107 – Nightmare of Eden
Doctor Who serial
  • Lewis Fiander – Professor Tryst
  • Jennifer Lonsdale – Della
  • Geoffrey Bateman – Dymond
  • David Daker – Captain Rigg
  • Stephen Jenn – Secker
  • Barry Andrews – Stott
  • Geoffrey Hinsliff – Officer Fisk
  • Peter Craze – Officer Costa
  • Richard Barnes, Sebastian Stride, Eden Phillips – Crewmen
  • Annette Peters, Lionel Sansby, Peter Roberts, Maggie Petersen – Passengers
Directed byAlan Bromly, Graham Williams (uncredited)
Written byBob Baker
Script editorDouglas Adams
Produced byGraham Williams
Executive producer(s)None
Music byDudley Simpson
Production code5K
SeriesSeason 17
Running time4 episodes, 25 minutes each
First broadcast24 November – 15 December 1979
← Preceded by
The Creature from the Pit
Followed by →
The Horns of Nimon
List of Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)

Nightmare of Eden is the fourth serial of the 17th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts on BBC1 from 24 November to 15 December 1979.[1][2]

The serial is set on the interstellar cruise ship Empress. In the serial, drug smugglers try to smuggle the deadly drug Vraxoin on the ship contained in alien beings called the Mandrels.


The TARDIS arrives near an unstable area on the interstellar cruise ship Empress, which has emerged from hyperspace at the same co-ordinates as the trade ship Hecate, locking the two ships together. The Doctor offers his services to detach the two craft. Rigg, captain of the Empress, is suspicious of the Doctor, but agrees to let him try and separate the two craft. Also aboard the Empress are a zoologist named Tryst and his assistant Della, with their CET (Continual Event Transmuter) Machine. The CET stores portions of planets on electromagnetic crystals and displays them as projections. Their most recent stop was on the planet Eden, where one of their expedition was killed, but both Tryst and Della are reluctant to provide too many details.

The Doctor discovers the crew are being menaced by clawed monsters called Mandrels, who in turn have a mysterious connection to a drug known as Vraxoin. The Doctor incinerates one of the Mandrels, which disintegrates into raw Vraxoin, revealing that the beasts' bodies are the source of the drug. It is revealed that the Mandrels were brought to the ship from Eden.

The Mandrels, on display at the Doctor Who Experience.

With the help of The Doctor's companions, the ships are finally parted. In the process, the Doctor gets caught aboard the Hecate, where he finds evidence that its captain, Capt. Dymond, is complicit in the drug running project. Tryst is his accomplice on board the Empress and they are planning to use a laser to transport the Eden projection between the two crafts.

The Doctor rounds up the Mandrels using K9's dog whistle, having worked out they are pacified by ultrasonics. He leads them back into the projection and then slips out, leaving the creatures trapped. His next task is to reverse the CET transfer process to stop the smugglers getting away with the Vraxoin supply. After allowing Tryst and Dymond to transport the Eden projection to the Hecate, he activates the CET and traps them within a new projection – they are ready for the Customs Officers to walk in and arrest them. With the ships separated and the drug runners caught, the Doctor and friends slip away back to the TARDIS with the Eden project.


It was the final Doctor Who serial written by Bob Baker, who worked on it alone, rather than with his usual writing partner Dave Martin.[3]

Alan Bromly is credited with directing this story, but he quit partway through filming as a result of a vehement dispute with Tom Baker. As a result, producer Graham Williams wound up having to complete the director's duties uncredited.[3] The unpleasantness of this whole incident led Williams to decide that he wished to leave the series. Bromly never directed another story for the series and retired soon afterwards.

Broadcast and reception

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [4]
1"Part One"24:1724 November 1979 (1979-11-24)8.7
2"Part Two"22:441 December 1979 (1979-12-01)9.6
3"Part Three"24:068 December 1979 (1979-12-08)9.6
4"Part Four"24:3115 December 1979 (1979-12-15)9.4

The British tabloid newspaper The Sun wrote that the Mandrels were terrifying monsters,[5] as no publicity shots had been taken for them (which, as later reported, was untrue). However, the majority of critics were more scathing and many of them saw the Mandrels as being thoroughly unconvincing (particularly the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, which described them as "cute rejects from The Muppet Show"). Writer Bob Baker on the recent DVD release also expressed his disappointment with the Mandrel design.

Mark Braxton of Radio Times considered the serial to be "something of a flawed diamond". Braxton noted that the sets were "perfectly decent, for the most part" but thought the Mandrels were "the least frightening monster the show ever produced." The review concluded by stating "Overall, this sobering, sideways take on Paradise Lost deserves respect, in conception and narrative if not always in the finished product."[6]

MM Gilroy-Sinclair of Starburst said the show was "a story with some big ideas and some shoddy production values." He was unimpressed by the Mandrels and the "plodding" story but praised the performances of Tom Baker and Lalla Ward. Despite his criticisms, Gilroy-Sinclair ended his review by stating "it actually has some wonderful moments, it is surprisingly mature; it’s clever and has some fabulous acting."[7]

Cultbox's Malcolm Stewart described the serial as "Serious-minded but facetiously performed". However, he also stated that "For all the deficiencies in presentation, Nightmare of Eden is still a story with real science and genuine imagination at its heart."[8]

Commercial releases

In print

Doctor Who and the Nightmare of Eden
AuthorTerrance Dicks
Cover artistAndrew Skilleter
SeriesDoctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
PublisherTarget Books
Publication date
21 August 1980

Terrance Dicks' novelisation was published by Target Books in August 1980.

Home media

It was released on VHS in January 1999 and on DVD on 2 April 2012. It was released as part of the Doctor Who DVD Files in Issue 134 on 19 February 2014.


  1. ^ "BBC – Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide – Nightmare of Eden – Details". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  2. ^ "Dr Who: Nightmare of Eden: Part 1". The Radio Times. No. 2924. 22 November 1979. p. 29. ISSN 0033-8060. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Doctor Who: Nightmare of Eden | DVD Review | the Digital Fix". 4 April 2012.
  4. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  5. ^ "BBC – Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide – Nightmare of Eden – Details". Bbc.co.uk.
  6. ^ "Nightmare of Eden *** | Radio Times". Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  7. ^ "DVD Review: Doctor Who – Nightmare of Eden". Starburst Magazine.
  8. ^ "'Doctor Who': 'Nightmare of Eden' DVD review". Cultbox.co.uk. 25 April 2012.

Target novelisation