Doctor Who : The Face of Evil
Cast - Tom Baker, Louise Jameson
Country of Origin - U.K.
Discs - 1
MSRP - $24.98
Distributor - BBC Home Video
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Serial (5/5)
Leela (Louise Jameson) to be honest, has never been my favorite Doctor Who companion. I will admit to liking the change of pace from the modern girls to a primitive warrior, but almost feel like going from Sarah Jane Smith to Leela they too quickly switched in the opposite direction. That being said it's not like I watched Hand of Fear, Deadly Assassin, and then Face of Evil, and came to this in chronological order. The first serial I saw with Leela was the Talons of Weng Chiang, and I while I loved the serial, I was slightly put off by the companion.
This has changed slightly over the years, although I will admit she is my least favorite companion of the Tom Baker years. With that being said I was not that interested in her origin story. I had skipped over the entry for Face of Evil in About Time 4 (not because of Leela, because I hadn't seen it), and went in with no expectations for the story. Needless to say I was quite surprised, not just for the excellent serial contained here, but because it does on excellent job of setting up Leela as a character. Personally speaking, now that her background is more established (It was touched on in Sun Makers, and Invasion of Time), I can more identify with her character.
Face of Evil features The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) landing on an unnamed primitive planet, an undisclosed amount of time after the events of The Hand of Fear and the Deadly Assassin, as such he is without a companion. In comes Leela, an outcast from the local Sevateem tribe who meets up with the Doctor, and is convinced that he is the "Evil One."
The reason for this confusion, is that on Leela's planet a Mount Rushmore-esque stone carving exist bearing the likeness of the Fourth Doctor, and the Sevateem believe it be the image of the Evil One, essentially the devil to their God Xoanon. The other tribe on the planet the Tesh believe The Doctor to be there God, it's not long before the Doctor and Leela fine themselves in the middle of this tribal conflict, and The Doctor has to be figure out what sort of involvement he's had on this planet before, and what kind of impact that involvement has had on it's people.
This story is absolutely fantastic. Yes, it's essentially Doctor Who doing Star Trek, and that comparison is in pretty much every review and analysis of Face of Evil you'll ever see, however, it doesn't make a damn difference, because the end result is so fun to watch. It wasn't until watching Face of Evil that I fully "got" the Leela character, and watching her as a rebel amongst her own people really solidified that. And while The Doctor has traveled amongst primative tribesmen all the way back to An Unearthly child, there is a way he deals with the tribes here, one part mentor, one part merry prankster that is absolutely fantastic viewing. We also have a great villain in the Computer/God Xoanon, who has multiple personalities one of which is that of the Doctor, who let his brain be scanned by the computer during a previous expedition to the planet.
The script by Chris Boucher (Robots of Death) is Doctor Who doing hard sci-fi at it's very best. Essentially taking a concept threat from one of Frank Herbert's (Dune) lesser known works Destination Void about a generational spaceship. Boucher explores what the consequences of the Doctors actions are through generations of people. In this case he became involved with an Earth expedition to this planet, generations before the events of this serial, and due to his involvement with that expedition, and allowing himself to be scanned by the computer Xoanon he unintentionally set the evolutionary course for life on this planet.
Even in the best Doctor Who serial there is usually a bit of a lull during at least one of the episodes, but the ever shifting conflict, with all the plot twist kept my eyes glued to the screen for the duration. As usual for this period Tom Baker was on top of his game, and Louise Jameson seemed to come to Leela with a full understanding of the character. She plays her very well from the start. Also, the vocal performance for Xoanon whether from Tom Baker or the others is similarly excellent, and between performance, and the immense set design on display is revealed one of the most memorable villains in the Fourth Doctor's run.
Face of Evil is an absolutely essential addition to the Doctor Who canon. It is hard sci-fi gone Who, and done completely 100% right, and is a load of fun.
The Doctor Who Restoration Team have worked their usual magic on Doctor Who - Face of Evil. The 1:33:1 Full Frame transfer on display here is brightly colored, and extremely detailed helping to show off the excellent set design on display here. There are some soft spots, and some minor grain, but the grain offers when present offers a film like ambiance, and honestly, this DVD more than likely makes Face of Evil look much better than when it was initially broadcast.
There is only one audio option, and that a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track in English. The dialogue, music, and sound effects are mixed well. I never had an issue understanding dialogue, and there did not appear to be any audio issues such as cracks, pops, and hissing on the track. There are optional English subtitles, and a trivia track included.
BBC Home Video have put together a nice slate of extras for Doctor Who - The Face of Evil. The disc kicks off with a commentary track featuring Louise Jameson, Leslie Schofield, David Garfield, Mike Elles, Harry H. Fielder, producer Philip Hinchcliffe and cameraman John McGlashan all moderated by Toby Hadoke. We then have Into the Wild a featurette that details the making of Face of Evil. This is followed up by From the Cutting Room Floor which is 9 minutes of raw footage from Face of Evil. There is also Tomorrow's Time - The Fourth Doctor which discusses what the critical establishment was saying about Doctor Who during Tom Baker's tenure as the Doctor.
This is followed up by Doctor Who stories : Louise Jameson which takes interview segments from the 2003 documentary The Story of Doctor Who, and repurposes them for this release. We then have a clip from the British TV program Swap Shop which introduces Louise Jameson as the new Doctor Who Companion. The disc is rounded off with a commercial for some classic Doctor Who toys, and a photo gallery.
An excellent Fourth Doctor serial, gets a similarly excellent restoration and release from BBC home video. The Face of Evil is not only a monumental episode for the introduction of Leela, but for being a damn fun piece of science fiction. Highly Recommended.