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Monday, May 21, 2012

Doctor Who dreams a Nightmare of Eden

The BBC has recently released the Doctor Who serial Nightmare of Eden on DVD. Aired at the end of 1979, this four part adventure finds the Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana (Lalla Ward), and K-9 (David Brierley) arriving to help two ships that have collided. The spaceships in question, a cruise vessel and a trader, seem to have little in common. But soon a mystery will emerge that not only connects the pair, but makes the job of separating them quite dangerous!

Nightmare of Eden may be about two ships that have crashed and stuck together, but it's also about a lot more. Most obviously, this serial preaches against the illegal drug trade. Long a problem in human society, dealing in these banned substances can be a profitable game. But the result is to the detriment of the users, whom the dealers pray on, and who spiral out of control. Illegal drugs wreck lives, and not just for the people who use them. As such, Doctor Who feels perfectly justified to go after these villains without making them layered characters.

The drugs in question are very dangerous, and there must be a stash of them somewhere on one of the two ships. The Doctor soon discovers that they are coming from a planet called Eden, which can be accessed through Professor Tryst's (Lewis Fiander) CET protection machine. But where on Eden is this drug coming from? How are the smugglers getting it?

Too bad this investigation can't be finished in peace. There are scary creatures called Mandrels roaming the ships, killing everyone they come across. Where did these creatures come from? What are they doing there?
As one may have guessed, the creatures and the drugs are connected, though I won't spoil the surprise. You'll have to watch to figure it out.

But, suffice it to say, there is another serious moral quandary posed by this connection. These drug people are very bad, indeed.

Some have argued that Nightmare of Eden is a little too in-your-face with its message and moral stance. And maybe it is, though it's sure hard to build a logical argument for the opposing side. But the real shame of this episode is the Mandrels themselves, which just look poorly designed and implemented, even when taking into consideration the time period Nightmare of Eden is made in and sci-fi aspect of the show. There have many a great many creatures featured on Doctor Who, but the Mandrels are one of the most laughable, and not in a good way.

Other than that, though, it's a fine tale, as most Doctor Who stories are. There are enough twists and intricacies to keep viewers engaged, and plenty of threats to build suspense. In all, Nightmare of Eden is worth the buy.

To sweeten the deal, the DVD release includes plenty of extras. The audio commentary, once more moderated by Toby Hadoke, features actors Lalla Ward and Peter Craze, as well as write Bob Baker, makeup designer Joan Stribling, and effects guy Colin Mapson. The expected PDF materials and photo gallery are included, as well.

Nightmare of Eden gets a 13-minute behind-the-scenes treatment. Bob Baker spends seven minutes discussing this story, which is the only Doctor Who adventure he wrote by himself, without his usual writing partner, Dave Martin. "The Doctor's Strange Love" lets fans speak out for fifteen minutes about the series they love so much. Finally, Lalla Ward's guest appearance on Ask Aspel, a children's show, is also on the DVD.

In short, Doctor Who - Nightmare of Eden is worth the purchase. While not ranking at the top of a best stories list, it is an enjoyable excursion. Not to mention, the extras are good. This is a DVD I would recommend buying for anyone who is interested in the classic Who.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for every Doctor Who review I've ever written. Article first published as DVD Review: Doctor Who - Nightmare of Eden on Blogcritics.

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