Nightmare of Eden

Region 1

Region 2
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 107, starring Tom Baker)
  • written by Bob Baker
  • directed by Alan Bromly
  • produced by Graham Williams
  • music by Dudley Simpson
  • 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: When a cruise liner and a cargo ship emerge from hyperspace in the same place and fuse together above the planet Azure, the Doctor answers their distress call and finds himself untangling more than he bargained for. Will Zoologist Tryst's habitat miniaturization machine keep all his specimens contained? Are there Vraxoin drug smugglers at work aboard the cruise liner? And who or what is the mysterious figure in the shadows of the Eden projection?

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by writer Bob Baker, actors Lalla Ward (Romana) and Peter Craze (Costa), effects designer Colin Mapson, and
    make-up supervisor Joan Stribling. Moderated by Toby Hadoke.
  • "Going Solo" interview of writer Bob Baker (8 min).
  • Television Centre production featurette (13 min.), with Colin Mapson, video & laser effects designer A.J. "Mitch" Mitchell, and
    assistant floor manager Val McCrimmon.
  • "Ask Aspel" interview of Lalla Ward (1980, 11 min.)
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery (6 min.)
  • "The Doctor's Strange Love" fan appreciation featurette (16 min.)

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

No matter how great any television production may be, it is the writing that determines the story content, without which the other elements become mere empty calories and window dressing. And it is mostly due to excellently rich writing why "Nightmare of Eden" blows away all other contenders for my favourite season seventeen story. The narrow view of time travel and the Doctor's doomsaying impotence in "City of Death" (story no. 105) drop that particular story into an honourable second place.

On the level of social themes, Bob Baker's strong script for "Nightmare of Eden" explores the problems and dangers of drug addiction, the how and why of trafficking, and the authorities' red-tape inadequacy to deal with the problem. David Daker's portrayal of Rigg in particular is one of the most dramatic elements of the entire season. The script is full of plot twists and fantastical science fiction ideas, and the pace never lets up for a moment. The characters are very well motivated as written, thus even those portrayed with a mediocre acting performance still seem real. The Doctor is kept quite busy investigating and solving problems all throughout the story, and he comes up with some very creative solutions in the end. As in his previous scripts with Dave Martin, Bob Baker gets the Doctor's character perfect, filling his screen time with everything that I want to see him do, and nothing that I don't.

Production isn't perfect, but remains satisfying. The season continues to boast a large quantity and quality of model work and electronic effects, much to my personal satisfaction. Particularly in the last episode, the model work contributes greatly to the atmosphere as some of the final secrets of the story are discovered. A lot of the studio footage is not composed in a fashion to make it easy to add visual laser beams, but A.J. Mitchell devises a nice combination of line-of-fire beam and impact flashes, and moves things around as required to keep it as decent as possible.

Humour seems to have top priority, even over dramatic realism, but then what season seventeen story doesn't display this tendency at times? Unfortunately, Romana's costume for this story is a true eyesore, and many of the extras aren't able to manage a remotely convincing performance, particularly during the closing action. At another point, one early character, meant to be a crewmember, seems to make a better television reporter instead, more excited by his "exclusive" on the accident than worried about the threat to himself and his ship, or what he should be doing about it.

Indeed, the opening warp-smash does not have the impact it deserves, despite the technical brilliance and complexity of the eye-candy model shots and phasing effects, largely because of sound and the composition of the sequence itself. We need to see the ships shaking and grinding into position, and hear a cacophony of devastating sound effects, but unfortunately all we get is a tired, whiney piece of music that can't possibly do the sequence justice all on its own. The rest of Dudley Simpson's score is far better, effectively backing many of the detective-work scenes with the same style of piano dramatics as he had done with similar scenes in "City of Death". Dick Mills also later comes up with some very creative, creepy sound loops for areas of the ship that are not stable, allowing the story to gain atmosphere where it is needed most.

The performances from the major characters are well done. Della and Stott are solid, while Secker successfully achieves a necessary range in a short period of time. Captains Rigg and Dymond are exceptional, and, I think, comparable to any of the great performances of the Hinchcliffe era.

Tryst and Fisk are much more satirical characters that may not sit as well with those without a sense of humour. I find them highly enjoyable, and they remain interesting on repeat viewing.

The Mandrells... were they meant to be scary? Perhaps the writer, director, and all the actors playing Mandrells thought they should be, and didn't quite achieve as spectacular a job of that as they'd hoped. Personally, I don't think the story needs frightening monsters to be effective, thanks to so much other interesting stuff going on. There's more to be said on this subject, but I'll leave that and all the potential spoilers that go with it for the in-depth analysis version of this review.

If you're a fan of the horror/fearful elements of Doctor Who, "Nightmare of Eden" and its Mandrells may probably disappoint you. However, if you like a good science-fiction mystery, with social commentary and satire thrown in, and a good dose of colourful eye-candy on top, check out "Nightmare of Eden". It is one of the less-hyped classic gems of Doctor Who.

This story has become available on DVD and VHS video:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
VHS Video
NTSC A in the U.S.
NTSC B for the U.S. & Canada
NTSC in Canada
PAL for the U.K.

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "The Horns of Nimon"

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