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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
The Face of Evil


Starring: Tom Baker
RRP: £20.42
Certificate: PG
Available 05 March 2012

Bereft of a current companion, the Doctor accidentally lands on an unknown planet where the two indigenous peoples are at war. When he encounters a female warrior from the tribe of the Sevateem, Leela immediately recognises him as the evil one. With war about to break out between the Sevateem and the Tesh, the doctor has only a limited amount of time to discover why his face appears to be carved into a mountainside and the real identity of the mad god Xoanon...

The Face of Evil is a four part Tom Baker Doctor Who story from season fourteen. The show was written by Chris Boucher and directed by Pennant Roberts, it was notable as the story which introduced Leela (Louise Jameson) as a new companion. The show was originally transmitted between 01 and 22 January 1977.

Given the show's premise of a traveller in time and space, the original series dealt very little with the possible complications which this could cause. At the heart of Face of Evil is an act of kindness which has gone wrong. Prior to the start of the program, the Doctor had fixed one of the most powerful computers by implanting his own personality in its matrix, unfortunately he forgot to remove the personality print, leaving the computer with a split personality, just like 2001's HAL and we all know how that turned out. Unsurprisingly the computer goes nuts and sets itself up as the great god Xoanon.

Skip forward a few generations and the crew of the ship have forgotten their original roles, breaking down into the primitive Seveteem (survey team) who live on the planet and the Tesh (technicians) who remain in the ship tending and being ruled by the insane computer, a separation which reflects Xoanon’s own fractured nature. The Doctor's arrival confronts the computer with its own inconsistency, guaranteeing it attempts to kill the Doctor. The war between the tribes and the Doctor's arrival spurs Xoanon onto arming its nuclear core, determined to wipe out all anomalies.

Leela was an almost instant hit with fans of the show, this was for a number of reasons, partially Jameson’s portrayal of a strong female character, and partly it’s the shock of the new as the companion’s flag is pasted to Leela, but mostly because she was a fit young woman who spent most of her time in a leather bikini. To be fair to the show this aspect of the character seemed to attract my father more than it did me.

Although it is an effective story, it’s not one of the show’s most original, containing many science fiction clichés. That said the script remains intelligent and the acting makes you forget the financial limitations of the show. Some of the most effective sequences happen aboard the ship, especially the room where the Doctor confront the mad computer only to have reflected back at him giant versions of his own face.

The quality of the picture is good, given the age of the show, audio is clear. Once again we have a full length commentary presided over by Toby Hadoke, with contributions from Louise Jameson, Leslie Schofield, David Garfield, Harry H. Fielder and John McGlashan. Although it is good natured in tone it lacks either Tom Baker's contribution, or contributions from cast and crew who would have built up a personal relationship over time. Having mostly contributions from people who were not long standing cast members leaves the whole thing a little shallow.

As befits a Doctor Who disc, the extras continue to by well above average for a television show. We kick off with Into the Wild (25 min, 12 sec) which is another in a series of documentaries which look at the making of a particular story, with contributions from surviving participants, even if the whole disc seems to have a complete absence of Tom Baker.

From the Cutting Room Floor (9 min, 05 sec) has outtakes and other sundry cuts. Obviously bored with just bunging these together the makers have gone one step on and presented them in the context of the final shoot, which makes more sense and a better viewing experience.

Tomorrow’s Times (14 min, 07 sec) and another look at how the show was received by the tabloids, with both good and bad viewpoints presented. This extra is presented by Wendy Padbury. Doctor Who Stories: Louise Jameson (17 min, 22 sec) is a reshowing of her contribution to the Story of Doctor Who, wherein she talks about her time on the show.

Finally the disc gathers together some of its smaller contributions with Swap Shop (4 min, 29 sec), with Noel and Louise filling in a bit of Saturday morning time. A Denys Fisher Toys Advert (33 sec) for some excellent scaled mannequins, or as my wife would say, toys. We round up the usual suspects with a photo gallery, the Radio Times listings, production subtitles, and a Coming Soon for The Dæmons.


Charles Packer

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