As most of you reading this will be aware, episodes one and three of this six-parter are available on the “Lost in Time” DVD set. I liked part one because it was the first part of the story and therefore was easy to follow, but the stories moved so fast in those days and so much happened in part two, the third part was somewhat more difficult to appreciate, making this serial all the more frustrating due to its incompleteness. Those of you who have seen it will recall that it begins with the TARDIS materializing on one of the runways of London’s Gatwick airport. As they are chased by airport security, the TARDIS crew (the Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly) are forced to split up.
In the Chameleon Tours hanger, Polly witnesses a murder. She later disappears, and when she turns up later she claims not to recognize her friends. In fact, she seems to have another identity entirely! It soon becomes clear that something hinky is going on behind the scenes at Chameleon Tours. They sell European package tours to young people, but the tourists themselves routinely disappear. The Doctor and Jamie soon discover the tour company has taken a strategy from Count Dracula’s playbook by having its clients write letters home in advance of their trips, and then posting them later from the destination countries to hide the fact that the travellers never arrived.
Not all of the victims’ families are fooled by this ruse, however, and the Doctor and Jamie soon become involved with a young lady named Samantha Briggs whose brother has gone missing from one of Chameleon’s tour packages. Behind the scenes, “behind the backs” of Anneke Wills and Michael Craze (according to Wills herself in a bonus interview disc), the BBC was seeking their replacement as the Doctor’s companion, a role soon to be filled by Deborah Watling. (But I’m getting ahead of myself.) The part was offered to Pauline Collins (Samantha), but she turned it down.
To make a long (six-part) story short, alien Chameleons have (in some inexplicable way) lost their individual identities, and the whole operation is set up as a ruse to abduct and usurp the identities of 50,000 young Earthlings. The “faceless ones” in question are in reality the “raw state” Chameleons waiting for a human form to mimic and adopt. The tour planes never reach their intended destinations, but instead convert to rocket ships mid-flight and transport the unknowing victims to a space station in Earth orbit where the switches are to take place.
After the Doctor discovers and thwarts the plan, Ben and Polly decide to stay behind when they discover that the date is July 20, 1966, the same day the sneaked aboard the TARDIS and began travelling with the First Doctor. No sooner do they take their leave, than the Doctor discovers that the TARDIS has been stolen from airport storage, leading directly into the next storyline.
NEXT: “The Evil of the Daleks”
Pauline Collins returned to the series many years later to play Queen Victoria in "Tooth and Claw".
"To make a long (six-part) story short, alien Chameleons have (in some inexplicable way) lost their individual identities, and the whole operation is set up as a ruse to abduct and usurp the identities of 50,000 young Earthlings."
I never really understood what the heck that was supposed to be all about.
The reason given was "due to an explosion." As my episode quide put it, "What kind of an explosion causes that?" I got the impression the "how" wasn't as important as the "what." Despite that hole, the story holds together quite well. It also happens to be Malcom Hulke's first Doctor Who writing credit (as co-writer).
JULY 20, 1966: I’m not the first one to notice this or point it out by any means, but this date was a very busy one for the Doctor, all told. In the morning, the First Doctor, having just defeated the War Machines, inadvertently took Ben and Polly aboard the TARDIS as unknowing stowaways. Later, the Second Doctor returned with them and defeated the alien Chameleons, then in the afternoon he and Jamie took on the Daleks. Quite busy, indeed, with the War Machines, the Chameleons and the Daleks all vying for domination of the Earth on the same day!
Watched Episodes One and Three last night (plowing my way through the "Lost in Time" disks). Not much to add except that the Chameleons might've chosen a more subtle name for their "front" company than "Chameleon Tours". What, was "We'renotsecretlyaliens Travel Company" already taken? (Actually, in the Doctor Who universe, maybe it was!)