Nightmare of Eden

Doctor Who: Nightmare of Eden

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It’s fair to say that this Doctor Who serial is not going to be anyone’s top pick of “best story of all time.” The making of this instalment was fraught with all sorts of problems, and they’re all right up there on the screen for all to see and cringe over.

To add to the collapse in budgets to the point of infeasibility in 1979, and the ever-present threat of industrial action from militant unions that year, was added the disastrous mis-selection of a totally inappropriate director. Alan Bromly was a semi-retired member of the old school style of directing, with no interest in science fiction and totally overwhelmed by the show’s growing technical complexity. As he floundered around more and more out of his depth, relations with the principal actors collapsed and led to on-set shouting matches with both Lalla Ward (playing Romana) and Tom Baker (the Doctor) – something that never happened in TV production at that time. Finally, the studio session went for a tea break – and Bromly never came back. Whether he walked out or was fired is a matter of conjecture.

Given this back story it’s amazing that the show ever made it to air at all, but it did and all the problems and repercussions of the situation are much too evident – starting with the set, which is not so much designed to be a “luxury cruise liner” as simply assembled out of whatever they had to hand in the scenery department, with the “ship’s bridge” looking like a store cupboard. Tatty flats are augmented by anything that 1970s glam rock had to offer as looking remotely futuristic, and it’s all held together by black and yellow striped tape making it look like a health and safety crime scene gone berserk – appropriately as it turns out, since the doors wobble when closing and the stairs visibly collapse under foot as the Doctor gives chase.

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