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on February 29, 2004
One day, they will make a TV-movie about the October 2003 Staten Island Ferry disaster, and that movie will be atrocious. Right before the ferry is about to crash, some actor, who's already seen "Nightmare of Eden", will utter the line, "Oh no!". That's what actor David Daker did right before his character's starship collided with a space freighter. It is not, on its face, a proud moment, or a good beginning for a story.
"Nightmare" tops several "Worst of" lists in the "Doctor Who" pantheon. Worst costumes, certainly. There's not a single character in this piece who's dressed sensibly. Starting at the top, Romana appears to be dressed in a gray maternity gown. With red trim. Most of the starship crew is dressed in leather: the ship's crewmen are wearing red sleeveless vests with glitter added. And white pancake makeup, to boot. The two federal agents whose comic banter takes over the second half of the story, are dressed like the biker from the Village People. Tryst's team wears white T-shirts under black vests, so the only thing missing, cleary, is the rhinestone studding. Daker's black jumpsuit has spandex sleeves. I won't even get into what the starship passengers are wearing. I fly coach three times a month and they just don't issue that at the departure gate.
The special effects are bad. The opening shot is of a styrofoam spaceship wobbling its way across the stars. There's a lot of experimental computer imaging in this 1979 epic, but explosions happen before the gun blasts which cause them, and after Della is shot in the neck, she famously falls to the floor clutching her midriff.
So why, then, is "Nightmare of Eden" so entertaining? At what point does "bad" become "good"?
Make no mistake, this is deep in the doldrums of Season 17. There's the serious plot masked by the off-the-wall script. Two spaceships collide, one still half in hyperspace. The resulting dimensional instability causes a bunch of ape-like monsters wearing bell-bottoms to kill a dozen extras merely by brushing their elongated arms across the victims' heads. Seriously, what is the message of "Nightmare of Eden"? With the customs agents trampling over everyone's civil rights, and the drugs giving several people a really bad trip (including, presumably, the director who quit and the costume designer), you could package this on the "Starsky & Hutch" DVD and it would seem right at home.
There are moments of great subtlety in the script. Before Vraxoin is slipped into his Kool-Aid, Rigg is unusually competent for a "Doctor Who" starship captain. He blows the Doctor's cover after just one scene, and holds his own on the witty banter front for several scenes after that. Once he gets high, he gets to deliver some wickedly funny lines ("They were only economy class, what's all the fuss about?"). The rest of the comedy is a little too broad (Geoffrey Hinsliff and Peter Craze are awful), and Lewis Fiander's accent remains baffling, but at least Fiander seems to be intentionally overacting, so I can take the joke. I do not understand, however, why he pronounced the word "three" as "ten". Or why customs officer Fisk is introduced as a "Water Guard". There was no water in this story. Again, it wasn't just Captain Rigg who was on the Vraxoin.
Tom Baker is completely off the wall. He's already been much maligned for the "Oh! My fingers! My arms! My legs! My everything! Ohh!" shtick. But he also bites into a phallic green appendage for the second story in a row (remember "The Creature From the Pit"?) and tells us that it "didn't taste at all bad." Lalla Ward remains the picture of confidence and competence. Maybe she was having flashbacks to "Hamlet".
I come away from "Nightmare" with Lewis Fiander saying: "We worked on this idea together, before he died, of course. Then we stopped." If I close my eyes, I am having a great time. And learning to brush my teeth after meals.
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on January 23, 2004
"First a collision, then a dead navigator, and now a monster's roaming about my ship. Well, it's totally inexplicable." So says Rigg, captain of the passenger liner Empress, to the Doctor.
What happened? A freak accident takes place within orbit of planet Azure. The Empress nearly collides with a small ship, the Hecate, while in lightspeed and materializes around the smaller ship so that they have fused together. The nose of the Hecate is sticking into the Empress, blocking the larger ship's access to the power room and passenger deck. The blurred overlap areas, or matter interfaces between the ships, however, are unstable.
Into this situation comes the Doctor, Romana, and K9. The Doctor offers to help separate the ships, something to which both Rigg and Dymond, pilot of the Hecate on a survey contract job, are amenable to. All that has to be done is to recreate the circumstances of the accident: "excite the molecules, full thrust, then full reverse." However, Rigg's navigator Secker, who got them into this accident, is on vraxoin, a highly addictive drug that "induces a warm complacency and total apathy until it wears off that is, and soon you're dead." In fact the Doctor's seen entire planets destroyed by this drug. Secker's then attacked and killed by something clawed. The questions are, who provided Secker with the vraxoin, and what killed Secker? After all, vraxoin can be detected by the Empress's scanning device, and the Empress's route is the milk run from Station 9 to Azure, nowhere else, with no stops inbetween. And who is the mystery man who knocks out the Doctor, then tries to evade him later?
There's also Tryst, a zoologist with a funny accent and really thin trendy rectangular glasses, on a research expedition to preserve rare species on government funding, made difficult by the Galactic recession. With the aid of the CET (Continuous Event Transmuter) machine, he records the flora and fauna of planets on an event crystal that continue to exist in the machine. A simpler way of naming the CET is an electric zoo. However, the lack of a dimensional osmosis damper in the CET means that with the freak accident, the unstable overlap zones affects the dimensional matrix of the machine, meaning things can go in and out of the machine.
Things heat up when two trigger-happy and bureaucratic Azure excise men, Fisk and Costa, try to arrest the Doctor and Romana as the vraxoin smugglers, and someone slips some vraxoin in Rigg's drink.
The cliffhanger to Episode 1 is effective, as a shaggy monster with glowing green appears from a wall panel K-9 has lasered away. And some interesting special effects are used when the Doctor enters the unstable matter interfaces. However, two goofs are apparent. When Della, Tryst's colleague, is shot in the head, she clutches her stomach. Also, Fisk calls Tryst "Fisk" in Episode 4.
Two funny lines from Tom Baker. When the Doctor's cover as an insurance agent is blown, he says, "I wonder why I hadn't been paid." "That's not good enough," says Rigg. "That's what I said." responds the Doctor. Also, he playfully says that Tryst helps conserve species in the same way a jam-maker conserves raspberries.
If one adds a shaggy beard to David Daker (Rigg), one will recognize him as the warlord Irongron from the Who story The Time Warrior. His transformation from an upright responsible captain to a complacent, laughing, apathetic man addicted to vraxoin is good. When someone points out to passengers being killed, the vraxoin-addicted captain says "They're only economy class, what's the fuss?"
The issue of drug addiction is key here, but are the dealers justified in saying of the buyers, "they had a choice"? If it's something dangerously addictive that totally incapacitates a person, as in vraxoin, well, no, but what about something less or not addictive, like marijuana?
Apart from the flaws in Episode 4, Nightmare Of Eden is watcheable, with laudable special effects, but nothing too special.
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on May 14, 2002
There are two Tom Baker eras - one is very dark, sophisticated and Gothic, the other is mostly rather tacky, childish and spoof-like. Unfortunately 'Nightmare of Eden' falls into the latter category. The idea behind it is sound enough, with interesting concepts such as two spaceships emerging from light-speed at the same point in space, as well as the grown-up theme of drug-smuggling. The problem lies in the story's execution. For a start, the central villain is just too comical to take seriously. Then there are the cartoon-like scenes in which the Doctor leads the Mandrels away, and later emerges from a mauling with his clothes in tatters but not a scratch on him. In fact the whole thing feels too much like a live cartoon. If you want a Dr Who story from the campier Tom Baker seasons you'd be better off with the far superior 'Sun Makers' or 'City of Death'.
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This Dr Who has about the funniest monsters you'll ever see, sort of giant teddy bears! The story is interesting, about an electric zoo that was supposed to be only a display but ended up holding the real animals! Needless to say, some escape and mayhem ensues! There are a few plot twists I won't spoil for you, and lots of interesting things going on, including a unique way to smuggle drugs. I recommend this story as one of the better ones.
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on April 13, 2015
It's definitely anti-marijuana propoganda, but at least it didn't drag-on as long as that one season of Torchwood (though both this and Torchwood ere really good).
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on July 7, 2012
Doctor Who: Nightmare of Eden

The first time I chanced on DOCTOR WHO, I couldn't believe how hokey it was.

The Doctor is an intergalactic time traveller who drops in on various planets to save it from archfiends. Usually the Earth because we always need saving --- mostly in England --- mostly near London. He is accompanied by a pretty screamer always, and sometimes by an adventuresome man or two.

The satire happened to be aired in a slot when I couldn't catch sleep, so I kept it on the telly, hoping that WHO might deliver my quarry. Until Lala Ward came in as the Screaming Maiden. I fell in love with her. So did Tom Baker, who played the Doctor. Their chemistry was palpable; they married during their stint. Campier than a Scout Jamboree, the cliches grow on you. The underfinanced production crew is in love with their silly work, and it shows. The interminable series holds a large following around the world, over 30 years, spawning movies and books. M.A.S.H., CHEERS, and DALLAS should be so durable.

The Curse of Eden is a morality tale about recreational drugs. Preaching is sudden death to most stories; remember those perils-of-sex instruction films, all you ex-draftees? This episode might be tolerated by hard-core addicts in love with the nunnish Mrs. Baker. Newcomers to the DOCTOR WHO camp should begin with the perennial threats to civilization as we know it, the Daleks, robots who destroy everything they see. Whimsical Tom Baker is the best loved of the many Doctors, but saturnine John Pertwee is the definitive character. Catch that hyperspacial theme music.
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