Monday, 8 July 2013

The Face Of Evil (Part Four)


Originally Broadcast 22nd January 1977

Written by: Chris Boucher

In a nutshell: The Doctor and Leela must try and stop the insane computer Xoanon.

Review: So here we are, the final episode! This has been a very different Doctor Who introduction for a companion. I remember back when Martha joined the show in 2007, Russell T. Davies said how Rose was eased into the role whilst Martha is being thrown in at the deep end in her first episode. I feel this is the same with Leela, she’s been thrown straight into it, although when I think back to The Time Warrior, it was the same with Sarah as she ended up back in medieval times in her first ten minutes.

The Doctor’s explanation behind Xoanon makes sense and is very easy to understand and logical. The computer wants to kill the Doctor because he’s a threat to what Xoanon thinks is real. It’s a clever sci-fi concept that’s probably even more relevant today where we’re constantly bombarded with the latest technology. It’s very easy to spot the similarities to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey with the computer. I seem to remember reading this serial was made briefly before One Million B.C so that wouldn’t be an inspiration. It’s common knowledge the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era borrowed and, arguably improved, upon a lot of old movies, but this is one of the few where it’s not as clear cut as that. You can spot traces of a movie here and there, but on the whole it’s just Kubrick’s classic doing the lending.

In similar fashion to the last episode, the subplot between the Sevateem and the Tesh is really just getting in the way here. I want to focus on the Doctor and Leela trying to stop Xoanon rather than a rundown tribe trying to beat a camply dressed group of technicians. I suppose it’s doing it’s job and fits in with the rest of the serial but it just feels dull to me. Just a side thought, does anyone think the Tesh’s gun looks a bit like K-9’s head? Maybe it’s a reused prop several serials down the line?

Who wouldn't want to go to a fancy dress party as a Tesh?
When the Doctor wakes after being unconscious for two days he looks so impressed with Leela. This scene feels like the first real moment when he starts to try and teach her (after warning her off using weapons). When she labels the room by its proper name and asks to look inside Xoanon’s computer room it feels like a success for the Doctor. He’s achieved his task to educate and interest one ‘savage’ in new worlds.

What’s strange but great about this episode is the threat is over five minutes before the end of the episode. It gives us a rare chance to wind down and have a bit of a fun conversation between the Doctor and Xoanon without having to worry about the end of the world or something more deadly. Afterward when we get a final encounter between the Doctor and Leela, it’s quite surprising to see the Doctor doesn’t want her onboard the TARDIS and she is the one responsible for dematerialisation.

I really want to go straight into the next serial and see more of Leela in action which means this story has done the job brilliantly and made me eager for me. I think, on the whole, it’s a pretty good story, it’s not a strong one and the subplot goes haywire in the second half, but it has a strong idea behind it and does provide good TV. I’d like some more from Mr. Boucher in the future for sure!

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