The Face of Evil

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For the TV movie, see Face of Evil.
089 – The Face of Evil
Doctor Who serial
Face of Evil.jpg
Tomas fires on Xoanon's projected face as Andor is crushed.
Writer Chris Boucher
Director Pennant Roberts
Script editor Robert Holmes
Producer Philip Hinchcliffe
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Dudley Simpson
Production code 4Q
Series Season 14
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 1–22 January 1977
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Deadly Assassin The Robots of Death

The Face of Evil is the fourth serial of the 14th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, starring Tom Baker as the Doctor. First broadcast in four weekly parts from 1 January to 22 January 1977, this serial marked the debut of Louise Jameson as the Doctor's new companion, Leela.


The Doctor, travelling alone in the TARDIS, arrives on a jungle planet and encounters Leela, a savage from the local tribe, who denounces him as the Evil One of fable among her people. She has been exiled from her tribe, the Sevateem, for profaning their god Xoanon who is kept prisoner by the Evil One and his followers, the Tesh, beyond a black wall. He speaks to them through the tribe’s shaman, Neeva. Now Leela is an outcast beyond the invisible barrier around her tribal home. Neeva has sent two men to murder her, witnessed by Leela's friend Tomas, who kills one of them as Leela dispatches the other. The Doctor finds a sophisticated sonic disruptor which creates the force field that keeps the creatures from attacking the village. The Sevateem will launch an attack on the domain of the Tesh to free their god, led by the combative Andor who suspects Neeva of being a false prophet, and Tomas tells him of Neeva's assassination attempt against Leela. Still, Andor believes the attack will succeed and is prepared to go ahead.

Two warriors are scouring the jungle when they find the Doctor, making a protective hand gesture which the Doctor interprets as the sequence for checking the seals on a Starfall Seven spacesuit. The warriors seize the Doctor. Leela manages to free him by using poisonous Janis thorns, which paralyze, then kill the victim. The Doctor is horrified by this and instructs her "No more Janis thorns, Ever". The pair flee the village to a clearing beyond where carved into a mountain nearby is an impression of the Doctor's face, who cannot recall why his face is depicted so. In Neeva’s holy tent, the Doctor inspects the ancient tribal relics, artifacts from an Earth survey expedition. He finds a transceiver used by Neeva to hear the commands of Xoanon. It speaks with the Doctor’s own voice, conveying exhilaration on hearing the Doctor that "At least we are here. At last I shall be free of us."

They head off to inspect the dark Wall at the entrance of the realm of the Evil One. The Doctor deduces it is a primitive time barrier, and is convinced the Sevateem warriors will be massacred if they attack the fortress of their enemy, the Tesh. From a distance they see the massacre unfold. Half the tribe is lost. Calib is first back at the camp where he finds the Doctor and Leela. He is intent on using the Doctor to break Neeva’s hold on the tribe by exposing the faith in Xoanon as misplaced mythology. Leela’s friend Tomas arrives and find Calib has stabbed Leela with a Janis thorn to prevent her exposing his schemes. The Doctor gets Tomas to help him move Leela to Neeva’s tent, where he uses a bio-analyzer to synthesise an antidote.The Doctor, Leela and Tomas address the tribal elders in defence of their lives. Calib intervenes to suggest the Doctor is not the Evil One, and this can be proven by getting him to take the fabled Test of the Horda, a pit full of two-foot-long worms which hunt in packs and react to the movements of their prey, stripping flesh from a man in an instant. The Doctor is given a crossbow which has to be fired at the exact moment to sever the rope without causing him to fall into the pit – which is the fate of the guilty. The Doctor succeeds so is presumed to be a non-malign influence and freed. He examines some relics of the tribe and repairs a disruptor gun. He tells some of the tribe the Sevateem are the descendants of a “survey team” which left a Starfall Seven Earth colony ship. The Doctor and Leela go to examine the face, climbing into it by scaling the Doctor’s teeth. Neeva in his tent is told by Xoanon the tribe will be destroyed, and the mysterious being then causes the sonic disruptor to shut down. These descend on the village, crushing Andor to death. Tomas uses the disruptor gun built by the Doctor to expose the true appearance of the invisible beings.

Leela and the Doctor notice a figure in a space suit in the “mouth” entrance and follow it through a projection of a wall. Beyond is a rocket, which the Doctor recalls as belonging to the Mordee Expedition, his memory of earlier events now returning. Xoanon has detected the Doctor nearby, and when he reaches the ship the god-creature is both ecstatic that "We are here” while also manically pledging that "We must destroy us." The Doctor and Leela meet three representatives of the Tesh, who serve and worship Xoanon. The Doctor deduces both Sevateem and Tesh are descendants of the same crew from the Mordee Expedition, with the Tesh (or technicians) involved in the same deadly eugenics exercise as the Sevateem (or survey team).

The invisible creatures that attacked the Sevateem are part of the same deranged scheme: Xoanon is a computer, designed to think independently. The Doctor had once repaired Xoanon but forgot to wipe his personality print from the data core, leaving the computer with a split personality. The Doctor, speaking as Xoanon with the communicator, instructs Neeva to tell Calib, who is now tribal leader, to lead the Sevateem survivors through the mouth of the face. With Leela keeping guard and holding the Tesh at bay, the Doctor ventures into the computer room of the ship to confront Xoanon. When Xoanon refuses to shut itself down, it channels a vicious mental assault at the Doctor, causing him to collapse, while Xoanon booms: "Who am I?"

Leela rescues the Doctor from the mental assault, and as he recovers he warns her of Xoanon’s power. Moments later they realise the computer has electrified the walls to try to kill them, and the Tesh become more purposeful in tracking them down within the spaceship. The Tesh also come under attack from Calib, Tomas and the survivors of the Sevateem, who now reach the spaceship too. This diverts the Tesh while the Doctor and Leela return to the computer room, where Xoanon briefly takes control of Leela’s mind. Most of the Sevateem come under the telepathic control of the computer too. The Tesh and Sevateem soon converge on the computer room too and interrupt the Doctor as he tries to repair Xoanon, realising the computer has now triggered the countdown to an atomic explosion. Elsewhere in the ship Neeva is alone but crazed, his faith in Xoanon shattered. The shaman uses the disruptor gun against one of the images of Xoanon/the Doctor projected through a wall. The ensuing blast kills Neeva but also interrupts Xoanon’s control of its subjects, allowing the Doctor to resume and complete his repairs. Xoanon’s circuits explode, knocking the Doctor out.

Two days later the Doctor wakes up to find himself aboard the spaceship in the care of Leela. She explains Xoanon has been quiet and he interprets this as success for his extraction experiment. They visit the computer room and find Xoanon’s identity and sanity restored. The computer confirms it was running a eugenics experiment and thanks the Doctor for his repair work. The Doctor then contacts the survivors of the Tesh and Sevateem and tells them Xoanon is now cured and able to support their new society. He then heads off to the TARDIS. Leela follows him and finds the Doctor in the woods about to unlock the TARDIS. She still has a disruptor gun because the creatures are still roaming. The Doctor tell her she no longer needs the gun since Sevateem is no longer a threat. She insists she join him on his travels, and when he refuses she jumps into the TARDIS with him and starts the dematerialisation process.


The novelisation of this story suggests that the Doctor's first visit to the planet of the Sevateem takes place during Robot; early in that serial, Sarah Jane Smith witnesses the newly regenerated and still delirious Doctor starting to leave in the TARDIS. However, the Doctor returns so quickly, with his mind so addled as a result of his recent regeneration that he never consciously remembered his time away until his return.

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.


Working titles for this story included The Day God Went Mad.[1][2]

Cast notes[edit]

Lloyd McGuire later played Generalleutnant Tendexter in the audio play The Architects of History.

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Part One" 1 January 1977 (1977-01-01) 24:58 10.7
"Part Two" 8 January 1977 (1977-01-08) 24:58 11.1
"Part Three" 15 January 1977 (1977-01-15) 24:40 11.3
"Part Four" 22 January 1977 (1977-01-22) 24:46 11.7

Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping wrote of the serial in The Discontinuity Guide (1995), "A little masterpiece, often undeservedly forgotten by the weight of the surrounding stories. A magnificent cast shake every ounce of subtlety and invention from the script."[1] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker praised the casting and use of the image of the Doctor's face, calling it "unsettling". While it was overall an "impressive tale that manages to intrigue and delight", they noted that the Tesh made "little impression" and the conclusion to the story was "somewhat unlikely".[2] In 2010, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times was more negative, calling the episodes "stagnant at best and for the most part knuckle-gnawingly dull", with shortcomings in every area of production. He felt that the two "saving graces" were the cliffhangers to the first and third episodes and Jameson as Leela.[6] DVD Talk reviewer John Sinnott gave The Face of Evil four out of five stars, praising Baker, Leela, and the story's social commentary on religion.[7] Dave Golder, writing for SFX, noted its more adult tone and called it "strong, compelling stuff".[8] In 2010, Charlie Jane Anders of io9 listed the cliffhanger to the first episode — in which Doctor's face is revealed to be that of the Evil One — as one of the greatest cliffhangers in the history of Doctor Who.[9]

Commercial Releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who and the Face of Evil
Doctor Who and the Face of Evil.jpg
Author Terrance Dicks
Cover artist Jeff Cummins
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
19 January 1978
ISBN 0-426-20006-3

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in January 1978.

Home media[edit]

The story was released on VHS in May 1999 and on DVD on 5 March 2012.[10]


  1. ^ a b Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "The Face of Evil". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. 
  2. ^ a b Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed. ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7. 
  3. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "The Face of Evil". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  4. ^ "The Face of Evil". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  5. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "The Face of Evil". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  6. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (30 August 2010). "Doctor Who: The Face of Evil". Radio Times. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  7. ^ Sinnott, John (31 March 2012). "Doctor Who: The Face of Evil". DVD Talk. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  8. ^ Golder, Dave (2 March 2012). "Doctor Who: The Face of Evil DVD Review". SFX. Retrieved 9 September 2013. 
  9. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (31 August 2010). "Greatest Doctor Who cliffhangers of all time!". io9. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  10. ^ "DVD Schedule Update". Doctor Who News. 2011-03-05. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 

External links[edit]

Fan reviews
Target novelisation