We resume my countdown through the classic episodes (painfully aware that now I have bought The Moonbase, The Reign of Terror and The Ice Warriors I may have to re-number everything) with this curious story from Tom Baker’s sixth season as the Doctor. By now, the Baker/Ward love-in is in full swing, and while not the best story in Season 17 by any stretch of the imagination, it is certainly better than The Creature From The Pit and The Horns of Nimon.
I confess that I arrived at this story extremely judgmental. The name sounded rubbish, I had not heard rave reviews from other fans about the story, and I was forewarned by the DVD case insert (cheers BBC …) that the monsters of the piece, the Mandrels, were rather too fluffy to be taken seriously as threats. So I was perhaps not the most enthusiastic when I heard the prim and proper voice on the DVD announce “Doctor Who: The Nightmare of Eden.”
I have to say however – I was pleasantly surprised. Yes one must skate over some of the rough edges, not least the fluffy edge that the Mandrels would be a better fit on the Muppets than in scary sci-fi. But the storyline is actually quite good and engaging despite that. If you lifted this story and put it in any other era (except perhaps the irascible Hartnell) it would stand up quite well. The theme in short is that someone on a doomed space ship is running drugs – and they cunningly conceal them by reconstituting the drugs as the Mandrel creatures. Add into the mix a supposedly dead man hiding in a projector slide, ignore the dubious science, and add a good measure of confusion, backstabbing, and the Baker/Ward/Adams comic insanity, and 4 episodes peel away at an enjoyable gallop.
It’s not vintage by any means, and pales by being in the same season as the stellar City of Death – but The Nightmare of Eden is a serial I am very much looking forward to re-watching!