"The Face of Evil". Doctor Who, Serial 89. The Tom Baker Years.

[Contact Me]] | [FAQ]

[Some "Dougisms" Defined]

[About Dickens of a Blog]

Summary: In the Face of Evil, the Doctor meets Leela and teams up with her to figure out the mystery of what is going on with her tribe of cargo cult savages, their enemies (the Tesh), the strange phantom monsters, and the trapped god Xoanan.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

(11:46:12 CST)

"The Face of Evil". Doctor Who, Serial 89. The Tom Baker Years.

As I wrote in Over twenty years of watching Doctor Who (looking back at...), "The Face of Evil" was the first Doctor Who serial that I watched as a kid. Doesn't every Doctor Who fan have that one Doctor/Companion/Episode that is "their Doctor"? All I could remember, though, was him finding Leela and their being something like a forest and something savage about it. I could not remember much about what she did or what he did or why, but there you go. I recently sat down and rewatched it, and oh the memories it brings back.

The Doctor, who has been companionless for an undisclosed amount of time, steps out on a wild jungle planet with strange trees and weird sounds (and what seems to be a permanently dark sky). On this planet, the tribes-woman Leela has just recently been banished from the Sevateem for speaking out against a raid against something called the wall to free someone called Xoanan from something called the Tesh. She has claimed it will fail and is condemned as a heretic. As she leaves the boundary, there is an attempt on her life and, in the middle of all of this, she runs into the Doctor.

The rub of this episode, besides the mystery of where some of the tribes-men mannerisms came from, is how did the Doctor's face get carved into a mountainside and described as "The Evil One" and how come he has no memory of ever being here?This is one of those "The Doctor gets captured, freed, captured, freed, and somehow becomes considered a free enough individual that the next time they capture him they forget to lock him down" serials. If there is a society on this planet, by God it will capture the Doctor and he will get free. Sometimes more than once.

On the pro-side for "The Face of Evil", the phantoms are appropriately menacing, the background story as exposed is straight up fun SF, and there is plenty of giggly comedy for SF fans in the holy artifacts of the Servateem. On the con-side, the build up is all for a fairly anti-climatic battle, spreading out the actors amongst two groups of people leaves you feeling like they are impossible societies (presumably the other women and children and warriors are elsewhere, though no mention is given of this), and as good of a punch as the plot-twist is involving the Doctor, there is just about no way it could have taken place. You also have the forest, which is all wires and cables and sort of surreal, exchanged for a couple of blandish interior shots by the end. In both cases you cannot help but realize that you are looking at one set shot from many angles. The forest just does it better, making the special effects inversely effective as you go along. At least the third-part's cliffhanger ending is well and spookily realized; it's just too bad that it is one of the last scenes of the serial to really pop.

Still, cargo cults in space meets the old SF standby of what seems to be a miracle is actually science. Not a bad little story. Maybe skippable if you are just passing through unless you got a Leela bug. Overall, I'll call it Fair.

Si Vales, Valeo


If you wish to comment, please use the form below or contact me in some other way and I'll add it as soon as possible. Thanks!

file under (Doctor Who)

Where did the comment box go?

Due to most of my friends using alternate means to contact me, and mostly SPAM bots using the comment box method, I have removed it. If you wish to contact me, please feel free to use any human-friendly contact method you wish. Thanks!

Written by Doug Bolden

For those wishing to get in touch, you can contact me in a number of ways

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The longer, fuller version of this text can be found on my FAQ: "Can I Use Something I Found on the Site?".

"The hidden is greater than the seen."