The Doctor Who releases keep coming from the BBC! One of the newest, on sale this coming Tuesday, is "The Face of Evil," a four-parter from the middle of the 14th series, originally broadcast in 1977, is one of the rare Who stories that had not yet been put out on DVD. That is, until now.
"The Face of Evil" begins as the Doctor (Tom Baker), now without a companion, lands on a jungle planet, where he finds two tribes battling each other. Rescuing the Sevateem outcast Leela (Louise Jameson, Doc Martin, EastEnders), the Doctor becomes embroiled in a religious dispute involving the god Xoanon. The Sevateem declare that the Doctor is the Evil One, who keeps Xoanon prisoner, while the other tribe, the Tesh, think that the Doctor is a god. However, it's soon clear that the Doctor has some past involvement with this planet, and Xoanan, who is quite real, wants him dead.
This is an interesting mystery story. At first glance, the planet is primitive, but soon there are signs that all is not as it appears. Some very advanced technology is present, including force fields and a transceiver, and the Doctor's own face is carved into a mountain. These things sort of make it a precursor to the series Lost, though with a lot more natives, and a lot less plane crash victims.
There is also a story element that the tribes are descended from Earth people. Having crashed and unable to leave, they must start society all over, building lives and villages in the wilderness. This plot borrows heavily from Star Trek, which did a similar thing several times, only a decade earlier. That doesn't make "The Face of Evil" unoriginal, necessarily, but does make it feel familiar for the genre and time period from which it comes.
The humans in "The Face of Evil" are not the men viewers might expect. They were part of a eugenics research project, and some have developed telepathic abilities. This duality, being both more primitive and more advanced than the world where viewers live, makes them a clever curiosity well worth watching.
The villain of "The Face of Evil" is the Doctor, kind of. He creates the personality that controls Xoanon, who is really a computer. It's not a purposeful mistake that the Doctor makes, but it's still at least partially his fault. The Doctor has never been a perfect being, and this story highlights that again. By making the titular character flawed, and capable of causing great damage without even realizing it, the Doctor becomes an even more shifty hero. Stories like these really enrich the series.