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"Now raise your weapons or I'll kill him with this deadly jellybaby."
on 9 December 2012
Best remembered for introducing one of the Time Lord's most memorable companions, the warrior Leela, Doctor Who - The Face of Evil has a lot more to recommend it than Louise Jameson's skimpy costume fuelling millions of schoolboys' and their dads' fantasies. It's a surprisingly compelling mystery that sees the Doctor arrive on a planet plagued by invisible monsters (not the only time the show would borrow from Forbidden Planet in Tom Baker's tenure), a tormented villain with the doctor's voice who makes others act out the images of his torment and two warring tribes, one primitive, the other more hi-tech. While he's trying to work out whether they're the captors of a survey team that crashed on the planet or their children, it gradually emerges that we're watching a sequel to a story that was never told by the series, one that deals with the disastrous long-term consequences of his interfering in the past - so far in the past that it's not until the terrific visual punchline to episode one that he even remembers it...
It's one of Baker's best stories, and in Leela he has a surprisingly vicious (at least at first) and ferocious companion, one who actually kills and is proud of her deadly prowess. It's quite a leap from the Victorian Pygmalion figure the role was initially intended and yet despite, as Jameson informs us in an interview on the DVD, being based on a combination of her dog and the little girl who lived in the flat upstairs, she's not presented in a patronising way as a bit of cheesecake with a blade: she can look after herself and is more likely to rescue the doctor than need rescuing herself. It also benefits from surprisingly good design for its jungle planet, something of a Doctor Who speciality in the Pertwee-Baker years, making it one of those stories that for the most part looks as good as its script is ingenious.
There's another good extras package on the disc too - audio commentary by Jameson and co-stars and crew, deleted footage, as well as other featurettes, vintage toy commercials and a stills gallery that reveals the initial horribly misjudged blackface makeup for Leela. Most revealing is that interview with Jameson that doesn't skirt over her difficult working relationship at the time with Baker. He famously didn't want to have a sidekick at all, and the opening episode shows why that wasn't likely to have worked as he wanders around not so much talking to himself to explain the kind of plot points he'd normally fill his sidekick in on as he is talking directly to the camera. It doesn't quite break the fourth wall but without the audience surrogate figure doesn't work half as well. He may not have been happy with the solution at the time, but there's no doubting that it worked wonderfully and that this story made a superb introduction. Oh, and don't forget to watch out for the Janus thorns.