The Horns of Nimon
|Dates||Dec. 22, 1979 -
Jan. 12, 1980
With Tom Baker, Lalla Ward,
David Brierly as the voice of "K9".
Written by Anthony Read. Script-edited by Douglas Adams.
Directed by Kenny McBain. Produced by Graham Williams.
|Synopsis: The great Nimon expects a tribute of power and slaves from the planet Aneth, until the Doctor inadvertently lands aboard the Tributes' ship.|
A feast of laughs by Tom May 3/4/98
Nimon: "Later, you will questioned, tortured and
Doctor: "Well I hope you get it in the right order!"
In the scheme of Season 17, this is average. It's easily better than Destiny of the Daleks, ahead of Creature From The Pit, and isn't as good as City of Death or Nightmare of Eden. With my liking for Williams-Era Doctor Who, I do enjoy Horns of Nimon an awful lot-- after all, it features Lalla Ward and Tom Baker, and is a very neat plot.
The character of Soldeed is an unqualified success-- a superbly OTT creation, but alas, there are too many dull, hapless figures in this story for my liking. Most glaringly, Seth and Teka are awfully bland, and if lightly amusing are pretty hopeless. I loved one fellow who called Seth, Teka, and their party "weekling scum!" Romana gives him a good dressing-down in part one, when he leaves the Doctor to die-- but otherwise, there are few characters of lasting memorability.
Soldeed is wonderfully fawning in the presence of his "Lord Nimon," and while I refute allegations that the whole production is "pantomine" in style, it has to be said the Nimons look very unconvincing indeed, and wouldn't like out of place in a festive production. There are some quite odd scenes in part one, especially the ridiculous cliff-hanger, and that noise eminating from the TARDIS.
The plot, if implausible scientifically, is rather a good one, both coherent and easy to follow. I recall that UK Gold showed this next to Warriors' Gate in their 30th Anniversary weekend-- you cannot get much more different in style than these two stories. Horns of Nimon is stupidly named. What significance do the Nimon's fake-looking horns actually hold?
Overall, Soldeed, The Doctor and Romana are sufficiently strong characters to hold it all together. What could quite clearly have been an inane, silly second-rate BBC panto is turned into a wonderfully silly, cohesive, enjoyable and amusing romp (if you think, as I do, that Special Effects aren't the be-all and end-all of a fine Doctor Who story). 7.5/10
P.S. Watch this story near Christmas.
A Greek Comedy by Paul X 7/9/98
The Horns of Nimon is the most maligned story of the G. Williams' era as producer because of its humor content & over-the-top performances. These criticisms misrepresent a very enjoyable story & creative period of the show's history. The plot has loose ties to Greek mythology & has been labeled as pantomime (whatever), and these references enhance rather than detract from the story. Rather than just your regular science-fiction adventure, The Horns of Nimon is an old story told from a sci-fi viewpoint. The end result is a brilliant piece of television entertaining for viewers of all ages.
Similar to the season 15 story Underworld, The Horns of Nimon borrows elements from classical mythology. The main villains, the Nimon, are pretty well done. Despite the simplicity of the costume, they are terrifying with their well-choreographed gestures & modulated voices. They cut a striking presence opposed to the faceless Anethans. The complex is a neat analogy to the labyrinth with it's ever changing walls & transport equipment. The sets manage to convey a sophisticated technology rather well.
The supporting cast is made up of a bunch of stereo-typical characters. But aside from the Anethans, the actors manage really put a lot of effort into their performances. The bumbling pilot is exaggeratedly mean & stupid, constantly grumbling to the tributes, abandoning the Doctor, lying to Soldeed & the Nimon. Soldeed is so deluded by the thought of power he waxes philosophically about the great journey of life, but is blind to it's real meaning. The Skonnons are a growling bunch of cattle saluting the second Skonnon empire. When it all comes together, the result is entertaining. Soldeed is a real scene-stealer. He manages to convey a real maniacal persona with his wide-eyed stares, constantly screaming mottos, & flamboyant costume. The humorous tone of the story blends all these outrageous performances into an interesting piece of science-fiction without sacrificing the story.
The regulars seem to be enjoying themselves through this romp as well. Lalla Ward plays the ultra-serious Time Lady to Tom Baker's scatter-brained Time Lord. As throughout season 17, the dialogue is laced with wit & sarcasm without diminishing the villain's integrity. Although not up to par with The City of Death, this one's got tons of great lines. Baker's presence is very overpowering in the story & manages to keep the whole production tight. His reactions to the unfolding situations are animated & manage to balance the tension & comedic elements really well.
Typical of a G.Williams story, The Horns of Nimon combines many different elements: mythology, wit, & science fiction. It was created during probably the most creative era of the show. The Doctor visited more alien worlds & was far less earthbound than during JNT's tenure, while the envelope was constantly pushed, which the stories reflecrted. The Horns of Nimon is one such story & I highly recommend it.
Substance Over Style by Matt Michael 29/8/00
The Horns of Nimon is the worst Doctor Who serial ever. Fact.
At least, this is what we've been told to believe for many years.
However, the truth is rather different. Far from being the dire serial that is only remembered for being the anti-climactic finale to Graham Williams' producership, The Horns of Nimon is one of the most entertaining Doctor Who stories, and is a fine end to the innovative and experimental Williams period.
The storyline is very good indeed. Tightly plotted and logically developed at a steady pace, with plot points followed up as the serial develops. The nascent black hole that draws in the TARDIS and the Skonnon ship is later revealed to be one end of a wormhole between worlds - a wormhole that will allow the Nimon to swarm like locusts over Skonnos, stripping the planet of its energy and leaving a husk as desolate and lifeless as Crinoth. And who said that DW only did proper science fiction after Bidmead joined up? Character motivation is clear and strong. The Skonnons want to create a second Skonnon Empire that will allow them to once again reach out for the stars and dominate their corner of space. It's a straightforward but compelling aim that is set up in the earliest scenes, and which is followed through until the very end, with no unconvincing changes of heart on the part of the Skonnon characters. Soldeed's scenes with the Skonnon Council show that he's leading his people on the basis of the Nimon's promise to him. As with many great DW serials including The Robots of Death and The Caves of Androzani, Skonnon society is sketched out convincingly. Soldeed actually has to keep his people satisfied, rather than being a simple tin-pot dictator. The Skonnon Empire was destroyed by in-fighting and civil war, and only the hope of recapturing former glories seems to keep the state functioning. It's reminiscent of Babylon 5's Centauri. Even more so when you consider that the Nimons, like B5's Shadows, have promised the restoration of empire to Soldeed while they carry out their more nefarious aims. Despite unconvincing costumes, the Nimons are pretty good monsters, particularly when photographed sympathetically. At least they tower over the humanoids. Their voices are particularly noteworthy. The low electronic warble that makes them sound like snorting bulls is inspired, as is the use of their lowered horns as energy weapons. Like the other characters, the Nimons have clear motives. They want to escape the now-dead Crinoth, travel to Skonnos and strip it dry. To do so, they require a wormhole. The Nimon on Skonnos has been manipulating Soldeed to ensure he gets the materials he needs to achieve his goal.
The script succeeds in almost every respect. There're the unobtrusive but entertaining parallels with the Greek myth of Theseus, given an interesting spin in the form of the unlikely hero, Seth, and the Nimons' huge circuit-board labyrinth. It's an interesting subtext that works in the story's favour. The witty dialogue isn't forced, and is generally inspired. For example, Seth's observation that 'all these corridors look the same' could be taken as a criticism of typical Doctor Who set design, but it also works in context because Seth is trapped in the labyrinth. This, five years before its much-praised use in Vengeance on Varos. Romana's observation that 'it fits' that the insecure Nimon should lurk at the heart of the Power Complex is similarly clever. The greatest achievement of the script is in linking and counterpointing situations. Aside from the obvious parallels with Greek myth, the Doctor and Seth are counterpointed as one is a willing hero, and the other is unsure of his own abilities. Romana is capable, but makes the odd blunder (like leaving her sonic screwdriver behind), while the Doctor seems to blunder through but works things out in the end. The Skonnons want to colonise other worlds, just as the Nimons want to colonise Skonnos. Best of all is the counterpointing of Soldeed with his Crinothian equivalent, Sezom (they even wear similar costumes). Both were promised much by the Nimon, and both chose to believe. But when the terrible truth becomes apparent, Sezom chooses to fight and to die to save a world he's never heard of, while Soldeed descends into madness, wanting to take everyone with him when he dies.
Soldeed played by Graham Crowden is a much-criticised element, but much of this actually rather unfair. Most of the time, Crowden is fine. Yes, he makes Soldeed slightly over-the-top, but not excessively so. And when he does finally go OTT, it's because the character has gone mad as he sees his dreams torn asunder, and not because Graham Crowden wants to have some fun at the production's expense. The rest of the cast vary from acceptable (Sorak, Teka) through good (Seth, the Nimon), to outstanding. Lalla Ward gives her finest performance as Romana, showing steely resolve in the face of ignorant barbarism, getting loads of Doctorish things to do, and doing them well. And Lalla Ward's performance is so well judged that despite all this she steps back and allows Tom to take centre stage for his scenes. Other aspects of the production are equally variable, from a fine great hall-type set on Skonnos to the drab interiors of the Power Complex. Costumes, in the hands of the ever-capable June Hudson, are remarkable, from the pomp of the Skonnons' velvet finery to the plain simplicity of the Anethans' smocks. Effects are no worse than in any other DW serial of the period, and are occasionally very good - for example the, blood-red entrance to the Power Complex.
There are some bad points, as with any Doctor Who serial. The direction is, on occasion, flat and uninteresting, and the TARDIS scenes at the start go on too long and have too many weak visual jokes or goofs (such as Tom Baker visibly leaping before the console bangs). One or two of the scenes are quite cringeworthy, particularly the Doctor creeping round behind the Nimon to try and see what it's doing. However, on the whole it's not especially bad, and it's difficult, twenty years on, to see why it's attracted so much notoriety. For the last time in many years it was a case of substance over style. If you can look past the relatively unsuccessful Nimon costumes and the tacky sets then there's much entertainment to be derived from The Horns of Nimon as the high audience appreciation figures suggest. Divorced from the po-faced fandom of the late seventies that was convinced that Doctor Who should be 'serious adult drama' (what, like This Life?) rather than pleasurable family viewing, the story stands up admirably. A very well-deserved 8/10.
Bull? by Andrew Wixon 4/4/02
As the unintended swan-song for the Williams era, The Horns of Nimon has a lot to live up to: the previous two or three incumbent producers had gone out on resounding high-notes. Whether Shada would have been the same is debatable, but it's a moot point as history will record that the final completed story of Graham Williams' tenure is this one.
So... is it any good? Well, on first viewing there's a single word that leaps to mind when describing Horns (and no, it's probably not the one you're thinking of. Or the other one that leaps to mind). That word is 'unsubtle'. Graham Crowden's almost majestically bad (and big!) performance sort of sets the tone for the rest of the story. Every character has one or two traits which they manifest over and over again. There's no attempt to disguise the fact that this is another chapter from 'A Treasury of Greek Myths' with the serial numbers filed off. Even the jokes for once incline more towards the obvious than the witty (K9 covered in printout, the peculiar sound effect when the console goes bang).
But, well, hang on. This is a story which is cleanly and straightforwardly told, with no reliance on flashy direction, no protracted flashback sequences or convoluted continuity references. The whole family could watch it (and did, in our house) and all enjoy it for their own different reasons - not something the show post-1980 was notable for. To be blunt, it's great fun, not to be taken remotely seriously of course, but then this is DW. It's fast, inventive, pulp fiction. And there are flashes of wit here and there: the Nimon has a Power Complex - well, obviously he does!
I'm not trying to argue that this is a neglected classic or anything of the sort - if nothing else, the truly appalling Nimon costumes (what were they thinking of???) ensure that this is an average story at best. But all the virtues of 70s DW - the inventiveness, the pace, the strength of the storytelling - are here as well. Perhaps it's a fine valediction of the Williams years after all.
An unabashed party by Tim Roll-Pickering 2/11/02
This story was originally transmitted over Christmas 1979 and it feels like a true party! This story clearly sends up elements of the series but does so in a way that makes the story enjoyable and fun. Like any good pantomime it takes an existing story, in this case the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, and brings it to life with some larger than life performances, some reasonably good production values (though in places the limited budget does show) and some extremely memorable performances. Whether one enjoys The Horns of Nimon or not depends heavily upon whether or not the viewer is able to accept a light-hearted tale that is seeking to entertain above all else
Anthony Read's only script for the series is very much in line with his vision for the series of reworking mythology in a science-fiction environment. The legend of the Minotaur had been previously touched upon in The Mind Robber and The Time Monster, but here it drives many parts of the story and is acknowledged at the end of the tale when the Doctor recalls how Theseus sailed home under a black sale. However there is also a good attempt to inject some originality to the story through the addition of the Nimons' background and plans to invade Skonnos and drain it of its resources. One of the most interesting elements arises from the way that the Doctor and Romana first encounter the story out in space and it takes a whole episode before they actually reach Skonnos, in a way highly reminiscent of the early years of the series when the first episode of a story was frequently used to sketch out the environment and situation. The script is not notable for its great lines but legendary epics are rarely remembered for the dialogue and so this is highly appropriate.
Tom Baker is more restrained than usual for Season 17, though this can be attributed to the strong role that Romana is given in this story, to the point of at times taking the lead role. Lalla Ward gives a good and competent performance, but the acting honours have to go to Graham Crowden. His performance as Soldeed is famous for the overacting but this is highly appropriate in the tale and it more than makes up for the highly pedestrian performances of other cast members. Janet Ellis' performances as Teka is easily the worst and makes the character extremely irritating, whilst Simon Gipps-Kent completely fails to inspire as Seth.
Production wise the story has some reasonable sets, though the industrial nature of some scenes does suggest that some are using material from stock due to budgetary restrictions. Fortunately there is some good camera work and lighting that manages to hide some of the restrictions. The result is a story that holds together quite well and shows how a light-hearted send-up can work when done properly. This story deserves a much better reputation than it has at present and a video release. 7/10
I have (nearly) caught an everlasting cold by Paul Harries 11/7/03
Having been introduced to the wonderful world of Doctor Who by the repeat of Destiny of the Daleks (1980), it is only now I finally get to see the final programme of the final story from season 17 - a gap of about 23 years (good lord!).
I have always heard the same things about the show, that's its a pantomime, with awful effects, over the top acting and the principle cast not bothering and treating the proceedings with boredom. To be frank that criticism is more appropriate with a lot of modern science-fiction films and TV. But now is not the time to talk about them. What do I think of The Horns of Nimon?
Firstly, it's a lot of fun. Yes some of the acting is a little OTT, but I would rather see the actors have fun as then we get the feeling that the show was worth doing. While only a die-hard Doctor Who fan who watches nothing else would say that any of the actors are superb, the main cast, principle and others are having a whale of a time! Tom and Lalla are a wonderful double act who really bouced off each other in this story. I love the way, that even when threatened by the Co-pilot, Soldeed and the Nimon, they are really in command of the situation. In this story, and in others of the period, you get the feel that there are really above everything, being outsiders and coming into the scene, taking seconds to understand the situation and then just get on with business! To them, fighting monsters and saving the universe is their job, so why not enjoy it too? I find David Breierly less interesting as K-9 than John Leeson.
While the rest of the cast is varied, Graham Crowden is hilarious! Just look at his posturing when he enters! His mad stare when he realises that the Nimon has betrayed him! His manic showdown with Romana! His laugh when he is killed (the corpse who corpsed)! My favourite scene is when he first meets the Doctor. It's wonderful! The dialogue between the barking mad Time Lord and the BARKING MAD Soldeed is wonderfully written and delivered.
"Building a black hole" (looks up) "on my doorstep...."
It helped having this scene on the Tom Baker Years video.
I like the scenes with him in the council chambers and the quiet scene as he talks to his underling (who's name I've forgot) about him "using" the Nimon. This shows that, regardless of how he's played, that the character of Soldeed is quite interesting. An intelligent and eccentric scientist who is so sure of his power, that when he realises that he's been used, just goes completely mad! I like the contrast that Sezom in the final episode is what Soldeed will become if the Nimons succeed.
I think one key to this story are the characters. The Co-pilot appears to be a bully (weakling scum!) who, if he didn't have someone to push around, would not know what to do with himself. Seth, the reluctant prince, who seems pushed into being a hero by a wittering, hero-worshipping girl, who must really know the he hasn't done much to justify himself, so invents a reason to justify why she fancies him, rather than accept the Doctor saved the day!
On a side note, this is how a lot of people who watch mainstream react to science fiction heroes these days. I think that's why there's so much science fiction out there with young juvenile leads (Buffy/Angel springs to mind). The stories may or may not be any good, but who cares as long as there's someone to drool over! In return say the writers, what's the point of writing intelligent science fiction if all the viewers are interested in is how handsome or pretty the star. I'm glad that Doctor Who didn't start now, instead of 40 years ago, it would have lasted no more than 4! Anyway...
Then there are the Nimons themselves. I have no problem with them looking as they do. The heads could be space helmets (because they don't breathe the air) and could be made to impress the local population. The concept of them being parasitic nomads is an excellent one and offers plenty of interest, as well as a means to return. They are also cunning enough to achieve their means. The idea of a species tricking another race into helping it invade and takeover their worlds is fascinating. I think the idea of the changing labyrinth, presumably manipulated by the Nimons in order to bring their sacrifices into their control, is an interesting concept and an excellent use of the good old Doctor Who corridors. Interestingly, before she even sees the Nimons, Romana says that the Nimons could be an insecure race, and that could tie with the idea that they are too horrific for themselves. After all, what does someone who's insecure do? Hide away or prove they are better than others...
Overall, the story is fun, interesting and full of ideas. Some moments don't work such as some of the Doctor/K-9 moments in the TARDIS (Where did the Doctor get that rosette!?!), and the acting of the extras is very bland. And didn't the Doctor cause the death of one of the Anethens (if that's what they are called) at the beginning of part 3? Anyway, on the whole, while no classic, is worth watching. There's so much to it!
A Review by Paul Rees 17/7/03
These days, those Tom Baker stories which have in the past been universally panned are often subjected to re-evaluation. Many are not, in fact, as bad as had been previously supposed: both Creature From the Pit and Underworld fall into this category. The Horns of Nimon, unfortunately, does not. It's basically just very dull, and is the only Tom Baker story which I actually find boring.
Unusually for 70's Doctor Who, many of the scenes are incredibly long; in particular, those taking place in the TARDIS interior in episodes 1 and 2 seemed to stretch on indeterminably. Indeed, if there is one thing that this story lacks, it is 'zip' - I found myself clock-watching on a number of occasions, which is never a good sign.
On the other hand, the acting isn't too bad (although Blue Peter's Janet Ellis is pretty poor), and the set design and costumes are all perfectly competent. Nothing about Horns of Nimon looks cheap, admittedly, and Soldeed is wonderfully over-the-top ("My dreams of conquest!!!").
The Nimon themselves are pretty impressive too, even if their loincloths seem to be a rather bizarre accessory. And after the sloooooooooow, slooooooooow pace of the first three episodes, things do pick up a little in episode 4, with events being brought to a fairly satisfactory conclusion.
Where this story really falls down is in the believability stakes. Tom here gives as commanding a performance as ever, but he slips into silliness mode on several occasions (for example, when attempting to give K9 the kiss of life). There's also an enormous amount of technobable, and some ridiculous plot devices (how exactly does the TARDIS 'bounce off' of the approaching planet in episode 1? I don't follow the cricket analogy at all). Half the time, I end up not quite understanding how what is happening is actually happening . Unlike with some other stories, the positive elements here are not numerous enough to counterbalance this.
All this is a shame, because the basic idea of the Nimon as locust-like parasites, migrating from one world to another is a pretty good one. However, despite such a promising premise, The Horns of Nimon manages to be both silly and tedious at the same time.
A Load of Bull by Mike Morris 25/9/03
I love The Horns of Nimon, me. Loved it when I first saw it on UK Gold a few years ago. I thought it was damn funny, a good example of Season Seventeen wackiness all that.
Having purchased the video lately I noticed two things on a repeat viewing. First of all, I still love The Horns of Nimon. More than ever if anything. Secondly - and this was the really big shock - it's not actually that wacky at all. Like Nightmare of Eden before it, in spite of a number of one-liners, it's actually rather straight.
The Horns of Nimon is one of those iconic stories that define an era. It's almost as if the true test of a Williams-era aficionado is whether they like The Horns of Nimon or not. As silly as that is, it's understandable, because it does contain many of the era's traits - positive and negative. It has a witty script, a smart plot, a hilariously unconvincing monster, Tom chewing up the scenery and spitting out the chipboard, K9 getting disassembled, bad modelwork... yup, all present and correct. It's also got Lalla being cute and witty and virginal in her posh-home-counties way. In a great costume. And almost makes her the star. Nowt wrong with that, says me.
The lingering hormonal dysfunctionality of my much-protracted adolescence aside, this story manages to surpass its limitations by virtue of a really good script. Not only is it very witty, it's also outstandingly plotted. The pacing is perfect and it's highly imaginative. The Nimon are excellent bad guys, 'intergalactic locusts' transferred into the sci-fi arena in a thoughtful way. The set pieces, especially the labyrinth, are superbly conceived. The revelation of Corinth's fate is staggeringly ambitious; and there are brilliantly conceived individual scenes, such as where Romana forces Soldeed to admit he has seen three Nimon. All admirable stuff.
Then, of course, there's the tap-dancing blokes in tights with bull-masks. There's Graham Crowden, devouring any bits of scenery Tom left over. There are wobbly walls and dodgy effects, and there are some rather drippy performances. In fact, there are some astonishing levels of incompetence all round. Which are rather funny aren't they?
Which begs what, for me, is the big question; is The Horns of Nimon good because of these things?
No. The Horns of Nimon is good in spite of these things.
And yet, in a way, the obvious shortcomings are what makes it brilliant. They're the obstacles The Horns of Nimon overcomes without stopping to think. Had this been made with a big budget, a director at the height of his powers and a superb cast, it would obviously have been a better story. But it would lose the we'll-do-this-on-a-shoestring daring-do that it has as it exists... the sheer gleeful heroism of the cheap, wobbly version. The joy of getting the story told with whatever's lying around; the lightness of touch that goes-hand-in-hand with that joy, and makes it so infectiously funny; the belief that if the story's good enough, then the effects don't matter. For that reason, watching The Horns of Nimon actually fills me with a no-holds-barred admiration for the people who made it. It's just wonderful that somebody actually knocked this out, that with no resources they made a prime-time family programme just because they knew the story was good enough. It's ironic that a cast member went on to present Blue Peter, because The Horns of Nimon is Doctor Who made out of cereal boxes and sticky-back plastic, and its invention and courage leaves me awestruck...
...aided because, really, the production team know it's only a laugh. There are so many little asides that let the viewer share in the joke. At the same time, of course, they try not to erode the drama - much - and present the Nimon (for example) in a very serious way; there's no 'you're standing on my scarf' smartarsery. The visit to Crinoth is really rather grim, and although he's hideously overplayed the co-pilot is a nasty character portrayed nastily ('weakling scum' catchprase aside). The best way to explain what all this is like, is that it's a bit like reading a really, really passionate review on this website; reading a Doctor Who fan having a good rant, getting terribly worked up about how, say, Pyramids of Mars is an overrated pile of crap, and then catching himself in his own seriousness, realising how OTT he's being, and throwing in a self-deprecatory joke. Really believing these arguments matter (which they do), that dammit, this is bloody important (which it is), but also knowing it's all a bit daft (which it is) and it's not that important (which it's not). Yeah, this is what The Horns of Nimon is like; and just as I love the fact that there are people out there who care about Doctor Who but don't care too much, I love The Horns of Nimon because it simultaneously takes itself very seriously, but constantly winks at the audience and says, I don't really mean it.
The story opens out in space, with some drippy kids on a wobbly spaceship being taken off as a tribute between two planets. The spaceship's caught in a black hole, and that's when Romana and the Doctor arrive...
Oh, YES. That's heroic, all right. With a few shitty sets and some bad modelwork, The Horns of Nimon manages to convey the notion of two planets and their past war, the endless paying of tributes, and has us wondering who this Nimon bloke is and what's going on. In spite of all the obvious limitations, Part One is great. It may end on a pantomime cliffhanger, it may be cheap, Teka may be a drip and the Nimon is obviously absurd, but dammit, it works. It keeps us guessing. And it leads us into a whole host of clever ideas...
The Nimon maze, for example, played alternately as sinister (Romana and the Anethians being lost there) and amusing (the Doctor sticking paper stars all over the place). The surprising horror of the decayed corpse, it's 'binding forces stripped away'. The truth behind the black hole as a space bridge. The Nimon characterised as locusts, and the subtlety with which they infiltrate society. The way that the pattern we see unfolding on Skonnos is shown at its completion on Crinoth.
And the lines! The Doctor's told he will be questioned, tortured and killed and he says he hopes they get it in the right order. And the pun on 'power complex' is brilliant.
There's some fun characters too. I've already mentioned the co-pilot - who deserved a name at least - but Soldeed is also a marvellous fun villain... or rather he would be if he'd been played any way competently. The dull camp crapness of Graham Crowden's performance is infuriating. Some people seem to think he's hilarious, but sorry, he's just crap. Seeing an actor overact can be marvellous - Paul Darrow's turn in Timelash always makes me laugh - but Crowden's overacting appears to consist of three things; talk loudly, talk slowly, and overpronounce every word. That's it. The result is that he's not just hammy, he's dull and predictable and, well, rubbish. Shame, because the character's overblown but not without good motivations, and some of the scenes are very ambitious. Oh well.
Instead we get a few rather funny scenes with Seth and Teka. Seth's a drip, yes, but Teka's no-holds barred admiration for him actually makes it quite funny. It's something that happened a lot in the era, the straight action-hero being reworked as a rather gormless type (Andred, Kimus, Cordo, Prince Reynhart, Duggan) with varying results; this version is fitfully amusing.
I do like the bloke Romana meets on Corinth, though.
Still; this story belongs to the leads. Tom and Lalla, oh, they're in love all right; this story shows them all smiles, bantering and laughing. When the Doctor's annoyed at himself for not making a deduction, Romana tells him 'Oh you will, Doctor, you will!' Mostly, however, Ward plays it completely straight, delivering lines like 'despicable worm!' without a hint of a joke. Tom, who's excluded from much of the action in a quite unusual way, goes completely the other way and plays it all for laughs, undermines a couple of cliffhangers and threatening scenes, and is largely hilarious. Part of the reason I like K9 so much is that he's the perfect straight man to Tom's Doctor, and the padded TARDIS scenes are eminently watchable.
It might seem like a double standard to criticise Graham Crowden and then love Tom Baker for doing - more or less - the same thing. There's a key difference between the two, though, and it's believability. Graham Crowden looks like an actor hamming it up because he can't be bothered acting, but Tom Baker is that batty eccentric lunatic Doctor. Tom's joking, sure, but he never drops out of character - and the various ways he throws comedy about are deceptively thoughtful and intelligent. He might completely spoil any drama behind Part One's cliffhanger, but the way he grabs at K9 is unexpected and hilarious. In other words, Tom earns the right to arse about. Crowden doesn't.
I guess the same's true of The Horns of Nimon. The silly bits conceal a whole bunch of cleverness and good storytelling. It's what separates The Horns of Nimon from The Creature From The Pit - one is a good story with some arseing about, the other is arseing about from start to finish. One does the hard work, and then laughs and pretends it hasn't; the other doesn't do a damn thing.
I say that because, occasionally, praise of my favourite era passes me by. I sometimes feel like it's enjoyed because of the crap bits, and that devalues Williams-era stuff as much as criticism. The Horns of Nimon is the perfect exemplar of why I think this era's great - because it is good enough to completely surpass all the crap bits, in fact it's so good it can swallow up the crap bits and bring them with it and make them as funny and likeable as the better elements. Crap turned to gold. I've often said that Doctor Who is just a daft kid's show, and that's true - but somehow, impossibly, it's also one of the most imaginative, brilliant programmes ever made. The Williams era summarises this beautiful alchemy; and The Horns of Nimon summarises the Williams era. I haven't got a hope in hell of not loving this little gem.
It's a battered old teddy bear of a story; ragged, falling to bits, a bit worn and dirty in places, but something to love and cherish in all its funny, wonderful glory. It makes me glow all over, words can't express how much I adore it. There's no story I love more than this one.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 10/2/04
On the face of it, The Horns Of Nimon is a typical example of every criticism levelled at Doctor Who; a low budget story, with dodgy acting which isn`t taken very seriously. Whilst the above is true, the story has a great deal to offer, the budget actually helps the story; being set partially inside a circuit doesn`t call for much in the way of set design. The Nimon themselves are impressive up to a point, their heads working better than the rest of them; although vocally they are very striking.
The guest cast are forgettable with the exception of Graham Crowden and his notoriously OTT portrayal of Soldeed. Indeed even his costume would seem to reflect the pantomimesque characterisation he brings to the part. Tom Baker is probably at his most uncontrollable here, the result being that his repartee with K-9 comes across as all the more entertaining (even more so when he is competing with Soldeed for lines.) Perhaps unsurprisingly then Lalla Ward steps into the role of Doctor during the story and she benefits from this, although this doesn`t make the story any less silly.
As the closing story of the seventies Nimon will be more memorable for its silliness than for the fact that it wasn`t meant to close the season at all.
"You meddlesome hussy!" by Joe Ford 22/5/04
Okay folks listen up; especially Rob and Mike who I know are rather fond of this story... maybe, MAYBE I was wrong about it. I recently posted a worst forty stories ever and The Horns of Nimon had its own shiny spot on that list and after watching the story again I realise I have been entirely unfair. This story has its fair share of flaws to be sure, it doesn't match up to the rest of season seventeen certainly, but its still has enough sparkling moments, giggle-some performances and plagiarising ideas to see it kicked out of my rant of infinity and for Byzantium! to replace it.
When I watch Horns of Nimon (which in itself is one of the daftest titles the series has ever come up with, up there with The Deadly Assassin and Time and the Rani) I get the impression of time running out for the series and the Graeme Williams era in particular. Could you imagine the show ending here if JNT had not taken over and given it a polish? It would be sad, dreary end for the show, a budget-less exercise in myth stealing and comedy performances that would end the show on a 'point and laugh' note. Maybe it is the lack of money on screen, maybe it is the fact that nobody seems to be taking it very seriously anymore (and it DOES feel like that desperately at times) but The Horns of Nimon overall is not a very attractive package to end the season on.
However as people have noted in the past if you're in the right mood the story can be a lot of fun. Obviously I was not in the right mood the last time I watched it. At the story's heart there are three towering performances that lift the story for very different reasons and depending on which mood you've come into the story will depend in which you will prefer.
If you're in an especially stupid mood and fancy watching Doctor Who as a childish game with lots of running around and shouting and villains who act as though they've stepped off stage of a Christmas pantomime skulking about with an exaggerated walk and scenery chewing dialogue then you'll love Graeme Crowden's Soldeed. Let's put it this way; you cannot fail to spot him. His is the ultimate slice of Doctor Who ham; he plays his part by abandoning any sense of realism and jettisoning off into the stratosphere, he stresses every single word and has a vast array of comical expressions to leer at the camera with. Soldeed is an over the top character anyway, one who dribbles on about conquest and power but Crowden fails to reign in any dignity for the character with his eye-popping egotism and creates a villain you are rooting to die throughout.
My favourite Soldeed moments are littered about the story, unexpected scenes of unforgivable insanity such as when he stares at the camera with sudden realisation and says "Digging a black hole on my doorstep!" or when he realises there is more than one Nimon and he glares at them with his eyes bulging and his mouth somewhere below his knees. It is hysterically funny and cringeworthy at the same time, it is clear a firmer producer is required to stop this sort of thing happening again but as a one off (and it was aired over Christmas) it does genuinely make you laugh.
Matt, the only friend of mine who loves Doctor Who as much as I do, thinks an excellent reason to watch Horns of Nimon is to see Lalla Ward's excellent turn in the limelight. The popular myth is that she steals the Doctor's job whilst he is goofing about in the TARDIS but this is a little unfair to the glorious Romana II who has spent the entire season doing Doctor-ish things, helping technically, emotionally and physically, Romana is a character who rivals the Doctor in terms of importance because she is so good at charging in and getting a bit shouty and sorting out a mess. She is rarely seen to be as capable as she is here though, protecting the Athenian children, standing up to the co-pilot and Soldeed, building her own sonic screwdriver (and thus being responsible for one of the best gags in the serial) and putting her technical mind to good use. Lalla Ward rises above the comedy and gives an ideal straight performance, which was desperately needed when she is sandwiched between Baker and Crowden's back stabbing schoolboys, somebody need to be seen to be taking the story seriously and you'll find the most dramatically satisfying moments are centred around Romana (Seth admitting his ruse to her, Sezom's sacrifice for her, her scene stealing "STOP HIM!" when Soldeed is finally killed). Okay so maybe she is a bit too bossy at times but it is a welcome relief from all the scene stealing goofiness.
Tom on autopilot? Not really, although he does seem to be making up much of his dialogue as he goes along. Could it be that he has embodied the role of the Doctor so successfully that he does not need to make an effort to convince as the nutty professor? It could be some of ridiculous things he has to do such as giving K.9. mouth to mouth and that his character genuinely seems to be improvising brilliantly throughout that has led to many to comment on Tom's apparent laziness (including me!). Despite this he still mines a rich vein of comedy, sharing an electrical rapport with Romana and enjoying some deliciously over the top scenes with Graeme Crowden where they are clearly both trying so hard to make the other laugh their head off! The Doctor of this season seems to relish his adventures and even in the tightest of spots (such as the TARDIS colliding with another ship and being faced with huge bull shaped aliens with deadly horns) he is still cracking jokes and trying to keep everybody's spirits up. It works, I certainly watch Tom's work with a huge smile on my face.
One thing this story (and indeed everything Doctor Who related that Douglas Adams was involved with) enjoys is a vast number of wonderful technical ideas and imaginative concepts, lots of science and science fiction mushing up in an amalgamation of creativity. The budget rarely succeeds in adequately realising the ideas (the TARDIS glued to another ship, the force field bridging the gaps between the two ships, the 'printed circuit' ariel view of Skonnos, the maze of corridors that shifts) but you cannot fault the inventiveness that has gone into the script. Indeed the Nimon's plan to colonise other worlds is ingenious enough for me to recommend you watching the story alone, how they prey on the greed of other races by offering them power but merely using them to supply a suitable power source so they can harness the black hole to shift their invading force over is rather wonderful. Through Soldeed we get to see just how gullible the Skonnons are, believing they are using the Anetheans to invade their own planet when in fact this is exactly what the Nimons are up to with themselves.
I suppose there is a valid reason for why the sets look sparse and drab, the Skonnons are supposed to be suffering from a lack of resources and the backlash of centuries of fighting. Saying that some sets are drowned in darkness to hide the lack of decoration and others (the gateway to the Nimon) are used to such an extent it is obvious that money is not luxury this late in the season... I shame that this story should suffer to fund Shada's expensive Cambridge location shoot considering we never got to see the season finale. Horns of Nimon DOES suffer from poor production values no matter how much you convince yourselves the ideas and performances make up for this. The Anetheans are dressed up in these horrid yellow Adric PJs whilst the Skonnons are the purest example of Williams' camp. The direction is plodding, the is little pace to the story and all of the cliffhangers are so undramatic you have to wonder why they bothered. But nothing shows up this story more than the monsters...
An ingenious idea, the Nimon, plucked from popular myth and planted into an SF setting, this race of interplanetary locusts (or rather bulls) are clearly intelligent creatures and excellent tacticians. So why do they look so damn silly, top heavy with HUGE bulging heads and daft plastic yellow horns? And for such an ingenious species why do they growl and snarl like mindless animals when they skulk around the corridors? It seems that the designers have run out of ideas and are just throwing any old thing on screen. The Jagaroth were pretty good, the Daleks are a given, the Creature an embarrassing blob, the Mandrels just about passable but these director's nightmare creatures fail to bring any threat that the story desperately needs to make it work. Instead the Nimon enhance the panto feel of the story and kill any great respect I have for the tale. A shame. It doesn't look like the Kraags were going to be much better either.
There are some decently understated child performances from Simon Gipps-Kent and Janet Ellis, they do little but moan and act scared but unusually for Doctor Who these are child who actors do not sink the show (unlike the Conrad Twins, Matthew Waterhouse, Squeak from Survival). Of all the characters in this story to die in a horrible fashion the Co-Pilot (unworthy of an actual name) is top of the list given Malcolm Terris' dreadful, dreadful acting. "Weakling scum!" he barks at the kids like a real boo-hiss villain and continues his snarling and grovelling right up to his bloody awful death scene where he attempts to beg for his life, shoot the monster, scream "Nooooo!" and split his pants, one after the other. That, my friends, takes true genius!
Horns is not the disaster I made it out to be but neither is it entirely salvageable either. On the Graeme Williams scale it is sinking in the deep end. On the Doctor Who scale it doesn't do much better. But there is a certain charm about the material, so tragically amateurish and played for the giggles that I cannot bring myself to loathe it. On the anti-classic scale it is better than The Time Monster and Time and the Rani because the script and ideas are bloody marvellous. Shame the production could not match up.
A sweet'n'sour end to the Williams era.
A Review by Steve Cassidy 15/12/04
If there was a Doctor Who adventure which exemplifies Britain in 1978/79 it has to be Horns of Nimon. Believe or not I don't mean this as an insult. Its a good thing - a compliment of sorts. There is a wonderful amateurism about The Horns of Nimon that would be lost in the following season. Budgets running out, shaky sets, the feeling of making do, everything second-hand or reaching the end of its shelf life, general malaise - but at the same time having the most tremendous fun and most importantly not taking itself too seriously. There is a sense of an end of term party. Everything is falling to bits but while it does let's have a ball. Those of us who remember the late seventies remember it as a time of breastbeating, union action and economic depression contrasting wonderfully with the of anarchy of punk, exuberance of disco and and the swinging beats of reggae. There is a bouncy zest to Nimon that would never be seen in eighties Who.
I like The Horns of Nimon. I like it very much. It has a terrible reputation. It is held out to the world as a warning. "See, if you don't take Who seriously this is what it becomes..." For the next twenty years it was a dreaded pariah. Never again would the production team sink so low with its wobbly sets, ham acting and OTT master Baker. Any trace of the "crapness" of Nimon was to be expelled from the mythos of Who. Its reputation was damned, twice damned and damned again in the annals of DWM.
Actually, sorry to burst your bubble - it's not good, but it's enjoyable... if that makes sense.
The plot is intriguing, the characters entertaining, the premise original and the chemistry between Tom Baker and the exquisite Lalla Ward is at its height here. It moves along at a brisk pace (episode one being my favourites ever but I'll come to why later), it has an entertaining middle, an interesting back story and it effectively builds to a climax (something a lot of the McCoys never did). The Nimon themselves are poorly realised but still intriguingly sinister villains and there are some fairly memorable set pieces.
To cap it all Nimon is based around the premise of the "great British cock-up".
There was still a feeling back in the seventies that incompetence was funny. Mistake after mistake is made by the Doctor/Romana/co-pilot and this is done for comic effect. There was a feeling that we are all oafs and fools and why not laugh at this. The Doctor is a fool who messes around with the TARDIS so much he causes it to break down, the co-pilot is an oaf so thoughtless and selfish that he strands the Doctor in space, the Doctor traps Romana on Crinoth not intentionally but because he wasn't paying attention to what he was doing. All are idiots and all are to be laughed at. And does the humour detract from the adventure? Yes and no. There is no doubt that Baker's hamming does ruin the first cliffhanger. Holding K-9 in a mock alarm while an asteroid heads towards the TARDIS doesn't work. You can almost see the purists throwing their hands up in horror.
All the main complaints are justified - the sets do look cheap, Baker is far too out of control with his humour, Graham Crowden acts with more ham then a Danish abbattoir. But this is what people wanted from Who back then. When they switched on over Christmas 1979 they got an entertaining romp which hooked them in, and provided they could ignore the men in the big black paper mache masks, they would follow the adventure to the very end. The ratings for season 17 proved this. This wasn't an adventure for purists who watched from the sixties and demanded the return of serious Who. This was for the masses who enjoyed the silly premise, thought K-9 was great and knew if they turned into Tom Baker he would make them chuckle.
And, to be frank - this is not one of Tom's best. There is a sense of him not taking it at all seriously. The only time he really does is when he accidently sends Romana to Crinoth in the tansmat capsule. His concern for her is real and Baker plays it as such. But for the most part he knows the script is rubbish and plays it as much. Still it is better than working on a builder's site. Lalla Ward, well, she is her usual superb self. She bestrides this adventure like a colossus, scenestealing from Baker and Crowden at every opportunity. She gives a firey performance, a full female version of the Doctor (Oh Mary Tamm, if only you'd stayed for another season! She became what you were promised you were going to be!). My favourite Romana moment is when she faces down the co-pilot when he deliberately strands the Doctor out in space. Despicable worm indeed!
And now we come to one of my favourite aspects of Horns of Nimon - Malcolm Terris as the co-pilot. A character who isn't even given a name he is just known as "the co-pilot". He is utterly a Williams creation, one of those secondary characters that creeps up on you and steals the show like Binro the heretic or Ma Tyler. He is an oaf. We don't get to see an oaf played very often in Who. A man who is really stupid, he is stupid in every facet of his character. A liar, a turncoat, a bully but he remains exceptionally funny throughout - no mean feat but handled very well by Malcolm Terris. It is genuinely funny when he barks "Weakling scum! " at the teenage tributes from Aneth because he genuinely means it but doesn't realise what he is calling them is ridiculous. And I love the self-serving in the power complex. Only he could possibly imagine that handing over Romana and the tributes to the Nimon will give him grace. His wheedling death is a genuine surprise to him. Personally, I love "the co-pilot" - this bozo makes episode one for me. The campaign to get "the co-pilot" his own series starts here!
The rest of the cast are very memorable but for all the wrong reasons. Graham Crowden's Soldeed is notorious in the Who mythos for seriously overacting. Personally, I think he is hysterical. The line "A black hole! In our own universe!" handled with much rolling of the eyes just takes the biscuit. It surely is the campest moment in the series. I don't know if Graham was directed to play it like this or just entered into the spirit of this romp led by Tom Baker. Teka and Seth, the two sacrificial teenagers who hook up with the Doctor, aren't as bad as everyone says but are just a little underdirected. More care should have been given to these young actors. And the actors playing the Nimon? Well, they must have been chosen for their height not acting abilities. The way they hunch their shoulders to appear more butch when they move is nothing more then very funny.
And the Nimon make it for me. Here is an original idea - a set of intergalactic locusts who arrive on planets strip them bare and move onto the next one. There is menace with them. When Romana is trapped on shadowy battered Crinoth you do worry about her as the Nimon appear. The papermache masks do look ridiculous but if you believe they are just breathing apparatus/helmets and the real heads are underneath it works.They are utterly, despicably evil, no redeeming features whatsoever. I find it strange that the Doctor hasn't heard of them - I would have thought creatures like that would be notorious and known around the galaxy. Perhaps this adventure occurs too far in the future or past for them to be really well known. Anyway, they were an interesting original creation - shame they weren't better realised.
And there we have it. There are a couple of gems amongst the dross. If you like your Who with lots of allegories and a distorted plot then watch Curse of Fenric, if you like your Who dead serious and po-faced then slip on a JNT/Bidmead effort. But if you like your Who escapist entertainment which will take your mind off a bad day at work and give you a couple of laughs, slip Nimon into your VHS. It's a cracker.
Its cheap, cheerful and amateur looking. The sets wobble, the dialogue is hysterical and the SFX look like a child is let loose with an etchasketch. But by god, unless you are made of stone - it will put a smile on your face. And you can't say better then that.
A poor end to a poor era by Jonathan Middleton 26/5/05
I honestly think that when they were making The Horns Of Nimon they thought it would be a good idea to make it a piece of absoulute s*it. Words cannot describe how bad it is, from awful acting to atrocious production and cringeworthy characterisation.
Let's begin with the regulars. According to conventional fan wisdom the Doctor, Romana II and K9 are wonderful not like those horrible eighties TARDIS crews. Utter crap. I would rather watch the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Adric than these three losers. Let's start with Romana. Lalla Ward is an awful actress who reads off her cue card. She's incapable of putting in brilliant performances that fandom claims she's got. Although she improved in season eighteen she is absolutely cringeworty here. I think a lot of fans have confused straight with wooden.
Tom Baker's performance is awful. I mean did someone slip something in his drink? Why is he acting like's he's out of a Dannish abbatoir? I mean so far in this season he's given in phone in performances Destiny Of The Daleks, Nightmare Of Eden and performances so hammy there about as subtle as a sledgehammer in City Of Death, The Creature From The Pit. Here he just atrocious, he acts like he just can't be bothered. He is clearly bored to death, it amazes me still that next season he redeemed himself with performances like in The Keeper Of Traken. Gone is the Bohemian wanderer of the Hinchcliffe years, instead we've got some mad loony who travels with a mechanical dog rarely capable of taking situations seriously. Which brings me to my next subject.
I am about to commit fan heresy. K9 is more irratating than Adric. That's right, I would rather watch the yellow pyjamad one than this git why because sometimes Adric had personalty and wasn't used as a cheap convenient plot device. When John Leeson was the voice of the annoying tin b*****d, he at least sounded convincing. David Brieley is totally unconvincing in the role, delivering his lines in a camp and unconvincing voice that makes me want to kick the little git to death.
Now the Nimon, what were they thinking? I mean they look so awful it makes the Mandrels look like CGI, for God's sake. I mean when they chase after people they stagger like they're p*ssed and they have an extremely crap voice. I can't believe this was Clifford Norgate who provided the excellent Generater voice in The Leisure Hive. They have really crap dialogue such as "You will tortured, questioned and killed."
The supporting cast are awful. I mean, come on, most of the characters are one-dimensional and are nothing but cardboard cutouts. The Anethens are so boring they make the kids off Harry Potter look interesting (The Harry Potter books and films are absoulety awful I am not going to see the fourth one even if it has got David Tennant in). Janet Ellis and Simon Gipps-Kent are so wooden it looks like they were carved out of logs. Now I have not seen eightes Blue Peter but having seen clips I can honestly say that along with all Blue Peter presenters except Peter Purves she should be put up against a wall and shot. The rest of the cast are just as bad. Michael Osbourne is just terrible as Sorak. He was so bad I was just hoping the guy would die and the co-pilot is just crap but he's only on the screen for a few minutes. One of the many praised elements of this tripe is Malcolm Terris who is seen as a funny character. Well reality reveals he is a hammy git who shouts weakling scum every five minutes and I cheered when he died. Let's move on to Graham Crowden who is so hammy he makes Joseph Furst look straight.
The Williams era never had a good track record when it came to villians. The Shadow, Storr, Tryst, The Oracle and of course Soldeed. Like Tom Baker, I suspect his coffee was spiked or he just decided to act like a lump of ham out of a Dnnish abbatoir. It's a shame as he is a good actor - listen to him in Nebulous and you'll see a good comic actor in action - here he is just appalling, spouting dialogue that was written in crayon. Amidst all this tripe there is a good actor John Bailey who was wonderful in The Evil Of The Daleks and is just as good here too. He at least tries to save the whole production but one actor who only appears in the last episode can't save an entire story. The direction is just horrendous. Kenny Mcbain clearly had no idea how to direct as his direction is just awful. He makes Richard Martin look like Douglas Camfield. The only decent shot is of the POV of the Nimon but that's about it.
One of the things that makes my blood boil is the fact that until recently fans call this an amusing romp, a party, a laugh. It's crap because it's crap. I agree with Mike Morris in his review of season fifteen: because it's meant to be crap and you should approach with a tongue planted frimly in your cheek, that's just plain wrong and it is a lie spread by people like Gareth Roberts who are covering up for the mistakes of the Graham Williams era and blaming it on the JN-T era instead. One of the things defenders of this story use is that the Nimon plan to con a guillable planet, where have we seen this before? Oh wait The Claws Of Axos a better story all the way round. I have not seen this story in quite a while and it was written over a period of a few days that's why there's virtually nothing about the dialogue, all I can see is it's awful.
Before I go, a word about the production values. They're awful, bland, cheap and unconvincing. I still can't believe this was Graeme Story who designed the superb Warriors' Gate and the costumes are just awful. Why do the Skonnons wear corrugated iron? Why do the Anethens wear yellow pyjamas? I usually don't often care what the characters are wearing but these "costumes" are really bad.
It was a good thing that JN-T and Christopher H. Bidmead came along and replace these two drongos or we would have had a much worse season instead of the renaissance that followed. So guys, stop living in a fantasy, there is a fine line between hilarious and crap and this is crap, absoulute and utter crap. Start condeming it like you used to and praise season eighteen instead. 1/10
A Review by Bob Brodman 1/12/06
The plot is that the Doctor and Romana land on a cargo ship carrying human sacrifices to the minotaur-like Nimon. The Nimon promise whatever the leaders of a world want but con them to consume those worlds. The leader (Soldeed) is played as an over-the-top leader who only desires military conquest. The victims are not well-acted, nor are their characters well developed. Originally aired during the holiday season 1979-1980 there are a number of laughs and it plays like a pantomime. I hadn't seen this story since the late 80's and I remember that when I had seen it for the first time it was not one of my favorite stories. However I watched this recently with my 8 year old daughter. She was riveted for all four episodes and especially enjoyed K9.
The Nimon costume was a huge bull-like head with yellow horns. The face is not animated in any way so it is not clear if we see the face or if this is a helmet. The body was covered with black nylon and 6-inch platform shoes to suggest a hoof-like foot. These monsters seemed intelligent but they had slow-moving stiff bodies and roared so much (for no apparent reason) that they always warned our heroes before they are about to turn a corner in the labyrinth. I think that they looked hilarious, but my daughter accepted them as proper monsters although she said that they were "weird". As a species, the Nimon just don't work for me. There is no biological explanation other than comparing them to locusts. However we don't observe anything resembling a swarm and it's hard to see anything locust-like in a labyrinth-dwelling minotaur. It is hard to understand how they would be an interplanetary threat. An entire species whose ecology is predicated on the successful con of one space-traveling individual doesn't make sense. It works as a dramatic device but it seems like nonsense to me.
The plot was not particularly imaginative, since human sacrifice, elaborate cons to set up an invasion, and megalomaniac leaders are common Doctor Who plot devices, but the story was sufficiently interesting and paced to carry a four-part story. For me it is one of the weaker examples of Doctor Who but a fun camp romp. From the perspective of an 8 year old it works. In her words the story was "cool".
** out of 4
"Despicable Worm!" by Terrence Keenan 17/6/08
Confession time: I tend to get really fired up when fans dismiss The Horns of Nimon. Like "HULK SMASH!" fired up. Why? Nimon is home territory; the third full story I ever sat down and watched. Made me a fan for life. So, when people talk about how cheap, shoddy, overacted and silly it is, I feel like calling in The Guv'nor - the legendary Lennie McLean - to bust heads.
The Horns of Nimon is one of the last examples of old school Who worldbuilding. Skonnos is defined and created rather well with words and characters, so even if the sets look dodgy, it still feels bigger than what we see on the screen. There are no holes in the plot and the twists come at all the right places, and keep upping the odds. Although Graham Crowden manages to get on my nerves with his scenery chewing, the rest of the Skonnons play it large enough so that it kind of works. The Anethans are faceless, except for the wonderful postmodern duo of Seth and Teka, who make me laugh all day long.
Mad Tom spends the first two episodes arseing about, but most of his clowning is pretty funny, and when it is time to get serious, Mad Tom is there and in full effect.
But this is Romana's show. From the moment that the Gorgeous Lady Sarah Ward emerges from the TARDIS in that red hunting coat, she get to do all the "Doctor" bits and plays them straight. I cheered when she called the co-pilot a "despicable worm." I love the way she takes charge of the Anethans while in the power complex. She shows no fear to Soldeed, nor freaks when she arrives accidentally on Crinoth. Lalla Ward is just awesome here.
As far as the Nimon themselves, they looks creepy, move gracefully,and have one of the cooler processed voices in Who. What they do and how they go about it are quite nasty. Which reminds me. For all the talk of Mad Tom (and others) having a laugh in a few scenes, it is never at the expense of the plot. The humor covers up some really dark ideas and concepts, but never lets you forget them.
The overall feel of Nimon is "Hell, we don't have the proper budget and enough time to make this look pretty, but we're going for it anyway. Woo Hoo!" Watching this after bilge like Terminus and it can blow your mind at what Who could do.
So, yes, I love The Horns of Nimon. I think it's brill to the core. And you should love it, too.
A Review by Jasonite A. Miller by Jason A. Miller 13/2/19
I was asked by a Doctor Who convention panelist a couple of years ago to name the Doctor Who episodes that were my TV equivalent of comfort food -- episodes I watched specifically to pull me out of a bad mood. The Horns of Nimon was my immediate answer, without even a second thought. And not just because my given name features as a plot device.
On Election Night 2010, the U.S. Republican party, fueled by the "Tea Party" movement, was expected to sweep the Democratic party for control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, representing a potentially fatal blow to President Obama's agenda. I was not looking forward to this election night, and with good reason; eight years later, American society is still reeling from what's gone on since then. That was one of the nights when everything began to go Wrong, y'see.
I opted to not sit there and passively watch election returns all night. I just couldn't torture myself like that. Besides, I had the still-unwrapped Horns of Nimon DVD, which was a new release in the US at that point. So I watched the whole thing almost in one go, pausing only between episodes to check out the increasingly-dire election returns, and to fire off a few furious comments at some of my "friends" exulting over the returns on Facebook. For the 25-minute Nimon segments in between the relentless bits of bad news, all my cares went away.
Nimon is silly. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I just related. This is a grossly padded story, but the margins are packed with so much endearing goofiness, that it just doesn't matter.
The first two scenes prove my point almost by themselves. Scene one, which runs about four minutes, is top-heavy with exposition, but the centerpiece of the scene is not the exposition, but rather actor Malcolm Terris, playing the "Co-Pilot" of the last remaining battle cruiser of the faded Skonnan empire. Terris blusters and boasts his way through this scene, and it's glorious; he marches into a cell, yells "Weakling scum!" at his prisoners (while feebly waving his blaster) and then... just marches right back out again (and he'll do it twice more in the following 15 minutes).
Scene two, another three minutes, has little relevance to the plot -- those three minutes could have been saved, in fact all of Part One could have been saved, if the TARDIS just landed on the Skonnan battle cruiser bridge (if not on Skonnos itself). But it's also three minutes of Tom Baker clowning around with the TARDIS console and the K9 prop and his new girlfriend, Lalla Ward. You really don't care that nothing happens in this scene, because you're watching a magical threesome at work -- Doctor, Romana, K9 prop (even if K9 has the wrong voice, but, honestly, I don't mind what David Brierley brought to the role).
Scene three, a mere minute long, features Graham Crowden's first scene as Soldeed, an actor and character that are synonymous with wildly over-the-top scenery-chewing in Doctor Who. Crowden is actually somewhat restrained in this scene. Somewhat. Compared to his manic giggling death scene in Part Four, that is. But there's a never a time in this story when Crowden doesn't capture your attention.
Listen to the way that the actors deliver their lines of dialogue. Terris and Crowden enunciate and savor their words, though in different ways: Terris in a bullish growl; Crowden in a plummy chant. They're both wonderful to watch. Part One may be more than a bit slow, but it's never boring, because, between Terris and Crowden and Baker and Ward, there's always something on the screen to draw your eye and make you smile. Romana's shouting "Despicable worm!" at the Co-Pilot is a perfect counterpart to "Weakling scum!", fr'example.
Part Two continues to entertain, even without advancing the plot. Soldeed's lengthy journey through the Power Complex to inform the Nimon of the disappearance of the battle cruiser is of course made moot by Soldeed learning of the ship's recovery as soon as he exits the Complex, having been berated by the Nimon. Nothing happens in that scene that's necessary to the story -- but the Nimon is, as with the human actors, magnetic to watch even when nothing is happening. The voice modulation effect is just neat, and the costume is pretty cool to look at as well, even if it's a bit obviously artificial. When I was a mere stripling of 11 and watching this for the first time, I didn't care that Part One and half of Part Two were superfluous to the story. I was too busy enjoying all the antics. And the dialogue, which improves with the age of the viewer.
Romana: Sounds like an insecure personality to meI quite like how Malcom Terris expertly flips his character in Part Two from over-the-top bluster ("Weakling scum!" making its fourth and final appearance) to over-the-top cowardice. His comic double-takes are not something Doctor Who tended to show a lot of. Soldeed's heavily fascist speech to the Skonnan generals a few minutes later is offset by the ragged, out-of-sync cheering of the generals, who certainly seem a loopy and inept lot. As with so many planets of the Seventies in Doctor Who, Skonnos appears to have no women, but that's actually a plus here because it least it means that no time is wasted putting Teka in sexual jeopardy.
Seth: He lives in The Power Complex
Romana: That fits.
[Dick Mills sets off a complex series of comic "sproing"y noises to accompany some bangs and flashes from the TARDIS console] The Doctor: That's very odd.
The story surges into life -- kind-of, sort-of -- halfway through Part Two when all parties arrive on Skonnos. The Doctor's confrontation with Soldeed shows Tom Baker getting serious for the first time all story, and that works nicely in contrast to Baker's previous prop-heavy acting inside the TARDIS. Suddenly, there are stakes. Once everyone enters the labyrinth -- which is where The God Complex, this story's New Series sequel, spent all of its time, to great effect -- all the entertaining faffing-about of the first part and a half flips into an entertaining story that moves. Terris alternates between blustery and cowardly all at once when he meets the Nimon, and his death scene is full of both bathos and pathos, which is the best kind of death scene, right?
"Got it!.... no, I haven't." -- the DoctorSomething else in favor of the story -- while there's clowning going around at the margins (and that's an awful lot of margins, and heck of a lot of clowning), the actual plot itself is dead serious, rather than self-parody. The Nimon is dangerous and quick to anger, and it's got control of an immense power source. When the Doctor and Romana unravel the meaning behind its operations in Part Three, they both drop the comedy and act serious (of course, the Doctor waving a bullfighter's red handkerchief at the bull-like Nimon earlier in the story completely undercuts my point -- but the Nimon acts serious and menacing no matter how comically individual characters may react to it). The God Complex shows how to do Nimon without the clowning or the heavy comedic streak, and I love that story too, but I think Doctor Who is better for having produced the labyrinth story both ways. It's hard to go wrong borrowing from Greek mythology (yes, even you, Underworld...), whether you're playing it for laughs or powerful emotion.
"What's happening?" "I don't know." "Why don't you know?" "I don't know" -- Teka and SethPart Four takes an even deeper detour into heavy drama, when Romana follows back the Nimon's travel path and lands on the planet Crinoth and learns what happens to planets that are conquered by the Nimon. John Bailey, who played a bad guy in The Sensorites and a doomed good guy in The Evil of the Daleks, returns to the doomed good guy mold here and is as riveting as Sezom in his own way as Crowden is as Soldeed. Sezom provides the story with a palpable heart and underlines the menace of the Nimon. He and Soldeed die within a few moments of each other, in very different ways, and both equally memorable.
(and it's Sezom who gives us the Jasonite. Thanks, buddy.)
The best bits of Nimon are saved for last. Lalla Ward's facial expressions at the Doctor over the Part Four end-credits musical sting. Oh, my heart. Tom Baker married her literally because of the faces that she pulls here. Go on watch a gif of what Ward does here.
Now watch it again.
One more time.
Yeah. That's the stuff, man. All the padding of the first half of the story is more than paid in full by Lalla Ward's nose wrinkling.
By sheer coincidence, I wound up watching Part Four of Nimon on the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court wrapped up its regressive and damaging 2017-2018 term, and on the day that Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement (meaning that he'll be passing off his baton to someone who seems likely to undo his entire legacy).
Come to find out, eight years after I first unwrapped the DVD, I still have a desperate need for The Horns of Nimon to transport me away from terrible things...