Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Adventure > Time Travel > British TV > Doctor Who: The Face of Evil (BBC DVD)

Doctor Who: The Face of Evil (BBC DVD)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: A+     Episodes: A



By 1976 Tom Baker was well into his run as Doctor Who.  Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) had just left the show, and the Doctor had gone solo in the classic ‘Deadly Assassin,” but the shows producer Philip Hinchcliffe did not want to continue without giving the Doctor a new companion.  Against Mr. Baker’s mild protestations, story no. 89 “The Face of Evil” introduced the savage Leela (Louise Jameson), and boys, men, and quite likely more than a few women, were very thankful indeed!


When the Doctor arrives seemingly by accident on a weird jungle planet, he meets up with Leela, a lovely young woman clad in a scanty leather outfit. Ostracized by her tribe for heresy, and hunted by invisible monsters, she mistakes the Doctor for some one called “the evil one.”  Handling the meeting with his normal aplomb, the Doctor manages to allay Leela’s fears and rescue her (and himself) from the strange creatures with the aid of an old wind up alarm clock.  Typical Doctor Who. Amid all of the action the Doctor cannot shake the feeling that he has been on the planet before.


After the escape the Doctor plunges into the mystery surrounding Leela’s tribe, the Sevateem.  It’s obvious from their trappings that they are the descendants of some advanced crew of spacemen, but who is the voice of the “god” who speaks to their shaman, and why does it want the Doctor and Leela dead?  Episode one of this four parter ends on one of the best cliffhangers in show history, as the Doctor and Leela emerge from the alien jungle to gaze upon a Mt. Rushmore like visage carved into the mountain.  The face is that of the Doctor himself!  Cue that theme song!


Plenty of action and twists follow in the next three episodes, and the Doctor cements his relationship with Leela while sorting out the trouble between her tribe, a rival group of more advanced descendants (called the Tesh), and a computer gone mad that speaks with many different voices, including the Doctor’s!  In the end after the trouble has been sorted the Doctor tries to slip quietly away, but Leela will not have it, and barges into the TARDIS.  The Doctor follows, and the confounded machine quickly vanishes, off to its next destination in story no. 90.


Although no one could be asked to follow up Ms. Sladen’s wonderful run as a companion, Ms. Jameson’s Leela presents such a different, dynamic character that it works wonderfully from the start.  She’s rough around the edges, and the extra feature on this disc (“Into the Wild”) details some of the thinking around writing and casting her.  Mr. Hinchcliffe and his confederates were going for a Pygmallion setup where a cultured man attempts to soften the rough edges of a strong female character.  The mix works well here, and is especially effective when the Doctor chastises Leela for her use of deadly force.  It would be just a sample of the dramatic tension that would always exist between the two characters, and something seen again when the modern-day Doctors pal around with the sometimes violent Captain Jack Harkness.


Other extras include a wonderful survey of media reactions to the show around the time that “Face of Evil” was airing.  Excerpts from various English papers paint a vivid picture of the show’s amazing popularity, and also of some of the misgivings certain pundits had about Ms. Jameson’s character and her scanty outfit.  Ms. Jameson appears in several other extra features providing interviews and information on her role in the show.


The Face of Evil” remains one of the strongest episodes in Tom Baker’s storied run, and the seminal first appearance of Leela will make it a must-have for collectors and fans of the classic show.



-   Scott Pyle


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com