Doctor Who #520: Nightmare of Eden Part 1

"Interfere? Of course we should interfere. Always do what you're best at, that's what I say. Now, come on."
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Nov.24 1979.

IN THIS ONE... Two ships materialize into each other. One's navigator is high on vraxoin. And there's a scientist who puts ecosystems on crystals.

REVIEW: Bob Baker without Dave Martin? You'll hardly notice. We're in a space opera with completely wonky science... These writers could have written their stories separately after all. On the surface, Nightmare of Eden seems to have a lot in common with Baker's first story, The Invisible Enemy. It starts with pilots in a spaceship cabin. There's a kind of nonsensical shrinking technology (sort of, whole ecosystems are actually turned into magnetic waves and stored on a crystal where they continue to live and evolve - told you the science was insane). And a friendly scientist has some indeterminate German-ish accent. But watch out, there's plenty more. Spaceships materialize into each other by accident creating unstable matter zones from which creatures are apparently able to escape Professor Tryst's miniature zoo. The Empress' navigator, Secker, is blissed out on a drug so powerful, they destroyed the planet it was growing on, though obviously, he's found a new source. And the lost member of Tryst's expedition may be lurking in a miniature Eden, thought dead.

The fact so much stuff is going on is this episode's best virtue. The Doctor and Romana must separate the ships, stop the flow of vraxoin, and discover what's wrong with Tryst's machine. And then the (as yet unnamed) Mandrels arrive... I like that (though I'm sure I'll like it less later, just based on experience, you understand). The model work isn't bad, but the geography's not clear. How can such a small ship cut so many of the Empress' access ways, or interfere with its engines? I like the look of them (and the music that accompanies their flight), but it's just slightly off. It's not the only thing. Romana's drab gray dress makes her melt into the equally gray walls (who's dressing her these days?), the plate K9 has to laser open is obviouslt pre-cut, and there are more dialog fluffs than in any given episode of the Hartnell era.

Still, the regulars have a good energy going. The Doctor loves the idea of accomplishing the impossible and is very disappointed Romana spoils it by saying it's technically possible. He fast-talks his way around the ship's captain when his cover story proves to have a hole in it (psychic paper, baby, it's the only way to go). He mockingly disapproves of Tryst's miniature zoo (shades of the banned mini-scope). And he amusingly shushes K9 after he lies about the number of times the metal dog has beat him at chess. Romana is as smart, if not as entertaining, investigating Tryst's experiments in storing cool throwaway models. Tryst's assistant Della is a good entry point into that world, adequately affecting as the girl who lost a lover in the machine.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium
- Interesting set-up - is it Doctor Who's first real drug story? - though Baker's science is nonsense, as usual. I wouldn't say the episode rises above standard, but it's bright and amusing.

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