Sunday, December 30, 2012

Nightmare of Eden: "Oh ... my arms ... my legs ... my everything!"

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Nightmare of Eden - Index

Season 17, Story 4 (Complete Series Story #107) | Previous - Next | Index

Visiting with a friend recently, watching some classic Who, I was struck by how much my memories had gotten mashed around, especially of shows I hadn't seen in a while (some, perhaps, since they first aired on PBS decades ago). As much to make these viewings fixed points in time, less subject to the vagaries of memory, as to make recommendations to watch, buy, or skip I'm going to make a more concerted effort to write up my reviews/reactions to the ones I watch going forward as soon as possible after viewing. I'm starting this effort too late for the last several viewings, not the least of which is The Snowmen ... I'll catch up on to that one soon enough ... but I'll circle back around until they've all got a write up. The page for each story's review will be kept in chronological order here.

Nightmare is emblematic of the Fourth Doctor's long run in total: brilliant in spots, tedious for stretches, but carried always by Tom Baker's charm, as abundant and ever-present as his distinctive curls and toothy smile. Watching this one, I was struck by how there's a reason we don't really wax nostalgic, as you would think we might, for the script stewardship of Douglas Adams. Adams will be fondly remembered for as one of our most witty, humanist, even philosophic authors, but I don't think we put his time working on Doctor Who at the top of his CV. Certainly his influence shows, and where it does it's for the better, but too many missteps one wishes an editor would have corrected plague this script, and many of the others of his era.

Tom Baker and David Daker via The Digital Fix
Daker (right) as Capt. Rigg.  Post-Irongron.
(And never was Geoffrey Palmer.)
My touchstone for remembering this story will be OMG DRUGS ARE BAD AND IF YOU EVEN DO ONE DRUG IT WILL DESTROY YOUR WORLD. Now, I don't mind thinly-veiled allegories and the outright use of contemporary issues in a futuristic sci-fi story when it's done right -- I'm thinking of the best episodes of BSG just a few years back -- but when it's just the relentless pounding of schoolmarmish values via straw men, I'm left cold. As the captain* of the cruise ship (see the synopsis in the linked episode guide for background) descends into drug-fueled, manic psychosis, the episode became almost intolerably tone deaf.

Lalla Ward's Romana is one of the under-rated companions, and she's quite good in this one, despite some horrendous wardrobe choices. K-9 is (disappointingly) voice-acted by someone other than John Leeson in this one and that takes all the fun out of it.

In this one, the "monsters" are not the villains, so we've got the somewhat comical disco-legged, clam shell-faced Mandrels shambling around with their arms up, unfrighteningly (and mostly off-screen, mercifully) killing some of the crew and the economy-class passengers simply because they escaped from an ill-conceived zoo of sorts, where they were being transported to be converted into big, bad drug the story is so concerned with. I may have gotten a little sleepy and dozed briefly because I don't remember how they were the drug -- if it was their blood or venom or urine or some such thing. Whatever. Anyways, it's (spoiler alert) ... Tryst, who is our main villain and he's entertaining enough if only for his funky sunglasses and his over-the-top accent.

Mandrel attacks! via Blogtor Who
Mandrel attack!
This isn't an episode you'd want to use to introduce someone to the classic series with; but, it has enough of Tom Baker's wit and charm, a few comedic touches that work, and some camp value, enough to make it worth revisiting if you're a long-time fan, or if you've already seen the best of Tom Baker and now are looking to expand into the more dubious stories just for something different.


* The whole episode I found myself reminded of Lionel from As Time Goes By, and meant to check whether the actor, David Daker, was a relative of Geoffrey Palmer. I learned later Mr. Daker had another Doctor Who credit (Irongron, a much better role, in The Time Warrior -- another recent watch I'll be writing up soon) and several appearances in shows with Mr. Palmer, but I see no indication they are related. I'll go out on a limb and guess by their accents that they are, if not from the same city or town, came about their accents (same to my ear) either by living in the same area for some time, or both "do" whatever that accent is ... West Midlands? They look so similar though, they've got to be distant cousins of some kind.  


2 comments:

  1. Douglas Adams?!

    I've never seen the older episodes. I've just started watching the more recent three series on BBC America.

    With the newer ones, though, I notice I don't much care for the episodes where I recognize the name of the writer from elsewhere. Neil Gaiman leaps out as an example...

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    Replies
    1. Yes, indeed, the Douglas Adams.

      I'm not a fan of Gaiman, though I did read and enjoy the Sandman comics back in the day. I didn't think his episode was terrible, just nothing special. I think his next one coming up has the Cybermen, so I'm at least curious and mildly hopeful it'll deliver.

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