5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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NIGHTMARE OF EDEN
"Interfere? Of course we should interfere!"
We hate this.
First of all, Nightmare Of Eden's just plain dull. The beginning's promising, with the two ships stuck together and some fun stuff from the Doctor posing as an insurance assessor. But after that, it degenerates into a tedious runaround, with lots of backwardsing and forwardsing but very little actually happening. After about the sixth time they yap about how they're just about to separate the ships we were yelling "Just get on with it!" (Actual statement censored to protect the delicate.)
Then there's the awful, awful monster quotient. The Mandrells are way up there on the Most Embarrassing Monsters list, and this isn't helped by the way they deal with them when they first see them (oh dear, seal up the bulkhead, that's that one solved then) or by Tom giving them a nice big hug at the end.
Characterisation, apart from Tryst, is pretty colourless. And while there are some nice lines, probably ad-libbed by Tom, there's also cringeworthy "comedy" like the "My everything!" speech, not to mention the desperately dreadful scenes on Eden where Tom's getting down and dental with the local plant life. Excruciating.
As for Nightmare Of Eden's central premise about the CET machine, we've seen it all before, guys! They might put the animals on a chip instead of shrinking them, but it's exactly the same concept as in Carnival of Monsters. And at least in Carnival they obeyed the rules they'd set for themselves, going through some sort of unzipping procedure to get things to full size when they came out of the machine. Here, humans and Mandrells go from a digital format to flesh and blood just by stepping through the frame, and the only explanation that we're given is that the machine is "unstable". Feh.
But worse than all of that is the wrong-headed sententious moralising on drugs. We've rarely been so out of sympathy with the theme of a story. We're with Tryst on this one: provided we're adults, we have a choice. If we want to do something that's fun but not very good for us, why shouldn't we? It's not like it doesn't happen everywhere else in life. Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in Western society, and exercise and attention to diet are preventative factors. Yet here we are, scoffing chocolate and lolling on the sofa watching Who videos. And the only difference that we can see between buying a fix of Cadbury's instead of cocaine is that with the Cadbury's the money doesn't go tax-free into the hands of criminals. (And given the involvement of the slave trade in cocoa production, even that's debatable.) Oh yeah, and nobody's cold-shouldering the sweetshop. Just because some substances are arbitrarily labeled illegal, we're supposed to see the people who sell them as evil. Forget it. Even the Doctor recognises this: his "just go away" scene might be famous, but let's not forget that he also concedes: "In one way, Tryst was right: humans do have some kind of choice".
That's not to say we're entirely on Tryst's side, of course. Exploiting another species is Just Plain Wrong. But spare us the drugs lectures.
Simplistic moralising, recycled concepts, endless corridors and Romana in the most hideous dress we've ever seen. Nothing the Fourth Doctor's in is ever a complete waste of time, but frankly, there's not much to like.
MORAL: Drugs are bad, mmmkay?
THAT'S A WRAP
Budget pressures meant stuff slipped through in this one that really should have been reshot. Fisk memorably calls Tryst "Fisk" and various people stumble over their lines, including the Doctor struggling with "recreate" in an early scene.
It looks like Lalla's picked up Tom's "phffff" noise, because she does it twice in this story.
LET'S CALL THE WHOLE THING OFF
When K9 goes to cut out the wall that will reveal the Mandrell, you can see the outline of the pre-cut oval before he starts. And when the Doctor puts the panel back into place for K9 to seal it, a hand is visible at the bottom right.
Didn't the Captain say that the ship was at .7G? Precious little sign of it.
AND BESIDES, HOW ELSE WOULD WE KNOW HE WAS EVIL?
We may be the only ones on the planet to do so, but we love Tryst's accent. It's at least diverting, and in this story that's a definite plus.
THIS IS A JOB FOR THE TIME LAUNDRY
The Doctor demonstrates the mysterious Time Lord skill of being completely clean just after being covered with green goo from the plant.