The Doctor arrives on a strange planet and discovers
a backward tribe of savages who seem to think he’s “the Evil one”,
hunted by invisible monsters and natives with his new companion the
heretic “Leela” he finds out why when a singular Mt Rushmore likeness is
carved into a rock face that they encounter, he must have been here
before, but when? Who are the “tesh” and what does all this have to do
with a homicidal computer/god named Xoannaon?
When Liz Sladen left Doctor Who at the end of the
1975 season Tom Baker didn’t actually want a companion, “Why can’t I
just talk to myself?” he asked Producer Phillip Hinchcliff. He was
assured that he would indeed need one but he was allowed to do one
adventure “The Deadly assassin” by himself. At the start of the Face of
Evil we are treated to what it might have been like if he had been
allowed to continue when the Doctor arrives on a planet and talks to the
camera about how he’s not sure where he is. It’s a little weird
actually. Perhaps fortunately then there is a perfectly good companion
getting herself into trouble in a nearby village, yes this episode marks
the first appearance of your Dads favorite companion Leela.
Clad in skin tight..er..skins, Leela has the kind of
doe eyed innocence combined with Amazon strength that made gown men weak
at the knees back in the 70’s. Envisaged as a kind of Eliza Dolittle for
the Doctor to shape, I’m not sure just how much her character developed
but to paraphrase the Buddhists, before success, throwing knives, after
success, throwing knives. This is not the first time that invisible
monsters had featured on Doctor Who and let’s face it, an invisible
monster makes life easy, there’s not design, no man in a suit and no way
the viewers could complain about how it looks. And if it’s done right,
as it is here it can be really convincing, the bit where the invisible
monster destroys the egg timer is great! The bit where the monster
appears in the laser rays isn’t it’s very Forbidden Planet and
unfortunately it wasn’t even two years before in “The Planet of Evil”
that the production team did the exact same thing. Beware of anything
that ends with “Of Evil” it will rip off Forbidden Planet.
The concept of the Doctor leaving a place that he
thought he had helped only to return years later to find it a mess is
great, the idea that the natives thought of him as a God also brilliant.
Homicidal computers a particular favorite topic of Robert Holmes is also
handled well and consistently. All in all this is a great episode,
invisible monsters and all.
Audio: A fine stereo mix.
Video: Some inconstant artifacting when the picture
switches from studio video to inserted film, the film quality isn’t
great. Alas with Doctor Who twas ever thus.
Special Features: Thin on the ground unfortunately. The real treat here
is a classic toy ad from the time featuring the infamous Cyberman with
the nose and the he-man arms. Other than that Lousie Jamerson gets a lot
of coverage in Into The Wild, although her lack of coverage is
covered in depth in Doctor Who Stories: Louise Jamerson
the annoying feature Tomorrow's
Times plays like a really belated Media Watch. The usual ephemera
round out a lackluster package.