I originally hadn’t planned on writing a review of this 1979 serial, but it surprised me by going in an entirely different direction than I had expected. Featuring Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor, Lalla Ward as Romana, and David Brierly as the voice of K-9, “Nightmare of Eden” starts off with a standard ships-in-space-are-in-trouble motif but ends with inter-dimensional portals and drug smuggling. It’s been lambasted a bit for certain scenes coming off as cheap pantomime, but I didn’t really notice anything I would describe like that. Yes, there were some silly moments, but that’s often been the case with Doctor Who, especially with the Fourth Doctor.
Speaking of silly, the monster-of-the-week Mandrels have been criticized as well for not being scary–and they weren’t–but I really liked the idea that the powder into which they crumbled after death was the new source for the deadly Vraxoin drug. In a sense, I think that should qualify them for being scary, that their dead bodies produced a substance capable of destroying entire planets.
I also liked the inter-dimensional aspects that came into play with the Continual Event Transmuter. The technology was a bit like what the primitive Time Lords used (at least, that’s the impression I got from the Doctor and Romana), so in a way it was kind of like watching the development of Time Lord technology, albeit in the hands of a human who didn’t fully understand what he was working with.
Final verdict: it’s not the best Fourth Doctor outing, but it went down some paths I hadn’t expected and so turned out to be pretty enjoyable. This is one of those take-it-or-leave-it stories–you may enjoy it, but you won’t necessarily miss out on anything if you choose to skip it.