The Nightmare Man was Jeff Stewart’s first television role. A few years later he was cast as Reg Hollis in The Bill and would remain with the series for an impressive twenty four years. It’s strange to hear him speak with a Scottish accent, although since he was born in Aberdeen I assume it’s his natural one (he’s not tended to play many Scots during his career).
Stewart plays Drummond, one of three coastguards who all work in a very isolated spot. There’s a clear vibe that they’re going to be the next victims, although it’s surprising how it takes before the unseen attacker strikes again.
This isn’t a bad thing though, as it means that Camfield’s able to gently rack up the tension as the episode progresses. The policeman guarding the mysterious craft hears a noise (but it only turns out to be Dr Goudry), the coastguards detect something outside which triggers their radiation meter (but it slips away quickly), etc. These little moments help to create a faint sense of unease – we know that there will be another murder, we don’t know when. Although if you’d said just before the end of the episode, in order to create a nice cliffhanger, you wouldn’t be far off the mark!
Colonel Howard continues to move about the island, offering his help to the police (which is declined) and generally acting in a somewhat smug manner. So it comes as no surprise when he receives a coded phone-call which confirms he’s deeply implicated in this mysterious business .
CALLER: Mother asked me to call.
HOWARD: Mother knows best. How is her chicken?
CALLER: Still free-range, I’m afraid.
HOWARD: Then forget the chicken. I’ve arranged for the egg collection. Can you close the coop?
Top marks to Jonathan Newth for keeping a straight face during that exchange of dialogue.
It seems probable that they’re both part of a military operation (who else would use so many convoluted code-words?) but we’ll have to wait until episode four to find out.
Fiona has developed the film from Dr Symond’s camera. It was running at the time he was attacked and offers several snapshots of the killer. Luckily, he was also recording his thoughts onto tape at the same time – so Fiona and Michael are able to organise a macabre film show for Inspector Inskip, Sgt Carch and Dr Goudry. It’s a disturbing scene, as though we see very little (the pictures are quite blurred) the sounds the killer makes are enough to create a whole host of disturbing mental images. There’s only one more episode to go before we find out if the reality will measure up.
With just a couple of minutes left, it must be time for another murder. We cross back to the coastguard station, where one of Drummond’s colleagues elects to go outside by himself. Has the man never watched any horror moves?! It’s clear that he’s going to meet a very nasty end – which he does – and Drummond’s other colleague quickly succumbs to the implacable killer as well.
This leaves Drummond as the last man standing and so the episode ends on a close-up of Jeff Stewart’s face. It’s quite a responsibility to carry a cliffhanger, therefore let’s be generous and remember that this was his first television job. He does his best to pull a shocked face, but it doesn’t really convince. Although his colleagues have both been killed he doesn’t really project a sense of dread or terror – more a sort of mild perplexity. It’s slightly surprising that Douglas Camfield didn’t elect to try another take, but even allowing for Stewart’s lack of emotion it’s a jolting ending.