Saturday, 14 September 2013

Nightmare of Eden

David Daker and Lewis Fiander.
If you thought the camp silliness was going to end there, you are going to be very sadly mistaken! However, ‘Nightmare of Eden’ is a highly enjoyable tale despite various issues with the story and again the monsters, the Mandrels, created by the costume department. I guess I’ll start with them because really the design doesn’t initially seem that bad, but on closer inspection they do look like large Muppet costumes. Cuddly? I don’t know about that, but the biggest issue is not the costume but the way they are shot.
The script does call for them to be used rather a lot, which compounds the problem, but if you see them in the darkness, with the big green haunting eyes then they are fine. But naturally they are seen a lot in the corridors of the cruise (space) ship where the story occurs, and  those corridors have very bright lighting. These men in suits with giant heads lumber slowly through the ship in episode four with the security guards firing uselessly at them.
Trist shows Romana the CET machine.
The story continues along the lines of ‘The Creature from the Pit’ with camp overacting, specifically in the form of the character Trist, played by Australian actor Lewis Fiander. To be honest, I rather enjoyed the performance, it’s really funny and there are some ridiculous lines. “I worked together with Professor Stein for many year, but then he died. So we stopped.’ I mean he deserves a BAFTA for being able to deliver such a line! The cast also features the return of David Daker, who played Irongron in ‘The Time Warrior’. This time he features as ‘Captain Rigg’, the Captain of the cruise ship materialised half inside another ship.
Here comes a Mandrel
The character ends up on Vraxoin, the deadly drug at the centre of the plot. He does a pretty good job of acting ‘high’. The plot actually has several very interesting threads, and was written by Bob Baker on his own, as the writing pairing with Dave Martin was by this point at an end. In fact this is the best script he’d co-wrote or wrote since ‘The Hand of Fear’, much more lively and interesting than ‘The Armageddon Factor’, and properly developed unlike ‘Underworld’. The clear message that’s being sold in ‘Nightmare on Eden’ is ‘Drugs are bad, MMmkay?’, but let’s not forget that this was a show geared towards children. Graham Williams was naturally worried about the subject matter, and would have had to keep the powers that be at the BBC happy no doubt.
But Bob Baker also gives us the idea of two ships locked together in a strange mid-space accident, and the CET machine. A little like the Scope in ‘Carnival of Monsters’, the CET stores images ripped from planets’ surfaces on crystals and plays them back on a big screen. Well, they are live pictures to be accurate. But the machine has become unstable because of the accident, and the people are able to walk into the images. It’s a great idea, very clever.
The Doctor survives the nightmare of Eden - JUST!

The more I review this one, the more I like it! However one plot point I thought was a bit… stupid was the Mandrels. They get electrocuted and turn into a powder, which is the Vraxoin, this deadly drug. (which is bad, ok?) It’s just not… believable in the slightest I would say. Then we have Jennifer Lonsdale playing Della, one of the poorest underacted-performances in Doctor Who ever. Give me over acting every day. I think it’s episode four where she gets shot. Also the special effects mistake, she grabs her stomach but gets shot nowhere near it. Then the fall to the floor is very poor. In fact, the last 3 seasons have been full of people dying badly. That needs to be taught!
It’s interesting that this story apparently was a NIGHTMARE to make. Apparently Alan Bromley, the director, was very old school. He was in charge of ‘The Time Warrior’ I think, which may be how David Daker got cast. I must admit, the direction is not as snappy as it could have been. The visuals are done on video tape, where they almost always are done on film. Some work really well, others don’t. The costumes are good except for the guards. All the passengers where sunglasses and parkers with the hoods pulled over, which is rather funny.
Look, it’s not a brilliant Doctor Who story for various reasons. It could have been taken more seriously, and it could have been directed with a lot more panache. Apparently Bromley and Tom Baker really locked horns. But Tom Baker gives a pretty good performance save one scene where he pushes it a bit far. He’s being pursued into the jungles of Eden (in the CET machine) by Mandrels. He disappears whilst being attacked and we here ‘my arms, my legs, my everything!’ I doubt that was in the script. The Mandrels were Muppets to, but with better direction I think would have been a lot more menacing. Still, I really enjoyed this one.


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