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Doctor Who: The Face of Evil

"Now drop your weapons or I'll kill him with this deadly jelly baby."

After going companion-less for the first time in the show’s history, the Doctor picks up a new traveling companion in the form of the savage warrior woman Leela.

The arrival of Tom Baker saw the Doctor return to his status as a cosmic wanderer. With Sarah gone, all the ties he’d formed to our lonely little planet during his exile were now well and truly severed. From now until the end of Tom’s tenure, only five stories would even be set primarily on Earth. This story marks the first time since 1969 that the Doctor has traveled with someone who wasn’t from modern day Earth (or near future Earth, I’m not really sure, the whole thing is very confusing). He wouldn’t have another companion from this planet until Tegan’s arrival in 1980.

Leela is one of my favourite companions. Actually, all the companions of the Fourth Doctor are my favourites (except for Adric of course). She’s the Xena of Doctor Who companions. She’s a fierce fighter who's willing to kill when needed (something that doesn’t sit well with the Doctor), and is more likely to stab a monster in the eye than stand there screaming at it. She may be ignorant of science and technology, but makes up for it with common sense and an open mind. The show’s producers envisioned her as a sort of Eliza Doolittle character, someone the Doctor could take under his wing and educate in the ways of the universe. Like all good companions she is naturally curious, and willing to stand up to authority figures, no matter if it’s her tribal elders or even the Doctor himself. Although their relationship was difficult during these early days, Tom Baker and Louise Jameson have great chemistry and bounce well off each other.

Although it drags like hell in the second half, Boucher’s script offers us an interesting spin on a familiar Doctor Who formula. The Doctor has a rather specific modus operandi. He often arrives on an alien planet, stumbles upon an oppressed civilisation(s), helps them overthrow their oppressor and then slips away before anyone can so much as ask him to help with the washing up. That is how the Doctor conducts his business. He is not a clean up man. This is, of course, fairly careless and is exactly what gets him into trouble in this story.

‘The Face of Evil’ is one of the rare stories where one of Doctor’s past adventures comes back to bite him. The adventure in question is some unseen story where the Doctor aided the crew of a crashed starship. He fixed the ship’s computer but didn’t consider the side effects of linking the computer to his own brain. In doing so he accidentally created a monster – Xoanon, a malevolent artificial intelligence with a god complex and split personalities, one of them the Doctor’s own, allowing Tom Baker the chance to play the villain.

If the Doctor had stuck around the first time to see how things turned out for the crew, none of this would’ve happened. Whole generations wouldn’t have lived and died because of Xoanon’s mad scheming. So does the Doctor do things differently this time? Ha, don’t make me laugh. He just repeats the same mistake all over again. Once he’s fixed Xoanon, he scarpers, leaving the two warring tribes to deal with the messy aftermath without him. I know you’re all for manifest destiny, Doctor, but would it kill you to take a little responsibility for your actions?

Notes and Quotes

--The original title was 'The Day God Went Mad'.

--Anthony Frieze, credited as one of the voices of Xoanon, was a student at the school where director Pennant Roberts' wife taught. Philip Hinchcliffe arranged for a recording of his voice to be made shouting 'Who am I?' for the climax to Part 3.

--Besides the Doctor and Leela, the other characters are rather bland. Leela’s tribe are just a bunch of blokes in loin cloths posturing about.

--Pamela Salem and Rob Edwards, who were rehearsing for 'The Robots of Death' at the time, also provide voices for Xoanon.

--The Doctor’s confrontation with Xoanon at the end of Episode 3 is a great scene. It is just a shame it is intercut with one of the most boring action sequences the show has ever done. Classic Who never had access to the technology needed to do laser battles convincingly on screen. So it really wasn’t a good idea to have a long shoot out between Leela and the Tessh guards. With money and the right director maybe this could’ve been an exciting set piece.

--Leela is probably still best known for her revealing costume. The leather skins were only meant to be for her first few appearances with Leela switching to more everyday clothes in later stories. That idea was thrown out of the window when the producers saw how well the male members of the audience were reacting to her and decided to keep her in the leathers. Three steps forwards, two steps back.

--Namedrop Alert: The Doctor says he studied marksmanship with William Tell.

--When he first appears, the Doctor breaks the fourth wall for the first time and talks directly to the audience.

Leela: "The Evil One!"
The Doctor: "Well, nobody's perfect, but that's overstating it a little."

The Doctor: "Would you like a Jelly Baby?"
Leela: "It's true then. They say the Evil One eats babies."

The Doctor: "I think this is not Hyde Park. Could be a nexial discontinuity. Must remember to overhaul those tracers. Put a knot in my hanky (pulls out a hanky with a knot). Wonder what that was for?"

The Doctor: "You know the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering."

The Doctor: "You can't expect perfection, even from me!"

Three out of four Janis thrones.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

1 comment:

  1. Leela is great for many reasons, and one of those is ruined in an upcoming story that I'll address when I comment on that one, and I mean beyond the obvious 'dad appeal' factor of her outfit, which I do like, but for me the fact that she's not only brave and capable, but smart too. She may be a bit behind some other companions as she's from a primitive society, but she catches on quick and that makes her great as she breaks the superstitious savage stereotype so well (barring that one story that I again will comment when I get there).

    This is a very interesting tale even if the Tesh are a bit dull once we get to that portion of the story. The way the Doctor has to address an earlier mess he made is so rare, that it really makes this one stand out. A few flaws here and there and of course, but it's a good story with an introduction to a great new companion. I was leery of a new one after we lost the beloved Sarah Jane, but Leela is excellent too.


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