“I like doing the impossible.”
Social issues have not been immune to Doctor Who, you just have to set them on a space liner and have some monsters involved. Drug addiction and smuggling are given the Who twist thanks to the writer having done research on the subject for another show. The results are given more oomph thanks to Tom Baker.
The Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) arrive on the space liner Empress, captained by Rigg (David Daker), which has become locked together with a private ship, the Hecate piloted by Dymond (Geoffrey Bateman), after colliding with it on emerging from hyperspace.
They meet the zoologist Tryst (Lewis Fiander), who has with him a Continuous Event Transmuter (CET) machine containing crystals on which are stored supposed recordings of planets that he and his team have visited. Someone aboard the Empress is smuggling the dangerously addictive drug Vraxoin, and will stop at nothing to make sure that the shipment gets through.
Just say no. Nightmare of Eden details the perils of drugs but has a tendency to become preachy on it. Baker has to deliver a speech about its evils at least once per episode, maybe to make sure the tots get it when it originally aired episodically but when you watch it in one lump it gets repetitive. Writer Bob Baker usually partnered with Dave Martin, but would go solo this time around and used his research for a police drama on drug running to populate this sci-fi take.
It also features some tech that seems very much like one used in Carnival of Monsters, don’t know if they’re related in the Who universe. You may also notice K-9 sounding a bit different as David Brierley does the voicing duties (for three episodes) before John Leeson returned to the mike. Baker is a delight and Ward is a voice-of-reason to his Doctor. A fact that the Doctor is annoyed at since he wants to seem a powerful miracle worker and she always reminds him that he’s using science.
The good certainly outweighs the bad. Tryst talks with a euro-trash mad scientist accent and sports some 1960s specs and the creatures are not well realized. Their supposedly menacing claws just flail about. The video effects were done differently and quicker and make them look even more obvious than usual.
Nightmare of Eden is presented in fullscreen. Special features include a commentary by Ward, Craze, writer Bob Baker, effects designer Colin Mapson, and makeup designer Joan Stribling, a pop-up trivia track, the 13 minute “The Nightmare of Television Centre” making of, the 7 minute “Going Solo” interview with the writer, the 15 minute “The Doctor’s Strange Love” with comedian Josie Long and writers Joe Lidster and Simon Guerrier taking a humorous look at the episode, the 11 minute “Ask Aspel” with Ward appearing on a vintage telly show, a photo gallery, and the Radio Times Listing on DVD-ROM.
Tom Baker is a wonder as the Doctor and Romana is always bringing him down to earth (or whatever planet they’re on) and their back and forth elevates a preachy anti-drug storyline. Despite the flaws, Nightmare of Eden never really feels like a nightmare and is a decent adventure.
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