Doctor Who: The Face of Evil

“When you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.”

Neil Gaiman

Today, a rare trip into that dusty land known to Whovians as “classic Who”: one of the Fourth Doctor’s episodes, featuring Tom Baker wearing the famous scarf, which I somehow ended up watching at a Tolkien Society meeting. (Yes, I am a member of the Tolkien Society. Don’t laugh. You’re laughing, aren’t you.)

In true Classic Who form, The Face of Evil takes place over four half-hour episodes, thus achieving in two hours what Russell T Davies or even Steven Moffat on a good day could in 45 minutes. The Doctor (sans companion, for a change) lands on a jungle planet, whose “trees”, incidentally, are quite clearly made of plastic piping with ribbons tied on, and meets Leela, recently outcast from her tribe for blaspheming against their suspiciously technological god Xoanan. (I may have spelt that wrong.) Who is Xoanan, and why is he impersonating a deity? (Because, of course, gods don’t exist in Doctor Who-land.)

I think my favourite part of The Face of Evil is the CGI, which is, ahem, interesting at best. The monsters that threaten the tribe are, conveniently, invisible, but there’s a sonar-ray gun apparently involving some sophisticated technology that allows you to see the sonar rays as the kind of ray diagram you get in physics lessons superimposed on the live-action film. Also the green-screens play merry hell with Tom Baker’s hair, which is quite funny to watch.

Still, this was the 1970s, so you have to give them credit for trying.

Equally amusing are the many logic fails, like the guards that pace up and down outside doors so that you can creep up behind them, and the tribe that appears to be made up of approximately five people.

But, overall, I suppose it was a good story, with no glaringly obvious plot holes, and at least more coherent than The Name of the Doctor, which just goes to show that newer is not necessarily better. Did you hear that, Steven Moffat?

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