Doctor Who: The Nightmare of Eden (UK - DVD R2)
The Wilson Bros had nightmares of their own whilst watching this one...
Tom Baker's penultimate year on Doctor Who was one that could be best described as 'unremarkable'; though it contained one story that that became in instant fan favourite, not to mention also scoring the highest viewing figures in the series' history, City of Death was seen by many as the metaphorical rainbow in shining across a grey sky, or by some as the jewel in the middle of a pile of cowshit. The Douglas Adams-penned finale, Shada, was never completed due to industrial action, leaving The Horns of Nimon to finish the season; before not exactly going out on a high, Bob Baker, one of member of the writing partnership known as The Bristol Boys, would pen his only Doctor Who story on his own...
The TARDIS materialises on a space-liner, The Empress; The Empress has had an intergalactic prang, colliding with another ship, The Hectate that just happened to be in the way whilst The Empress was emerging from hyperspace. The Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lala Ward), posing as insurance investigators, discover that both sides have something to hide - onboard The Empress, a dangerous drug is being smuggled and one of the passengers, Professor Tryst (Lewis Fiander) holds an unstable machine, the Continual Event Transmuter, that is capable of storing vast swathes of planetary eco-systems within.
We certainly remember watching this story at the time - season seventeen was the first one that we remember watching and the image of the Mandrels rampaging down a corridor was one that firmly stuck in the mind (please note that we were only about five or six at the time, so cut us a little slack!), but we were too young to notice things that were lacking in the story - little things like the storyline, the sets, the production values in general, etc.
Nightmare of Eden has some interesting concepts - drugs and drug smuggling in Doctor Who was something that hadn't been explored in such a direct manner in Doctor Who before. The concept of narcotics, both taking and supplying, is a difficult subject to tackle in a family programme and was something that didn't crop up all that often at the time, especially in something frequently dismissed as a "kid's show"; it is handled here with a degree of frankness, but even though the consequences of having a people in positions of power (the Empress' co-pilot, Secker, and ultimately the captain, Rigg) wandering around in a heroin-like state of euphoria are shown, and aside from the emphatic pleas from Rigg in episode three, they aren't really addressed properly enough, and that was something of a missed opportunity for the show. OK, we're not talking about a Zammo-esque focus on the effects of hard drug use, but a couple of lines or so about the foolishness of such addictions could have been a good opportunity to provoke discussion, either at a parental or school level. Lecture over - back to the review!
The morality of taking flora and fauna from it's natural environment and storing it within a computer had been done in Robert Holmes' Carnival of Monsters, but the desire for such actions was not for entertainment purposes, as in Holmes' story, but for something far more sinister. The idea of taking a species and putting it into an artificial environment is something that has been in place for decades, with zoos increasingly under fire in the last 30 years by animal rights groups and even the general public started to realise that animals need to be in their natural environment; Bob Baker nicely touches upon this argument and develops the animal/environmental theme even more by revealing that the new strain of vraxoin originates directly from the Mandrels themselves, with Baker doing what every good piece of science-fiction does - draws themes from current events and presents them in a futuristic concept, allowing the viewer to not only enjoy the story, but to also realise the topical elements and take something away to think about.
Tom Baker was in the middle of season seventeen, but does not give one of his typical performances from that period, meaning that he is frequently way over the top, punctuated by moments when he speaks in a whisper, only to go way over the top again. It's remarkably similar to Bi-Polar Disorder, where the sufferer can swing from exuberantly high, to a crashing low almost instantaneously; one of your humble reviewers is a long-term relationship with someone who is afflicted by this condition, so we have learned to spot the signs. For whatever reason, Baker's on-screen instability might not make for a dull experience, but it's not an altogether pleasant one either. Even though he was suffering from "Season Seventeen Syndrome", his performance is more stable and together in this than he does in, say, City of Death, where his performance comes awfully close to derailing an almost perfect story. Interestingly, there is a moment in episode one that had Baker briefly tripping over his own words, but he recovers from it so quickly that it stayed in the show; this demonstrates one of two things - either Baker was a consummate professional who was able to overcome his minor gaffe or it was getting close to the end of the studio day and there was no time to go for another take.
Lalla Ward is on form as Romana; we always preferred Mary Tamm's stab at playing the Time Lady, but it's interesting to watch Ward's performances on Doctor Who, as she grows more comfortable with the part - and her performance - with each story, and by this point, she had pretty much got the character nailed and was able to spar verbally with her imposing co-star (and was probably able to physically spar with him during periods they weren't getting on...). Though Ward was settling in rather nicely by this point, her outfits were still in a state of flux, with the ghastly decorated potato sack that she has to sport in this one being quite possible the worst piece of wardrobe that she ever wore during her time in Doctor Who.
David Brierley once again provides the voice of K9, during John Leeson’s short-lived “sod this, I’m off to be a serious actor” period; Brierley’s stab at everyone’s favourite robotic companion (well, the only other competitors for this title were Chameleon and Adric) isn’t bad, but he really has the voice of someone who used to get beaten up at school… a lot.
David Daker makes an admirable stab at playing the captain of the stricken liner; Daker instils Captain Rigg with a sense of rugged determination and adherence to duty which pretty soon lead him to sniffing out The Doctor's bogus credentials. Daker is a good, dependable actor who is probably most famous for often exclaiming "bloody hell, Ken!" in a thick Brummie accent during the long-running eighties series, Boon, not to mention exclaiming "me super-deluxe teas-maid!" in a thick Brummie accent in Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits. Regardless of Rigg's sense of duty and honour, he was perfectly oblivious to the fact that his co-pilot, Secker, is whacked out of his mind on Vraxoin.
Rounding out the main guest cast is Lewis Fiander, who plays Professor Tryst Australian-born Fiander chose to give his character a European-eque accent that is vaguely reminiscent of Dutch; this apparently came about after a discussion with his old mate, Tom Baker. With so many people outside of the UK criticising Doctor Who for having so many adversaries and/or aliens that speak with English accents, it's refreshing to hear one now and again who doesn't - this would, of course, lead to accusations of demonising a particular country when one of them is depicted as a villain on the show.
Jennifer Lonsdale is also on-hand, playing Tryst’s glamorous assistant, Della, the character of which is your standard “lovely-too-look-at-and-fairly-bright-but-has-some-serious-doubts-over-what-her-colleague-is-up-to” sort of role that popped up quite often in Doctor Who, but here Lonsdale has the acting capacity to give a performance that allows her to rise above the limitations of the role and the viewer really feels for her when she learns that she has been betrayed and that her views on who is right and who is wrong have to be seriously re-evaluated.
It's nice to see another member of the Craze family in Doctor Who, and Michael's brother, Peter, returns to the series in this story as stupid and officious customs officer, Costa. Michael Craze obviously played intrepid seaman Ben Jackson during the end of the William Hartnell era and into the Patrick Troughton tenure. Peter Craze had also worked with these two Doctors previously, appearing in The Space Museum and The War Games, but here he is the very essence of frustrating bureaucracy, playing part of a double-act that just seem to operate as front-line grunts in an an intergalactic war on narcotics. Craze, along with Fisk (Geoffrey Hinsliff) seem awfully reminiscent of Douglas Adams' trigger-happy cops, Shooty and Bang-Bang from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - the kind of officious, power-crazed idiots that real-life law enforcement agencies seemed to relish recruiting at the time The Nightmare of Eden was produced.
Director Alan Bromly had previously helmed the Pertwee era story, The Time Warrior, and had the dubious distinction of dispensing with his own services during the shoot; Bromly was apparently an old-school director who had very firm ideas about how things should be done and clashed with Tom Baker over numerous matters. Bromly was also unprepared for just how much the filming of Doctor Who had changed in only a few short years, angering the already irascible Baker even more. Eventually, director Bromly walked away from the production on the final day of shooting, leaving producer Graham Williams to step in and finish the studio shoot and handle the post-production work himself in an uncredited manner. The problems that Williams had to contend with during the production of this story galvanised his determination to leave Doctor Who at the end of the season. Bromly's efforts on Nightmare of Eden can be be described as workmanlike and his handling of some of the effects are fairly cringeworthy, particularly the execution of the two ships crashing into each other above the planet, which is toecurlingly awful and seems to occur in slow-motion, mainly due to poor editing (which can be levelled at the editor, but the director should have had final say on how such things are carried out).
The invisible hand script editor of Douglas Adams looms large over this story, with various little quips and asides that are perfectly in keeping with the mischievous style of Mr Deep Thought himself. The pairing of Tom Baker and Douglas Adams was a pretty good one, as it's quite possible that no other actor - before or subsequently - playing The Doctor could have pulled off Adams' amusing lines quite the way that Baker was able to.
Whilst we're talking about the use of humour in the story, the whole bloody thing comes perilously close to coming off the rails as the story reaches its climax, with Tom Baker being attacked off-camera by the Mandrels and intermittently (not to mention remarkably unconvincingly) exclaiming "oh, my arms", "oh, my legs!" and "oh, my everything!", only to emerge with ripped, tattered clothing and generally looking like he has just stepped out of a Looney Tunes cartoon, rather than out of a Continual Event Transmuter Machine. It's a moment of extreme silliness that comes right when the things needed to be serious and harms the story quite severely.
The production values of this story are all over the place - the Manrdrels don't look too bad, but the sets for The Empress are pretty lousy, with the bridge of the vessel looking like something constructed out of cardboard and sticky-tape, along with some computer consoles that look reasonable in medium-to-long shots, but laughable in close-ups. Director Bromly really should have known not to go in so closely when the sets can't stand up to close scrutiny. David Daker valiantly battles with the silly buttons on the control panel, but his efforts just seem to make things worse, as the buttons don't respond in any way and show them up embarrassingly.
Many of the sets are typically over-lit, looking like the lighting systems on the Empress were pinched from a football stadium. Many Doctor Who fans cite the eighties as being the time when studio sets suffered from having too much light cast upon them, but this was starting to be the case toward the end of the seventies. It's not all (ironically) doom and gloom, as the area where the vraxoin is stored is lit rather moodily (in a manner reminiscent of Genesis of the Daleks) and allows for a fair amount of suspense to be infused into what could have been pretty ordinary scenes.
There is much running around onboard The Empress, with the obligatory running up and down corridors, along with numerous shots of Baker hastily running down flights of steps that are so rapidly edited that although most savvy Doctor Who viewers are aware that they are seeing the same old trick, the effects is pretty cool and almost exhilarating that they don't mind.
It would appear that Bob Baker had watched Dario Argento's classic giallo (Italian detective murder-mystery) Bird with the Crystal Plumage, as one sequence in episode two has The Doctor chasing a mysterious person dressed in distinctive garb, only to suddenly find himself in a room where everyone is dressed in the same distinctive clothing. This piece of misdirection was later used in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Whilst we're talking about Dario Argento, the concept of walking into a projection (or in Argento's case, a large painting) was later explored in Argento's The Stendahl Syndrome, but this might be a step too far in terms of trying to draw parallels.
As mentioned earlier, the Mandrels weren't too bad as one-shot Doctor Who monsters; they lumber around menacingly and provide a nice, punchy cliffhanger for the end of episode one, but with their silly, teeth-like protrusions, green eyes and shaggy fur, they look a little too much like a cross between a stereotypical Asian caricature and Monty Python's atomically-mutated Killer Cats. On top of this, these fearsome creatures are saddled with a name that sounds like a girl group on the Motown label. The scenes of them going on the rampage during episode three are startlingly effective, with the first victim the sort of whinging, elderly woman who would be the first person you would like to see chucked overboard during a cruise. The violence depicted as the Mandrels start tearing into the passengers of The Empress is not graphic, but you are left with little doubt that quite a few of the guests were going to be returning home in the baggage hold, rather than in any of the passenger decks.
The concept of hiding out in a projection is something that is absolutely fascinating; with narcotics forming the basis of the story, the whole "hiding in a projection" or alternate reality of shorts seems to be a part of it, with addiction to strong drugs, or even just being overly-dependent upon alcohol allows many users to exist in some sort of alternate existence, detached from the real world.
At one point, The Doctor looks at a readout that shows the very tidy sum calculated for the whole vraxoin smuggling racket, referred to as "The Eden Project" and he muses "the profits on human suffering" to himself - we wouldn't go that far, many people have said that the Eden Project really is well worth taking a trip down to Cornwall for - thank you, laygennlemen, we're here all week...
The original quad tapes for all four episodes of Nightmare of Eden survive, and there is minimal use of film, so the image quality is pretty impressive. Various little imperfections have been smoothed away by those wonderful fellows at the Doctor Who Restoration Team and the resulting image is arguably better than was originally shown back in 1979.
The 2.0 mono soundtrack sounds perfectly fine, with Dudley Simpson's typically bombastic music score coming across rather nicely.
The Nightmare of Television Centre: Not, as first thought, a look at the internal politics of the BBC circa 1979, but rather a candid overview regarding just what made a perfectly good story like Nightmare of Eden the snigger-inducing mess it ultimately became. Those fighting the good fight against the elements responsible are here to exonerate themselves as best they can, but we doubt that even Perry Mason couldn’t have gotten them entirely out this one.
As most of the problems with the finished product are of the visual variety, it seems entirely logical that they guys in charge of the less-than-special effects become the primary focus, and they seem only too pleased to share the opportunity to do so, it not the blame. Eloquent Visual Effects Designer Colin Mapson makes no secret that a combination of elements conspired to torpedo the good work done in other areas of the production, his opening gambit being: “…It was a very good story. I thought the end result was just a disaster, to be quite honest”.
A J “Mitch” Mitchell Video Effects Designer takes us though the processes used when lumbered with doing such effects not only on tape, but using cumbersome cameras which really weren‘t up to the job. Imagine trying to do graceful, ballet-like lifting manoeuvre when your partner is a twenty-a-day wheezing asthmatic wearing dungarees, and you’ll be in the right area. Both echo the others’ thoughts that one of main problems was that the effects were much less than special, and primarily due to the awful decision to shoot them on tape rather than the usual process of using film. Mapson asserts that the design of the Empress and other models used on the show were personal bests in his work, but capturing them on video rendered them junk. The models: “…looked and acted like cardboard cut-outs” sighs Mapton.
The culprit of the poor effects which dogged Doctor Who from that time onwards is firmly revealed to be producer Graham Williams, the author of a memo which expounds how production overrun caused the experiment to see the effects taped rather than filmed, where they “…achieved results better than could be expected”. Given the choice between mediocre/crap effects in the bag in under three hours or five days expensively shooting on film at Bray Studios, which would a thrifty producer choose of the two?
There are many ready with many unkind thing to say about the monsters in this story, including the slur that they were designed to fit with the current fashion-trend, but we would suggest that this would be the only instance of flare about them. Such stylistic considerations were probably due to the Mandrel suits were assigned to the Costume Department for budgetary reasons, and the results speak for themselves, as they really do look like they were made by a seamstress using up her scraps-box and having them fit close to the body rather than anything “scary”. Glow-sticks for eyes? Yes, well…
It’s always a pleasure to hear the thoughts of women from the production side of Doctor Who, and we’re happy to see another of them speaking their mind once again, and is especially welcome this time, as veteran Floor Manager Val McCrimmon, has some very insightful things to say about Nightmare of Eden. A wonderfully plain-speaking woman who found the whole situation a joke, the archive footage of McCrimmon flings the doors open on the troubles occurring before the FX crews got anywhere near the thing, with easily-ripping alien costumes only part of the despair: “…It was just hilarious,” She surmises “I thought ‘What am I doing here?’”
All three interviewees point out that a lot of Nightmare of Eden’s problems stem from a director who was lacking in people-skills, and utterly disinterested in the opinions of his learned colleagues. Alan Bromly clashed with all around him, particularly with Baker, the thespian making deliberately audible comments into the gallery to assert his status as king of the hill. Bromly was so paranoid that he took to taping the recordings as a way of keeping Baker in line, and in the end, he left the job under a cloud whilst producer Williams and the FX team finished the last of the shots.
It might have been logical to leave the final volley in the capable hands of Mapton, with his succinct dissection of the project thus: “It was, without doubt, the most disastrous Doctor Who I have even been involved in. The atmosphere was generally awful and it was a nightmare. Everyone was very, very glad it was over”. We say “might”, as McCrimmon manages to trump the FX-man by producing one of the T-shirts handed out to everyone at the end of the final day of shooting. We won’t reveal the wording on it, but you can probably guess the sentiment!
Going Solo: Subtitled “Bob Baker Remembers Nightmare of Eden”, one half of the beloved Bristol Boys writing duo explains just why he found himself writing for Doctor Who on his own during the latter-half of the Baker years. We find that there was no huge bust-up, but it came about through the more highbrow Dave martin amicably dissolving the partnership due to his burning desire to write novels and more intellectual writings. This short and sweet featurette sees Baker reminiscing how the TV show Target inspired the narcotics storyline to Nightmare of Eden, a programme Baker worked on, and which elements which he thought turned out well for in the infamous Doctor Who story, those being David Daker, and the transposition of the more radical themes of his script. Naturally, he hates the “monster” costumes, as well as certain European accents added to characters, but just shrugs those off as thing which were out of his hands. He’s certainly not bitter, and this is an insightful companion-piece to one of more aesthetically displeasing tales in the canon.
The Doctor’s Strange Love: In what is now a continuing series, we have another chance for fans to explain their peculiar attraction to one of the most loathed of the show’s canon. This time, it’s war - literally, as Simon Guerrier conducts the proceedings from the now-defunct set of Sarah Jane Smith’s attic, where Jose Long and Joe Lidster run through just what makes them hate to love Doctor Who’s look at the galactic-drug-smuggling racket.
Obviously, one of the hottest topics is that of drugs being a suitable subject for Doctor Who or science-fiction in general. Long persuasively argues for the “yes” camp, but notes that the treatment of it in Nightmare of Eden isn’t complicated enough to be a worthy examination of the subject in the show, but Lidster is a little squeamish of narcotics’ existence in a beloved family programme. All agree that nobody notices that a major change in the Captain’s behaviour through being a junkie going unnoticed is ludicrous. They certainly have a point there!
Preponderance of glitter in costumes, huggable aliens, prop-failures, questionable accents, dodgy science, reused sets, interstellar in-flight magazines, Doctor/Romana chemistry - you name it, they tackle it with insight and a wicked sense of humour. A great example of such zingers come when the matter of K9 having “the wrong voice” during the story (David Brierly was doing the honours at this point) is brought, where Long wittily points that “…If you take on the responsibility for voicing a robot dog, you take on that responsibility for life.”
Although they have differences of opinion, both guests are very personable, to the point where spending the twenty minutes in their company is a welcome opportunity. Rounding out the proceedings comes the unified opinion that “Baker is brilliant” in the story, proving that curly hair and big teeth are enough to bring all parties together in peace and harmony. We wholeheartedly applaud the inclusion of these fun, insightful pieces, as they just keep adding to the depth of love shown by those who aren’t afraid to tell the world. Let’s hope more are in the pipeline for the depressingly finite number of releases left!
Ask Aspel: If you ever need an excuse for buying Nightmare of Eden, you can shrug off any embarrassment by saying you are having it purely for this amazing little gem - an archive interview with Lalla Ward, conducted by good ol’ Michael Aspel. We remember this show from the time, but cannot recall this particular episode, and was a particular revelation to us - is this really the same man that quit as talk-show host after he was duped into having Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis for the purposes of plugging Planet Hollywood?
As was the format of the show, the young audience get to field questions at the guest, but unlike shows like Saturday Superstore and such, they are asked by Aspel himself, nicely avoiding the toe-curling results when they kids talk to them over the phone, inevitably asking for autographs before they get cut off. If the BBC had stuck to this format, they might never have had the infamous incident with Five Star. Ward is a real tonic, not to mention a true professional, answering even the most obvious poser with grace, charm and interest, giving simple responses for the kids whilst elaborating just enough to satisfy older viewers.
We get a look at the illustrations Ward created for the book Astrology for Dogs and their Owners, bringing to the fore that she acting sits firmly alongside all other forms of art she stretches herself to, a matter which Ward confesses came out of wanting to do things at both school and further education better than all of her teachers. There are snippets of Ward from The Duchess of Duke Street and Hamlet, where her versatility is showcased, but it’s a shame that with no warning or form of segue, a clip from The Horns of Nimon muscles in on the action in an appropriately bullish fashion. Hardly in the same league, is it?
Cutest revelation of the piece is amongst the numerous mentions of her love for animals, particularly of the feline variety, which comes as no surprise given that she has illustrated more than just the above book, but when asked if she herself has any pets, she notes that her owns a cat called “Dart”; Puzzled by this, Aspels enquires just why has was saddled with that particular name; “Because he darts…” replies an almost baffled Ward.
It’s a treat to get something like this as an extra on a Doctor Who DVD, as it sits proudly alongside the newly-commissioned material as an indispensable look at the whole phenomenon, but with the added appeal of being of the time as opposed to taking a look back over a period of decades. Another great addendum to a mediocre Doctor Who story.
Audio Commentary: Toby Hadoke is wearing the referee’s shirt for the gathering of Doctor Who story that died of shame, with the team for both the prosecution and the defence comprising of Lalla Ward (Romana) Visual Effects Designer Colin Mapson, Writer Bob Baker, Peter Craze (Costa) along with Hair, Makeup and Prosthetic designer Joan Stribling. You know that this is going to be fun and honest from the outset when the beauty of the Empress model opens the story to Ward’s genuine praise of: “It’s good, isn’t it? It didn’t half beat some of those things you got out of Cornflakes packets in some of the stories…”
You couldn’t have a commentary track with Lalla Ward and not have her give some of her own views on the nature of Tom Baker. We were expecting him to carefully tip-toe around so as to not annoy the guest of honour, but it really surprised us when she explains why some of the performances from that particular era of Doctor Who were rather OTT. “I think [actors were] misreading what Tom was doing… as over-the-top as he was and playing it sometimes for laughs as he did, nevertheless there was a realism there, which other people didn’t quite sometimes understand… and they would try to play to it, and that was a dangerous slope”. This is the same woman who later says that Baker suffered from “Mugabe syndrome” during his time on the show, explaining his expanding ego during the run.
Ever wanted to hear Mr Hadoke explode with laughter? This a rare occurrence for someone involved in both writing and performing comedy, but just wait until the piece where Baker is attacked by the carnivorous plants in the jungle. Baker fights the voracious vegetation by biting it back, where Hadoke quips: “…And Tom Baker literally getting his teeth into it, there”. Out of the blue, Mapson muses on Baker’s enthusiasm: “I think there was some gin in it, I’m not sure”. There is nothing more explosive than the wit of a quiet man, and Mr Mapson’s timing is impeccable. Mapson also weighs in on the problems of being a designer when Baker is around, especially when it came to props, always a nightmare when actors are around: “I remember that Tom had a wonderful way with any sort of tools you gave to him, where he would just fiddle around with any piece of apparatus he was repairing and throw it over his shoulder, so we would turn up with tubes of superglue, tape and stuff and hope that he didn’t do it on the rehearsal”.
Everyone gets their chance to poke holes in this most damnable of stories, with numerous barbs about wardrobe flying around, from the rather camp sequins contrasting against butch leather outfits to the obviously crap Mandrel. At the forefront of such matters is Stribling, who doesn’t say all that much, and this might be due to hers not being that jazzed about the end results. She notes that because of the shiny silver spacesuits seen in Nightmare of Eden: “…sales of Bacofoil probably went up”. Mapson points out that said camp costumes: “…Have a nice, knitted collar”. Always the best form of design for keeping the atmosphere firmly inside the suit. It’s damned cool that Stribling got to command huge street-cred from her two adult sons just for going to record on a Doctor Who audio commentary!
There are numerous instances where Baker notes certain changes which were made between script to screen, which most of them being of the agreeable variety through Douglas Adams, but he makes time to voice his dislike for the controversial way Lewis Fiander played Tryst. After Ward ponders how anyone let Fiander get away with the accent, Baker is quick to jump in: “Yes, exactly! I remember thinking that when I heard it… I felt it sort of took the character down… a few pegs because it’s so clichéd, you know. The German professor being yet another villain, you know. To make him slightly Germanic was a bit of a mistake”.
Doctor Who veteran Craze nails the real generation gap between those who watched it during the original run and the kids growing up in modern times, with the new generation just not getting the old magic. “I showed [Nightmare of Eden] to my grandchildren,” sighs Craze, “two young girls and they just sort of laughed and it didn’t mean anything to them, whereas I took my son on the set all those years ago, and he was terrified, really terrified of the whole thing, so the changing attitudes was very marked.”
This is fun stuff, with Ward dominating the proceedings and ready to give genuine insight into just about all aspects of the production. Everyone admits that this really isn’t Doctor Who to be proud of - with the exception of Mapson’s models - and there is much fun to be had listening to the assembled parties ripping the shit out of it. Hadoke created his one-man stage show through his experiences of watching the programme from around this era, and it’s no wonder that Nightmare of Eden fused comedy and time-travel into his brain in the most unexpected of ways. They laughed, we laughed, and Hell, even Hadoke laughs this time, and you will too with this fine way to heckle a what is seen by many as a series low-point.
Production Subtitles: Imagine if Burgess Meredith hadn’t broken his glasses at the end of his episode of The Twilight Zone, and was actually able to access to all the information in the world? With only this to dedicate himself to and the rest of humanity dead, even he couldn’t have been able to successfully gather and collate the incredible amount of minutia presented in yet another spectacular fact-track from 2|Entertain.
There are no blushed spared nor punches pulled, and everything surrounded with a knowing smile and dynamite sense of comic timing, delivering the barbs like clown armed with razor-edged dildo. Sure, we all know that the Mandrel costumes are just dreadful, but the track notes when they are at their absolute worst. “The actors inside the Mandrels looked out through a gap beneath the big, flattened nose,” it states “Unfortunately, this will become rather obvious any second now.” Right on cue, a Mandrel raises its head in full close-up to reveal the gaping hole in the suit, with a human face clearly visible.
We are almost complacent about just how much minutia is gathered from all possible sources to compile every Doctor Who trivia track, but we are never less than impressed by the end results. The numerous dialogue changes are faithfully recorded, from the odd quip to few paragraphs at a time, and we are particularly impressed and heartened to find how the visual elements seen on the show were at odds with how Baker described them in his original screenplay, proving that it was only the lack of time and money separated it from more “worthy” examples of science-fiction.
Ever wonder where the name “Mandrel” comes from? Well, as it isn’t queried by the spell-checker when writing, it is clearly a legitimate word, but who would have through that there are so many facets to the thing? It’s piece used in metalwork, a miner’s pick or a part of a circular saw and even a misspelling of an aggressive baboon. What about the character Mandrel in The Sun Makers? There is a circular nature to Doctor Who that only a script-editor can even attempt to contemplate!
Well, we didn’t realise that some vistas and designs were licensed from Space: 1999, but with them looking as nice as they do, you might have thought it obvious. This is a perfect example of just how fascinating the learning experience can be when you stick one of these suckers into your drive, and we bow to those who bring them to us fans as if they were particularly heroic Hobbits. Nightmare of Eden really isn’t very good, nay, a pile of shite. The 2|Entertain production subtitles turn it into the most wonderful dream of Hell, and is an absolute must for fans wanting to know just what went wrong. It’s also crucial as a way of making it through the entire story without putting a brick through the screen. Just terrific!
Photo Gallery: This was our primary era which for reading Doctor Who Monthly - well nosing through our brother's copy of it, anyway, and there are images presented here which sent a charge of nostalgia through us akin to sticking a finger into a plug-socket. Maybe it was the incredibly photogenic Lalla Ward which prompted a load of these pictures being published, or it might have been that the editor was a fan of dopey aliens with ridiculous teeth, but what ever held the attraction, you’ll also find lot to send you way back when. There are primarily two varieties of pictures: those on the ship and the ones taken in the jungle, with the latter proving that lighting plays a major part in selling a set. Speaking of which, we round out the proceedings with some reference shots of the in-house designs. Set to appropriately spooky sounds, this is pretty damned fun, possibly more than Nightmare of Eden deserves.
PDF Materials: Always a blast, you can recreate the joy of flipping through the Radio Times to see what happens in Doctor Who just like you used to in the era before the internet and a preponderance of spoiler material. It’s not as elaborate as some other listings, but you can’t know any form of genuine nostalgia, can you?
Coming Soon Trailer: Ace! Yep, we all love the juvenile delinquent with a penchant for Nitro-9, and we have here a rather nice look at the forthcoming Ace Adventures Box-Set, comprising Dragonfire and The Happiness Patrol. We thought that this came out the same day as Nightmare of Eden, so had almost finished the review of both Ace stories before embarking upon this one - bugger! Sylv actually contributes interview footage on the Dragonfire documentary, so make sure you don’t miss it, guys and girls.
Nightmare of Eden is a fairly unremarkable story in a pretty mediocre season. Tom Baker isn't as remarkably over-the-top as he is in other stories in season, but you can see that some of his season 18 malaise had begun to set in a little. The story is not without it's charms, but the shadow of production problems fall across Nightmare of Eden and the sense of fun that Baker was known for had started to peter out.
The extras aren't quite as good as they usually are, but it's nice to hear Lalla Ward on an audio commentary where she doesn't bitch about her ex-husband or Doctor Who in general so much - did Mr Hadoke put some vraxoin in her tea before going into the recording booth?
There is a certain nostalgia value surrounding this story - Shada aside, Nightmare of Eden is possibly the last time that you see Baker as The Doctor he was before the malaise seriously set in. The storyline about drug addiction is handled reasonably well and those who have not seen this one may just find that it's not quite as bad it it's reputation suggests...
Review by Wilson Bros
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 2nd April 2012
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Audio Commentary, The Nightmare of Television Centre, Going Solo, The Doctor's Strange Love, Ask Aspel, Production Information Subtitles, Photo Gallery, Coming Soon Trailer, PDF Materials
Easter Egg: No
Director: Alan Bromly
Cast: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, David Daker, David Brierley
Length: 100 minutes
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