much love by the fans as they might have been. The fact that only a couple of their stories remain intact is, I feel, a large part of this. But what we have of them shows two rather wonderful characters that I can’t help but like.

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Episode 162 – “The Faceless Ones” – Part 06

Here we are at the end, and not just the end of this story. No, we also bid a fond farewell to Ben and Polly.

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The real Fab Four.

The Doctor and the Nurse (not her actual name, but what the hell), are on the alien spaceship. They’re captured pretty quickly.

Back at the airport, a search is being mounted, and all personnel are told to report to the airport police. I…don’t quite get why we’re following this story. I mean, I suppose that maybe they’re going to find Ben and Polly, who have been MIA for some time now, but absent that it seems like pointless filler.

Up on the ship, the Doctor meets the duplicate of Jamie who, among other things, is missing his Scots accent. He then starts sowing a bit of discontent among the various aliens on the ship. As he does. It’s one of those nice little Doctor moments where he uses his brains and mouth to annoy the bad guys.

Samantha and one of the airport people are busy looking over records and stuff. Apparently Samantha was being groomed as a replacement companion. I could see her working out. Kind of a pity she didn’t cone along, but Victoria, who joins up in the next story, works out well enough.

The Doctor is about to get face-robbed, or whatever one calls it, but he manages to sabotage the machine that does the dirty deed. The baddies grouse about this, but then just install a new server blade, or whatever.

Back on the ground, one of the aliens attacks Samantha, leading to a fight that, from all the bongo music on the soundtrack, is probably very exciting. It’s somewhat less so in reconstruction form.

One of the alien duplicates is disconnected from the original, which causes him to disappear. As the Doctor had been bluffing about this eventuality, it causes considerable alarm.

Back on the spaceship, the Doctor offers the aliens a deal whereby they get to live as long as they return all the people they kidnapped. The discussions don’t go well at first, but end up ok.

And with that, our story is pretty much done. All that remains is for the Doctor and Jamie to return to the TARDIS. Before that Jamie gets a little kiss with Samantha. Ah, no love like future love!

We’re finally reunited with Ben and Polly. They appear just in time to see the Doctor ready to leave. They catch up, and we get a lovely little goodbye moment. And that’s that.

Next time: “Tomb of the Cybermen”

Episode 161 – “The Faceless Ones” – Part 05

When last we saw our heroes, a plane or two had crashed, but no one seems to be exactly sure as to what’s going on. Turns out that the alien-controlled plane is now in space.

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“Yes, fine, but I do get miles for this?”

The aliens plot and scheme and talk about how the intelligence of humans is “comparable to animals on our planet”. So…animals on their planet fly, have space travel, use radio and TV, and can split the atom? I’ve always hated the whole, “advanced aliens will see us like we see insects!” trope.

Meantime, up in space, Jamie is free and wandering around, following a flight attendant from the plane. He eventually finds a drawer full of small, doll-sized people. So that’s the Master, Jamie, and the Doctor accounted for. Still no idea where Ben and Polly are.

Well, that’s not entirely true. They’re currently on the unemployment line. I learned this just the other day. The last time they appeared in the series was in episode two of this story. When they filmed that, Anneke Wills and Michael Craze also filmed a little goodbye sequence. So that’s why they aren’t in any part of the story after episode two.

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The Doctor is continuing to argue with the people at the airport. Things come to a head when he unmasks one of the aliens who’s currently disguised as a human. The Doctor then begins an interrogation.

Turns out the aliens are stealing identities from humans because their own physical forms were severely damaged. I’m…not entirely sure how all that makes sense, but ok. I mean, surely some plastic surgery would be enough to get the job done.

Samantha is about to be de-faced when the Doctor and the police arrive to put a stop to it. The nurse who’s running the whole thing is less-than-pleased about this. She kills one of the police officers, and is about to kill the alien the Doctor has prisoner when said alien stops her.

The Doctor comes up with a clever little plan to put a stop to all that’s happening by infiltrating the alien plane and getting up to their space station. Naturally, they’re pretty quickly captured.

Episode 160 – “The Faceless Ones” – Part 04

Well, here we are, back again. Thanks for your patience, everyone! Let’s get back to it.

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“We have to get this man to a hospital!” “A hospital? What is it?”

So, oh, yeah, in the last episode a police inspector was kidnapped by the bad guys. Now he’s on an airplane that seems to be largely deserted.

Meantime, the Doctor, Jamie, and that one woman are all being held captive and appear to be facing the sort of death machine that James Bond would come to know and love. But before we can resolve that plotline, we cut away back to the police officer, because ok.

Now we move on to watching one of the faceless aliens being turned into a human. It’s kind of an interesting scene, though it interrupts the death trap sequence. Anyhow, they escape and work on infiltrating the sick bay area the bad guys are running.

Still no sign of Ben, for the record.

There are some shenanigans at the airport, with the Doctor trying to find out what’s going on while Jamie and this young lady he’s with continue to chat with each other.

No sign of Polly, either. For the record.

The Doctor investigates around the hospital, and finds some weird stuff. Nothing major, but more clues as to what’s going down.

I finally notice the name of the lady Jamie’s been hanging with, Samantha. That’s something, at least. She tries to get onto the plane, but Jamie swiped her ticket. She gets led to the manager’s office, and he holds her at gunpoint. Which seems a bit odd, given that she was trying to get onto the plane they’re running.

Jamie is experiencing his first airplane flight, which is mildly amusing.

The military has sent out a fighter to intercept the airplane. The bad guys shoot it down fairly easily. Then something happens to the aliens’ plane, and we see that everyone onboard has disappeared. As before. Sinister!

Episode 159 – “The Faceless Ones” – Part 03

In episode three, the Doctor gets to confront the enemy, face-to-face.

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Well, you know what I mean.

The Doctor has been gassed, and is starting to transform into an Androgum into something unpleasant. The Doctor gets away and doesn’t seem to have turned into anything after all, though I could swear that was what they were going for.

Meantime, the woman Jamie is talking about is working her feminine wiles upon him, trying to get him to help her. As that goes on, the Doctor shares his rather implausible story with the authorities, who seem less than impressed, especially as he starts to go on about aliens. Such a pity that UNIT isn’t a thing yet, though I suppose he could go to talk to the Counter-Measures Group. They do seem a bit more convinced once he uses some of that tech, mind you.

Jamie’s lady friend has stumbled onto a set of postcards, all pre-written and designed to divert suspicion. They run off to tell the Doctor, who is suitably impressed.

The aliens are also rather impressed. We see them scheming and plotting and talking about how basically annoyed they are about how things turned out with the Doctor. I must say that I quite like the staging here. It all feels very Twilight Zone.

Now the police have started nosing about, with a detective showing up at Chameleon Tours to investigate. Soon he’s on board one of their planes, only to find that there doesn’t appear to be any flight equipment inside the cockpit. And then he’s taken prisoner.

And then I realize, to my surprise, that we haven’t seen Ben lately. Or Polly. Odd that.

Episode 158 – “The Faceless Ones” – Part 02

Yeah, yeah, I know. One Doctor “a Day” generally implies something other than once every six days. But life gets in the way and there you go.

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And here’s a random photo for you.

When we last saw our heroes, it was…well, last week. Ok, ok. I’ll try to be more on the ball here!

When we really last saw them, we watched a man being dragged off to a medical facility at an airport. We now start off in what I think is meant to be said facility with a shot of a man lying on a bed or something. And then we go to the Doctor and Jamie talking with “Polly”. She claims to be a visiting worker from Switzerland.

The guy in charge decides to let her go and call the police. Meantime, Jamie and the Doctor run off. And we finally get to see one of the titular Faceless Ones. From what I can tell, I suspect they’re going to try to give him a face.

Oh, yes, Ben is also in this story. He’s currently hiding in a photo booth, as one does.

So, yes, the Faceless One gets the face off the man who was lying on the other bed in the clinic area. So I guess their cunning plan is to steal everyone’s faces for some nefarious reason. I suspect this is a story that’s long on atmosphere and a bit short on sense.

Meantime, “Polly” has landed a job at Chameleon Tours. The Doctor, now reunited with Ben, somehow, talks with her. She seems to have vague memories of what happened, but not many. She also seems to be having a tough time at her new job, dealing with a complaining customer. That amuses me a bit, though I don’t really know why.

Jamie tries to engage the woman in conversation. She’s concerned about a missing brother. “Polly” provides no real help, and on instructions from the big bad, closes her little kiosk. It’s an odd sequence of events that, at least at this point, smacks of filler.

Ben is scouting out the hanger for Chameleon Tours and gets captured by the bad guys as he’s trying to contact the Doctor. The bad guys are smart enough to realize that this means the Doctor is on his way.

And we end with the Doctor getting gassed, possibly by Jumpin’ Jack Flash?

Episode 157 – “The Faceless Ones” – Part 01

Thrills, chills, and spills as our heroes arrive in “modern” times! And at an airport, even! With airplanes!

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Please don’t be the Concorde, please don’t be the Concorde…

Specifically, they’re at Gatwick, and appear to have arrived on the runway. Well, I’m sure that won’t cause any problems.

In point of fact, just as they get out of the TARDIS, they see a rather impressive jet heading straight for them. Instead of getting back inside and taking off, they run for it. They’re then spotted by a police officer, and instead of talking to him, they run for it. Lots of running in this story, I suspect.

They’ve done some location shooting here, which is nice. Lends a bit of verisimilitude to the whole thing.

ATC is confused as to why there’s a police box on the runway. They send for it to be picked up while the airport police look around for the TARDIS team. Jamie and the Doctor crouch behind a landing gear, while Polly ducks into an office just in time to see a man get shot with a futuristic gun. Good timing, that.

Polly catches up to the Doctor and Jamie and tells them what happened. Bet you a dollar that when they get back to the office, the body will be gone, and the Doctor won’t believe Polly, despite knowing her for quite some time and having every reason to believe her.

Meantime, at the bad guy’s lair, we find out that they’ve killed a police officer who, shockingly, is still there, and still dead, when Team TARDIS arrives. Points for the writers on that. As they leave, one of the bad guys intercepts and captures Polly.

The Doctor and Jamie soon realize that Polly is missing. They try to find someone in authority, but instead run across and officious customs officer who doesn’t seem inclined to let them do much of anything. Eventually they annoy him to the point where he calls someone in authority. That seems like a good way to get things done.

Ben rejoins the story by stumbling into the same office everyone else has been wandering in to. He bluffs his away along for a bit, but I doubt that it’ll be successful.

We then go to an amusing bit with the Doctor and Jamie and an airport official looking for the dead body. Which, of course, is now gone. So I was right about what was going to happen, but wrong about the timing.

The two baddies manage to get the Doctor and Jamie to leave. They’re taken into custody as the two men lead away another man who seems to be horribly disfigured. As they do this, the Doctor and Jamie meet a woman they take to be Polly, but she says she’s not. Please don’t let this be another “exact double” thing.