The Nightmare Man – Episode Four

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The military arrive in force as Colonel Howard prepares to lead them in a expedition to recover a valuable piece of hardware.  Howard is remarkably blase as he informs Inskip that he’s invoked martial law and is therefore now in complete control of the island.

As the soldiers make their landing, Michael is still musing over the identity of the killer and the reason why he’s being hunted by the army.  “They lost contact with that craft and it ran aground here. Probably a power failure. Because what got out of it was no longer a man. Radioactive. Its mind in splinters.”

Douglas Camfield had been a Lieutenant in the West Yorkshire regiment, but due to health issues he was forced to leave in 1956.  His love of the military never left him though and can clearly be seen in some of his best directorial efforts.

The Web of Fear, The Invasion and Terror of the Zygons were three classic Camfield-directed Doctor Who‘s which all had a strong military angle.  And in some ways the last episode of The Nightmare Man resembles Zygons – the incongruous juxtaposition of the army and a small Scottish village, for example.

The revelation of the killer’s identity seems to be one of the main reasons why The Nightmare Man is viewed as a disappointment.  After three episodes of teasing the audience with various possibilities, the somewhat prosaic reality can’t help but feel like a letdown.  Especially as when we see him in the cold light of day he’s not a terrifying sight – although that may have been intentional (let’s be generous and give the production the benefit of the doubt).

Another slight disappointment is the way that Inskip fades away once Howard takes control.  But the fact that Howard isn’t all he appears to be is a decent twist, although the audience should have twigged this early on (after he tells Michael and Fiona that he has a great admiration for their police).

Positives. Maurice Roëves as Inskip and James Cosmo as his laconic sidekick Sergeant Carch. The slowly increasing sense of dread and fear as the attacks continue.

Negatives. Not every question is answered – for example we’re never told why the killer became cannibalistic or how he had super-human strength.  And if the killer looks rather unimpressive in the cold light of day, then that goes double for his craft. We’re expected to believe that it could travel thousands of miles in the water?  Sadly it looks like the filmiest, most unconvincing prop ever.

There’s no doubt that the dream-team combination of Holmes and Camfield would have been enough to interest many Doctor Who fans, but The Nightmare Man doesn’t really show either at their best.  The script is workmanlike (not having read the original novel I can’t say whether Holmes added many of his own touches).  His trademark humour isn’t really in evidence, although Carch gets some decent lines.  Camfield seems to perk up when the army arrive, but otherwise there’s few of the flourishes and innovative camera-angles for which he was known.

But whilst The Nightmare Man ends with a whimper rather than a bang, it still has its moments.   Not a classic, but there are worse ways to spend a few hours.

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One thought on “The Nightmare Man – Episode Four

  1. It IS a classic! Watched it on first showing and it thrilled me and scared me, and my mum. The pilot of the craft was cybernetically linked to it and conditioned. Pulling the plug turned him rogue. Adrenaline probably did the rest. This was clever, original stufg

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