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Nightmare of Eden

Production Code: 5K

First Transmitted

1 - 24/11/1979 18:00

2 - 01/12/1979 18:00

3 - 08/12/1979 18:00

4 - 15/12/1979 17:55


The TARDIS arrives on the space liner Empress which has become locked together with a private ship, the Hecate, after colliding with it on emerging from hyperspace.

The Doctor and Romana meet the scientist Tryst, who has with him a Continuous Event Transmuter (CET) machine containing crystals on which are stored supposed recordings of planets that he and his team have visited.

Someone on board the liner is smuggling the dangerously addictive drug vraxoin, and to complicate matters the interface between the two ships allows some monstrous Mandrels from the mud-swamps of Eden to escape from the CET machine - which does not merely take recordings but actually displaces whole planetary areas into its crystals.

The smugglers are revealed to be Tryst and the Hecate's pilot, Dymond. Vraxoin is in fact the material into which the Mandrels decompose when they are killed. The Doctor thwarts this plan, separates the two ships and returns the Mandrels to Eden.

Episode Endings

Finding their progress through the Empress impeded by its interface with the Hecate, the Doctor instructs K9 to cut a hole in the wall to allow access. When he and the liner's Captain Rigg remove the cut metal panel, a huge monster rears out of the hole and, growling menacingly, starts waving its arms about.

The Doctor and Romana have sealed themselves in the lounge to escape the excise men Fisk and Costa. Romana calls up the image of Eden on the CET machine. The Doctor then tells Romana that he intends to test a theory, and the two of them leap into the projected image.

The Doctor plans to separate the two ships. Romana activates the drive of the Empress at the appropriate moment, but the Doctor is trapped in the interface and blurs and vanishes as the ships separate.

With Tryst and Dymond arrested, the Doctor takes charge of the CET crystals and intends to return all the projections to their correct planets of origin. Romana notes that she can think of one animal that would be at home in an electric zoo but, when asked, declines to name it.


Airport style disaster movies.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin (the Doctor's dog whistle leads the Mandrels into the CET).

The Doctor misquotes Captain Oates ('I may be rather a long time') and Henry V ('Once more into the...').

Dialogue Triumphs

Romana : "I don't think we should interfere."

The Doctor : "Interfere! Of course we should interfere. Always do what you're best at, that's what I say."

Tryst : "I am helping to conserve endangered species."

The Doctor : "By putting them in this machine?"

Tryst : "Oh yes."

The Doctor : "Ah yes, of course. Just in the same way a jam maker conserves raspberries."

Rigg : "First a collision, then a dead navigator and now a... monster roaming about my ship. Well it's totally inexplicable."

The Doctor : "Nothing's inexplicable."

Rigg : "Then explain it."

The Doctor : "It's inexplicable!"

Captain Rigg : "Galactic went out of business 20 years ago."

The Doctor : "I wondered why I hadn't been paid..."

Dialogue Disasters

The Doctor : "Oh... my fingers... my arms... my legs... ah... my everything... aaargh!"

Romana : [The Doctor tells Romana she has two minutes 58 seconds to rebuild the CET] "I'll need a screwdriver."


K9 can track the Doctor. His scanners won't work in a 'matter interface'. The Doctor says K9 has saved his life many times and beat him at chess (once). The Doctor thinks his date of birth is 'some time quite soon' [is he joking?] and says he can start 'anything from a steam engine to a TARDIS'. The Doctor's ability to suspend his breathing whilst in a vacuum (see Terror of the Zygons) is again witnessed.

The Empress, with 900 passengers, commutes between Station 9 and Azure in the Western Galaxy. The drug XYP or Vraxoin is a fungus. The Doctor has seen 'whole planets' destroyed by the drug which induces apathy.

Tryst's research hit funding problems due to 'the Galactic recession'. On his Volante expedition, Tryst mentions visiting the Cygnus Gap and three planets in System M37. Examples of life from various planets are stored in the CET, including Eden, Gidi, Zil, Bros, Vij, Darp, Lvan and Ranx. The Continual Event Transmuter converts specimens to electromagnetic signals, stored on laser crystals. The Doctor sees the Eden Project's projected profits (z9,100,000 cal credits).


The Cruise Liner Empress, orbiting Azure, [c. 2116].

Future History

Galactic Salvage Insurance, whom the Doctor claims to work for, was formed in London in 2068 and was liquidated in 2096. Stott is a Major in the intelligence section of the Space Corps (see The Space Pirates). He estimates he was in the Eden projection for 183 days.


The Doctor knew Tryst's mentor, the late Professor Stein.


The idea of the CET machine and its stored life-forms recalls that of the Miniscope in season ten's Carnival of Monsters.


The Doctor asks whether the CET features a spatial integrator, a transmutation oscillator, a hologistic retention circuit or a dimensional osmosis damper. Tryst and Dymond plan to smuggle vraxoin with an entuckor laser.


The Doctor leaves the TARDIS doors open.

In episode two, when K9 seals up the wall panel, a hand emerges to hold the thing in place.

When Della gets shot in the face in episode four, she clutches her stomach.

Fashion Victim

Romana's maternity dress.

Fisk's leatherman outfit.

Rigg's neck ring.

Monsters with flares.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Tom Baker

Romana - Lalla Ward

Voice of K9 - David Brierley

Costa - Peter Craze

Crewman - Richard Barnes

Crewman - Sebastian Stride

Crewman - Eden Phillips

Della - Jennifer Lonsdale

Dymond - Geoffrey Bateman

Fisk - Geoffrey Hinsliff

Passenger - Annette Peters

Passenger - Lionel Sansby

Passenger - Peter Roberts

Passenger - Maggie Petersen

Rigg - David Daker

Secker - Stephen Jenn

Stott - Barry Andrews

Tryst - Lewis Fiander


Director - Alan Bromly

Director - Graham Williams Graham Williams decided to dispense with Alan Bromly's services toward the end of the story's second studio session and directed the remainder himself, without on-screen credit.

Assistant Floor Manager - Val McCrimmon

Costumes - Rupert Jarvis

Designer - Roger Cann

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Joan Stribling

Producer - Graham Williams

Production Assistant - Carolyn Montagu

Production Unit Manager - John Nathan-Turner

Script Editor - Douglas Adams

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Warwick Fielding

Studio Sound - Anthony Philpott

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Colin Mapson

Writer - Bob Baker

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'Trafficking in drugs is punishable by death.' An oddly mature story, Nightmare of Eden is very watchable. Sadly a couple of awful scenes in episode four and the Mandrels have been allowed to undermine the story's many favourable points. The scene of Tryst's attempted justification for his crimes ('They had a choice') and the Doctor coldly rejecting him ('Go away') is worthy of considerable praise.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Nightmare of Eden is one of those stories that despite boasting an imaginative and well-written set of scripts - with a good plot, some interesting ideas, crisp dialogue and a surprisingly adult drug-related theme - ultimately does not work due to the sheer quantity of production deficiencies stacked against it.

Admittedly, like every other story, it does have its admirers. 'Nightmare of Eden stands out as one of the best Baker stories of all time and certainly my favourite from last season,' wrote Richard Walter in Matrix Issue 5, dated February 1980. 'There were all the ingredients of a first class adventure - suspense, intrigue and lots of action. Also, perhaps surprisingly, the humour had been toned down and most was in fact relevant to the situation.'

In general, however, even those who have praised the story have done so in full awareness of its flaws - Paul Trainer, for example, declared in Ark in Space No. 2 in 1980: 'Maybe it's the freak in me, but I found this an extremely enjoyable story' - and most commentators have been more in sympathy with the views expressed by John Peel in TARDIS Volume 5 Number 1 in 1980:

'A very discerning critic (in the Daily Telegraph...) summed it all up for me: "I have never met anyone who does not believe that this old series would not be better with a more conventional Doctor Who treating it with all the concentrated seriousness of William Hartnell." Too true, mate. "A very dud adventure." Well, I don't know anyone who would disagree with that.

'There seems to be a very strange idea that flits currently about the Doctor Who office that the show is for kids and can therefore be treated as casually as anyone pleases, since kids will watch any old rubbish. Who needs good actors, sensible plots or anything beyond a very obvious joke every two minutes or so to keep the brats happy?'

There are two major problem areas in the production: the Mandrels and Tryst. To take the Mandrels first, the original intention of writer Bob Baker - making his first solo contribution to the series - was that these should be mud monsters dripping with slime, but on screen they appear simply as hairy, growling beasties with overlong arms and glowing green headlamp eyes. It is hard for the viewer to feel any fear of them, as even when they attack people they do so with a kind of casual approach that renders the whole thing ludicrous. Even in the dark environment of Eden they fail to impress.

'The monsters, according to the Sun, were "terrifying",' noted Peel. 'I can't think why. The build up in [Part One] so obviously had to have something stick [its] illuminated eyes through a wall that it was really quite boring. And all they did was growl a bit and hit people with their claws. They looked rather like... Yeti coming home from a poodle parlour...'

The problem with Tryst is his incredible Germanic accent, which sounds totally put-on and fake and renders the character - one of the main players in the drama - a figure of fun rather than, as he should be, a serious threat. Just as laughable, if not more so, are the rather less significant Fisk and Costa who strut around being officious in a manner that is far too extreme to be realistic.

The only effective guest characters in the story are Stott and Rigg, but the fine performances of Barry Andrews and David Daker in these roles are buried under the weight of tatty visuals and hammy acting elsewhere.

'Nightmare of Eden was ripe with faults,' complained Trainer, 'which irritated... because they [occurred] in the most important places - viz the "Oooh my everything!" scene at what should have been the climax of the story... That most famed incident... was not only irritating but [also] out of character with other parts of the story, such as the Doctor's condemnation of the vraxoin smugglers. Indeed, after the somewhat camp tone of The Creature from the Pit, Nightmare of Eden was refreshing because of its tense, dramatic feel, which added to the excitement of it. It was the sort of Flash Gordon (or should that be updated to Star Wars?) excitement that I found prevalent throughout the whole season.'

Tom Baker's overplaying of certain scenes - in particular the infamous sequence, referred to by Trainer, in which the Doctor plays the Pied Piper and lures the Mandrels into the Eden projection only to be set upon by them before emerging unscathed but with his clothes ripped to shreds - tends seriously to undermine any dramatic impact that the story might otherwise have. The Mandrel sequence is a classic piece of pantomime shtick, something that Doctor Who had never needed to resort to in the past and that, in a way, foreshadowed the approach that it would sometimes be accused of taking in the future.

< The Creature from the PitFourth DoctorThe Horns of Nimon >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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