‘NIGHTMARE OF EDEN’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Nightmare with the Doctor, Romana, K-9 and the Mandrels
“It’s ‘The Mandrel Show’ with our very special guest star – Mr. Tom Baker!” 😀
‘Nightmare of Eden’ is a four-part story from Season 17 of ‘Doctor Who’. It features the Fourth Doctor and Romana with K-9 and is an outer-space adventure about drug smuggling and monstrous Mandrels. It’s one of the not-so highly regarded stories by the fans and it was a troubled production.
The story is by Bob Baker, who co-created K-9 and contributed a number of ‘Doctor Who’ stories with Dave Martin. This is Bob’s solo writing credit on ‘Doctor Who’ and he delivers a fascinating story with moral themes about drug abuse. It is such a shame this story had such poor production values.
The story has the Doctor, Romana and K-9 arrive on the interstellar cruise ship, the Empress that fuses with another ship in a hyperspace collision. They find someone is smuggling a lethal drug called Vraxoin. The answer lies with Professor Tryst’s CET projection machine and the monstrous Mandrels.
I enjoyed watching this ‘Doctor Who’ story on some level. The whole concept of drug smuggling and drug addiction in space and in the future is pretty fascinating. It makes for good ‘Doctor Who’ to tell an anti-drug story for young viewers who were watching this and telling them drugs are bad for you.
However, I found the comedic atmosphere outweighed the moral aspects of this story. Drug addicts like Captain Rigg laughing his head off isn’t convincing and I would have preferred an anti-drug story told in a serious way. I’ve done a presentation on drugs and my own anti-drug ‘Doctor Who’ stories.
Season 17 was script-edited by Douglas Adams, who provided a comedic flair to the stories like ‘Nightmare of Eden’. I could taste the humour in this story as with many others of that season. Sometimes it was very over-the-top and silly, concerning performances by the actors and characters.
I found the whole projection theme and virtual reality in the CET machine by Professor Tryst interesting. It reminded me of the holographic environments created in the holodecks of the spin-off ‘Star Trek’ series like ‘The Next Generation’. I also did virtual reality in my own tale ‘The Space Hotel’.
The model sequences at the beginning and during the story were slightly disappointing. The shots were all done on videotape, which in itself is impressive considering previous model shots were shot on film. As visual effects designer Colin Mapson points out, it would’ve been better to put it on film.
‘Nightmare of Eden’ is set within the spaceship Empress. We don’t go down to an alien planet and the whole Eden setting is a virtual reality set within the CET machine. The Doctor and Romana jump into the projection of Eden halfway in the TV story. Some of the Eden scenes were dark and creepy.
This story was a troubled production as director Alan Bromley, who previously directed ‘The Time Warrior’, was an old-fashioned director that Tom Baker clashed with. As a result Alan Bromley left during the production. Producer Graham Williams stepped into the breach to finish off the directing.
The monsters for ‘Nightmare of Eden’ are the Mandrels. Oh dear! The Mandrels! Hugga-wugga! They were claimed to be ‘cute rejects from ‘The Muppet Show’‘. They certainly look it. I couldn’t take these monsters seriously. They look so silly, daft and ridiculous throughout. They walk strangely too.
However, one saving grace about the Mandrels is that they are the carriers of the Vraxoin drug. This is revealed when one of the Mandrels electrocutes himself and the Doctor discovers the powdered drug when it’s dissolved. It’s such a shame these monsters are not as scary as they could have been.
I did enjoy the whole ‘whodunit’ plot within ‘Nightmare of Eden’. There’s the question of ‘who it could be that is smuggling the drugs aboard the Empress’. When I watched this with my parents, we had guesses whom it could have been. We were so surprised by who it was by the end of the TV tale.
The guest cast includes David Daker as Captain Rigg. David Daker played Irongron in ‘The Time Warrior’. I felt sorry for Rigg when he drank his spiked drink. But I don’t his drunken acting was all that convincing. It was a frightening moment when Rigg attacked Romana for wanting more Vraxoin.
There’s also Lewis Fiander as Professor Tryst who develops the CET projection machine. I must admit I found Tryst annoying with his disconcerting foreign accent that got on my nerves sometimes and I found silly. I would’ve preferred it if he didn’t have the accent and that he spoke in his normal voice.
There’s Jennifer Lonsdale as Della, who I liked as a character. She works for Tryst on his CET machine and reveals having had a relationship with a lost colleague called Stott to Romana. There’s also Barry Andrews as Stott who hides in the CET machine. He rescues the Doctor and Romana from a Mandrel.
There’s Geoffrey Hinsliff as Waterguard Fisk and Peter Craze (brother of Michael Craze who played Ben in ‘Doctor Who’) as Landing Officer Costa. These two come to the ship to find the culprit smuggling the drugs. These officers are dim and easily accuse the Doctor and Romana for smuggling.
There’s also Geoffrey Bateman as Dymond, who is in charge of the trade ship Hecate that was in collision with the Empress. Dymond is impatient to get his ship separated from the Empress. But are his intentions for getting back on schedule so sincere? It could be that Dymond is hiding something.
Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are brilliant together as the Doctor and Romana in this adventure. I enjoyed the sparkly relationship between them and they work so well in this Douglas Adams era of ‘Doctor Who’. This contrasts so differently to how they fared out later on in Season 18 for next time.
Tom Baker delivers a ‘bonkers’ performance as the Doctor and gets to have the jokey-lines. I found his scenes with the two guards; luring the Mandrels with a whistle and getting ravaged in the Eden virtual reality hilarious. The moment the Doctor tells ‘the culprit’ to ‘go away’ was quite frightening.
Lalla Ward as Romana is the intellectual one and is so deadpan when explaining things. Lalla has been critical about her costumes, especially with the beige costume she wore. But I must say she’s lovely in her costume as Romana in ‘Nightmare of Eden’, as she moves gracefully in her white boots.
I found K-9 disappointing I’m afraid. The cute robot-dog is underwritten, which is a surprise since I would have thought co-creator Bob Baker would have given him more to do. Also it’s the wrong voice as David Brierley does not voice K-9 well. I would have preferred John Leeson doing the voice.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s ‘The Nightmare of Television Centre’ behind-the-scenes featurette and a ‘Going Solo’ interview with writer Bob Baker. There’s also ‘The Doctor’s Strange Love’ on ‘Nightmare of Eden’ with Simon Guerrier, Joseph Lidster and Josie Long. There’s an enjoyable ‘Ask Aspel’ interview with Lalla Ward. There’s also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for the ‘Ace Adventures’ DVD box set including ‘Dragonfire’ and ‘The Happiness Patrol’ with Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford and Sophie Aldred. There’s a photo gallery of the story and a commentary with Lalla Ward; Peter Craze; visual effects designer Colin Mapson and make-up designer Joan Stribling, moderated by Toby Hadoke. There’s also an info-text commentary option to enjoy and PDF materials including a ‘Radio Times Listing’ of the story.
‘Nightmare of Eden’ is a fairly average adventure in ‘Doctor Who’. I enjoyed watching it with the Fourth Doctor and Romana and the drug abuse themes. I’m afraid the story suffered from troubled production values and the Mandrels are poorly realised monsters that I couldn’t take seriously at all.
‘Nightmare of Eden’ rating – 7/10
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