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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 521 > The Face of Evil

The Face of Evil

On a hostile world, the Doctor encounters a savage tribe of warriors… and discovers that he’s a god!

The Fact of Fiction

Scratching beneath the surface of Doctor Who’s most fascinating tales…

Early last year, that Doctor line from Part Four of The Face of Evil briefly became a much-shared social media meme. You know the one – about the thing that the very powerful and the very stupid have in common: “They don’t alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views…” On screen, this startling line is broken up by the Doctor’s realisation that his newfound friend Leela has been taken over by a mad computer. That’s a pity, because if the Doctor had delivered it in close-up, it’d make a classic clip to rank alongside his “Have I the right?” speech from Genesis of the Daleks (1975) – proof positive that every now and again, Doctor Who says something with real intellectual weight.

There’s more to The Face of Evil than that one line, though – not least the big question it asks us about the Doctor himself. At some point in his past, the Doctor blithely rocked up on an alien planet, fixed some colonists’ computer, and promptly departed – unaware that his fix had caused that computer to go insane. Centuries pass until he reappears, seemingly by accident. So how many lives has his mistake cost, in the interim?

Tellingly, Target Books noveliser Terrance Dicks places that initial visit partway through the Fourth Doctor’s debut serial Robot (1974-75): ‘There had been the overwhelming urge to go off into the TARDIS and just disappear. One night the urge had been too strong…’ Tellingly, because if that initial visit hadn’t been a ‘strange, dream-like interlude’ when the newly regenerated Doctor wasn’t truly himself, it wouldn’t just make him shockingly negligent… it’d mean that he’d cursed that computer, and those generations of colonists, with his normal, everyday madness.

Part One

FIRST BROADCAST: 1 JANUARY 1977

Tribesmen of the Sevateem convene to decide the fate of a young woman charged with blasphemy against the great god Xoanon…

01m 04s Writer Chris Boucher has freely admitted that The Face of Evil owed its genesis to a particular sciencefiction novel: “I started with an idea about a computer – an idea derived from reading a book several years before by Harry Harrison, called Captive Universe. The book isn’t actually about the computer, but about a place which the inhabitants think is a world but which is actually a spaceship…”

Captive Universe (1969) begins amid a community of Aztecs who live in a valley sealed off from the rest of the world by an immense wall of rock, supposedly created by a terrible earthquake some 500 years before: ‘It was Omeyocan’s curse, and he is the god whose name is never spoken aloud, only whispered lest he overhear.’ For daring to question the law, young tribesman Chimal is condemned by the local priest… just like Leela (Louise Jameson) is here condemned by shaman and ‘Speaker of Law’ Neeva (David Garfield).

In Ancient Greece, a ‘xoanon’ was a cult figure of a deity, usually carved from wood, said to have fallen from heaven – so the name of the tribesmen’s god was well-chosen, as we’ll see.

01m 35s Tribal chief Andor (Victor Lucas) asks if any of the tribesmen will take “the test of the Horda” on Leela’s behalf – but no one speaks up. In his Target Books adaptation Doctor Who and the Face of Evil (1978), Terrance Dicks adds: ‘Many warriors had looked with favour on Leela. But life was precious, and after all, there were other women…’! Dicks also confirms what’s never made explicit on screen – that young Tomas (Brendan Price) is in love with Leela. However: ‘Even his love was not strong enough to face almost-certain death.’

Tomas was developed from a character named Loke, who played the part of the Doctor’s companion-by-proxy at an early stage of the scripting process – but Loke was soon sidelined in favour of Leela. Late in the day, for unknown reasons, Brendan Price replaced Scots actor David Ashton, who’d played Mr Harvey in a Pennant Roberts-directed episode of Sutherland’s Law: Matters of Trust (1974); Roberts would later cast Ashton as Kendron in Timelash (1985).

02m 01s David Garfield, playing Neeva, and Leslie Schofield, playing Calib, last appeared on screen together in Episode Four of The War Games (1969) – in which the former had been the alien Von Weich, bossing the latter as Confederate soldier Leroy.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

New year, new Doctor... We have an exclusive interview with the newly regenerated Thirteenth Doctor, Jodie Whittaker! Plus new showrunner Chris Chibnall writes exclusively for DWM. Doctor Who Magazine 521 also includes: • An interview with Twice Upon a Time director Rachel Talalay, who talks us through Peter and Jodie's regeneration scene • DWM's Twice Upon a Time set report and review • An interview with 'John Smith', Doctor Who fan turned visual effects pro working on the Twelfth Doctor's final adventures • A tribute to Dudley Simpson, Doctor Who's prolific composer from 1964 to 1980 • Highlights of Dudley Simpson's Doctor Who scores • A first-hand account of how the 1960s TARDIS prop was recreated for Twice Upon a Time • Writer and illustrator Adam Hargreaves explains how his Mr Men entered the world of Doctor Who • Part three of The Phantom Piper, our new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill • Fact of Fiction explores the 1977 Fourth Doctor story The Face of Evil • Previews, book, audio and DVD reviews, news, the DWM Christmas Quiz answers, The Blogs of Doom, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!