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Saturday, 22 April 2017

Doctor Who (Classic) 14-14: The Face of Evil, Part 2

Episode:441|Serial:89|Writer:Chris Boucher|Air Date:08-Jan-1977

Today on Sci-Fi Adventures I've got more Face of Evil for you.

This is the second episode of a four part serial from 1977, the year of Star Wars, starring Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. Though they don't actually call him 'The Fourth Doctor' in the episode as that'd just be weird.

I'll be writing words under screencaps and some of those words will include SPOILERS for parts 1 and 2 (but not 3 and 4), so be warned. In fact I may even spoil some earlier episodes too if they're relevant.



Previously on Doctor Who:

The Doctor must have made a wrong turn at the time vortex equivalent of Albuquerque as he ended up on a strange alien world when he was aiming for Hyde Park. Here he found corrugated trees covered in webs, invisible alarm clock crushing phantoms, and a new sidekick called Leela. She's an exile in a loincloth who's handy with a crossbow and pragmatic in regard to murdering people. The two were almost immediately captured by her old tribe, the Sevateem, and managed to escape just as quickly, only to discover that there's a good reason why everyone here recognises the Doctor as being the 'Evil One'. Because it's hard to miss this giant image of him carved into a nearby mountain.

Part 2 begins exactly where the previous episode left off, with the Doctor looking across at the cliff with his face on it without any clue how it got there.

Personally I'm more confused why the jungle back there is in absolute darkness despite the fact it's still light enough to see the two of them, the tree behind them and a big face on a cliff.

It's Leela's turn to be confused when the Doctor has the fantastic idea of going right back to that village they just escaped from. It's like she hasn't realised yet that they've only got two sets to film on. He's sure that her tribe will be too busy preparing for their upcoming battle with the mysterious Tesh to bother with them, though she points out that's exactly what he was sure about last time he got captured.

Oh, it seems that the battle's been cancelled, as the men refuse to attack while the Evil One (The Doctor) is loose.

But Neeva (the shaman on the left wearing the cylinder head gasket) is pretty keen on the fight happening, as it's an order from their god Xoanon, so he tells Andor (the tribe's leader on the right) that they should just lie and say he's dead. The wall will only be open for a short time so they can't afford any delay.

Wait, what wall? Oh right Xoanon's being held captive within the Black Wall by the Tesh, I remember now. Anyway Andor decides to go along with Neeva's idea, because Xoanon's promised them that they'll actually win this time. But Andor only has Neeva's word on that, so if they happen to lose the fight then he'll know he's a fraud. And he'll kill him.

The Doctor and Leela soon arrive to sneak back in through the hole they cut to escape, just in time to catch a glimpse of Neeva wearing his Hand of Xoanon hat.

The Doctor likes his hat and who wouldn't? Now that he's clad in holy relics Neeva's radiating about as much dignity and authority as a man with a spacesuit glove stuck to his helmet can.

While the shaman's out showing off his headwear, the Doctor and Leela sneak into his shrine and start playing with his some of the other holy relics scattered across his table.

The Doctor noticed Neeva talking to his god like he was expecting a reply, so he starts looking for a communications device amongst the junk on the table. But the best candidate is a tube with a switch on it, and it doesn't do anything.

I may have already mentioned how impressed I've been by Louise Jameson's acting, but I can 100% believe that Leela is genuinely baffled by the Doctor talking into a tube right now. She's a great straight-man to Tom Baker's Doctor, despite being a savage in a loincloth with a posh accent.

With the tube a failure, the Doctor goes and plays with Neeva's chicken helmet instead and is surprised to hear his own voice start talking to him. Chicken helmet speaks the words of the god Xoanon!

Leela's instinctive reaction is to drop to her knees. The Doctor’s instinctive reaction is to flick the front of his hair. But he tells her not to worry, because they're hearing the voice come out of the speaker in the helmet and gods don't use transceivers.

So he speaks back to Xoanon through the helmet and this seems to make the guy's day. "At last we are here. At last. At last. Us." Uh... okay then.

The Doctor's still got no idea what's going on here but he's starting to suspect that it might be his fault. So they're going out to take a look at that wall the Sevateem warriors are currently marching towards.

Oh shit, it turns out that Leela wasn't the only woman in her tribe as there's a female warrior travelling with the group of warriors! Blink and you'll miss her though.

The Face of Evil, Part 1
I'm fairly sure she made an appearance in the first part too, hiding right there in plain sight. She even had some lines too, as there was a female voice chanting with the rest of the warriors as Neeva read out 'the litany'.

Cut to the Doctor and Leela at the end of the jungle, staring into a zone of nothingness. Could this wall be the reason why the jungle background is pitch black? I'm thinking... no, as the Doctor would've commented on it if the darkness was intentional. But it kind of works.

The wall is a time barrier apparently, with everything inside moved a couple of seconds forward in time so they can't get at it. But even if they're perpetually too late to catch up to the present, surely they could still step into the distant past of two seconds ago?

Speaking of mind-boggling time distortions, how did they get here so quickly anyway? They've somehow made it to the wall before the Sevateem did, and now they're talking about heading all the way back to warn them that it hasn't actually opened and they're walking into a trap.

Meanwhile the Sevateem warriors are beginning their attack... against absolutely nothing as far as I can tell. They're just yelling "ATTACK!" and firing crossbow bolts into the trees like they're remaking Predator on a 70s BBC TV budget.

Also it's downright weird that the shot of Leela in front of a fuzzy visual effect looks more realistic than this shot of two people crouching in the jungle set. It's like they couldn't find this tiny bit of footage when they were remastering the episode so they had to grab a clip from the mid 90s FMV video game adaptation that I've just made up instead.

I really don't know what happened here, but seeing as this is the series that once composited an actress against an incredibly fake kitchen background to save a few quid, I'm going to assume that we're looking at a CSO shot here as well.

Doctor Who was using green screen-style chroma key compositing even back in the 70s, except the BBC called the technique 'colour separation overlay' and they'd typically use yellow or blue for the areas of background to be replaced. But the big difference between Doctor Who's cheap CSO and what ILM would be doing for Star Wars around this time, is that ILM shot on film and produced a complicated set of printing elements and mattes to be run through an optical printer. CSO on the other hand was typically composited in real time using two video cameras recording simultaneously. So they were basically doing their visual effects the same way the news was putting the map behind weather reporters. 

And Neeva suddenly gets got with a light beam. The glove hat, it does nothing!

We see two other soldiers getting knocked to the floor in agony too, but for some reason they don't get the light beam. It's all very strange.

The Doctor and Leela make it back to the village for the third time in two episodes so that they can have a private chat with Calib. I would've thought Tomas would be the guy they'd recruit first, but nope apparently Calib is the one man in this tribe who might be smart enough to listen to what they have to say. He was smart enough to run away from that pointless fight at least, as more than half the men were slaughtered around him. And after all that they never even saw the Tesh!

So the Doctor begins to explain everything to him, and gets as far as "impenetrable barrier" before Calib jabs Leela in the hand with one of those Janis thorns! So now she's paralysed and dying, and there's no cure. This planet's rubbish.

Calib's cunning scheme is to show the Doctor to his tribe to prove that Neeva and Andor were lying about the Evil One being destroyed. Not that he believes he is the Evil One, but the others do and that's what matters.

A minute later and the Doctor's in control, and this time he's holding something a bit more threatening than a jelly baby (it's a bit hard to see, but it's a crossbow).

I didn't really catch what happened to shift the balance of power, but the best I can tell is that the Doctor let Calib step on his scarf, then pulled it away to send him flying on his ass while he walked over and grabbed a crossbow. The cameraman didn't quite catch the action so it's a bit unclear. Oh plus Tomas turned up, so he was a handy distraction.

Calib yells from the floor that he's broken his leg, but the Doctor doesn't believe the treacherous git for a second and explains that he'll break his nose if he doesn't get up. Man the Doctor gets mean when his friends are fatally poisoned. Fortunately there's a bio-analyser in Neeva's garage and the batteries are still good, so he can use it to create an antitoxin.

Once Leela was saved the Doctor decided that the smartest thing to do was walk straight into a room full of angry people pointing crossbows at him and sit on Andor's throne. So now he's right back to where he was in part 1, except Leela can't rescue him this time as she's standing next to him. Tomas too.

Neeva claims that the Evil One was totally dead just like he and Andor said, but he has the ability to regenerate (which the Doctor claims is preposterous). Hang on, didn't Andor promise that he'd kill Neeva if the raid failed? Anyway, the Doctor explains that he's really not the Evil One and he wasn't the one that ambushed them; it was their god Xoanon who set the trap.

This eventually turns into a shouting match between Calib and Neeva, with the Doctor keeping score like it's a game of tennis. Seriously.

Calib wins and manages to convince them to put the Doctor through the Test of the Horda, the one that Leela's dad failed at the beginning of part 1. It's his latest scheme to weaken Neeva's position, as if the Doctor passes the test it'll prove he speaks truly. If he fails and dies... meh, it was worth a shot!

It turns out that we've already seen a horda, as there was one crawling in front of the TARDIS in part 1. They're mean little bitey creatures and ten of them can strip the flesh off a man's arm almost before he can scream, apparently. So the Sevateem thought it'd be a good idea to fill a pit with the things and now they're making the Doctor stand above it.

The test involves shooting at a rope with the crossbow they pass to him (which he tries to pass along to the next guy), so it's actually a test of marksmanship. There's a little more to it though so Leela tries to give him some advice, and gets a slap in return from one of the guards.

So the Doctor casually flicks a flesh eating horda onto the guard's shoulder!

Man, he is not fucking around in this episode. Poison his friend and he'll break your leg. Slap her and you get your arm bitten off. So the guard runs off screaming with absolutely zero fucks given by the rest of them, and the Doctor climbs up onto the foreshadowed death trap to complete his test.

Damn, there's like twenty of the things in there. That means there's enough to bite two of your arms off almost before you could scream.

There's a pair of doors over the pit, which slowly slide apart until the unfortunate victim runs out of floor to stand on. The mechanism is powered by a boulder hanging from a pulley, so he's got to keep his balance above the pit while waiting for the right moment during the rock's slow-motion descent to sever the rope with a crossbow bolt. It's like something off The Crystal Maze.

But while everyone's distracted Leela makes a move! She frees herself from her ropes, rolls across the cave to the lever controlling the mechanism... and immediately gets caught. It was worth a try though. Or maybe it wasn't, as her daring play ended up distracting the Doctor until he's basically out of time to make the shot.

Cliffhanger ending!

Then he whips around and nails the shot, severing the rope with a single bolt. Wow, they must have cliffhangers to spare if they're throwing them away mid-episode like this. He explains that he was taught by William Tell, like that means anything to anyone in the room.

I was a bit fuzzy on the reference myself to be honest, as I knew that Tell shot an apple off his son's head with a bow and arrow, but I didn't know why. Always seemed like a bit of a dick move to me. So I looked up the legend and it turns out that he actually used a crossbow, and he was forced to make the shot to save himself and his son from execution. So the Doctor either had the perfect teacher or the perfect line of bullshit, and with him both are equally plausible.

The Doctor's passed the test so now Calib has no choice but to let them all go! He tells the guards to "Untie him," which I thought was a mistake at first, seeing as the Doctor wasn't tied up, but then I realised he was talking about untying Tomas. So it all works out.

Now that the Doctor's free to roam around he goes to pay Neeva a visit in his garage and finds that he's in some kind of trance, listening to Xoanon on his chicken helmet. So the Doctor takes the opportunity to indulge in a bit of kleptomania; we often see him pulling random things out of his pockets but today he's stocking up.
 
While he's creeping around Xoanon talks to him directly, in two distinct voices now. He explains to the Doctor that he's decided to destroy him by shutting down the sonic barrier that keeps the invisible phantoms trapped outside the boundary and letting them loose upon the Sevateem village. I guess they're going to need more alarm clocks.

So hang on, does that mean that Xoanon was the one who put the sonic devices down in the first place? I sort of assumed that was Survey Team 6, seeing as it's Xoanon's pets they're keeping out.

The Sevateem have to be be a bit more gracious around the Doctor now seeing as he's the only one who can save them, so he's got attempted companion murderer Calib handing him parts while he builds a ray gun. They've also started to wonder what I was wondering in part 1: were the Sevateem here before the survey team they're named after or are they their descendants?

Tomas gets to carry the ray gun in the end, and the Doctor and Leela go outside to set up a device to keep the phantoms outside the perimeter.

This leads to a conversation about the time barrier they need to get through, with Leela's primitive questions boring the Doctor to frustration... until he realises that she's figured it out. The wall can't be entirely impenetrable if radio waves are getting through it to the chicken helmet!

So the Doctor goes to ask Neeva a few questions about Xoanon, only to find him tripping again. Fortunately he's not so far gone that he won't respond to his god's voice, which the Doctor just happens to have coming out of his own mouth any time he opens it, so he's able to get the info he needs. Neeva can only hear Xoanon's voice while the chicken helmet's in his garage, so there must be a narrow gap in the time barrier for the signal to get through.

I really wish someone would show me a map to let me know what the geography of this place is like, as I'm starting to get a bit lost now.

Artist's interpretation of the map they haven't shown me.
The Sevateem were protected by a sonic barrier running along the boundary, and the Tesh (apparently) have Xoanon prisoner behind a time barrier known as the Black Wall. So this is the set up that I'm picturing in my head right now. The Doctor and Leela were harassed by a phantom shortly after running into each other so he must have landed his TARDIS somewhere just outside the sonic barrier. But did the warriors cross the barrier to get to the wall? And where does the giant Doctor face on the mountain fit in?

Anyway, some idiot panics and starts ringing the gong, and the phantoms hunt by sound so now they'll be going straight for the village. On the plus side that means they won't be going where the Doctor and Leela are headed.

Okay that's pretty good compositing. It really does look like they're little tiny people standing on a scale model of a mountain.

The Doctor complains a bit about the proportions, but the model was actually created from a cast of Tom Baker's face. That's why it has a 'I don't really like it when people cover my entire face' expression. The eyes had to be sculpted though, as who's going to let someone take a cast of their eyeball?

It turns out that this is the gap in the black wall, so now I know where it goes on the map! Leela suggests that they might need to climb up the nose, but nope they're entering via the mouth.

While they're doing that, Tomas is single-handedly fighting off an invisible phantom with his ray gun. Though it's far more visible in the energy beam, which reveals it to be a giant face of evil! Seems that this could be the actual Evil One they've been looking for.

Tomas is too late to save Andor though, who dies just before the end credits, and the episode ends with a close up of the flashing energy balls on his gun and the panic on his face. Will Tomas survive? Does Leela care much either way? Tune in for part 3 to find out.


CONCLUSION

The Face of Evil, part 2 is about a tribe of people who've inherited a whole bunch of problems they don't understand, tables covered in technology that doesn't work, and a god who doesn't seem to have their best interests at heart. It's surprising that their faith in Xoanon's lasted this long really, considering their ancient stories all end with them failing to rescue him and this particular disaster should've taught them that his promises aren't worth shit. Though I suppose that's what the test is about; to make sure that questioning Xoanon is a crime punishable by death.

It's not like the Sevateem are idiots, people like Leela and Calib are actually very bright, but they've been held down by their traditions, superstitions and politics. When Leela tries thinking outside the box they're trapped in she's kicked out of the tribe and when The Doctor tries giving Calib new information he immediately betrays him to serve his own agenda. I totally didn't see that coming by the way; what a total dick! He seemed like such a reasonable man, but he was too caught up in the game he'd been playing to look up and see the bigger picture.

It's only when the Doctor passes the test that he's able to get through to them, as he's using their traditions to his advantage. If they believe in the test then they have to believe him. Then once he's moved past the bullshit he's able to restore some of their technology and get them thinking about whether it belonged to their captors or their ancestors. But after all that the episode ends as it begins, with the Doctor and Leela back at Giant Face Mountain and the Sevateem getting into a fight in the jungle. Kind of makes it feel like an episode of padding really, especially with the repeated trips back and forth from the jungle to the village.

Plus speaking of that fight at the start, I don't even get what was supposed to be happening there. I figured we'd see them come up against the wall or maybe the phantoms would start throwing stuff around, but nope they just stopped and began firing into the empty jungle. We know they never encountered the Tesh, because that's specifically mentioned in dialogue, so what the fuck? Also the camerawork when the Doctor turned the tables on Calib was astoundingly terrible. I can forgive cheap sets and hammy acting, but this isn't a Christopher Nolan movie so I expected to be able to see something during the fights.

But overall that was alright. My enthusiasm started to wane a bit after the first part, but when the episode ended with the promise that we're moving beyond the wall and out of that bloody jungle set for the next chapter that caught my interest again. If I'm very lucky I might even get to see these Tesh that everyone's always talking about.



COMING SOON
Doctor Who will return with The Face of Evil, Part 3, as you might expect. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm writing about the Batman: The Animated Series two-parter Heart of Steel! Didn't see that coming did you?

Consider leaving a comment!

4 comments:

  1. I hope the Tesh will be able to help the Doctor defeat the evil muttonchop monsters that are threatening to take over Tom Baker's face.

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    Replies
    1. I'm sure he already has them right where he wants them.

      With them around it doesn't matter where in time the Fourth Doctor travels, he always brings the 70s with him.

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  2. I suspect episode three will be more padding, unless they changed the formula with this one and stuck the padding in episode two!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Doctor's only gotten captured once per episode so far. I think part 3 can do better.

      Delete