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Doctor Who: The Face of Evil (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Face of Evil originally aired in 1977.

The Evil One!

Well, nobody’s perfect, but that’s overstating it a little.

– Leela and the Doctor make a great first impression

The Face of Evil is probably the most underrated story of the entire Hinchcliffe era, and it’s not hard to see why. For one thing, it is positioned in the middle of a run of classic stories. Any story sitting between The Deadly Assassin and both Robots of Death and The Talons of Weng-Chiang is probably going to be written off for being anything less than a perfect piece of Doctor Who.

More than that, though, The Face of Evil feels like it arrive a bit too early. Doctor Who is a show that can be many things at many different times, and The Face of Evil eschews the gothic horror evident throughout the Hinchcliffe era for the more intellectual and abstract science-fiction of Tom Baker’s final year. The Face of Evil feels more like a companion to Warriors’ Gate or Full Circle than to Planet of Evil or Brain of Morbius.

Still, it’s a triumph for the show, and one highly recommended. A wealth of good ideas, a great execution and the introduction of one of the show’s more iconic companions.

Face to face with evil...

Face to face with evil…

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Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Talons of Weng-Chiang originally aired in 1977.

Ah! Eureka! Do you know what that is?

You ask me so that you can tell me.

That’s right. It’s a trionic lattice, an integral part of a time cabinet. It’s impossible to open it without it.

You mean it’s a key.

Yes. He’s not only a scientific fool, he’s an absent-minded one.

Perhaps he has another eureka.

No, eureka’s Greek for “this bath is too hot.”

– the Doctor and Leela

The Talons of Weng-Chiang is generally agreed to be one of the (if not the) greatest Doctor Who adventures ever produced. It tends to hover around the top of various official polls, with only Caves of Androzani and City of Death coming close to it in public opinion. As such, I feel a little bit guilty when I confess that it doesn’t rank as one of my absolute favourite adventures. I like it a great deal, I think it embodies a great deal of what works about the Philip Hinchcliffe era of the show. However, if I’m looking for a dark pseudo-historical adventure, I am more likely to pick either The Pyramids of Mars or The Horror of Fang Rock.

I can see why a lot of people respond to The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and it has a lot to recommend it, but there are a number of minor problems that hold the serial back from the cusp of perfection, in my opinion.

Read it at your (Yellow) Peril...

Read it at your (Yellow) Peril…

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