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A heavy fog cuts the small isolated Scottish island off from the mainland, and dentist Michael Gaffikin has just discovered a dismembered corpse on the golf links. Michael and his artist girlfriend, Fiona Patterson, assist the local law enforcements in searching for the murderer. However, as the body count rises and the surrounding circumstances turn increasingly bizarre and gruesome, everyone begins to wonder if the killer is a human or an unimaginable creature... Written by
It really does feel like a Doctor Who story, this being helped by having one of the Doctor's best directors and writers on board. The lurking monster, isolated community, strange killings and impending doom are all textbook Doctor Who.
The Nightmare Man is more adult than Doctor Who. Not just because there's a mention of cannabis, a hint of blood and the sight of the ever-glorious Celia Imrie in a low-cut dress. There's a real claustrophobia to it. The fog rolls in, and the gloomy little island really is cut off. Actually, when the fog lifts (very abruptly, at the start of part four), the island doesn't look nearly as barren and miserable as we've been lead to believe. It's all very well constructed: lots of brief mentions of bogs, cliffs, isolated crofts. We feel like we are at the end of the world, and there's a genuine mystery about what might be impinging upon it.
Celia Imrie is, of course, magnificent. One of the strengths of the production is that her character is essential to the story. She's a cartographer, and raised on the island, so her knowledge of the area is vital to the investigation. She is not sidelined as could so easily have happened. Maurice Roeves and Jonathan Newth as The Inspector and The Colonel are perfectly decent, and James Cosmo utterly believable and likable as the occasionally Gaelic-speaking Sergeant.
Occasional glimpses of the monster are very carefully done, although the gasping growl and red point-of-view are a bit OTT. At the end, when we finally see the killer, it's maybe on screen for a bit too long. More could have been left to the imagination, but that's only a minor gripe.
The only significant grumble about the production is the final episode. I had expected it to be 6 episodes, not 4. Lots of time is spent standing around talking int he final episode. The production slows down enormously as we get caught up in info-dumping. When the monster makes its final attack, I couldn't help but feel it was all over a bit quickly, and there's a very rushed and perfunctory feel.
That said, the production keeps up the suspense nicely for quite a long time. The viewer is never really sure what the killer may be, and there's a wonderfully claustrophobic, foggy, damp sense of doom throughout. And Celia Imrie.
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