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06 April 2012 @ 06:51 pm
The Randomizer: The Face of Evil  
The randomiser seems to be remarkably keen on Tom Baker (possibly, I suppose, because there is a lot of Tom Baker). I'm not complaining mind since Tom Baker stories are a fairly easy sell.

The Face of Evil makes an interesting comparison to The Masque of Mandragora. I mentioned when I reviewed it that I felt Masque was a fairly straightforward story, but produced very well. The Face of Evil is less assured production-wise, possibly because the set and costume people have to venture outside of the comfort zone of the historical but it is a rather more interesting story.

The back story, of the planet with its separate groups of the Sevateem (descended from the Survey Team) and the Tesh (descended from the Technicians), is a nice idea that is cleverly set up and revealed. The viewer is encouraged to be working things out almost at the same rate as the Doctor is (at least judging by the reactions of the tame "random viewer" I had to hand) and the reveal of the "Face of Evil" is a genuine surprise but one that makes sense in context.

It must be said that the sevateem are not the most convincing bunch of ruthless savages on television. In fact only Neeva, their shaman, really convinced me he wasn't a middle-class actor in a loin-cloth. However the costume department was clearly having fun with them, especially the mixture of animal skins and space suits that the script has them wear.

Neeva's ceremonial hat is a particular triumph - even the Doctor comments upon it!

However I think the contrast between the sevateem costuming and the tesh costuming highlights particularly well the extent to which the costume department was ill-at-ease in imagining "futuristic" clothing.

The savages are allowed a degree of individualism in their dress which the advanced tesh are not. It's easy to criticise modern Who for dressing everyone from the future like someone from the early 21st century, but stories like The Face of Evil make it equally easy to understand the pitfalls they are attempting to avoid by doing this.

Louise Jameson as Leela is excellent, conveying the character's mixture of ignorance and intelligence with conviction. She's also an excellent example of the kind of companion the show was experimenting with in the 70s, the like of which we really haven't seen since. Even the modern companions, who have considerably more initiative and competence than many, are tied down at some level to an everyman status - the show very much wants us to view them as ordinary people who are just like us. Leela is allowed to be extraordinary from the outset and I'd argue she is the better for it. In context even her costume (notoriously "something for the Dad's") seems perfectly reasonable, though I could have wished some of the scantily clad male sevateem had a little more muscle definition - just to even everything up, you understand. Some of her fight scenes are a bit stilted, but that is typical of fight scenes in 1970s TV shows so not much of a criticism. Again in a parallel to Masque we get to see poor Tomas following her around hopefully and generally getting underfoot, just like poor Guiliano was following Sarah around and, of course, later, various young men were to follow Rose about.

This isn't a story I'd pick to show to someone unused to 70s television, or not that interested in SF (Masque of Mandragora would be a better choice) but for someone a bit more into this kind of thing, then The Face of Evil is well worth watching.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/64481.html.
reggietatereggietate on April 6th, 2012 06:39 pm (UTC)
I'd forgotten the Tesh costumes were like that! :-) I quite like the efforts made to not look 21st (or indeed 20th) Century despite the bizarre things which sometimes result.

Leela was great. I don't think they'd get away with her now.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 7th, 2012 07:08 am (UTC)
I think it was pretty important for them to get away from the "silly costumes" rep if Who was to be a success in 2003, so I have a lot of sympathy with the decision. Though I do find it hard to understand why, 35 years after Star Wars, realistic looking costuming of the future seems so difficult - or at least the basic idea that people are individuals and don't wear uniforms unless they are actually uniforms is obviously so difficult to grasp.