A complaint that’s leveled at many old school Doctor Who stories is that they look cheap. With some it’s that time has passed and effects now are better than they were back then. Unfortunately in some cases such as this week’s offering Nightmare of Eden, it looks cheap now, and it always has. This story is one from the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker; you know the one, long scarf, big teeth and curls, with his Time Lady companion Romana and the robot dog K-9. The question is, can they and the plot save this story which is generally not looked upon kindly by fans?
First, good things. Tom Baker is brilliant and is clearly having a good time. Lalla Ward as Romana is also great and she and Tom Baker have great chemistry together. And K-9 is always quite fun, although this is a story from the period when the writers had got a bit fed up of him, so he doesn’t get too much to do. All in all the main leads are having a fun time and giving us an entertaining performance to watch. The plot, well the plot is pretty inventive and gives a new spin on some old concepts. To sum it up, a star liner and another spaceship have a collision in space, and the Doctor must separate the ships. On the liner, there is a machine that contains small portions of land from different planet, but is unstable; it’s like an electric zoo. There are wild alien beasts roaming the ship. And to top it all off someone is smuggling drugs. The show doesn’t normally deal with issues like drugs and while it doesn’t delve into any detail, it’s an interesting idea, the Doctor against drug smugglers. The zoo is an idea from a much earlier episode, but here it’s used as part of the plot, instead of the entire plot and so we can look over the reuse of the idea, because it’s such a creative one. The ship materializing inside another is a clever sci-fi idea and draws the viewer in as the first big event before the other mysteries develop. And the wild aliens interests because that’s strangely not something you see a lot in Who, they’re normally intelligent. Basically what my point is that there are a lot of interesting ideas here, some cleverly adding to old and some new for the show entirely and script wise these are handled very well.
Now on to the problems with the story. The supporting cast is more mixed in quality. The captain is good. The pilot of the other ship is good. And everyone else is, kind of bland. None of them seem to have much personality. Except a mad scientist, who would be good, except he has a rather distracting German accent. There are some space police introduced at the end of episode two, and they are very generic and don’t add anything to the story. The plot has a couple of problems nearing the end as certain ideas are left at the wayside and the monsters are not very well used. There is a really stupid scene in episode 4, which if you watch this, you’ll know when you get to it. And of course there are the problems I mentioned at the start. This below is a picture of one of the monsters.
It doesn’t look scary. It look like it might be if money was spent, but at the moment, no. Also the whole story is recorded in the studio and the sets are not very impressive. I personally like some of the design, but that doesn’t stop it from looking very cheap. And this really brings the story down which is a shame.
Overall, this could have been a really good story; it has lots of good ideas, a good script and is a lot of fun. But it’s brought down by cheap sets and bland guest actors. This doesn’t ruin it, and I’d still give it a positive recommendation, but it’s a shame, because this could have been one of the best, but the BBC just never really gave it a chance. However, it’s a fun story and you should still check it out.