Monday, 24 December 2012

Review: Doctor Who Classic: Nightmare of Eden

Warning: Do Not Expose To Electricity
Doctor Who - Season 17, Story Four - Nightmare of Eden
Written 2/10/12
"And, uh, as for drugs, well, drugs are bad. You shouldn't do drugs." South Park

I'm not the type to want to do drugs, but I certainly don't intend to stop others using them in a healthy and controlled manner. I don't mind you smoking pot if you smoke it out of my vicinity and you control it to the extent that you're not some drug-addled stoner sitting in cat urine on the streets waiting for your next hit. However, I wasn't too bothered by this very rare occasion in Doctor Who - one that tries to get across a message for the viewing public, in this case that kids, don't do drugs - Drugs are bad. This message very quickly becomes the story's focus and everything else gets a bit messy, but ultimately it's an enjoyable enough bash around and you get some anvils for the kids as a bonus.
     The Doctor and Romana end up on a passenger spacecraft that's collided with a vessel on its way back from a planet filled with rare life called Eden. The leader of a zoological expedition, Tryst, is very keen to share The Doctor's expertise, but in the process the Doc discovers traces of a rare and devastatingly powerful drug known as Vraxoin that has wiped out entire populations. The animals from the study are being kept in a box called a CET that manages to project another dimension within which a chunk of the planet has been dropped. As the hunt for the drug smugglers goes on, the two Time Lords must evade capture as they discover why Tryst is so interested in keeping the monsterous creatures known as the Mandrels alive and well.
     When I watched Nightmare I often found myself drifiting away. It wasn't so much of a boredom but more of a feeling of quiet apathy at how "ok" everything was. The character of Tryst was comfortably well-characterised, the other characters suitably hammy and high-handed. Despite this story's reputation, the story never mentions the effects of more mainstream drugs in our society but instead shows us the effects of Vraxoin - which appear to be a sort of gas-and-air sensation but with negative consequences at the end. From a scientific standpoint it's just a bit weird; the drug can either be synthesised from the extract of a certain type of fungus or it can be left behind by electrocuting Mandrels.
Cos I go' high, cos I go' high, cos I go' high...
     What I've ultimately come away with from Nightmare of Eden is a weird sense that I've just watched something incredibly powerful and intelligent that's littered with Doctor Who's standard chase scenes and humour. There's so much good in here, but there are little niggles that hold it back in certain points. At its heart, Nightmare of Eden is a very good story with a very good idea of what it's doing, and that's characterised by a straightforward, adult aesop surrounded by normal Who fluff. It's just that, well, it's not that obvious.


P.S. Happy Christmas Eve.

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