THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIO "THE
BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE" AND
THE TV STORY "SHADA."
'MYTHS AND LEGENDS'
DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD
2851) RELEASED IN
THE TARDIS COLLIDES
WITH A SPACESHIP EN
ROUTE TO THE PLANET
SKONNOS, LEADING THE
DOCTOR, ROMANA AND
K-9 TO DISCOVER THE
HORRIFIC TRUTH ABOUT
ITS CARGO. THE SHIP IS
FOR A HUGE, HORNED
CREATURE CALLED THE
BUT WHY IS THE NIMON
SO DESPERATE FOR THE
DELIVERY, AND WHAT
OTHER DANGERS AWAIT
THE TIME TRAVELLERS?
ALL WILL BE REVEALED
AT THE CENTRE OF THE
COMPLEX ON SKONNOS...
The Horns of Nimon
22nd december 1979 - 12th january 1980
Much like its Season 17 fellows, The Horns of Nimon is a serial that boasts quite
a devoted following - yet I can’t for the life of me see why. As huge fan of Douglas Adams’ work, I’m desperate to fall in the love with the season that he infamously script-edited, but beyond the peerless City of Death and ill-fated Shada, whatever people find so dazzling about it has long eluded me. And now, having just sat through The Horns of Nimon again, I’ve finally lost the will to keep on looking.
Much like its Myths and Legends
box set sibling Underworld, this
serial’s plot is drawn from Greek
legend. Ex-script editor Anthony
Read’s story is in essence a sci-
fi retelling of the tale of Theseus
and the Minotaur, which could
have proven very interesting had
the Doctor not been boxed away
with K-9 in the TARDIS for half the
adventure and had Romana been given someone credible to play against. The Horns of Nimon thus suffers the exact same fate as Underworld – a promising idea is let down by atrocious execution, albeit a different method of execution here.
The Nimon, in principle, are wonderful Doctor Who monsters. Their locust-like existence and “Great Journey of Life” are refreshingly innovative, and they actually look and sound ominous on screen too. What lets the Nimon down is the world around them and the people that live in it – Soldeed’s Skonnan Empire and the ‘cargo’ of children who are to be sacrificed to them. After getting the hard part right by realising some memorable, menacing monsters, director Kenny McBain somehow ended up with a cast of shameless hams from whom he drew the most inexcusable performances. Never before had there been a Who script that needed to be played straighter, and never before had a Who production some so close to becoming a poor parody of itself. Scenes such as the whole “I stand before you desperate to find the exit” skit are excruciating to watch, and whoever added those farcical, cartoonish sound effects to the TARDIS console blowing up should have won an award for their ability to kill drama stone dead.
At times, however, Tom Baker and Lalla Ward threaten to make The Horns of Nimon funny with the odd duly deadpan exchange – “How many times have you said that?” / “Hundreds” / “How many times have you been right?” / “Four or three…” – but a meagre serving of humour isn’t enough to prevail over performances as hammy as Graham Crowden’s.
Somewhat ironically, the DVD’s commentary is a remarkably sober affair. In the absence of Tom Baker, Anthony Read; Lalla Ward; Graham Crowden; and former Blue Peter presenter and would-be Nimon appetiser Janet Ellis have a polite and fairly straightforward discussion about their memories of the production and its merits. Not once does Crowden lament faded “dreams of conquest” or doom anybody. Read the Writer is similarly staid, comprising just a short interview with the story’s writer that covers little not covered in the commentary.
Above: Blue Peter presenter Gethin Jones examines his show’s relationship with Doctor Who in Who Peter
More colourful is the first half of the long-mooted Who Peter documentary. Subtitled Partners in Time, this charming half-hour feature documents Blue Peter’s many efforts to promote the series over the years, covering everything from Dalek cakes to Dalek heists and all the K-9 bum sniffing in between, and doing so with both style and sheen. The disc is then completed with incoming composer Peter Howell’s famous rescoring of a section of this story’s second episode, which he was asked to do to as an illustration of where he might go with the sound design in the upcoming season. It’s actually a far more remarkable offering than it sounds – somehow it feels fundamentally wrong to hear an electronic 80s score accompanying a non-burgundy fourth Doctor.
Ultimately though a DVD’s main selling point is the serial that it showcases, and The Horns of Nimon is not only substandard, but most probably largely responsible for perpetuating the public misapprehension of classic Doctor Who being the wobbly, camp, cheesy children’s television show that unfortunately many still consider it to be.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007, 2011
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.