The Nightmare Man (1981)

I’ve been looking for this one for a long time.

Robert Holmes was one of the greatest — if not the greatest — writer who worked on Doctor Who. He was script editor during the classic Phillip Hinchcliffe era and wrote some of the series best episodes, including Carnival of Monsters, Pyramids of Mars, The Deadly Assassin and The Talons of Weng Chiang.

He really didn’t write much science fiction outside of Doctor Who, most notably the story for the movie Invasion (1965), episodes of Undermind, Doomwatch and Blake’s 7, an unused pilot, Timeslip (not to be confused with the ATV series) and this four-part serial, an adaptation of David Wiltshire’s novel, Child of Vodyanoi.

As an impenetrable fog rolls over a tiny and remote Scottish Island, a series of incredibly brutal murders takes place, sheep are mutilated and a mysterious soldier parachutes onto the island.

Whoever — or whatever — is responsible doesn’t seem human, thanks to its strange teeth and horrible laugh.

And then there are the traces of radioactivity and the mysterious craft which washes ashore — and which seems to be alive.

The series has the look and feel of a classic Seventies Who episode, with its gradually building suspense, the mysteries that need unraveling and its evocative setting. The ultimate resolution seems a little too Earthbound (and a little too 1980s) for Doctor Who — but then it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine it as an episode of Doomwatch.

Or, with minor changes, perhaps tied to the origins of a certain classic Who villain.

It may not be as good as Holmes’ best work, but it is serious and suspenseful, with his usual collection of interesting characters. Those watching for his frequent trick of pairing off two characters to play against each other — like Lightfoot and Jago in Weng Chiang — will recognize the Inspector and his sergeant in that role.

And for those of us who loved Robert Holmes’s work, a new series, even one more mystery and horror than SF is decidedly welcome.

So watch it if you can find it.

Just keep one eye on the Geiger counter.

(Former Member of Mark’s Wish List)

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And check out our new Feature (Updated June 11, 2020):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!

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