Review: Doctor Who - Nightmare of Eden (PG) / Director: Alan Bromly / Screenplay: Bob Baker / Starring: Tom Baker, LallaWard, Lewis Fiander / Release Date: April 2nd
With the twinkling of a corporate jingle the 2 Entertain intro finally passes into history with the last release under the much loved banner before it ends up under the care of BBC Worldwide. Credits roll and before us is a story with some big ideas and some shoddy production values. This may seem a harsh statement to open with, but the sight of the Mandrils – monster of the week - stumbling down the brightest corridors ever seen on television was the first conscious memory I have of Doctor Who not being quite as good as I thought it should be. Even as a child I was unable to suspend my disbelief at these Honey Monster wannabes.
The basic plot revolves around two spacecraft that have become fused together while leaving hyperspace at the same time. The subsequent dimensional instabilities threaten everyone aboard when the Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana (Lalla Ward) and K-9 arrive to lend a hand. As well as dealing with the accident a crewmember is found clawed to death, it seems there’s something even more frightening stalking the corridors. Add to this a zoologist with the oddest accent ever heard in classic Who and his amazing, performing 3D slide show (think Avatar without a budget) and you have the tale in a nut shell.
As with so many Doctor Who stories, this has things to say: ‘Drugs are bad’ ‘Insurance companies don’t like to pay out’ and ‘Look closely at other people’s holiday photos’. The usual messages, which are largely laudable, however the plodding nature of the story just doesn’t quite deliver. Both Tom and Lalla are very good, but you are left with the feeling that there is a reason that this is the last fourth Doctor DVD to be released, as we now have a full set of mad uncle Tom’s greatest hours. Ignore the Mandrels, see it with fresh eyes so that you can hold on to your arms, your legs and your everything and give this story another chance.
Why? Because it actually has some wonderful moments, it is surprisingly mature; it’s clever and has some fabulous acting.
Given the emotional baggage that Tom Baker must have about his time with actor Lalla Ward it is hardly surprising that it is Mz Ward and not Tom who presides over this commentary. She is joined by Peter Craze (Costa), writer Bob Baker, effects designer Colin Mapson and make-up designer Joan Stribling all moderated by the increasingly present Toby Hadoke.
The first documentary is the traditional ‘Making of’ called The Nightmare of Television Centre, a look back at the reasonably troubled production with three of the crew who worked on this story. A short piece Going Solo with the writer Bob Baker talking about his work on The Nightmare of Eden without his usual writing partner.
The third documentary is the rather likable The Doctor’s Strange Love: Nightmare of Eden with comedian Josie Long and writers Joe Lidster and Simon Guerrier. Taking a reasonably humorous look at the story and its themes. There is also a short excerpt from Ask Aspel featuring Lalla Ward’s appearance on the children’s talk show. Other extras are the usual Radio Times listings, subtitles, photo gallery and the gloriously useful production Information Subtitles. All topped off with a coming soon trailer which manages to make Death to the Daleks look both gripping and impressive.