30 March 2012

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Bob Baker

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 2nd April 2012

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 30th March 2012

It's a well known fact in science fiction programmes that some stories work better than others. In the case of Classic Doctor Who, there are some that are held up as being deserving of fan worship, whilst others are often looked down upon as being somewhat less than successful. Nightmare Of Eden sadly falls into the latter camp for many people. Derided over the years for it's studio-bound action and it's rather lovable monsters, this release should be a perfect opportunity to redress the balance and defend what's both a fine story and, for a meagrely budgeted television show in 1979, a determined, spirited, damn good try at getting that story on-screen.

In a move that's saddening and infuriating in equal measure, that's not how it's treated. It's derided still further, and talked about so negatively, someone should have thrown the supposedly "special" features into the bin and started again. Please remove all sharp objects from your vicinity and if possible have a great deal of chocolate or tea to try and improve your mood whilst sitting through the extras.

When the commercial starliner Empress rematerialses from warp speed and collides with the Hecate, the passengers and crews of both craft are put in mortal peril. Drug smuggling, unstable projection devices and huge marauding monsters are all in the mix. When the TARDIS materialises in the vicinity, it's up to The Doctor (Tom Baker), with Romana (Lalla Ward) and robot superdog K-9 (voiced here by David Brierly) to save the day. Can The Doctor seperate the ships, stop the smugglers, recapture the menacing Mandrels, and fix the shonky CET machine?

This single disc release from BBC Worldwide has done the usual magic with sound and picture quality so they're both amazing, and has audio navigation and subtitles available. Also included on the release are the Info Text and Radio Times PDF extras and a Photo Gallery of behind the scenes and publicity shots from the serial.

Special Features:

Commentary - Firstly, someone needs to tell Toby Hadoke you do not talk over the episode one titles of a Doctor Who story, you need to let the programme start before you do. In this commentary he is joined by Lalla Ward (Romana), Colin Mapson (visual effects designer) and story writer Bob Baker. It lacks the wit and warmth of many of the commentaries, and although Lalla somewhat defends the show and its budget, it does seem the only person who seems to remember what it's like to actually enjoy Doctor Who is host Hadoke himself.

The Nightmare of Television Centre - A negative, and disparaging piece, starting with severely lacking titles and everyone being filmed against a stark white background. Colin Mapson, the visual effects designer, does nothing but moan about the whole story from start to finish, calling it "a disaster" - apart from his models of course which were apparently the best things ever made. AJ "Mitch" Mitchell, video effects designer, gives a very half hearted defence of some of the technology used and million pound slow-motion video machines belonging to BBC Sport being available for twenty minutes, and Assistant Floor Manager Val McCrimmon tells of stroppy directors getting fired, Tom Baker being loud and mouthy, and Lalla being over picky and playing up. The cast and crew and the sets and monsters are mocked, laughed at, and spoken badly of. Honesty is fine, and of course necessary, but this crosses the line into a complete hatchet job of what's not the worst story in history, even with the hystrionics in the studio, despite what these people would have you believe.

Going Solo - More unimaginative white titles, followed by Bob Baker also being filmed against a white background.  aker will probably be best remembered for his work with two dogs: Gromit, of Wallace and Gromit fame, and as co-creator of K-9, one of the most endearing/irritating (depending on your view!) science fiction robots in TV history. Here, he's talking about his first solo writing task for Doctor Who, his ideas and research for the CET machine. You can tell he's less than enthusiastic about The Mandrels and a certain Germanic accent, but he's got the right attitude about these things ("What can you do?") and Bob easily comes across to the viewer as the best advocate of the story. Hardly surprising considering he wrote it, but at least he's positive and defends it very well indeed.

The Doctor's Strange LoveSimon Guerrier presents this piece from Sarah Jane's attic.  Mister Smith is out and all lit up, and the set looks glorious, which causes a small flutter of love lost in the heart. Joining him in this piece to mock and laugh at Nightmare Of Eden are Josie Long and Joseph Lidster. It starts off quite nicely... but in under two minutes it's poking fun and being generally unpleasant about it all. It's all far too fannish and jokey, and seems like we're watching a group of fans just laughing at things in their own private mocking party. A few funny lines from the pair on the chaise longue lighten it up a little, but mostly it's a case of very few valid points being made, against far too much "look at this, it's rubbish" and "let's laugh at this bit now". By far the most intelligent input in the whole extra comes from Mister Smith himself, who wisely opts to remain silent the whole time. Another negatively slanted mess that could have reinforced the story's many good qualities rather than just poking fun at the show.

Ask Aspel - A 1979 edition of the children's show in which the wonderfully calm and affable Michael Aspel asks viewers' questions to his guest; in this case the second Romana - Lalla Ward. The questions from the youngsters who've written in are entertaining enough in this light and fluffy piece, and there's a rather fabulous clip from The Creature From The Pit. Lalla is honest and open and rambles on at great speed with much laughter and smiling. It also showcases Lalla's artwork for two books from that era, and there's one or two clips of Ms. Ward in other TV appearances, followed by another lengthy Doctor Who clip, this time from The Horns of Nimon. A lovely little piece, and would have benefitted greatly from being put on a disc with much better support from the other extras. A hidden gem.

Coming Soon Trailer - Nitro-9 at the ready, Doctor Who's next box-set is all about the teenage tearway from Perivale! Featuring her introduction into the series in the story Dragonfire and further adventures on Terra Alpha in The Happiness Patrol, the next DVD releases can truly be described as Ace Adventures!

Nightmare of Eden is not a bad story. It's not in the same league as Terror of the Zygons, but it doesn't deserve the unending scorn poured on it in this release. With the exception of Bob Baker there's very little done to defend the tale from any of it's critics, mostly of whom seem to have an axe to grind against the tale. The extras filmed for this disc seem designed to make you take a real dislike to the story, and although we can all agree that it's not exactly at the top of its game, it really deserves a lot better than the sorry back-up features its given here, which are both limited and woeful.

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