James Warwick was pretty ubiquitous on British television during the early 1980’s. By the time The Nightmare Man was broadcast he’d already appeared in several one-off Agatha Christie adaptations (Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?/The Seven Dials Mystery) and a few years later would star alongside Francesca Annis in Partners In Crime, also adapted from Christie’s books. His earnest, square-jawed persona fitted the works of Agatha Christie like a glove and he plays Michael Gaffikin in a similar way. His performance isn’t quite as good a match here though – at times it feels rather artificial (although it’s not as bad as his very wooden turn the following year in the Doctor Who story Earthshock).
The mysterious creature spends the early part of the episode lurking about (and killing the odd sheep). Michael surmises that it could be the result of genetic experimentation whilst Inskip wonders why the woman killed in episode one (identified as Mrs Anderson) was dismembered and then taken miles away from spot where she was murdered.
Picture quality for the exteriors is pretty poor – due to the heavy mist (it does help to give the location work an unearthly atmosphere though). But it’s difficult not to wonder just how more impressive it would have looked on film.
Because the police-force on the island is so small (limited to four of five officers) it’s reasonable that Inskip would ask for Michael and Fiona’s help. Michael, having originally wondered if the creature came from the sea, now has another theory – that it’s extraterrestrial in origin. Roëves continues to have many of the best lines as Inskip counters that “a straightforward homicidal maniac with bad teeth running amok is good enough for me.”
But when they find Dr Symonds’ body, Inskip is forced to admit that nothing human could have been responsible. Although it’s hard to see why, as Symonds’ body is intact (unlike the mutilated Mrs Anderson) with only a minimal amount of blood. No doubt this is due to what was deemed permissible in a pre-watershed programme (a violently attacked body clearly wouldn’t have been). Camfield could have elected to play the scene just on the reactions of Inskip and the others, but since we’ve previously met Symonds, his death has more of an impact if we can see his face.
If the cliffhanger is a little of a damp squib, it does at least up the ante a little more. Another death and still the mysteries deepen. There’s a mysterious craft on the shoreline, traces of radiation and the possibility that somebody parachuted onto the island the previous night. And it seems that the charming Colonel Howard is more than just an innocent visitor ….