Friday, 23 August 2013

The Face of Evil

I know that face.... of evil!
On an unnamed planet, sometime in the future, the Doctor arrives. But – has he been there before? What did he do when he was there? His face is carved into a cliff-face Mount Rushmore style. It’s a great premise for a nice little story written by first-time Who writer, Chris Boucher, who wrote a lot of Blake’s 7 episodes.
Louise Jameson as Leela in her first story.
It’s very much an idea story, with a group of savages and a group of very arrogant technicians – ‘The Tesh’, who now worship the technology inside the space ship hidden by the cliff. The idea that the Doctor came along a long time ago and ‘fixed’ the computer – now calling himself a god, Xoanon, and that he got it wrong to turn the computer crazy is the strong basis for the story. Fans have to look past the fact that we don’t when it occurred, but as the face is Tom Baker’s, it’s supposed to have occurred before this story and after ‘Robot’. Strange then that the Doctor takes so long to actually remember what happened.
The Doctor helps the Sevateem.
It’s a little embarrassing seeing grown actors running around being savages. Not to the same point as in ‘An Unearthly Child’, but still the actors no doubt weren’t over the moon at the prospect of wearing so little. Louise Jameson is introduced as Leela, from the Sevateem (the savages) and as a choice it’s a brilliant way to go from producer Philip Hinchecliff. Leela is an original companion, and his idea that she would be like an Eliza Doolittle to the Doctor’s Professor Higgins was a masterstroke. Pure coincidence that Louise Jameson was a very attractive woman who most weeks will wear very little. Right....
But it’s great that there’s a logic and purpose to the relationship with the companion and the Doctor. The rest of the cast is pretty solid too, David Garfield was the standout for me as Neeva, a sort of priest/witch doctor who has his faith in Xoanon destroyed through the course of the story.  Pennant Roberts did a great job of directing this with a lot asked of the director. Visually it’s a good story, a good use of filming for the jungle – different from Zeta-Minor in the previous season, but shot and realised in a similar way. The only issue I have was the use of cycloramas as the sky, with different lighting used to denote day and night. It may have been all that was possible, but when a good portion of sky appears in a shot, the illusion is somewhat shattered.
The Tesh.
The soundscape in the first episode though with the use of film and the eerie jungle is VERY other-worldly, and well done. However, the strength of this story is its ideas. It is what I would call an ideas story – the Doctor arrives and has to figure what’s happened. Not only in his own past, but where have the Tesh and the Sevateem comes from? (They are descendents of the ship which houses Xoanon. Tesh were the technicians as mentioned, the Sevateem were the survey team). Once that is unravelled the Doctor is left with the task to remove his print from Xoanon, who is a very confused computer – confused about his own identity. Computer stories have become very popular it seems by this time, the unique part was the Doctor’s influence on this one.
The Doctor savaged by Xoanon.
And so there you have it. New companion rushes into the TARDIS at the very end with no invitation. In fact, the Doctor appears to want to travel alone. But that decision is out of his hands – as it was out of Tom Baker’s hands at the time. Apparently he didn’t want a companion, he wanted to talk a lot to himself. Curious directorial choice to have him do just that when he arrives in episode one, and to direct some of the dialogue down the camera. A nice little story.


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