Blurb: The TARDIS lands in the cargo hold of luxury space cruiser the Moray Rose. The crew and passengers are missing. The agents of Inter-Galaxy Insurance are determined to find out what’s happened and the shadowy Interplanetary Police Inspector Efendi is showing a very particular interest.
Caught up in all this, the Doctor and Leela find themselves facing a horde of metal mantis-like aliens. But throughout it all, Leela is haunted by terrible nightmares and the dawning realization that everything she knows about her life is a lie.
Format: Full-cast audio drama starring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson published by Big Finish Productions and released April 2014.
Setting: The space cruisers Moray Rose and Archelik and the planet Secus, time unknown (although superficially it would seem to be around the time of Nightmare of Eden, so early to late 22nd century).
Continuity: This story takes place between The Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Horror of Fang Rock and after the audio story The Crooked Man. There are numerous references to Xoanon, The Evil One, and the test of the Horda. The Doctor mentions that he made a cure of the poison of the janis thorn (see The Face of Evil). Leela remembers meeting the Master previously (see Trail of the White Worm and The Oseidon Adventure).
Canonicity Quotient: Placing one story for the Master and the Doctor between The Deadly Assassin and Keeper of Traken is one thing but placing several starts to test credulity. It seems odd that the Doctor would be so keen on asking the Master how he survived the events of the Deadly Assassin in Keeper of Traken if they'd met a half dozen times in-between. 0.99
Discussion: The third season of the Fourth Doctor Adventures had already shown us a tremendous leap forward from the first. The performances seem to have more energy and the actors seem to be throwing themselves into their rolls more. The stories and direction have evoked more of that gothic horror feel from the early Tom Baker seasons. So even though Nick Briggs' writing has never been a favorite of mine, I went into this one with fairly high expectations. He had to rush his stories for season one after all and I had liked Energy of the Daleks to some degree. The description for this one also held out a lot of hope. It'd be interesting to see what fresh spin could be put on Leela's origin. I couldn't wait to find out what it was.
It seems to me that Nick Briggs had a fundamental problem when it comes to storytelling. The man cannot develop a theme to save his life. In much the same way that Destination: Nerva was supposed to be a story about the evils of British colonialism but maybe only really said 2 or three things about it, The Evil One is supposed to be a story about the relationship between Leela and her father. It's limited to a single scene at the end with a conversation between her and the Doctor just to find out that she loved her father very much. I understand that the whole underlying plot point of the Master trying to undermine Leela's memories was to cause her to believe that if she were the type of person to let her father die in her place then she could be a cold-blooded assassin. The problem is that this isn't anything unique to Leela. I think that that most people's minds would become unhinged if you convinced them that they were the kind of people to glory in their parents' deaths. The relationship between parent and child is so primal and fundamental that it would unbalance their psyche at the very least. It was hardly revelatory information.
I was personally saddened to hear no mention of the Master duplicate. I was hoping for a minute that the Master on Secus was a separate Master than the one pretending to be Xoanon and it was going to turn out that one Master was trying to pit the Doctor against the other, which would have been a very interesting basis for a story. I thought that it made sense as well since it was made clear that the Solanu were telepathic that the Master might be using them if it were the android Master who isn't telepathic. Instead we get some weird convoluted thing about using their telepathy through the symbiotic nuclei of the TARDIS. I will say that it was a nice surprise that the Master was in it at all. The back cover doesn't mention him and he's not on the front cover at all.
The basic plan seemed a little convoluted. So the Master hired the Solanu to use their telepathy to lure the Doctor through time and space to a certain location where he'll corrupt Leela and have her kill the Doctor. Yet, what guarantee do the Solanu have that he'll help them afterwards? The Doctor seems to convince them incredibly easily about the Master's treachery, but why didn't they have a greater hold over him? It almost seemed like the Solanu plot was thrown in as an afterthought and really needed more time to develop properly.
The whole riff back to The Face of Evil seemed really badly handled. It would have been neat to see the Master twist Leela's perceptions based on her mythology especially as The Doctor's face was associated with the Evil One but his voice with her god. It would have been neat to see that used to some effect. Instead the Master just says "hey, you're the evil one and I'm Xoanon". The names are used but there was no meaning behind them or metaphor. Of course Leela's mind resisted the Master's influence. It was such a bad brainwash with no strong verisimilitude to things in her real memory that it couldn't have taken for long.
I thought that the direction in this one was mostly good. Leela's lapses into her dream were well handled. I especially liked the part where we segue from the Doctor speaking about something to "we'd be as dead as Leela's father". On the surface that sounds like any of his ordinary jokes but it's got such a mean heart to it that it's something that the Doctor would have never actually said. It makes you pause and think though, which is nice. The only place where I feel that the direction was a let-down was with the Master getting away. It almost sounded like he was able to remote control his TARDIS into the Doctor's TARDIS and got away. But I thought that Logopolis made it clear that this was an incredibly tricky maneuver (so as not to cause time ram I suspect) and not something that you could just remote control in. Still, I'm not sure where the action was taking place and it all seemed a little bit confused.
The performances really helped to hold things up along with most of the production. Leela is still great here and even though there isn't a lot of meat to the story she tries to infuse it with as much interest as she can and make sure to sound suitably angry when she's supposed to and thoughtful when she needs to be. Tom is still doing wonderfully as the Doctor and Michael Keating seems to bring out the best of him. It was a wonderful treat to hear a character so familiar from Blake's 7 being involved in a new Doctor Who story. It was just kind of sad that he seemed to get killed off so nonchalantly as a way of getting his character out of the plot. For Tom I really enjoy the ending scene between himself and Leela. He's going to let her just talk to herself about her problems, which is such a Doctor thing to do. Human emotions make him so uncomfortable. Yet when she calls him on it and is clearly distraught he does find it within himself to comfort her and although it's such a tacked on moment he does it so well that you really feel that he loves this woman as a daughter and I love that. Geoffrey Beevers seems sidelined for much of the story and I found it hard to believe how he could disguise himself since he'd half to cover not only his whole body but his decayed hoody as well but oh well. As always he exudes that villainous charm that he's so good at and it's always a pleasure to hear him. The music this time was great as well. Once again we're back to a Simpsonesque score that really feels of the time. I wanted to go back and listen if it was similar to anything in The Face of Evil but haven't had the time. I can certainly believe it though. The only thing that I didn't like was that the Solanu sounded like every stock robot in existence. It didn't help to give them a personality when they're already so sidelined. Maybe giving them some insect trait in addition to a robotic modulation would have diversified them in some way.
Final Rating: 5/10
Recommendation: The Evil One promises deep revelations of both plot and character and delivers on neither. As a stock story about the Master trying to kill the Doctor it works but it does nothing interesting and isn't really that great. The production helps to keep things up with Baker and Keating being the standout hits this time around and carrying a lot of the story. The music is also top notch, but it isn't enough to make this coal into a diamond. I recommend skipping it.