The English Way of Death
The Romance of Crime
Nightmare of Eden
|Dates||Nov. 24, 1979 -
Dec. 15, 1979
With Tom Baker, Lalla Ward,
David Brierly as the voice of "K9".
Written by Bob Baker. Script-edited by Douglas Adams.
Directed by Alan Bromly. Produced by Graham Williams.
|Synopsis: The Doctor lands aboard a spaceliner and discovers that someone is smuggling Vraxoin, an addictive and lethal narcotic.|
A Delight by Dennis McDermott 5/9/97
Early in this program, Rigg, the commander of the stricken cruiseliner, tries to pin the Doctor down by asking him who he worked for. Tom Baker looked down at him with an expression of mild indignation and goes: "Work for? I don't work for anyone. I'm just having fun."
Don't we all wish we could do that? I was amused by Ryu Kurtz's putdown of this program in her comment on Adric, as I had been planning for a while to tell the world how wonderful this program is. But not because it is in any way post-modern. On the contrary, this is a straight-forward, not particularly deep story that is well-plotted, acted, and executed.
Douglas Adams has been one of the most controversial members of the Doctor Who family, which is a little odd considering his association was short-lived. But what it did produce was some remarkably well-plotted stories (Creature from the Pit being the exception), of which Nightmare of Eden was one of the better ones. The beginning premise, two spaceships fused upon coming out of warp, was very original. I can't think of a single incident that didn't advance the story in some way. And the ending, frequently a weak point in Doctor Who, was quite apropos.
And aside of a few weak moments concerning Tryst, the acting was top-notch: from the drugged-up navigator at the beginning to the unctuous government officials at the end.
Don't turn on this story expecting a major insight or a mind-bending storyline. Turn it on because it's fun.
Something special -- if it wasn't for the Mandrels by Tom May 6/3/98
I'd say that this story is probably the second best in Season 17, and while hardly faultless, it is an excellent example of Williams Era Doctor Who. This tale isn't a million miles away from the decent Carnival of Monsters, which is odd for Williams-Era Doctor Who, where a lack of reliance on the past was a strength.
There is a similar "miniscope" type machine as seen in Carnival of Monsters used by the irritating accented Tryst, and, although the Mandrels look shoddy, I prefer this one to the Season 10 tale. Whereas Pertwee strongly preached against the miniscope, Baker is more off-beat, preferring to scrutinise the illegal misuse of the drug Vraxoin. While Tom Baker's portrayal, in comparison with Pertwee's was more subtle and anti-establishment, there are great scenes at the end where the Doctor coldly tells the drug peddling Tryst to "go away" after Tryst claims "They had a choice!"
The moral implications of this tale are reasonably subtle but covered up all too graphically by the emergance of the Mandrels. I like the feel of this story, and the mature, witty style-- and one of the last Dudley Simpson soundtracks. Lalla Ward is as gorgeously intelligent as ever, alongside Tom Baker's enigmatic Doctor.
This is certainly Bob Baker's finest script, noticably better than all of the stories he wrote with Dave Martin. The story is further evidence in my opinion that Douglas Adams should've stayed on as Script-Editor, perhaps along with JNT (as JNT brought control to the production floor, which is what Adams needed). Although I like Christopher H. Bidmead's work on Doctor Who, I think it was a wrong step to base the stories in real scientific theories. Doctor Who is best when bothering about characterisation and concise plotting.
You couldn't ask for much more from this enjoyable story: it's got my favourite companion and Doctor, a nice plot, good characters and charm. If you've not seen this, give it a try, and forget the invalid criticism-- if you like Doctor Who as superb, escapist fun you'll love this! 8.75/10
A Review by Michael Hickerson 25/7/99
It's certainly hard to know what exactly to make of the Nightmare of Eden. It's an interesting story struggling against the constraints of heavy-handed acting, a couple of phoned in performances by Tom Baker and Lalla Ward and Who's attempt at giving the younger kids in the audience an anti-drug messages. (Personally, I can't make it through the story now without hearing South Park's Mr. Mackee going, "Drugs are bad, kids, mkay. Don't do drugs.")
Certainly the story has some small amount of potential. The idea of two ships stuck together is an interesting one. And while I'll admit that the idea of the electronic zoo on a crystal was done better in the infinitely better Pertwee era story, Carnival of Monsters, it's interesting enough here.
What doesn't work are a number of things...
As for the Nightmare of Eden, I'll pass...
Never Less than Enjoyable by Mike Morris 8/8/99
Never, ever has a story had such an undeservedly bad reputation, which thankfully seems to be being reviewed a bit following its video release. Nightmare of Eden is a very competent, imaginative story, and - neglecting the unfinished Shada - is probably the second-best of Season Seventeen. I'll say right away that I love it to bits.
I recently showed it to a non-Doctor Who fan friend (yes, I do have some!!), who'd been pretty damn impressed by The Curse of Fenric but completely unimpressed by The Caves of Androzani. He thought it was great. Why? Well, that's what makes Nightmare of Eden so memorable - it's never, ever dull. It oscillates wildly from being inventive and enjoyable, to be just as enjoyably terrible. This is, of course, a happy accident, but who cares?
This was the first solo project by Bob Baker, who in partnership with Dave Martin had produced a whole range of stories that were generally competent but never particularly memorable - their best offering was The Sontaran Experiment, a two-parter, which speaks volumes really. On his own, Baker produces a riotous blend of ideas that swing between imaginative and absurd, in a way somewhat reminiscent of The Pirate Planet. Here we have the Continuous Event Transmitter (which, as far as I can see, is subtly different from the miniscope of Carnival of Monsters - the whole point of the miniscope is that it's difficult to get in and out of), two spaceships fusing, and a diverting drug-smuggling plot. All this is well enough, but then there are touches of genius, notably when the two ships "reject" each other on a molecular level. Then there's the concealment of the Mandrels on laser-crystal for later reconstitution. All this is the project of a fertile mind, and deserves a damn sight more praise than it gets.
A quick word about the Mandrels. I've read in a number of Who-related publications - The Fourth Doctor Handbook and The Television Companion spring to mind - a number of reviews trashing this serial because of the Mandrels. Why? Yeah, sure they look daft, but so what? Reviews trashing Inferno because of the Primords - which look every bit as bad and what's more are largely superfluous to the story's theme - are thin on the ground, and quite rightly too. But you can't have double standards here. If we're going to start criticising Who stories because of unconvincing monsters, there's going to be precious few stories left worth looking at. That the Primords look daft is immaterial. That the Wirrn look daft is immaterial. That the Mandrels look daft is immaterial.
And, while I'm on the point, I've another axe to grind. Why is the notion of the Mandrels dissolving into Vraxoin so ludicrous? Most drugs are derived from organic plant matter of some kind, so why not animals? Yeah, sure, the process is simplified, but this is a kids' show, remember, and it does provide us with a marvellous set-piece towards the end of Part Three.
Okay, enough, I'll move on. The script is magnificent in many respects, and not just it's afore mentioned ideas. The portrayal of the Doctor is superb, ranging from an irreverent vagrant who is "just having fun", to the heroic figure who captures Tryst and Dimmond with ease and then coldly rejects the scientist. The "just go away" scene is a masterpiece, showing the Doctor's disgust at what Tryst has done, and the way that he has betrayed his vocation, with just a few lines and Tom Baker's cold presence. This is one of the greatest climaxes of the series, mature and intelligent, with no "just say no, kiddies" moralising. It stands out partly because of the wit and tongue-in-cheek humour that surrounds it. There are some terrific jokes - the "I wondered why I hadn't been paid" scene, for example. In short, this is an ambitious project on Bob Baker's behalf.
In fact, this could have been an all-time great if the rest of the production had echoed it. It doesn't, of course. David Daker puts in a great performance, and the two customs officers are a likable pair of caricatures, but there's a lot that's bad here. Tryst's accent is (famously) ludicrous, and other parts - such as the co-pilot addicted to Vraxoin, who oscillates between an aggressive wreck and a giggling idiot - aren't treated with the sensitivity they deserve. Alan Bromly has to shoulder a lot of the blame - in fact, he was so disillusioned with the state of Doctor Who behind the scenes that he walked out midway through production. The result is a production that treats the whole thing as a bit of a joke, really, which is a shame as the script has more than enough humour in it to begin with. Had the thing been shot and played absolutely straight, the balance would have been just right. As it is we have a lot of shots that are lazy, and some which are downright incompetent; a shot where Stott stares along a corridor, watching for Mandrels, while the Doctor is being savaged just a few yards away is jaw-dropppingly, gut-bustingly, snot-dribblingly bad. The sets are pretty damn unremarkable too. Oh well, it's all history now, and what we're left with is still entertaining. There's the sense, possibly false, that everyone's having a bloody great time, which makes up for a lot. Looking at people having a laugh is always fun, after all.
A Doctor Who story that Could Have Been So Much Better is generally the most annoying thing in the world as far as I'm concerned, far more so than one that's downright terrible. Yet Nightmare of Eden doesn't make me feel this way. The great bits are great, and I enjoy them; the bad bits are woeful, and I enjoy them as well. This encapsulates the Williams era in many respects - not perfect, sometimes downright bad, but always diverting.
I love it. It's bloody great. What more can I say?
Vraxoin Madness by Andrew Wixon 2/4/02
I saw this show back in 1980 and then didn't even glimpse it again until I sat down to watch the Tom Baker Years video one long summer's evening in 1993. A hectic, baffling clip of episode four was shown and then we cut back to the great man himself. He grinned The Grin. 'That doesn't ring any bells for me,' he said, 'but still, it was very funny, wasn't it?' And this seems to be the accepted view, that Nightmare of Eden is best viewed as a comedy runaround like Horns of Nimon. Which is a shame, because this is probably the most serious-minded story of season 17. It certainly has fewer scripted witticisms than any of the others.
But laughs there are and unfortunately they're all unintentional. The Mandrel costumes aren't that bad, and there are some surprisingly good special effects shots. But any aspirations the story might have to be taken seriously are utterly obliterated by a slew of horrendous guest performances: the worst offender being Lewis Fiander and his stupid, stupid accent. But from David Daker and Stephen Jenn's performances it seems that the main symptom of vraxoin addiction is an inability to stop hamming it up, and there's more than a touch of Shooty and Bang Bang in Fisk and Costa. Jennifer Lonsdale is good, but unfortunately drowned out by the dross. The story isn't helped by obvious cost-cutting in the chase sequence, or tacky design overall (why is Romana wearing a maternity dress?).
All this obscures what's probably one of the best scripts Bob Baker had a hand in. There's a lot going on (drug smuggling, the warpsmash, the CET machine), but it's never unclear, and it all coheres extremely well. Except... well, Fisk and Costa do seem to be written as idiots. And Rigg's transformation from concerned captain to raving junky is too abrupt to be credible. Actually, the drugs subplot did remind me of the 30s anti-marijuana film Reefer Madness - its heart's in the right place, but it's just too strident to be taken seriously. And you have to wonder at the appropriateness of using DW to send out an anti-drugs message, particularly at this time in the show's career.
So, in the end Nightmare of Eden is a bit of a mish-mash, a confused mixture of good plotting and terrible realisation. And, regrettably, the two can't be separated as easily as the Hecate and the Empress.
A delicious nightmare by Mike Jenkins 12/7/02
Another whimsically enjoyable story from the later Graham Williams tenure. David Briely fails to bring K-9 to life in the same way that John Leeson could with an enigmatic "Negative, Mistress". Many of the incidentals are admittedly cliched. What works in the story's favor are the scripts and ideas. We have a bitting, relentless reality bend macabre of cynnicism and contorted yet remarkably perceptive views of drug use and environmental interference. The Edgar Rice Burroughs playfulness of Bob Baker and Doug Adams' now legendary rapier wit. With its themes of galatic corruption and craziness, (environments compressed into little cubicles as a link in some pandemonious scheme of smuggling dope) this story is highly reminiscent of HHGTTG particularly when compared to Adams' other work for the TV show.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 9/9/02
Like much of season 17, Nightmare of Eden rides the humor/drama line close. Nightmare also contains a boatload of ideas and imaginative happenings from the only solo venture of Bristol Boy Bob Baker.
The plot is a corker, filled with great ideas/concepts, fun twists and nice ending. Over four episodes, there are warpsmashes, drug running, high tech electronic zoos, obnoxious excise men, ethics lessons pertaining to science and that Doctor Who staple, big nasty monsters.
Tom Baker is having lots of fun here, running the show and running in circles as he tries to solve the mystery of the drug smuggling and separate the ships. Lalla Ward is, as usual, witty, charming, sympathetic and drop-dead gorgeous (sorry, couldn't help meself). I still can't get used to David Brierly as K9, but he's all right in this one. The guest cast run the gamut from solid -- Barry Andrews as Stott, Jennifer Lonsdale as Della -- to bad in an enjoyable way -- David Daker as Rigg and Louis Fiander as Tryst, with his ever shifting Euro-accent.
I thought the drug angle of the story was handled well. David Daker was a bit OTT during his "Jonesing" scene, but considering what Doctor Who is (Children's/Family show), it could have been worse, and sent the message of the dangers of drugs out. Also, the drug scenes are played straight and given the dramatic weight they need. And there are very few DW moments as great as when Tom coldly dismisses Tryst when he tries to justify his smuggling. The words "go away" and one of Tom's best contempt looks say it better than any speech could.
When the story moves away from the drug angle, we get lots of great Tom Baker comedy moments and some classic one liners: "Of course we should meddle. Always do what you're good at." and the scene where Rigg confronts The Doc about galactic salvage:
Rigg: Galactic went out of business twenty years ago.
Doctor: I wondered why I hadn't been paid.....
Rigg: That's not good enough.
Doctor: That's what I said.
Even Romana gets in a good one, when she say to Tryst about the Doctor: "Oh, he's just trying to get you upset. He does that to everyone."
Overall, Nightmare of Eden is a strong story with lost of crackling ideas and yet another great performance from Tom and Lalla. Check it out. You'll love it.
Wackiness of Eden by Jonathan Martin 13/9/02
I'm very fond of Nightmare of Eden, but it's not good. It's always hanging precariously between being genuinely amusing and desperately trying to invoke any chuckle from the viewer it possibly can. Your enjoyment of the story depends entirely on whether you want to critically point out dodgy monsters, dodgy jokes, an accent so dodgy it belongs at the fair grounds, or... you can strap yourself in for one hell of a wacky ride because I haven't encountred any Doctor Who story quite as wacky as Nightmare of Eden.
Wacky characters, wacky jokes, wacky costumes (with glittery uniforms everywhere), even something as serious as drug addiction is something for us to grin at. The muppets (aka Mandrels) fit the scene perfectly, but they don't really have that much to do with anything.
I love the initial arrival of The Doctor and Romana, where they interupt an argument between Dimmond and Rigg, and everybody just chats to each other in a civil fashion. No boring locking them up. I wish it had of been Romana who had been given the Vrax instead of Rigg though, that certainly would've been interesting. Watch out for the scene where Fisk addresses Tryst as Fisk, I'm sure the actor would say it was deliberate!
NOE boasts the wackiest 'baddies' ever seen in the show. Tryst is nothing short of loveable, and I can't help but feel sorry for him as he gets carted off by the cops. Dimmond is hardly unlikebale either and neither of them convey even the slightest trace of evil. Aen't we supposed to fell glad when these evil drug traffickers are brought to justice? Good luck to them I say, although I can't see Fisk letting them escape, he's so very efficient.
The only bad point for someone so caught up in the silly fun as me is the story's short running time as the recaps of the cliffhangers of previous episodes go for a hell of a long time.
Overall, Nightmare of Eden is bad... but I don't care *laughs hysterically* Nothing matters any more... until I get that terrible feeling...
Completely the wrong tone by Tim Roll-Pickering 30/10/02
This story takes the bold step of examining drug addiction and the drugs trade and is to be commended for making such a move towards parodying social issues from real life. The story also looks at travel disasters - a very topical issue even as I write this today (May 12th 2002 - just two days after a major rail disaster here in the UK) and to a degree spoofs the disaster movie genre. In addition there's a brief challenge to the notions that zoos protect animals but this theme isn't substantially developed. There's a lot of scientific gobbledegook in this story as well but this doesn't drive the story. However the story is realised incredibly poorly with far too much humour and too many send-ups slipping in, with the result that it is difficult to take the story seriously when this is precisely what is needed for an exposition of such important issues. Bob Baker's only solo script for the series bears all the hallmarks of a good and competent story being mangled through rewrites designed to lighten the tone.
Of the cast, Tom Baker seems more subdued in this story than in the previous ones though the scene where he lures the Mandrels back into the CET projection and ends up in a brief off-screen fight with them is perhaps the story's single most hilarious moment, whilst Lalla Ward gets another chance to demonstrate Romana's scientific prowess. K9 is fortunately written for by his co-creator and so is consequently used as a proper computer that helps the Doctor rather than as a mere blaster. The guest cast are for the most part bland but there are several characters whose contribution substantially weakens the story through the parts being written for humorously and then sent up further by the performances of the relevant actors. Tryst is extremely clich? and dragged down further by Lewis Fiander's use of a Germanic accent, whilst Geoffrey Hinsliff and Peter Craze make Fisk and Costa extremely comical and it is thus utterly impossible to take seriously the story's representatives of law and order. David Daker has the admittedly difficult role of Rigg who becomes addicted to vraxoin during the story and becomes ever more dangerous but the part is played so ridiculously that it is impossible to feel any sympathy for the character or to properly see the role as highlighting the plight of victims of drugs.
Productionwise Nightmare of Eden bears all the hallmarks of a shrinking budget but does its best to maximise the resources available. The spaceship sets are competent if a little bland, whilst the costumes are good though the decision to put Tryst and Dymond in silver jump-suits at the end does take the story a little too close to B-movie clich? for my liking. The Mandrels are an interesting monster but the costumes are let down by both the lighting and the walk. Although there are good plot reasons for many of the sets being lit like a supermarket, the story could so easily have benefited from darker lighting in many places. The direction seems extremely pedestrian and it is easy to see why producer Graham Williams removed director Alan Bromly towards the end of production and took over himself. Unfortunately this is not enough to save Nightmare of Eden from the combined weaknesses producing a mediocre tale that could have been so much more. 4/10
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 8/2/04
Nightmare Of Eden is a lot of fun and is a surprisingly enjoyable adventure. The concept of aliens becoming an addictive drug upon death is certainly novel and whilst this is not fully exploited it doesn`t detract from the plot. Certainly there are arguments made as to why people might turn to drugs (Tryst being an obvious example), but Bob Baker doesn`t make enough out of this in the story, choosing to entertain rather than educate.
This issue aside, there is still much to enjoy, the Mandrels although Muppet-like in appearance are largely effective, until the final part (where they behave like sheepdogs thanks to a whistle) and the villain of the story Tryst is an interesting character, although his motivations are completely undermined thanks to Lewis Fiander`s terrible portrayal. More successful is David Daker, particularly when affected by Vraxoin, and Tom Baker`s clowning is a joy, although his portrayal is uneven. His infamous "My arms! My legs! My everything!" undermines his dismissal of Tryst with the simple "Go away." Lalla Ward once again plays Romana straight to the story`s benefit and K-9 gets his fare share of the action too.
The model work is passable, but unmemorable in comparison to the likes of the Jaggaroth ship earlier in the season, and the less said about the costumes the better. So despite the production values, the story holds up well, however much better and even more OTT was to follow.
"Have a jelly baby, and don't forget to brush your teeth" by Jason A. Miller 5/3/04
One day, they will make a TV-movie about the October 2003 Staten Island Ferry disaster, and that movie will be atrocious. Right before the ferry is about to crash, some actor, who's already seen Nightmare of Eden, will utter the line, "Oh no!". That's what actor David Daker did right before his character's starship collided with a space freighter. It is not, on its face, a proud moment, or a good beginning for a story.
Nightmare tops several "Worst of" lists in the Doctor Who pantheon. Worst costumes, certainly. There's not a single character in this piece who's dressed sensibly. Starting at the top, Romana appears to be dressed in a gray maternity gown. With red trim. Most of the starship crew is dressed in leather: the ship's crewmen are wearing red sleeveless vests with glitter added. And white pancake makeup, to boot. The two federal agents whose comic banter takes over the second half of the story, are dressed like the biker from the Village People. Tryst's team wears white T-shirts under black vests, so the only thing missing, cleary, is the rhinestone studding. Daker's black jumpsuit has spandex sleeves. I won't even get into what the starship passengers are wearing. I fly coach three times a month and they just don't issue that at the departure gate.
The special effects are bad. The opening shot is of a styrofoam spaceship wobbling its way across the stars. There's a lot of experimental computer imaging in this 1979 epic, but explosions happen before the gun blasts which cause them, and after Della is shot in the neck, she famously falls to the floor clutching her midriff.
So why, then, is Nightmare of Eden so entertaining? At what point does "bad" become "good"?
Make no mistake, this is deep in the doldrums of Season 17. There's the serious plot masked by the off-the-wall script. Two spaceships collide, one still half in hyperspace. The resulting dimensional instability causes a bunch of ape-like monsters wearing bell-bottoms to kill a dozen extras merely by brushing their elongated arms across the victims' heads. Seriously, what is the message of Nightmare of Eden? With the customs agents trampling over everyone's civil rights, and the drugs giving several people a really bad trip (including, presumably, the director who quit and the costume designer), you could package this on the "Starsky & Hutch" DVD and it would seem right at home.
There are moments of great subtlety in the script. Before Vraxoin is slipped into his Kool-Aid, Rigg is unusually competent for a Doctor Who starship captain. He blows the Doctor's cover after just one scene, and holds his own on the witty banter front for several scenes after that. Once he gets high, he gets to deliver some wickedly funny lines ("They were only economy class, what's all the fuss about?"). The rest of the comedy is a little too broad (Geoffrey Hinsliff and Peter Craze are awful), and Lewis Fiander's accent remains baffling, but at least Fiander seems to be intentionally overacting, so I can take the joke. I do not understand, however, why he pronounced the word "three" as "ten". Or why customs officer Fisk is introduced as a "Water Guard". There was no water in this story. Again, it wasn't just Captain Rigg who was on the Vraxoin.
Tom Baker is completely off the wall. He's already been much maligned for the "Oh! My fingers! My arms! My legs! My everything! Ohh!" shtick. But he also bites into a phallic green appendage for the second story in a row (remember The Creature From the Pit?) and tells us that it "didn't taste at all bad." Lalla Ward remains the picture of confidence and competence. Maybe she was having flashbacks to "Hamlet".
I come away from Nightmare with Lewis Fiander saying: "We worked on this idea together, before he died, of course. Then we stopped." If I close my eyes, I am having a great time. And learning to brush my teeth after meals.
Nightmare... by Joe Ford 21/5/04
Me: I feel like I am being torn in half by two mad religious factions, they have one of my arms each and are unrelentingly trying to pull me to their cause. Trouble is, I believe in what they're both saying, I want to go with both of them as they have an extremely convincing arguments to convert you to their cause. I call them Pro-Nightmare and Anti-Nightmare. And they both have an extremely seductive argument...
We of the Pro-Nightmare summon you to our cause. Of all the stories in season seventeen ours is the most derided for the stupidest of reasons. It is nit-picked to pieces by those Anti-Nightmare scum who only draw upon the production mistakes that are made and practically ignore the extraordinary plot, the witty lines, the towering central performances from the two leads, the brilliantly imaginative ideas, the decent FX (for the time)... there is so much to admire beyond the Mandrels.
Tom Baker, Our God, has come in for a lot of flack in recent times and particularly during his summer holiday adventure of season seventeen but what is so often forgotten by the hordes who want deadly straight Davison/Pertwee style performances from the main man, is that burying the Doctor's true feelings under a goofy veneer has the pleasing results of highlighting his 'straighter' moments of which Nightmare of Eden has plenty of if you go looking. Many people celebrate his dismissal of the drug dealer Tryst at the end of the story and justifiably as it is one of the few times we get to see the Doctor's reaction to a criminal act that exists in our time. Remember he barely condemned Garron's fraud in Ribos but Tryst's slaughter of the Mandrels to create the homicidal drug Vraxoin leaves the Doctor cold and uncommunicative. It is a powerful moment. There are plenty of other moments where he shines, his diplomacy in the early scenes, his ingenuity in separating the ships, his electrifying confrontation with the masked Stott, his stunned reaction as he watches Secker sneak away for his next fix of Vraxoin... dismiss the man for his pied piper impression with the Mandrels alone and you are hanging an innocent man. Remember, he was only following a script and still he manages to shine.
You have to admire a story that deals with drug abuse in such an imaginative way. It is a bit close to the mark for Doctor Who to be handling such an adult idea anyway so all credit to Nightmare that it gets the point across without alienating its kiddie audience. One of the best twists comes late in the story where the Doctor is on the run from a Mandrel and it is accidentally electrocuted and he realises with utter horror what the entire story has been about, the joining of the ships was just an excuse to get the Mandrels (in electrocuted form Vraxoin) from one to another another and continue the filthy drug dealing. It is a lovely scene, one that could only work with such a carefully orchestrated plot. Okay so Tryst is a bit obvious as the baddie but his method of obtaining the Vraxoin is a complete mystery and this twist within a twist will shock any first time viewer.
We of the Pro-Nightmare also apriciate the darker scenes when Captain Rigg (ably played by David Daker) succumbs to Vraxoin and loses the plot big time. Aside from the glorious black comedy of these scenes (when the crew are being slaughtered he shrugs and laughs and mentions they are only economy class!) what really gets the point across is his withdrawal and confrontation with Romana. Its an extremely serious scene and impresses because its surrounded by so much comedy gold, Rigg is appropriately sweated up and ashen-faced and Romana as understanding and scared as anyone would be if faced with a desperate druggie. When he attempts to hit her and screams, "Let me have some or I'll kill you!" the point is suddenly very clear and despite all the warnings and dangers about drugs that are discussed, they could never approach real life proof of the filth. Suddenly the threat is very severe and it grips you until you know the source of Vraxoin is safe.
The Anti-Nightmare scoff at the idea of the CET machine because it has a similar function to the Scope in Carnival of Monsters but they forget that this story deals with the similar themes in just as creative a way. Indeed it is so different a story that comparisons soon lose validity, Tryst actually steals away miniaturised environments from planets to take away for study and the Doctor's horrified reaction to this (imagine worlds with huge gaps in their surface!) mirrors the audience. It reflects how we capture and cage wildlife and beasts from foreign countries for our public's education and amusement. Can you think of a cleverer scene than when the Doctor and Romana actually jump into the projection of Eden, a superb cliffhanger and no mistake; or when Romana switches the CET machine to three or four different environments? Pro-Nightmare loves how Stott managed to stow away miniaturised inside the machine and the already mentioned twist of logic when the CET is exposed as nothing more than a potable drugs dispenser. Scary stuff. It exposes how well SF can deal with these themes and perhaps Doctor Who should experiment a bit more with adult ideas if it leads to stories as well written as this. <>There are plenty of individual moments to savour too, lots of comedy gems scattered about as you would expect from any Douglas Adams script-edited story. We adore the hysterical chase scene between the Doctor and Stott, the glorious Dudley Simpson music accompanies a dash through the ship that climaxes in a wonderful collision between the Doctor and a passenger who complains "When are we going down to Azure?", to which he replies rapidly "Here, have a jelly baby and don't forget to brush your teeth!" Genius! The Doctor's disguise as Galactic Insurance raises a laugh too especially when he is told they went of business years ago and he replies tartly "I wondered why I hadn't been paid!" There's so much more... the way the Doctor openly patronises Tryst in every conversation they have and he doesn't even realise it, his reaction to biting into the huge vine that tries to choke him, his continuing love affair with Romana which touches their work where he now trusts her to perform any task...
It's an extremely intelligent tale and one that never shirks away from its responsibility to entertain even when it is teaching a lesson. The characters are bright and breezy, the dialogue laugh a minute good, even the sets are given appropriate consideration with Eden coming across especially deadly.
We say vote Nightmare of Eden as the overlooked gem of season seventeen. Come over to us, you know it makes sense...
Me: How can you argue with a defence like that? Go read this...
We of the Anti-Nightmare (and co-conspirators with the Divine Church of JNT) demand that you STOP THIS SILLINESS! What has happened to our beloved show, the one that could produce magic like Genesis of the Daleks and Pyramids of Mars so close to each other? The Graeme Williams era is like watching a train crash very, very slowly and not realising it is in fact the ruins of a once great beast. Come season seventeen things are at an all time low, rarely has any season (and particularly this story) been beset with so many production mistakes to destroy an okay-ishly written story. Nightmare of Eden is sabotaged from every angle by a list of problems that leave the story unsalvageable. Terrible performances, design work, monsters, music, cliched ideas and a blatant SAY NO TO DRUGS message to the kiddies that insults the adult audience...
The opening of the story should be enough to frighten off even the most patient of viewers. Scenes of hide behind the sofa in embarrassment model FX that would look underwhelming on the lowest budgeted episode of Blake's Seven and some hysterically bad reaction shots (a huge close up on Rigg who cries out "Oh no!" on cue!). The ideas are okay at this point and at least a good starting point for the story but they are used in such a hackneyed way that you have to wonder why they bothered.
The Doctor and Romana turn up with that horrid tin dog and all of them are at their worst, the Doctor barely getting across the severity of the situation, Romana a mumble of technobabble and the dog-thing just zooming around being a smug smart arse. It doesn't help that the sets are a mess of sticky tape and grey walls, hardly a delight to look at or the high-budget liner they are supposed to be representing.
The Mandrels are the crux of our prosecution and another example of how Graeme Williams had no idea how to handle monsters. They look like over grown fannies for goodness sake, after Creature from the Pit with its penile protuberances you cannot fail to see some kind of pattern emerging. With their swingy arms, unconvincing material and huge green eyes they are one of the worst monsters Doctor Who ever offered up. We find it embarrassing to watch the story when they are lumbering around, a whole new kind of embarrassment to the usual cheapo Who, how they are expected to scare anybody is a mystery to this day.
There are some rather well written characters in the story but this rare praise is drowned out by their realisation by some b-grade performers who think are under the impression they are acting out a kids pantomime. We think Lewis Fiander is the most infamous man in Doctor Who history for his horrible accent in this story, he takes a reasonably serious character and twists him into a comic buffoon thus dulling any drama later in the story when he begs the Doctor for help out of the pickle he is in. Can we really expect to buy that this is a scientist? His mannered performance leaves no doubt that he is the main villain despite the fact that script tries to hide this. It ruins a perfectly good twist. The question is WHY? Did Williams think the kids couldn't handle a 'straight' drug dealer so they had to goof him up? If so it is an insult to the audience and if not they decision remains inexplicable.
The production continues to make stupid mistakes. Why put the passengers in such camp clothes? It is like they are all on their way to some gay Abba inspired disco. Why is there sticky tape everywhere? Why does Dimmond wear such a daft spacesuit? Why does the director expose the Mandrels so badly? Why doesn't Dudley Simpson every change his style of music? Why? Why? Why? And where the hell was the director when all this was happening? Walked out, didn't he? It really, really shows... there is hardly an inventive shot in the entire story, the conversation scenes are statically shot, the action is embarrassingly slapstick, there is no attempt to disguise the cheapness of the story and given the huge ideas at work it simply pours on more cringe-worthiness...
And we don't wish to discuss the Excise Men because we fear we may become extremely violent in our arguments as to why they were mishandled so badly, from glitzy costumes to hammy performances, and if you don't listen to reason we will kill you. And we don't want that to happen to we?
It is rare for any Doctor Who to humiliate itself with such regularity, there are some examples scattered about (Timelash, Warriors of the Deep) but we feel Nightmare of Eden is the worst example because it had the potential to be one of the best stories of the year and falls so far short of that goal and ends up being the worst, even under Horns of Nimon which in itself is a ridiculous pantomime attempt at drama.
Creative and clever certainly but sabotaged beyond repair, we of the Anti-Nightmare faction beg of you to see sense...
Me: Who should I listen to? They both make good points. There is so much to admire in Nightmare of Eden but also so many reasons to never, ever show it a non-fan. I shall have to chalk it up as an entertaining failure. I should point out at this point in my review Simon has come along and told me to fuck off, he loves the campness and cleverness of Nightmare of Eden and his opinion counts more than mine.
How rude. But at least I've reached a verdict. A pass.
A Review by Brian May 3/8/05
Nightmare of Eden is a Philip Hinchcliffe story trapped inside a Graham Williams production. Imagine if it had been made during seasons 12-14. It has all the Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes hallmarks: a dense, dark jungle, shadowy figures, and rampaging monsters on the loose. It would have been a claustrophobic, psychologically-gripping nail-biter and made the best use of a studio bound setting. There are aspects comparable to The Ark in Space, Planet of Evil and The Robots of Death; it could very well have been a similarly-styled adventure.
Unfortunately, it's now season 17 - a bit too late. Graham Williams and Douglas Adams are in charge; thrills, suspense and claustrophobia - exactly what this story needs - are no longer on the agenda. There's no feel that there's any real danger. You don't get the sense of anyone being trapped, or that there could be a nasty surprise around the corner. The direction is to blame for much of this - it's just too wide, too spacious. The dimensional instability of the two ships, a suspicious stranger lurking about, and of course the Mandrels are all elements that tighter shots, more edginess and less light would have done great justice.
There are a couple of exceptions - firstly, the Eden jungle. It's an excellent piece of design. A dark, claustrophobic feel is magnificently achieved, especially as the Doctor and Romana explore in part three. It's not as expansive as the wonderful sets from Planet of Evil or The Creature from the Pit, but this serves the plot - we know the locale is just a segment of Eden, not the whole planet itself, so the more contained feel is appropriate. There's one other Hinchcliffe/Holmes moment, and that's in the first episode, when Romana is looking into the CET projection of Eden - the shadowy glimpses of the as-yet-unidentified Stott staring out at her are very eerie. But that's about it - the rest of the story's suspense-thriller potential is wasted.
Take the Mandrels for example. They're not the best remembered of Doctor Who monsters. In fact, they rank among the most ridiculed, but that's only because they're allowed to be seen plodding around like the men in flared costumes they are. They're actually not that badly designed, especially the upper halves, but there's only one scene in which they convey a true sense of menace, and that's in the aforementioned jungle shots. For the rest of the story all their faults are shown up, whether coming out of lift doors with arms outstretched as if to cuddle you, not maul you; the dreadful rounding up scene and the embarrassing Pied Piper sequence (which I'll come back to). Their attacks on their victims are just as bad, whether bear-hugging the Doctor or the dreadful shots of their rampage, with claws wavering limply and people falling lamely. Of course, I understand scenes like this have to be toned down for a children's TV show, but the director could have done a bit of "less is more" trickery; maybe a few cutaways or close-ups of horrified faces, or something like that.
The brevity of Nightmare of Eden carries over into some of the acting. Just what did Lewis Fiander think he was doing as Tryst? Good grief - that exaggerated Germanic accent is awful. He hams up the role so much you almost fail to notice there's an interesting character wanting to be explored. Those two excise men are dreadful caricatures, and not very well acted either - they can't be taken seriously (that and their kinky leather uniforms). Fortunately there are some performances better than these - David Daker is excellent as Rigg, while Barry Andrews (Stott) and Jennifer Lonsdale (Della) are both very good. Tom Baker is extremely erratic - at times he's wonderful, very much the fourth Doctor at his best - his "I wondered why I hadn't been paid" and "I'm just having fun!" are such moments. Then there's a terrific, deadly serious one: his calm, detached "Go away" to Tryst at the end. But then you have lots of overacting and flippancy - his hammy reaction to the Mandrel attacking him in part three (the second incident, not the bear-hug, but close to the end of the episode). Then there's the aforementioned Pied Piper sequence, topped off by the Doctor's cringe-worthy "My everything!"
Bob Baker's script is very good. Nightmare of Eden is an intelligent and mature story. It's the first time Doctor Who has examined the subject of drug abuse, and it does so with none of the heavy-handed, unsubtle methods employed by the likes of Star Trek (one scene in TNG's "Symbiosis" is more embarrassing to watch than any of the Mandrel rampages!) The idea of the monsters being the source of the drug is very clever, so too the concept of the interface between the crashed ships, and the CET projections. It gets a bit too technical at times - I'm still not sure why the Doctor needs to bring out the demat gun again, and the dependence on fiddling with switches and adjusting controls makes the climax a bit dull. But overall the story is good - going back to this review's opening points, it's one that Hinchcliffe and Holmes would have turned into something exquisite. They'd have emphasised all the tight, claustrophobic angles; Tom Baker's over-the-top antics would have been kept in check, while all the great things about his Doctor would have been embellished. And Dudley Simpson's score wouldn't have been so pedestrian.
But unfortunately this was not to be, and the finished product is a letdown. Lalla Ward, an icon of style and class, struts about in a horrid maternity dress, and the usual chemistry between her and Tom Baker is absent. David Brierley as K9 is just as awful as in his first story - lines like "Oh, bushwacked!" are completely unnecessary, as is his sniffing of Stott. And there's a lame joke at the very end. It's all true to the feel of season 17, and while it works for a light-hearted romp such as City of Death, or an all-out pantomime like The Horns of Nimon, it just doesn't gel with a serious, thought provoking story like this. And because of the production elements of the time, the end result is something that could have been a lot better. 6/10
A Review by Jamie Beckwith 24/1/10
Okay, let me be upfront with you, Nightmare of Eden is one of the worst Doctor Who stories. Every possible naff Who cliche is to be found present, from atrociously bad acting, cardboard sets, monsters made from old flares and bits of cardboard, unspecial effects, a nonexistent lighting director, corny dialogue, comedy Germanic accents, running up and down the same corridor and Tom Baker gurning!
However, I come to praise Eden not to bury it, for if you look past all that, what appears to be a simple and funny tale of marauding monsters unleashed because two spaceships tried to park in the same bit of orbit at the same time is so much more. It is the tale of amoral judgements, of naked greed, of bureaucratic incompetence and exploitation of the weak. With an "Intergalactic Recession" ordinary people have turned to terrible deeds. Can a story that brings us the Mandrels really be so damn mature, so adult? Yes, and in the climactic final moments the Doctor's quiet and cold fury tells us kids far more than a "Just say no" catchphrase ever could.
Nightmares? You better believe it.
The Spectacularly Shoddy Bad Dream of Eden by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 20/10/13
You can tell they spent all the budget for Season 17 on City of Death. The whole thing is imbued with an air of crapness but it really stands out with Nightmare of Eden. What we have here is a horrendous example of how to take a serious theme and spend four episodes pissing it up the wall. Let us not forget that this story was written by Bob Baker who, together with his partner in crime Dave Martin, gave us such stories as The Mutants, The Three Doctors and The Invisible Enemy so it's not as if he doesn't have form. Those stories all had ideas above their stations, so it's not that surprising that they turned out to be such stinkers but Nightmare of Eden is relatively pedestrian by comparison; a few crap monsters and some heavy-handed patronising on the topic of substance abuse.
But it all goes tits up just as surely as the others did. The story is a failure from a visual perspective due to the fact that it appears to have been made on a budget of #7.35 and it's also a failure in terms of its intention to moralise about drugs because it insists on undercutting its own seriousness with ridiculous humour. It's a bit like the rest of Season 17: great ideas, terrible execution. The costumes are, without exception, awful, the worst offenders being those bizarre coveralls that the passengers are wearing. This seems like a perfect example of science fiction trying far too hard to be strange and different and ultimately ending up looking laughable. Not lagging far behind are Costa and Fisk with their horrendously camp sequin numbers and caps.
The Mandrels are seriously crap monsters, yet another staple of Baker/Martin scripts. What is the deal with those droopy arms? Is it some attempt at looking like some kind of primate? It kind of makes sense that their natural habitat is yet another unconvincing jungle. Will they ever learn that those jungle sets are a mistake? At least this time it's dimly lit and in my book that actually counts for a lot. If you don't believe me, then look no further than Kinda for a prime example of a jungle set so horribly overlit that no amount of suspension of disbelief is going to save it.
Tom & Lalla are by far the best aspect of the story. They're as magnetic as ever, their onscreen chemistry of a similar quality to that of Tom and Lis Sladen. They outshine virtually everyone else on screen, although that's kind of damning them with faint praise considering the hopeless cast they have to share the screen with. Tom is getting a bit silly though. The ironic thing is that the most likeable member of the guest cast is the one with the absurd accent. Quite frankly, Tryst's accent deserves a series all of its own. In the space of the first episode it alternates between Italian, Dutch and Spanish. By episode 3, it has changed to German. I think 'pan-European' is the only safe way to describe it. However, the general level of the acting is atrocious. The worst example I can think of is when the crew member is killed by a Mandrel emerging from the lift in episode 3. I'm not entirely sure how to describe the look on his face but it certainly isn't a look of 'oh I've been killed'.
At its heart, it's a serious (albeit a little patronising and heavy-handed) story about drug abuse. Superficially, it's an extremely silly runaround with dodgy monsters and even dodgier humour. I think you have to decide which of the two works more for you...