Face of Evil
Target novelisation
Doctor Who and the Face of Evil

Author Terrance Dicks Cover image
Published 1978
ISBN 0 426 20006 3
First Edition Cover Jeff Cummins

Back cover blurb: Setting the controls for Earth, the Doctor is surprised when the Tardis lands in a primeval forest. Has the Tracer gone wrong or has some impulse deep in his unconscious mind directed him to this alien planet? In investigating the forest, the Doctor meets and assists Leela, a warrior banished from her tribe, the Sevateem. Through Leela, it gradually becomes apparent that the constant war between the Sevateem and the Tesh has been instigated by the god they both worship, Xoanon. Xoanon, an all-powerful computer, is possessed by a desperate madness - a madness that is directly related to Doctor Who, that causes Xoanon to assume the voice and form of the Doctor, a madness that is partly caused by the Doctor and that only the Doctor himself can rectify! The Doctor must not only do battle with Xoanon, but also must escape from the savage practices of the Sevateem, and the technically mind-controlling destructive impulses of the Tesh.


So now we know when the Doctor fixed Xoanon... by Tim Roll-Pickering 31/3/04

One of the most glaring ommisions from the television story is that it gives no real indication of when the Doctor fixed Xoanon - an important part of the plot given that the Doctor takes time to realise how he has caused the entire chain of events. Here in the novelisation Terrance Dicks offers the view that the Doctor sneaked off in the TARDIS one night during the events of Robot and so makes the Doctor's actions and mistakes even more logical than before. It's a natural point to place the trip and doesn't go against any author's intentions. Indeed it may even provide a gap for some future Past Doctor Adventures...

Otherwise Doctor Who and the Face of Evil is a relatively straightforward novelisation, turning the script into a book with little spectacular enhancement. Terrance Dicks was by this point producing his twenty second Doctor Who novelisation and the feeling is that here in the late 1970s he had turned into a novelisation machine, chruning out the books en masse. This stands out especially here since The Face of Evil contains both some highly philosophical discussion about the nature of religion and a continuation of the Doctor acting violently out of character such as when he throws a Horda onto one of the Sevateem or throwing a Tesh into an electrified wall. In other books featuring such moments, most obviously Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius, the Doctor's actions are at least challenged and justified, but here there is no-one to question the Doctor's violence, emphasising the alienness of the setting but it would not have been hard to incorporate some lines explaining the Doctor's actions and almost certainly a novelisation produced in any other period of the books' run would have done so.

As a book in itself, Doctor Who and the Face of Evil is quite a fast read, with the action rarely resting and the text never getting tortorous. Characters such as Calib and Tomas really stand out as effective, whilst the menace of Xoanon is ever present. This book introduces Leela and so it's appropriate that she dominates both the original cover and Alister Pearson's 1993 contribution, whilst she stands out in the book. But despite all this there is very little in this book that really stands out or makes the reviewer want to expound upon. What is left is a straightforward retelling of Chris Boucher's scripts. Here the story is strong and so ensures that the book remains readable, but a weaker script novelised by this method would produce a horrible tale. 6/10