‘NIGHTMARE OF EDEN’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Mandrels aboard the Empress with the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K-9
I’m surprised Tom Baker wasn’t a special guest star on ‘The Muppet Show’ at one time. He could’ve easily brought the Mandrels along, as they look like Muppets. Critics labelled them as ‘cute rejects from ‘The Muppet Show’. A shame the Mandrels didn’t have mouths to open and close so they could talk.
Or show they could roar or growl when they appeared in the fourth ‘Doctor Who’ TV story of Season 17 called ‘Nightmare of Eden’. This four-part adventure features the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K-9. It’s set in outer-space and it’s about drug smuggling and the monstrous Mandrels. What a joy this is! 😀
‘Nightmare of Eden’ isn’t regarded highly by the ‘Doctor Who’ fans and it turned out to be a troubled production. I found this interesting when learning more about the story through the DVD special features. I found the story okay, although I don’t see it that often compared to first seeing it in 2012.
The story is by Bob Baker. At the time of this review, Bob Baker passed away in November 2021. As well as his ‘Doctor Who’ contributions, he co-wrote scripts for ‘Wallace & Gromit’ films like ‘The Wrong Trousers’, ‘A Close Shave’, ‘The Curse of the Were Rabbit’ and ‘A Matter of Loaf and Death’. 🙂
In ‘Doctor Who’, Bob Baker co-created K-9 with Dave Martin. The Bristol boys also wrote many ‘Doctor Who’ stories like ‘The Claws of Axos’, ‘The Mutants’, ‘The Three Doctors’, ‘The Sontaran Experiment’, ‘The Hand of Fear’, ‘The Invisible Enemy’, ‘Underworld’ and ‘The Armageddon Factor’. 🙂
‘Nightmare of Eden’ happens to be Bob Baker’s solo writing credit on ‘Doctor Who’. A shame he didn’t write more ‘Doctor Who’ stories by himself after this one, as he’s clearly creative and inventive with his ‘Doctor Who’ writing. Surely the 1980s would have welcomed Bob Baker’s writing.
Here, he delivers a fascinating tale that has moral themes about drug abuse. This is something I can get behind, since I created the Dwaxi for my Fifth Doctor stories ‘Doom of the Daleks’ and ‘Dawn of the Dwaxi’ and they’re addicted to a drug called Yentias. The drug abuse message does work for me.
It’s such a shame that this ‘Doctor Who’ had poor production values in terms of the visual effects and how the atmosphere was handled in the studio. The budget was beginning to run dry by the time ‘Nightmare of Eden’ came along. It’s unfortunate the storylived up to its title in the production.
In the story, the Doctor, Romana and K-9 respond to a distress call when the TARDIS arrives on the interstellar cruise ship called the Empress. The Empress has fused with another smaller ship called the Hecate, after colliding with it on emerging from hyperspace. The two ships need to be separated.
As the TARDIS crew work on the problem, they discover that someone is smuggling a lethal drug called Vraxoin (or ‘Vrax’ as it’s sometimes called). Investigating further, the Doctor, Romana and K-9 discover the answer lies with Professor Tryst’s CET projection machine and the monstrous Mandrels.
I did enjoy watching this ‘Doctor Who’ story on some level when I first saw it on DVD back in 2012. The concepts of drug smuggling and drug addiction in space as well as in the future are pretty fascinating. Maybe one day, I should write a story that features the Dwaxi and Mandrels together. 😀
It does make for good storytelling, especially in ‘Doctor Who’ terms when conveying an anti-drug message to young viewers watching this story at the time in 1979. I wonder if many ‘Doctor Who’ fans got the message that drugs are bad for you. I hope they did, despite the story’s shortcomings. 🙂
“Maybe I need someone who actually saw the story in 1979 to confirm this.” (calls) “Hey, Timelord!”
Timelord007: “I hope this is important, Tim. I’m listening to ‘The War Doctor Begins’ story ‘Warbringer’. And it’s very good.”
“You saw ‘Nightmare of Eden’ in 1979, didn’t you?”
Timelord007: “Blimey, Tim. I was like four years old and only have vague memories watching it. Were the Mandrels squeezing the Fourth Doctor back then?”
“Were you taken in by the anti-drugs message that was featured in the story when you were a kid at the time?”
Timelord007: (confused) “Eh? Tim, I repeat, I WAS FOUR YEARS OLD! I didn’t notice any anti-drugs message because…you know…FOUR YEARS OLD! I was mostly watching behind the sofa being scared of the Mandrels.”
“Okay. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Much appreciated.”
Timelord007: (to himself) “What a strange question to ask me. I was four years old and Tim asks “Did I notice an anti-drugs message?” I was a infant. I didn’t know anything about drugs. I think he’s working too hard. Needs a rest, poor chap.”
As well as the troubled production this story went through, there’s also the issue of comedic aspects outweighing the moral themes of this adventure. When viewing a ‘Doctor Who’ story about ‘drugs are bad for you’, I really want the serious implications of drug addiction to come strongly to the fore.
Having this story feature drug addicts like Secker and Captain Rigg who either smile or seem pleased with themselves or are laughing their heads off and being silly isn’t always a good thing. It doesn’t make the argument convincing when you’re presenting the story’s drug abuse themes in a comedic manner. 😐
I would have preferred it if ‘Nightmare of Eden’ told the anti-drug story in a darker and more serious fashion. Heck, perhaps having the characters go through traumatic hallucinations would have helped. As well as doing anti-drug ‘Doctor Who’ stories, there was one time I did a presentation about drugs at school.
As established in previous Season 17 stories, Douglas Adams was the script editor for the season. He provided the comedic flair to many of the ‘Doctor Who’ stories featured in Season 17, including ‘Nightmare of Eden’. I could easily taste the humour of this tale as well as others set in Season 17. 😐
Quite often, as is the case for stories in Seasons 17 and 24, the humour in each of the stories can be over-the-top and silly. This especially concerns the performances of the actors who play the characters featured in ‘Nightmare of Eden’ as well as the lack of direction to tone the comedy down.
I like a balance of comedy and drama in ‘Doctor Who’, and I don’t want a story’s tone to be uneven. I’d like to take the characters seriously in a situation where their lives are in danger. Sometimes it doesn’t happen often that a story can be too silly and too comedic, as the balance is just about right.
‘City of Death’ is a good example. But there’s a risk of a ‘Doctor Who’ story being on the verge of the level of ridiculous at times. I’m not saying ‘Nightmare of Eden’ is too silly a story to be taken seriously, but the dodgy Mandrel monsters and some of the actors’ performances don’t help in this regard.
I did find the CET projection machine by Professor Tryst involving virtual reality quite fascinating to uncover. It reminded me of the holographic environments that are featured in many ‘Star Trek’ spin-off shows such as ‘The Next Generation’, ‘Deep Space Nine’ and ‘Voyager’. Those, I’ve really enjoyed.
I’ve even included virtual reality in my own ‘Doctor Who’ story called ‘The Space Hotel’ as well as ‘The Zondor Robbers’. I’m not sure if the virtual reality featured in ‘Nightmare of Eden’ is similar to what we’ve seen in holodecks aboard ‘Star Trek’ shows, but it was fascinating how it gets presented.
On the DVD, I found the model sequences featured at the beginning and during the story slightly disappointing. Apparently, the shots of the spaceships featured in ‘Nightmare of Eden’ were done on videotape. This, in itself, is quite impressive, considering that model shots were usually shot on film.
However, the model shots themselves can look dodgy. This is especially when you have two ships in collision with each other and the Empress looks like it’s about to dematerialise or de-cloak. As the visual effects designer Colin Mapson points out, it would’ve been a lot better to film the shots on film.
Lately on Blu-ray, ‘Nightmare of Eden’ has been given an updated CGI effects option in order to view the story without the dodgy model effects. This works well for me, as I’m not distracted or put-off when the Empress and the Hectate are in collision with each other and you’re able to believe in it. 🙂
Essentially, ‘Nightmare of Eden’ takes place within the spaceship Empress itself. We don’t go down to an alien planet as you would expect and the whole Eden setting is a virtual reality within the CET machine. In fact, the Doctor and Romana jump into the Eden projection once ‘Part Two’ has finished.
This is an unusual but welcome way to tell a ‘Doctor Who’ story without the need to go to an alien planet. Some of the Eden scenes are quite dark and creepy, especially when one of the Mandrels is stalking the Doctor and Romana. It’s a shame we don’t get to spend enough time in the Eden setting.
As established, ‘Nightmare of Eden’ was a troubled production when it came to the studio recordings. The director for the story was Alan Bromly, who previously directed ‘The Time Warrior’ with Jon Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen. I love ‘The Time Warrior’, as I find it a well-directed piece. 😀
Sadly, Alan Bromly turned out to be an old-fashioned director whom Tom Baker often clashed with during the story’s making. It also turns out, according to ‘The Nightmare of Television Centre’ featurette, that production members didn’t find Alan Bromly that very easy a person to work with.
Alan Bromly was someone who was set in his ways and wouldn’t change things according to people’s suggestions of improvement. I find this surprising, since you would think a director would accept advice from other people. The tension levels were really high when Alan Bromly caused problems. 😦
As a result, Alan Bromly left during the production of ‘Nightmare of Eden’ without announcement or warning. The producer Graham Williams ended up stepping into the breach as an uncredited director in order to finish off the story’s production. I’m certain things became a lot better by then. 🙂
I find it amazing that ‘Nightmare of Eden’ is a ‘Doctor Who’ story where a director became difficult and had quit halfway through production. I don’t think that happens often in ‘Doctor Who’. It is unfortunate Alan Bromly was chosen as the director and that Tom Baker didn’t get on well with him.
Going back to the Mandrels…Oh dear! The Mandrels! These are the main monsters for ‘Nightmare of Eden’. What can one say but…“Hugga-wugga!” And that’s from ‘The Muppet Show’ incidentally. And I say “Hugga-wugga” about the Mandrels since they can easily be considered very cute and cuddly. 🙂
And I agree with the notion that they’re considered ‘cute rejects from ‘The Muppet Show’, since they certainly look it. I couldn’t take these monsters seriously when I saw on them on DVD and I still can’t take them seriously on Blu-ray. They look very silly, daft and ridiculous throughout this TV story.
They also walk strangely. Even Gavin Scott mocked the Mandrels and the way they walked in the ‘Did You See…?’ item on the ‘Earthshock’ DVD and Blu-ray. 😀 I took a photo of a Mandrel when I attended the ‘Doctor Who Experience’ in Cardiff back in November 2016. Amazing I took the photo.
There is one saving grace about the Mandrels though. It turns out that they’re the carriers of the Vraxoin drug aboard the Empress. This is revealed when one of the Mandrels electrocutes himself and the Doctor discovers the powdered drug once the Mandrel has dissolved. It’s quite effective here.
Maybe I could have the Dwaxi use the Mandrels as their carriers for the Yentias drug the next time I write for them. I like the Mandrels have a purpose for being in the story, especially in the drug smuggling element. It’s just such a shame that these monsters aren’t as scary as they could’ve been.
I enjoyed the ‘whodunit’ plot featured throughout ‘Nightmare of Eden’. The question is raised about who it is that could be smuggling the Vraxoin drugs aboard the Empress. Apparently, Vraxoin is a pretty lethal drug and is known to wipe out civilisations, which is a frightening concept to think on. 😐
When I saw this ‘Doctor Who’ story with my parents, we had our guesses about which person it could’ve been that smuggled the drugs aboard the Empress. We were quite surprised by who it was by the story’s end. I like how the plot unravelled. It made sense in terms of who the characters were.
The story’s guest cast includes David Daker as Captain Rigg. I’ve come across David Daker before as an actor, as he played Irongron in ‘The Time Warrior’. He would later appear in the Big Finish audio ‘Creatures of Beauty’ and I enjoyed his appearance in an ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ episode. 🙂
I did feel sorry for Rigg when he drank his spiked drink and he became a drug addict. Mind you, I don’t think his drunken acting was all that convincing. All he did was laugh a lot, and it’s a shame that he didn’t appear much in the story’s end since he’s clearly absent from ‘Part Four’ altogether. 😐
It was a frightening moment though when Rigg attacked Romana and wanted more Vraxoin. Now that’s a scene I can get behind when I want drug addiction to be presented in a serious manner. I wish more scenes of that were featured in the story in order to emphasise the danger of using drugs.
Lewis Fiander guest stars as Professor Tryst, the man who is behind the development of the CET projection machine featured in the story. I don’t know much about Lewis Fiander as an actor, but I must admit, I found Tryst annoying, especially with that disconcerting foreign accent he used in this.
It got on my nerves at times. I’m not even sure what the accent is supposed to be. I mean, is it Italian; Spanish; Mexican; French? Or is it German? I wish the story was clear as to where Tryst came from. I even forgot Tryst’s name and the actor who played him when I originally reviewed this TV tale.
The accent also sounded quite silly. I would have preferred it if Tryst didn’t have a foreign accent and Lewis Fiander used his normal voice when he conveyed serious information. This is especially concerning the big twist involving his character at the story’s end, which I won’t spoil for you here. 🙂
The story also features Jennifer Lonsdale as Della, who I liked as a character. She works for Tryst on his CET machine when aboard the Empress. It’s revealed that she had a relationship with a colleague presumed dead. Della shares this to Romana when things appear to go out of hand by ‘Part Four’. 🙂
Della’s lover and former colleague happens to be Barry Andrews as Stott. He’s been hiding inside the Eden setting of Tryst’s CET machine for some time. He rescues the Doctor and Romana from a Mandrel when they’re in the Eden setting and does all he can in order to thwart the drug smugglers.
There’s also Geoffrey Hinsliff (who previously played Jack Tyler in ‘Image of the Fendahl’) as Waterguard Fisk – Seriously?! Waterguard?! Is he also a relation of Wilson Fisk from ‘Spider-Man’ 😀 – and there’s Peter Craze (Michael Craze’s brother) playing Landing Officer Costa in the adventure. 🙂
Incidentally, in case you didn’t know ( 😀 ), Michael Craze played Ben Jackson in ‘Doctor Who’. Peter Craze was also in ‘The Space Museum’ with William Hartnell and ‘The War Games’ with Patrick Troughton. Fisk and Costa come to the Empress ship in order to find the culprit smuggling the drugs.
Fisk and Costa are typical busybodies. They’re dim and they easily accuse the Doctor and Romana for the drug smuggling. Interesting that Fisk and Costa don’t listen to the Doctor and Romana when they tell them something important. Also, the glitter outfits they wear don’t do them any favours here. 🙂
This is clearly demonstrated in the reactions Katy Manning and Nicola Bryant give to them in the ‘Behind the Sofa’ item for ‘Nightmare of Eden’. Honestly, I didn’t notice that about their glitter outfits when viewing this story. I wonder whether I’ll see the two busybodies in the same light again. 😀
The story also features Geoffrey Bateman as Dymond. He’s in charge of the trade ship called the Hecate that collided with the Empress at the story’s beginning. When we’re introduced to Dymond, he’s impatient to get his ship separated from the Empress and he argues with Captain Rigg for quite a bit.
But it soon transpires that Dymond’s intentions for getting back on schedule in space aren’t very sincere as they seem. Could it be that Dymond’s hiding something? It was fascinating how the story unravelled and what Dymond’s connection to the drug smuggling was when we get onto ‘Part Four’.
Tom Baker and Lalla Ward continue to be excellent together as the Fourth Doctor and Romana in this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure. I enjoyed the sparkly relationship that was going on between the Doctor and Romana and they appear to work so well together in the Douglas Adams era of the show.
It contrasts differently to how they fared together during the making of Season 18 the following year. I’m not sure at what stage Tom and Lalla’s relationship was at this point, but they must have got on well with each other. Even through that troubled production, the two must have got on well.
Tom Baker delivers a ‘bonkers’ performance as the Doctor and he gets to have the jokey-lines, which suit his Doctor well, especially as Season 17 is script-edited by Douglas Adams. I enjoyed the Doctor’s scenes with Fisk and Costa, especially as he struggled to reason with them despite their bureaucracy.
I found the scene where the Doctor lures the Mandrels into the Eden virtual reality hilarious. This is especially when he uses a whistle to lure them in. Once inside the Eden reality, he gets ravaged by the Mandrels. This, of course, leads to one of the most well-known lines said by the Fourth Doctor. 🙂
Doctor: “Oh, my fingers, my arms, my legs! Ah! My everything! Argh!”
Timelord007 has said that line often enough and I’ve used that line for James Darby’s character in ‘The Dimension Serpents’.
Timelord007: “Oh by the way, “MY ARMS!!! MY LEGS!!! MY EVERYTHING!!!”
(surprised) “I THOUGHT YOU LEFT!!!!”
I found it quite frightening when the Doctor told one of the culprits involved in the story’s drug smuggling to “Go away”. It illustrates how serious the Doctor is when he’s very disappointed in someone. It’s also a moment where Tom Baker’s Doctor can be serious and not very silly in Season 17.
Lalla Ward as Romana is the intellectual one and quite deadpan when she’s explaining things. 😀 I enjoyed her performance in this story. Lalla has been critical about her costumes in ‘Doctor Who’. This is the case when she’s discussing her character and her costume in ‘The Creature From The Pit’.
She’s also critical about the beige costume she wore in ‘Nightmare of Eden’. Whilst she’s critical about the costume, I found her lovely in it. She moves gracefully and the white boots help to that effect. I’m not an expert on fashion, but I can’t find anything wrong with Romana’s costume here. 😀
Maybe it does look like a curtain she’s wearing, but I don’t mind that. I like how she interacts with the Doctor in this adventure and how she uncovers what’s going on from Tryst and Della. It was tense when she was about to press the button in ‘Part Three’ and Fisk tried stopping her in doing so.
When I first reviewed ‘Nightmare of Eden’, I found K-9 disappointing and underwritten. Having revisited the story on Blu-ray, I found K-9 decently written, especially when co-creator Bob Baker wrote for him. He certainly uses his initiative when he investigates the mystery aboard the Empress.
I suppose the disappointment came in that K-9 got separated from the Doctor and Romana when they were inside the Eden reality in the CET machine. K-9 was somewhere aboard the Empress, trundling along corridors and such. It also doesn’t help that it’s the wrong voice for K-9 in this story. 😦
Once again, David Brierley voices for K-9 as opposed to John Leeson. I’m sure David Brierley did his best with the voice he provided for K-9, but it doesn’t sound anything like the voice John Leeson gave him. It was amusing once the Doctor told K-9 to put his ‘leads’ on when connecting him to the CET machine. 🙂
The story also features Stephen Jenn as Secker, who’s a drug addict already and appears in ‘Part One’ only. There’s also Richard Barnes, Sebastian Stride and Eden Phillips as the Empress’ crewmen and Annett Peters, Lionel Sansby, Peter Roberts and Maggie Petersen as the Empress’ passengers. 🙂
Incidentally, when humanity journeys into space, I hope they don’t have to wear those tin-foil suits whilst travelling via shuttle or a cruise ship. They look cumbersome and must be hot to wear. I’m sure the actors who played the Mandrels were feeling hot when wearing the monster suits during the story.
The original DVD special features were as follows. There was ‘The Nightmare of Television Centre’ making-of featurette; the ‘Going Solo’ interview with writer Bob Baker; ‘The Doctor’s Strange Love’ discussion on ‘Nightmare of Eden’ with Simon Guerrier, Joseph Lidster and Josie Long; an enjoyable ‘Ask Aspel’ interview with Lalla Ward; and a ‘coming soon’ trailer for the ‘Ace Adventures’ DVD box set (including ‘Dragonfire’ with Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford and Sophie Aldred, and ‘The Happiness Patrol’ with Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred). There was a photo gallery of the story; a mono sound audio mix option for the story; and an audio commentary with Lalla Ward, Peter Craze, visual effects designer Colin Mapson and make-up designer Joan Stribling, moderated by Toby Hadoke. There was an info-text commentary option to enjoy and PDF materials including a ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story.
On Disc 4 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 17’ Blu-ray, ‘The Nightmare of Television Centre’ making-of featurette, the ‘Going Solo’ interview with writer Bob Baker, ‘The Doctor’s Strange Love’ discussion on ‘Nightmare of Eden’, the mono sound audio mix option and the DVD audio commentary can be found on there. The photo gallery and the info-text commentary option have been updated for 2021 on the Blu-ray. The ‘Ask Aspel’ interview with Lalla Ward is now included on ‘The Horns of Nimon’ disc of the Season 17 Blu-ray box set of ‘Doctor Who’.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the ‘Behind the Sofa’ feature on ‘Nightmare of Eden’ with Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor) and Matthew Waterhouse (Adric) as well as Katy Manning (Jo Grant) and Nicola Bryant (Peri) as well as visual effects designer Mat Irvine, costume designer June Hudson and director Graeme Harper. There’s the ‘Bob Baker: In Conversation’ interview conducted by Matthew Sweet, a ‘Nationwide’ item on ‘Doctor Who’ toys, BBC trailers and continuity announcements of the story, and a CGI effects option to enjoy.
On the PDF front, as well as the ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story, there are production documents, A.J. Mitchell’s video effects storyboards, and scripts for the story, including four rehearsal scripts, four camera scripts and four transmission scripts.
‘Nightmare of Eden’ turned out to be a fairly average ‘Doctor Who’ adventure in Season 17 of the show. I enjoyed watching it with the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K-9 in it. The drug abuse themes were reasonably good too. I think the point came across that drug misuse can be really dangerous. 🙂
Sadly, the story suffered in terms of a troubled production values and the Mandrels are poorly-realised monsters that I couldn’t take seriously. It’s a shame, as this was Bob Baker’s solo ‘Doctor Who’ credit as a writer. 😦 It would have been nice if he wrote more ‘Doctor Who’ stories by himself.
‘Nightmare of Eden’ rating – 7/10
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