Sue: Bob Baker. I know that name.
Me: He’s one of the Bristol Boys.
Sue: Oh. Did they have a big falling out?
We open on the Empress, a large space liner which is ploughing its way through the cosmos. And then the ship suddenly shimmers and disappears.
Sue: Either the ship has gone into warp drive or they really screwed up the chroma.
We cut to the bridge of the Empress where Captain Rigg is in command.
Sue: He’s famous.
It would be a boon if she could place him, but David Daker will have to be happy with having “a really famous face that’s been in just about everything” instead.
Rigg: We’re coming out of warp in thirty seconds.
Sue: I was right, they were using a warp drive. How geeky am I?
In the passenger section of the liner, everyone is dressed in sunglasses and hooded silver jumpsuits.
Sue: That’s a lot of anoraks. Doctor Who fans must have loved that scene.
Me: They look like they are going to a Rocky Horror convention. It’s the old women in the sunglasses that do it.
Sue: Why are they dressed like that, anyway? Do they turn the heating off in the spaceship to keep the costs down? Is it Ryanspace?
Meanwhile, on the bridge, Rigg’s first mate, Secker, is behaving very oddly indeed.
Sue: What the **** is wrong with him?
Secker’s complacency results in a mid-air collision with another spaceship.
Sue: That won’t look good on his appraisal.
The TARDIS responds to Rigg’s Mayday, and the Doctor, Romana and K9 arrive on the Empress.
Sue: Are they shagging at this point?
Me: I wish I’d never mentioned that now.
Sue: At least K9 is allowed out with them this time. I do worry about that dog, you know. I don’t like Romana’s dress, though. It isn’t very flattering. It makes her look frumpy. I bet the dad’s were pissed off.
The Doctor investigates the accident which has fused the two ships together.
Sue: It’s a bit low-key for a Doctor Who story, isn’t it? From the destruction of a planet to a traffic accident. But I think I like it. It’s a nice change of pace.
As the Doctor and Romana explore the Empress, Sue praises the set design.
Sue: I really like the corridors. I’m a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to corridors in Doctor Who, now. I like the way they’ve used the colour yellow. Yes, very nice.
The Doctor follows Secker into a darkened area of the ship and he watches as the crewman collects a hidden container before leaving.
Sue: Wouldn’t it be funny if he was on drugs?
The Doctor learns that the substance is Vraxoin, the most lethal drug in the known universe.
Sue: Oh, he is on drugs. Well, I wasn’t expecting that. I was only joking.
On another part of the ship, Romana meets the eminent zoologist, Tryst.
Sue: He sounds like Peter Sellers. (pause) It’s not Peter Sellers, is it?
Me: I wish.
Sue: Well, we had John Cleese the other day. Anything’s possible.
Tryst shows off his Continuous Event Transmuter (CET) machine to Romana.
Sue: I like this Romana. She’s playing it just right, now. She’s cute and intelligent.
Meanwhile, Secker, now completely off his tits, commits suicide by walking into the void between the two ships.
Sue: When your drug taking starts to interfere with your job, it’s probably time to stop.
Romana is left to examine the CET machine more closely. As she turns a dial, scenes from various planets appear on a large screen on the far wall.
Sue: Haven’t we seen something like this before? Monsters stuck in a TV?
Me: There are some similarities to Carnival of Monsters, I suppose.
Sue: So Doctor Who is ripping itself off, now? Has it run out of other people’s stuff to rip off?
Romana turns a dial on the machine and we see a slice of Eden.
Sue: That doesn’t look like Eden to me. Eden should be beautiful and inviting. That looks like a Vietnam flashback. Ooh, spooky face in the jungle. Did you see it?
Yes, Sue spotted the face of a man lurking behind some potted plants. If only his name was Charlie.
The Doctor sends K9 into a matter interface to investigate the sound of someone screaming.
Sue: I can’t believe the Doctor sent K9 in there like that. It’s dangerous!
K9 reverses straight back out again.
Sue: He’s not stupid, that dog.
The Doctor returns to the hidden stash of Vraxoin but somebody has got there before him.
Sue: Has he been caught by a drug runner?
The Doctor is shot down.
Sue: (As Scarface) Say hello to my little friend!
Rigg wants to know if Tryst brought any live specimens onto his ship with him.
Sue: Tryst looks like he’s just walked out of a tanning booth. I really like him, though. He’s very entertaining.
I definitely didn’t expect that. She doesn’t even have a problem with Tryst’s accent.
Sue: It’s fine. It’s the future and accents change. He’s from the same place as the people with all the other funny accents that we’ve heard on this programme. I’d be bored if he was playing it straight.
The episode concludes with a monster bursting through a hole in the wall.
Sue: Oh dear. This isn’t the cliffhanger, is it? That’s terrible.
I definitely expected that.
Sue: It was doing okay up until that point. Oh dear.
The Mandrel doesn’t frighten Sue at all.
Sue: It looks like a muppet. One of the really big ones.
Me: This monster brings back so many memories.
Sue: Really? I thought you were in New Zealand. Didn’t you miss this story?
Me: Yes, but Birmingham’s Nostalgia and Comics had a full-size Mandrel in the window of their shop during the 1980s. I spent a great deal of time staring at it.
Sue: Why? It looks ridiculous.
The Doctor orders Tryst to turn his unstable CET machine off before storming out.
Sue: Don’t leave the room until he switches it off! You can trust Tryst as far as you can –
Tryst switches the machine off.
Sue: Oh. I definitely didn’t expect that.
The Doctor finds himself chasing a Gary Glitter impersonator through the Empress’ passenger sections, which, thanks to some very clever editing, seem to go on forever.
Sue: So that’s why they are dressed like that: it cuts down on the number of extras they need. Very, very clever. You know, it’s not bad this.
The Doctor hands a jelly baby to one of the passengers.
The Doctor: Here, have a jelly baby and don’t forget to brush your teeth.
Sue: This is a public health and safety film about the dangers of drugs, tooth decay and driving spaceships under the influence.
Rigg has his drink spiked with Vrax and he ends up off his box.
Sue: I want what he’s having. At least then I wouldn’t care about the crappy model shots in this story.
A Mandrel appears in a corridor.
Sue: It’s the Honey Monster in a really bad mood. Or a really hairy ninja turtle.
Tryst accuses his assistant, Della, of conspiring with a dead expedition member to smuggle drugs onto the ship. She vehemently denies this and when Tryst shares his suspicions with the Doctor and Romana, they are appalled that he could even suggest such a thing.
Sue: Sing ’em a song, Della!
Me: That’s obscure, even for you.
And then the police turn up.
Sue: How camp? I wish Gary was here, he’d love this. Oh, it’s Don from Coronation Street again. He’s been in Doctor Who before; he can’t keep away. Oh look, the end of his truncheon lights up. Seriously, how camp?
Me: He makes the cop from The Village People look like Columbo.
The Doctor escapes from the cops thanks to the oldest trick in the book. It’s so corny, Sue provides her very own comedy parp-parp soundtrack. In the same key as Dudley, of course.
Sue: The blonde guy in the spacesuit looks like he should be in Starlight Express. Does he ever become important or does he just stand around bitching?
The episode concludes with the Doctor and Romana jumping into the CET projection of Eden.
Sue: Quick! Into the Stargate!
Sue has never seen an episode of Stargate, so that was a big leap for her as well.
As the credits roll at the halfway point, Sue sums up:
Sue: I like the plot. I like the plot a lot.
I think she just wants to prove that she can pay attention and follow the story after the last entry.
Sue: It wasn’t bad at all. The monsters are a bit silly but they don’t turn up very much. It’s definitely well above average so far.
On Eden, the Doctor is attacked by a man-eating plant.
Sue: And today’s monster based on a sexual organ is…
As the Doctor battles to free himself, Sue leans forward in her chair.
Sue: He’s like Bear Grylls in this one. Very butch. I like it.
The Doctor bites into a root and green sap is squirted into his face.
The Doctor: You know, that didn’t taste at all bad.
Sue: Too much information!
The Doctor and Romana hide in the undergrowth as a Mandrel passes by.
Sue: They are quite scary when you can’t see their cute heads.
K9 returns to his Master with the news that alien creatures are wandering around the ship.
Me: Are you used to K9’s new voice, now?
Sue: I think I still prefer the original. This one sounds like R2-D2 (she means C-3P0, bless her). The original sounded, I don’t know… more human?
Rigg, high as a kite on Vrax, entertains himself by watching his passengers being torn to pieces by rampaging Mandrels on television.
Sue: If they made this story again it could be really, really scary. The monsters are more cute than scary. I want to give one a hug, just like the Doctor is doing now.
Me: It’s trying to kill him.
Sue: Don’t be daft. It just wants a cuddle.
K9 shoots the Mandrel down.
Sue: I think I can see the zipper at the back. This costume is very tatty considering it must be brand new. I’m sure I caught a flash of an actor’s white Y-fronts just then.
However, aside from the substandard Mandrel costumes, this episode is definitely tickling Sue’s fancy.
Sue: This isn’t bad at all, Neil. Neil? … NEIL?
Me: Sorry, I drifted off for a second there. What’s wrong?
Sue: Nothing’s wrong. I was just saying that this episode is pretty good. For a Part Three, there’s a lot going on.
This isn’t to say she has become immune to the story’s clash of styles.
Sue: On the one hand, they’ve definitely toned down the horror. It’s definitely more for the kids. But on the other hand, it’s about drug addiction and suicide. The mix of slapstick comedy and dark humour is very strange.
Me: I know. Terrible, isn’t it?
Sue: I like it.
As the Mandrels continue to wreak havoc, Sue has a question:
Sue: What do the Mandrels want, exactly? I don’t see the point of them.
When Romana skips between Eden and the Empress, Sue wishes she possessed such a machine.
Me: Which locations would you store in it?
Sue: Hmm…. the Dordogne, probably. Tuscany. That sort of thing. What about you? Wait, don’t tell me… The Red Rhino?
Me: The red what?
Sue: You know, the strip club.
A Mandrel is accidentally electrocuted and in its death throes it turns into to a white powder. It’s the drug Vraxoin.
Sue: Ooh, that was very clever. I didn’t see that coming.
Meanwhile, Rigg is coming down from his Vrax fix.
Sue: He’s having a really bad whitey.
Me: He’ll have a serious case of the munchies soon. Then death.
Rigg threatens to cave Romana’s face in if she doesn’t give him another fix.
Sue: It’s suddenly turned into Play For Today. With cute monsters.
The episode concludes with the Doctor racing to escape the matter interface that exists between the two ships, just as they begin to separate.
Sue: That was a great cliffhanger. So did he get out or not? I can’t wait to find out.
Sue: How many Tom Baker episodes are left?
Me: That would be telling.
Sue: But he could regenerate at any moment.
Me: I know. That’s the general idea.
Sue: I’m definitely ready for some Peter Davison action right about now.
Romana tells Della that her boyfriend, Stott, wasn’t killed during their expedition to Eden after all.
Sue: It’s quite sweet. This story has everything: love, violence, drugs, monsters, spaceships crashing into each other. I bet this one is highly regarded by the fans. Neil? … Neil?
Me: What? Sorry, I was thinking about something else.
Dymond, the pilot of the other ship, is revealed to be a drug smuggler.
Sue: So is he the bad guy?
Sue: I knew he was the bad guy! Didn’t I tell you he was the bad guy?
Me: You’ve hardly mentioned him!
Sue: Really? Then it’s very clever. He flew right under my radar even though it’s really obvious that he was the baddie.
The Doctor sneaks on to Dymond’s shuttle.
Me: Aren’t you going to mention Dymond’s terrible peripheral vision, here?
Sue: He’s got a big helmet on. He wouldn’t see a thing from the sides, silly.
Yes, it’s true. Sue loves Nightmare of Eden and she will forgive it just about anything. Well, almost anything.
Sue: There’s one thing wrong with this. Well, aside from the Mandrels, of course. And that’s the names of the characters. I keep getting Tryst and Fisk mixed up in my head. That’s shoddy script editing. I blame Douglas Adams.
Dymond shoots Della in the head, but when she falls to the floor she is clutching at her stomach. But Sue has the perfect excuse:
Sue: Maybe she came down with a bad case of IBS at exactly the same moment?
Thankfully, K9 comes to the rescue.
Sue: Good old, K9. I don’t care what he sounds like, he never lets me down.
The Mandrels are rounded up by the cops.
Sue: Why is that Mandrel juggling invisible balls?
The cops herd the Mandrels down a corridor with the help of their firearms.
Sue: It’s not the Mandrels’ fault they are walking bags of cocaine. I feel sorry for them.
When the cops’ weapons run out, the Mandrels turn around and run at them.
Sue: Excellent! Kill ’em all!
The Doctor intervenes and he leads the Mandrels away with his dog whistle. It isn’t long before they are mewing like contented pets.
Sue: That’s so cute. This is a lovely moment.
Me: Are you on Vrax?
The Doctor leads the Mandrels back to the CET projection of Eden. And then, well…
The Doctor: Oh, my fingers, my arms, my legs! Ah! My everything!
Sue: What the ****? Is the Doctor being gang raped by Mandrels?
The Doctor escapes from Eden, his coat in tatters, and Sue is still giggling when he hooks K9 up to the CET machine.
Sue: K9 is going to save the day! Awww, bless him.
After lots and lots of technobabble, the Doctor flips a switch to reveal Tryst and Dymond sitting inside the CET machine, ready to be collected by Fisk and his men.
Sue: Brilliant. Just brilliant.
Tryst tires to explain his reasons for smuggling the drugs but the Doctor won’t even look at him.
The Doctor: Go away.
Sue: Ooh, he’s really pissed off with him. Does Tryst become his archenemy?
The episode concludes with the Doctor and Romana preparing to release the CET’s specimens back to their home planets, where they probably become extinct, just as nature intended.
Sue: That’s nice.
Me: Yeah, just dump the walking bags of coke back on Eden for the next explorer to stumble across. I’m sure it’ll be fine.
Sue: Ooh, is there a sequel? Good.
Sue: I really enjoyed that. The premise was great and it kept me guessing. There were some nice twists and turns in that one. The monsters were a bit rubbish, but they weren’t really monsters, not really, and the direction wasn’t great either, but if you take it for what it was, it did the job. Bob should continue to work on his own.