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Nightmare of Eden OR “The Drugs Don’t Work!”

July 10, 2015


According to this Doctor Who adventure, “Vraxoin” is the worst drug in the universe.  And by “worst”, they presumably mean “crappiest”.

Imagine some medium strength marijuana.  Because that’s the kind of drug we’re talking about.  It makes you giggle for a few hours.   But then you get a bit irritable.  And then you die.  That’s right, the most dangerously addictive drug in the cosmos has all the impact of pretty average pot but with a rapid 100% fatality rate.  For some reason, humanoid life cannot get enough of this narcotic and it yields immense profits for heartless drug dealers.

Trainspotting will put you off heroin addiction.  But Trainspotting did at least acknowledge that the pleasurable impact of heroin (ab)use is considerable.  You’d think that for Vraxoin to be profitable, it would have to provide some extreme orgasmic rush, or psychedelic visions of a very different (and better) dimension.  But no, all you get with Vraxoin is a few hours of wobbly irresponsibility before you (invariably)  snuff it.  It sounds heartless, but anyone who knowingly succumbs to Vraxoin addiction is too stupid to live very long anyway.

At the time, this adventure was criticised for the general crappiness of its monsters – the Mandrels (see above).  But crappy looking monsters are not the fatal issue with this story.  Malcolm Hulke’s Invasion of the Dinosaurs has the worst dinosaurs ever seen on screen, but it still works because the actual idea of the story (well-intentioned environmental activists warped into genocidal fascists) is compelling and interesting.  Nightmare of Eden (1979) fails because the treatment of drug dealing is so timid and unconvincing.

It must be charitably remembered on behalf of Bob Baker (writing for the first time on his own rather than with Dave Martin), that Doctor Who has always had to “think of the children”, and in the 1970s screened at around 5.25 pm.  Having persuaded script editor Douglas Adams of the merits of tackling a tough gritty topic like drug addiction, the  next task was to pull as many punches as possible.

Oddly enough, it’s a rather funny story.  Baker, detached from Martin, produces a number of snappy one liners.  Following the exampled of Invisible Enemy (co-authored with Martin),he decides that any human scientist should have a ludicrous Germanic accent.  As a consequence, the whole premise of the story is rather smudged.  Let’s talk about something serious, but oo-er we’d better not get too serious.

You can pull fewer punches if you tackle such issues a bit more obliquely.  A far far better story about drugs, profits, violence and corruption is The Caves of Androzani.  For sure, “Spectrox” is not a recreational drug – but it is precious rejuvenating substance that creates vicious empires that confound any sense of secure law and order.  But that was Robert Holmes of course.  And Robert Holmes was never shy about depicting suffering.

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