After the successful release of the The Macra Terror last year, BBC Studios have put together a brand-new animation of Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones for DVD and Blu-ray, allowing fans to watch a story not seen in fifty years. It’s available in three formats: DVD (with reversible sleeve, so it can match other “classic Who” DVDs), Blu-ray and Blu-ray steelbook edition, with exclusive artwork by Obviously Creative.
I reviewed the newly-animated version of The Faceless Ones a couple of weeks ago, but suffice to say this is another great one from the team at BBC Studios, who have really developed their skills with the overall style of the recreations greatly improved since the clunky The Power of the Daleks in 2016. This release, like The Macra Terror, has more of a 3D feel, with a better range in movement and expressions. While it may not be as fluid as traditional hand-drawn animation, I appreciate these lower-budget releases are for a niche market as opposed to bigger budget.
AnneMarie Walsh and her team have done a fantastic job, which is nicely explained in the half-hour documentary Face to Face with the Faceless Ones. Various members of the animation team are interviewed in this Making Of documentary and fans can get a real insight into the different elements that go into recreating these missing episodes. My one criticism of the documentary, that that we don’t get any insight into the making of the original 1967 production, nor anything regarding Mark Ayres fantastic audio remaster. What’s here is great, but I hope that when the inevitable Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 4 Blu-ray boxset comes out, The Faceless Ones is treated to these extra features.
There’s also a brief collection of surviving film fragments, although unfortunately not much for fans to sink their teeth into beyond some nice stock footage of planes and some poor-quality snippets from Episode 2. It’s a shame there isn’t more surviving material from The Faceless Ones but as we have two surviving episodes, I shouldn’t complain too much. There are also audio commentary tracks on each episode, although these do vary depending on which you watch. Anneke Wills (Polly), Frazer Hines (Jamie) and Chris Tranchell (Jenkins) join Toby Hadoke to comment on the surviving Episodes 1 and 3, as well as the animated version of Episode 4. Episode 5’s commentary is an interview with Bernard Kay (Crossland) from 2013, whilst Episode 6’s features production designer Geoffrey Kirkland and Anneke Wills. It may seem like a mixed bag, but it does offer some variety for those fans wishing to enjoy different perspectives on the story.
In case all of that wasn’t enough for you, this three-disc set also features PDF files of the original camera scripts, accessible by your computer’s ROM drive, which is a nice inclusion for fans.
The Faceless Ones itself is presented in four optional versions: firstly, a widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio) colour animation, a 4:3 black and white animation (to remain faithful to the original presentation), a 4:3 black and white animation with the surviving episodes 1 and 3, and a “telesnap” recreation, utilising surviving film frames, pieces of existing footage and on-set photographs as well as Mark Ayres sound restoration or an optional narrated audio track with Frazer Hines. However you would prefer to watch, this release should have you covered. I watched the full colour animation and the black and white with surviving episodes, and both are excellent, even if some of the framing on the 4:3 black and white animation does crop-out a few small moments here and there – which, sadly, can’t be helped.
If there is an issue with the presentation of the story itself, it is that the surviving Episodes 1 and 3 have seen no further restoration from their original release on the 2004 Lost in Time boxset, which is a bit of a disappointment. Episode 1 looks a little soft, but the Blu-ray release has much less compression in the image, which does make it a better viewing experience to that of the DVD, whilst Episode 3 unfortunately looks quite poor. Alas, this can’t be helped as the budget for this release went mostly towards the animation, which means that fans will once again have to wait for a Collection Blu-ray set for a full HD remaster. What’s here is perfectly fine, but it’s perhaps quite disappointing for fans wanting to see the original footage in Blu-ray quality.
Overall, Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones is a great new DVD/Blu-ray release from BBC Studios. While there are gaps, there’s no denying just how much effort has been put into this release, not only with the brand-new animation but also with the various options to watch The Faceless Ones. BBC Studios have also catered to different fans, ensuring that classic series DVD collectors get a matching cover for their shelves, steelbook collectors get a special release too and the standard Blu-ray can watch in HD.
The story itself is great fun, and the animation really brings it to life after all these years (read my review here), so regardless of my complaints regarding the extras, I am very glad to own it. I myself picked up the DVD release to match with my other DVDs, as well as the Blu-ray steelbook (which looks great next to my The Macra Terror steelbook). The steelbook is limited edition, however, so is liable to sell-out very soon, so if you can find it, it’s well worth the RRP!