Doctor Who #445: The Face of Evil Part 4

"We start getting proof and we stop believing." "With proof, we don't have to believe."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.22 1977.

IN THIS ONE... Xoanon is defeated and Leela leaves with the Doctor.

REVIEW: As if there'd been complaints about the freaky cliffhanger, this episode downplays the child's voice shouting "Who am I?" in the reprise. I'm almost thankful. I like to sleep at night. What's back from the previous episode, however, is the thematic use of mirrors. The Doctor spots a possessed Leela in a mirror. She, the Sevateem and the Tesh all become distorted mirrors of themselves under Xoanon's control, "evil ones" if you will. As the two cultures go through the looking glass, they take on one another's traits and start mirroring each other. In their panic, some Tesh become "animalistic", while the Sevateem, faced with evidence of their myths, discover reason and abandon the trappings of their religion. Calib, a voice for change, nonetheless becomes exactly the kind of leader he used to oppose, going on the attack even when everyone counseled against it. Of course, the greatest mirror of all is the revelation that the two tribes are a mirror of Xoanon's schizoid mind, represented as a kind of right brain/left brain dichotomy. And if the Doctor's psyche is the intrusive element, should we find there the two sides of HIS personality? Time Lord intellectualism (the Tesh) and his passionate anarchic streak (the Sevateem)? In a sense, these cultures are his children, and Leela his daughter.

The mad computer becomes suicidal in the end, and takes over both tribes - except for Neeva, who's own fractured mind is too slippery to get a hold of, and who goes off on a holy mission to kill his own god - through what the Tesh call "Communion". Quite possibly, it's how Xoanon engineered the two societies originally, preventing them from passing the truth on to their children. The last-second purge of the Doctor's mind from the computer is tense and exciting, and earlier, the Doctor is reasonably sorry when he pushes a Tesh into an electrified wall (as opposed to some of his violent acts in the previous season), so the program delivers on the action. It's not all leitmotifs and talking to computers. It all gets a bit weird in the end as Xoanon uses its psychokinetic powers to create sofas and big red buttons from thin air, as if we really are in its mindscape.

And then we have Leela. Offered the post of leader because she's talked to Xoanon personally, she refuses because she assesses herself as "far too unreasonable", which is hilarious. What she really wants to do is follow the Doctor on his adventures. Her eyes have been opened to new worlds, and hers is no longer enough. But will he take her? He really doesn't want to. He likes her and all, but he says he can't be bringing everyone he likes along on his travels. Sarah Jane fans may take that as a sign that he was trying to get back to her. He might just have decided he doesn't want a travel companion anymore - a mistake, but his to make. Or is it that he can't see himself civilizing this fiery, lethal savage? It's one thing to bring an Earth-Present girl along, but Leela is hardly house-trained. So Leela takes the decision away from him. She doesn't need an invitation. She runs into the TARDIS and starts pressing buttons until the ship takes off. It looks like the TARDIS has once again obliged and "chosen" a companion. It's put a smile on my face.

VERSIONS: I'm not aware of any significant changes in the Target novelization.

REWATCHABILITY: High - Some fine action beats, solid literary leitmotifs, and a charming end-scene. I can't complain.

- The Face of Evil is a well-written, well-executed introduction to a completely different kind of companion, and while at times it feels like a Star Trek script (even the music seems to oblige), you'd never see Captain Kirk use a piece of candy to threaten his enemies (or a cookie, but we're a few decades out from that one). One of my favorites, and I think somewhat undervalued in fandom.



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