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Thursday, 14 December 2006 - Reviewed by Robert Tymec

Of all the stories of the notorious Season 17, this is the one I tend to re-watch the most. 

That's right, I even like it better than "City Of Death" (or, at least, seem to if you judge things by my viewing habits alone!). "City of Death" is great, don't get me wrong. But "Nightmare of Eden" is just a lot more fun. 

Okay, bad stuff out of the way right off the bat: Yes, I see all the same problems as everyone else does. Tryst's accent is simply awful and really does ruin what could have been a really great character. The "goofy mad scientist" personae has been used over and over in the series. Sometimes to its advantage (Proffessor Kettlewell in "Robot") and sometimes to its detriment (Proffessor Zaroff in "Underwater Menace"). So it's always a crapshoot for the production team to try to figure out how campy the character should get. Here, they made a bad call. 

Yes, I also see that the whole story looks massively cheap. But,well, which story from the classic series doesn't look cheap? Particularly as we move closer and closer to the end of the season. They're always running out of money with the later stories and this is just to be expected. As a fan, I learnt to understand these things and look past the budget problems. It's for this same reason that the "tinsel time corridor" in "Timelash" never bothered me much either! 

Finally, there's the comedy element. Didn't really irratate me, to be honest. In fact, most of Tom Baker's more OTT stuff never really grated on me. Most of the time, I enjoy it, actually. So many stories that would have really fallen flat, I felt, were enhanced by his re-writes and adlibs. To me, it seems as though he recognised when a script needed a little "extra push" of humour and would add it in to spice up some of the more dull scenes. Bearing all this in mind, this actually means that the much-maligned "Oh my arms! My legs! My everything!" moment was something I actually enjoyed! 

So, there you have it, most of the popular objections to this story don't really bother me. Which means that all the really good stuff about this story shines through all the more brilliantly. 

Firstly, we have a gorgeously tight plot. Possibly one of the tightest the show has ever had. Everything moves at a very nice pace with characters and situations weaving in and out of each other at all the right moments. It really is, in my opinion, a very excellently-plotted script. And this aspect alone of the script makes for some great watching.

Add to it, though, some very fun ideas. Many of which the show hasn't actually come up with before (which is something of a rarity by this point in the series). Yes, true enough, the CET machine is a re-hash of the mini-scope. But we've never really done a Doctor Who "drug smuggling storyline" before. And the whole concept of two ships that have collided but not actually blown each other up makes for some really imaginative storytelling. The sequences where they wander through the unstable zones are very fun and some of them even look quite visually impressive. Most memorable was the moment where Doctor falls to the ground and finds himself at the feet of a Mandrell. Very nice and stylised. 

Aside from Tryst, our supporting cast actually looks pretty good, for the most part. The two police officers from Azure are just there to poke fun at bureaucracy, as far as I'm concerned and they play the roles with the proper level of preposterousness (is that a word?!). The captain of the ship (didn't even recognise him as Irongron until another reviewer mentioned it) is, of course, the strongest of all the supporting cast and turns in some great performances both before and after he's high. Coupled with the performance is, of course, some great dialogue. Not just the "They're only economny class" but I love his whole little speech about "ships eating each other" too. 

The rest of the cast, although coming perilously close to "wooden" in some places, still turn in fairly strong performances. They're, essentially, the "straight men" to all the comedy so they're really just doing what they should be. Which means that, although we have some silly moments in this story, we also have some moments where it's taking itself quite seriously. And the drama is there in equal measures if you're willing to look for it. Which is more than can be said for some of the other stories of this season. 

So, final verdict. I find myself agreeing greatly with some of the other reviewers on this page. "Nightmare Of Eden" is a very underrated story. A plot so tight you can bounce quarters off of it and some really fun and original ideas at work. So what if the set wobbles a bit and the passengers are all wearing overalls and glasses?! If this kind of silliness affects your ability to enjoy the show, then why, in God's name, are you watching Doctor Who? Flip over to Star Trek - their mundane storylines have great sets and costumes!

FILTER: - Television - Series 17 - Fourth Doctor