Time to take our first visual dip into long scarves and jelly babies territory as I look at “The Face of Evil” in my random “haven’t seen them in a while” marathon. A new companion is introduced and Tom Baker is The Doctor, part of the villain and carved into a mountain… Not bad going for one story!
The Doctor arrives on a planet where two tribes, the savage Sevateem and the technically brilliant Tesh, are at war. He meets Leela, an exile from the Sevateem, and discovers that their god of evil is apparently himself…
Note: Full Spoilers From Here On Out!
Cast of Characters:
The Fourth Doctor threatening to kill someone with a jelly baby… sounds about right.
The Doctor (Tom Baker) – Currently travelling alone, The Doctor has apparently gotten into a habbit of not only talking to himself, but looking forwards while doing it… no wonder he likes to have people around…
Leela (Louise Jameson) – A member of the Sevateem, a savage tribe that looks to defeat the dreaded Tesh, Leela is also weary of the tribe’s so called God…
Neeva (David Garfield) – Neeva is the “Speaker of Law” and is in direct communication with the Sevateem God…
Andor (Victor Lucas) – Leader of the Sevateem, though is often at the mercy of the messages Neeva passes on to him.
Xoanon (Tom Baker) – A super computer that has slowly but surely gone insane, taking on the visual form of the man who tried to repair him long ago…
Mount Rushmore, eat your heart out!
In a story that has some more serious things mixed in with intentionally bizarre things, Tom Baker shines as his iconic Fourth Doctor. In the opening episode alone he quips a few lines that will make any person smirk with satisfaction.
There are a few grim things in this story. The Janis Thorns, thorns that when pricked by them you become paralyzed and die a few minutes later, are used by Leela a few times (and on her!) including using it on someone climbing out of a window and then positing his body to cover the whole hole just before the man freezes in place in order to escape. The test of the Horda, where you’re stood on an opening that reveals carnivorous creatures, is also an unpleasant thing, and leads to one of the best scenes where Leela is slapped by a tribesman and the Doctor picks up a stick with a Horda on it and flicks it onto the man’s neck, who runs off screaming. The nonchalant way The Doctor does it makes for a rather darkly funny moment.
I like the reveal that the Sevateem and the Tesh are based off of an old crashed ship’s survey team and tech divisions, and that over time the survivors’ offspring have devolved into tribes who have forgotten their true history. Also the reveal that the lead villain is a crazy computer A.I. (that’s two stories in a row for me, having just reviewed the Green Death!) at least had a bit of twist this time, with it having a crazy imprint of the Fourth Doctor accidentally copied onto it when he tried to help the original crashed team to get it rebooted in his past.
Although a lot of the cast aren’t great, David Garfield is on top form as crazy priest Neeva, wearing a helmet with a spacesuit glove glued to it with pride… Later, when he realises the holy voice that had been given him instructions was the evil one they were trying to fight (he probably doesn’t really understand the whole rouge A.I. thing…) he still gives a convincing performance as someone who’s out for revenge against the God that lied to him.
“Another self-aggrandising artifact!”
A lot of the Sevateem and all of the Tesh are on the dull side of things. The Tesh, specifically, are a dull bunch to watch and have the most over-the-top exit motion I’ve ever seen, holding both hands really high, then bowing with their hands as low as possible… It’s instantly makes every scene with them in funny, even when they’re planning to kill the lead characters…
I know budget is always a problem, but an early threat in the story is invisible monsters. I mean… come on… Give me a rubber suit any day!
Beyond this introducing Leela, who will accompany the Fourth Doctor for the next few seasons and a bunch of Big Finish audios, it doesn’t connect to any later adventure.
Leela, firing a cheesy sci-fi gun… While looking confused.
This story is often criticised by fans for being boring, but I really enjoy it. The Fourth Doctor is a funny one-liner machine during the whole story, and as far as companion introductions go, this one gives you a whole fictional race and background for Leela. She’s not just “oh hello, I’m from current day London”, instead the writers give her a unique world to have grown up in and makes sure you know it before she sets off on her travels. You can’t ask much more than that for a companion’s first story.