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Recap / Doctor Who S14 E4 "The Face of Evil"

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The Face of Evil
Written by Chris Boucher
Directed by Pennant Roberts
Production code: 4Q
Air dates: 1 - 22 January 1977
Number of episodes: 4

Leela: The Evil One!
The Doctor: Well, nobody's perfect, but that's overstating it a little.

The one where the Doctor threatens a man's life with a Jelly Baby and briefly tries strong-arming the camera man into being his new friend.

The TARDIS arrives on a planet where the primitive native tribe known as the Sevateem immediately identify him as "The Evil One", and worship a God called Xoanon. They've got a point, seeing as there's a giant invisible floating Tom Baker face terrorising them, and there's an even bigger Tom Baker face carved into the nearby mountains. A young female warrior called Leela, meanwhile, has some issues with the existence of Xoanon, and faces a trial for heresy. Her father decides to take the trial instead, and promptly dies just a couple of minutes into the serial.

Leela, now Conveniently an Orphan, is forced to leave the tribe and runs into the Doctor (who deduces that the TARDIS probably hasn't landed him in Hyde Park after all). After both are captured by the Sevateem again a few times over, she shows the Doctor the image of the Evil One — his own face carved into the side of a mountain. The Doctor tries to convey that the tribe's "sacred relics" are bits of space suits and defunct spaceship parts, and that the Sevateem are just a group of humans descended from a crashed explorer ship. Leela won't have it, and the local Large Ham priest, Neeva, suffers a bit of a religious breakdown because of it.

The Doctor investigates further (into the giant statue's mouth, to be exact), and discovers that Xoanon is really a ship's supercomputer. A long time ago, he tried to repair it when it went haywire, by linking it to his own brain and connecting it with the relevant data in there. (The official 70's novelisation states that he did it during "Robot", when he popped into the TARDIS for a while.) But the computer wasn't broken at all — it had achieved sentience, and its consciousness had just been born. The newborn computer-creature went "schizophrenic" due to being linked to the Doctor's mind, and developed a second personality: that of the Doctor. With the two personalities fighting for dominance, the ship crashed, and Xoanon decided to trap its survivors in a large-scale eugenics experiment. The Survey Team, which explored the planet, were modified to show strength and courage and became the Sevateem; the Tech Team became the (now legendary) Tesh, granted cold reason and psychic ability by Xoanon. Generations later, both parties have now fallen to Cargo Cult superstition, allowing Xoanon to rule as a God for both.

The Doctor, Leela and Neeva (who very quickly catches on, surprises the Doctor with his intelligence and makes a Heel–Face Turn) manage to access Xoanon's memory banks, after running the gauntlet of traps and mazes set both by the Tesh and Xoanon himself. They erase the Doctor part of Xoanon's multiple personalities, leaving the computer sane once more. Leela is promptly elected as the leader of both tribes. Much like the Doctor in the previous story, she's not remotely interested in becoming president of anything, and she runs off to become a companion instead. Despite the Doctor's protests.


  • Action Girl: Leela. Oh yes. She kills three people in the first episode (after which the Doctor asks her to maybe dial it back a little).
  • Aerith and Bob: The Sevateem people are called Leela, Neeva, Andor, Calib and... Tomas?
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Played with — the computer is mad, but it's entirely the Doctor's fault, and it ends with his restoring its sanity rather than blowing it up.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: While picking up a Tesh weapon, Neeva points the barrel at himself.
  • Asleep for Days: The Doctor's climactic confrontation with Xoanon ends with him unconscious. When he wakes up in the next scene, Leela tells him he's been out for two days.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: The Sevateem under both Andor and Calib.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: The Doctor threatens people with a crossbow.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: The natives worship a mad computer, and the Sevateem are naïve about what exactly the relics from the computer's ship do. The Doctor notes that their shaman is attempting to make a talisman out of something that, in the wrong hands, could reduce the entire planet to a smoldering ember.
  • Big Bad: Xoanon, who unusually ends up undergoing a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Big "NO!": Xoanon even makes it a Cluster No Bomb.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Plenty from the savage Sevateem and the emotionless Tesh.
  • Brainwashed: Xoanon can make the Sevateem try and kill the Doctor with seemingly no more than a thought.
  • Brandishment Bluff: The Doctor, cornered by a tribe who believe him to be their equivalent of Satan, threatens to kill one of them with a jelly baby.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Since the Doctor starts the story without a companion, Tom Baker awkwardly does some schtick directly to the camera instead.
  • Cargo Cult: Both the Tesh and the Sevateem, to different extents. Played with a bit in that they're worshiping their own technology, just from a different point in time.
  • Chromosome Casting: Leela is the only speaking female character in this story.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The Doctor refers to a piece of broken-down equipment as "dead as a Dalek".
    • At the end of the story the Doctor can be heard whistling the tune "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow Wow", which was the same tune Sarah Jane whistled in the last scene of "The Hand of Fear".
  • Deus est Machina: The Sevateem and Tesh worship the god Xoanon, who turns out to be a giant supercomputer that went haywire after the Doctor fiddled with it during a bout of Resurrection Sickness.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: The last words we hear are the Doctor shouting at Leela not to touch that button after she's slipped inside the TARDIS...
  • Eats Babies: Spoofed:
    The Doctor: Would you like a jelly baby?
    Leela: It's true, then. They say the Evil One eats babies.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Leela asks the Doctor how they can hear Xoanon from behind the barrier, which leads Doctor to realisation that there must be some hole in the barrier.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The story opens with Leela being tried and banished from her tribe. This scene establishes her defiance (questioning the wisdom of her superiors) and compassion (offering to take a fatal trial in place of her father).
  • Evilutionary Biologist: All of the characters are victims of a eugenics experiment being run by Xoanon. By and large, they bear him no hard feelings for it afterwards.
  • The Exile: The story begins with Leela being banished.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: An ad-lib by Tom Baker to avert what he saw as this led to one of the Fourth Doctor's most memorable, awesome moments. The script called for him to take a man hostage, pull a knife on him, and threaten to slit his throat unless the aliens dropped their weapons. What he actually does in the show is take a man hostage, pull a jelly baby on him, and threaten to kill him with it unless the aliens dropped their weapons. And then, when his bluff is called, he nonchalantly responds by eating the jelly baby and coolly informing them that "I don't take orders from anyone."
  • Heel–Face Turn: Neeva and Calib.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Leela's father offers up his life to save his daughter.
    • Neeva dies distracting Xoanon long enough for the Doctor to finish his repairs, although dying probably wasn't part of his plan.
  • High-Voltage Death: One of the Tesh acolytes is killed when he falls against an electrified mesh Xoanon intended to kill the Doctor.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: The Doctor coins the phrase 'As dead as a Dalek'.
  • Human Shield: Done by the Doctor of all people. When confronted by the savage Sevateem tribe, the Doctor threatens to kill one of them "with this deadly jelly baby" if they don't back off. The Sevateem surprise the Doctor by responding, "kill him, then." Determined not to be upstaged, the Doctor simply eats the jelly baby instead. "I don't take orders from anyone. Take Me to Your Leader."
  • Invisible Monsters: Deconstructed. The Doctor works out that they can't see, since light would just pass through any eyes they had, and must rely on other senses. This lets him distract them with an alarm clock long enough for him and Leela to get to safety.
  • Jumped at the Call: Leela.
  • Just One Second Out of Sync: How the Wall works.
  • Lost Colony: The Sevateem and the Tesh are the remnants of a research team after generations of eugenicist experiments by Xoanon. By the time the Doctor meets them in their current form, nobody, not even the tribespeople, are aware of what happened.
  • Machine Worship: After the ship crashed, thhe computer Xoanon decided to trap its survivors in a large-scale eugenics experiment. The Survey Team, which explored the planet, were modified to show strength and courage and became the Sevateem; the Tech Team became the (now legendary) Tesh, granted cold reason and psychic ability by Xoanon. Generations later, both parties have now fallen to Cargo Cult superstition, allowing Xoanon to rule as a God for both.
  • Meaningful Name: "Xoanon" is the word for crafted wooden idols that were reverenced in ancient Greece, which is an appropriate title for a crafted computer that everyone thinks is a god.
  • Mirrors Reflect Everything: The Doctor uses a hand mirror to reflect the Teshes' particle analyzer.
  • Mondegreen Gag: After a few generations of tale-telling, Survey Team becomes Sevateem and Technicians becomes Tesh.
  • Monster-Shaped Mountain: The giant carving of the "Evil One".
  • Multicultural Alien Planet: The Tesh and Sevateem are two orthogonally distinct cultures (technologists and savages) on the same planet. Of course, they both originated from the same initial culture over 9000 years earlier.
  • Nerves of Steel: Leela's "fight or flight" response doesn't have a "flight" setting.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The story reveals the long-term implications of some ill-advised world-saving the Doctor did while still experiencing post-regenerative trauma and having a minimal idea who he was and what was going on. He ditched UNIT to travel in the TARDIS, rebooted a computer by giving it his own personality, and all this did was drive it mad and cause it to become an evil computer 'god' with his own face. On the bright side, this also "created" his future companion and friend Leela, a woman from the civilisation created by the mad computer.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Xoanan had brainwashed Neeva for so long, using the priest to control the Sevateem, that when Xoanan uses his mind control powers to turn everyone else - even Leela - against the Doctor, Neeva - having learned his role in Xoanan's plotting and broken by the knowledge - is able to shake off the mind control and distract Xoanan long enough for the Doctor to repair the computer's damage.
  • Nightmare Face: Xoanon is so terrifying the people on the planet have a religion based upon placating it — an especially unusual and upsetting case because it's also played by Tom Baker, with eyes bulging out of his head and the jaw working wrong.
  • Noble Savage: All of the Sevateem, but Leela in particular.
  • Nubile Savage: Leela, the only major female Sevateem seen on-screen (although a second one is glimpsed briefly), appears in a stripperiffic tunic and loincloth with a good serving of '70s Hair.
  • Offered the Crown: Leela is offered leadership of her tribe. She declines in favour of running off after the Doctor.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Technically, the events that led to this episode's conflict are an example of this for the Doctor. Of course, the "technically" is highly emphasized.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted and lampshaded; the Doctor comments that he's never met anyone named Leela before.
  • Outfit Decoy: Leela uses the Doctor's hat held up behind a corner to bait the Tesh into shooting at her.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The Doctor kicking a vicious Horda onto the back of a Sevateem man who smacked Leela in the face.
  • Piranha Problem: The Test of the Horda is a land-dwelling version.
  • Please Kill Me if It Satisfies You: After Xoanon is healed, it makes this offer to the humans via the Doctor.
  • Random Smoking Scene: The Doctor has a cigarette case. It only has jelly babies in it, though he mimes with them like they're cigars.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: The Sevateem versus the Tesh.
  • Satan Is Good: From the Sevateem's point of view. Also, Leela is pretty quick to team up with the Doctor when she still thinks he's the "Evil One".
  • Shifting Voice of Madness: Xoanon. When the Doctor tried to fix it by connecting it to his own brain, it broke instead, giving it a copy of his own personality which conflicted with its own newborn intelligence. As a result, when he returns during the events of the story, the computer has multiple conflicting personalities and is batshit insane. To indicate this, the computer has multiple voice actors, including Tom Baker himself, who randomly switch out midsentence while the computer is speaking.
  • Shoot the Rope: The Doctor has to do this during his Trial By Ordeal. In this case he's standing on a plank over a pit of nasty biting creatures, holding a crossbow with only one quarrel. The rope is attached to a weight, pulling machinery that's opening the pit beneath him. The rope gets thinner the longer you wait (making it easier to cut) but the weight moves faster.
  • Spoiler Cover: The video and DVD covers feature the gigantic stone carving of the eponymous face. However, the reveal that the face was that of the Doctor was the dramatic cliffhanger of the first episode.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Leela and the Doctor, by the Tesh.
  • Stripperiffic: The Sevateem dress sense, male and female.
  • Take Me to Your Leader: The Doctor says this verbatim to the Sevateem while holding a man hostage with a jelly baby.
  • Tempting Fate:
    Doctor: If they're preparing for a battle, they're hardly likely to send men on patrol on the off-chance that you might come back. (two arrows hit the tree inches from his face) On the other hand, I could be wrong about that.
  • Theory Tunnelvision: Summed up by the Doctor:
    "The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views."
  • Thicker Than Water: Leela's father tries to take the test for her. He dies.
  • The X of Y: "The Face of Evil".
  • Too Clever by Half: This, and Resurrection Sickness, is why the conflict of the episode happens: the Doctor, some time ago, thought it was a clever idea to reprogram Xoanon. The method for reprogramming, however, resulted in driving Xoanon mad and become a mad "god".
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: All the male Sevateem.


Video Example(s):


The Deadly Jelly Baby

Realizing that there's more to the Sevateem than meets the eye, the Doctor strongarms his way into their current predicament by taking one of their men hostage and threatening to kill him with... a piece of candy. Of note is that it was originally supposed to be a knife, but Tom Baker suggested a jelly baby instead because he considered the original idea too out-of-character for the Doctor.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / BrandishmentBluff

Media sources: