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Recap / Doctor Who S17 E4 "Nightmare of Eden"

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Nightmare of Eden
Written by Bob Baker
Directed by Alan Bromly and Graham Williamsnote 
Production code: 5K
Air dates: 24 November - 15 December 1979
Number of episodes: 4

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.

The one that would make Ronald Reagan shed a tear.

The Doctor and Romana arrive on a space liner orbiting the planet Azure. The liner has just been impaled by a private spacecraft due to an accident leaving hyperspace. To be more precise, the accident happened because the navigator of the liner was stoned out of his mind on a horribly addictive illegal drug called vraxoin, and it appears somebody onboard the liner is smuggling it.

A biologist named Tryst, travelling aboard the liner, is carrying a machine of his invention that keeps samples of alien ecosystems in pocket universes for observation. The effects of the hyperspace Telefrag cause a group of monstrous predatory beasts called Mandrels, from the misleadingly named ecosystem of Eden, to escape the invention and start slicing people up.

The Doctor and Romana are further endangered when the brutal and stupid local border guards assume that the Doctor is a drug-dealer, because he was carrying some vraxoin he discovered around as evidence. Also, the captain of the liner gets drugged and spends the rest of the story as a desperate vraxoin addict.

Eventually, the Doctor manages to separate the two ships, with help from the TARDIS's systems. The drug-smugglers turn out to be Tryst and Dymond, the owner of the smaller ship. It turns out that vraxoin is made from decomposed Mandrel corpses, which was why Tryst was keeping them in his hi-tech zoo. The Doctor decides to return the Mandrels and the other specimens to their original planets.

The director walked out of this one after many fights with Tom Baker, leaving the producer Graham Williams to finish the story off. Can you tell?


  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Fisk (Who crouches on Too Dumb to Live with his there's the criminal excuse) and Costa. Subverted with Stott.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: The Doctor being attacked by the Mandrels after he lures them back into their pocket universe is represented by comedy offscreen sound effects and branches shaking. The sequence remains a major bone of contention among fans who think that Season Seventeen in general was too comical.
  • Big Bad: Tryst.
  • Clear My Name: The Doctor is falsely accused of being a drug smuggler for having traces of drugs on his clothes, because he was taking the drugs he found to the police.
  • Clueless Aesop: This is a Drugs Are Bad story about intergalactic drug smugglers. It started out quite reasonable and relevant (and in a show that had been and later continued to be quite good at dealing with serious political issues in an allegorical format) but all three series lead actors, especially Lalla Ward, were concerned that the script might glamourise drug use to young viewers. The Fantastic Drug was renamed from the vaguely fun-sounding 'zip' to the nonsensical 'vrax', and everything about why anyone might want to take the drug was removed, with the result of turning vrax into something instantly addictive and invariably fatal that doesn't even make you very high.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The CET machine and the Mandrels are very similar to the Miniscope and the Drashigs from "Carnival of Monsters". The Doctor brings this up when he sees it.
    • Members of the Space Corps previously appeared in "The Space Pirates".
  • Death World: The misleadingly named Eden is occupied by a variety of hostile and carnivorous life forms. Even the plants aren't safe to linger near.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The Doctor’s cover as an insurance agent from Galactic is rumbled when Rigg looks them up and discovers that they went out of business 20 years ago.
  • Drunk Driver: The starship crash is caused by a pilot who is high on vrax.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The story is a heavy-handed Very Special Episode on the evils of drug trafficking.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The original source of vraxoin was a fungus, but the social havoc caused by the drug was so horrific that the planet it grew on got glassed.
  • Fictional Accent: The actor playing Tryst deliberately attempted an accent unlike anything on Earth, reasoning that people living on other planets in the future wouldn't speak the same way as people living on Earth in the 20th century.
  • For Science!: Tryst's attempted justification for drug-dealing is to get funding to continue his vital research, to the Doctor's utter contempt.
  • Friend or Foe?: Stott and the Doctor initially mistake each other for the villain.
  • Get Out!: As Tryst tries to explain himself, the Doctor coldly tells him to go away.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Stott has the anti-hero variety.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Fisk and Costa, verging on Leather Man.
  • Herr Doktor: Tryst, although he's closer to the older unworldly Dichter and Denker German stereotype.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Said word for word by the Doctor when he asks Stott if he has heard that expression after he captures Tryst and Dymond using Tryst's own machine.
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner: The customs officials put a shoot on sight order on the Doctor after they suspect him of drug smuggling, even though he was the one who told them that there were drugs on the ship in the first place.
  • Man-Eating Plant: The centre of a Big-Lipped Alligator Momentinvoked when the Doctor gets pointlessly attacked by one while wandering around the Eden projection, and defeats it by biting it.
  • Monster Organ Trafficking: Part of the plot involves the spread of a new addictive drug, and another part of the plot involves a pack of alien monsters roaming around after escaping while being transported by a zoologist. It turns out that the zoologist is the kingpin of the drug operation, and the drug itself is derived from the alien monsters.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: The Mandrels are certainly dangerous, but they are unintelligent wild animals.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Tom Baker briefly goes Scouse during his Dropping the Bombshell line: "I don't work for anyone... I'm just 'avin' foon."
  • Piñata Enemy: Monsters that turn into a highly sought-after narcotic when you kill them.
  • Police Are Useless: The customs agents decide that the Doctor is the drug smuggler when they find traces of vraxoin on his coat, never mind that there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for the person who told the police they need to be searching for drugs to have traces of drugs on his clothing - that he learned that there was a need to search for drugs because he found some earlier. Fisk also seems to care more for the publicity of having a high profile case on his record than the fact that there are monsters rampaging through the economy class compartments, killing at least eighteen people and wounding many more.
  • Portal Picture: The CET machine. You can literally just walk into it.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Captain Rigg, until he gets dosed with vraxoin.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Stott was reported to have died on Eden; it turns out he survived but was trapped inside the CET machine.
  • Scotty Time: Romana gets this when the Doctor asks her to modify the CET.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: In the end, the Doctor refuses to listen to Tryst, simply telling him to go away.
  • Sinister Shades: Tryst, who turns out to be the villain, wears coloured glasses.
  • Slipping a Mickey: The captain's water bottle gets spiked with vraxoin by the villains.
  • Stock Footage: Some clips are actually images of planet Terra Nova from the Space: 1999 episode "Matter of Life and Death".
  • Telefrag: Occurs while leaving hyperspace rather than through teleportation, but still an example.
  • Tranquil Fury: The Doctor's cold dismissal of Tryst — "Go away".
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: Stott, a member of Tryst's expedition, is actually an undercover cop investigating Tryst's involvement in the drug traffic.
  • Very Special Episode: The Doctor confronts drug trafficking.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Tryst is mostly sort of German, but occasionally slips into a sudden Italian accent. The actor was deliberately trying for an accent unlike anything on Earth, to show that the character wasn't from Earth.
  • The X of Y: "The Nightmare of Eden".