Production Code: 5L
1 - 22/12/1979 18:10
2 - 29/12/1979 17:50
3 - 05/01/1980 18:20
4 - 12/01/1980 18:05
The inhabitants of the planet Skonnos have been promised by an alien Nimon that he will restore their empire to greatness if they in return provide young sacrifices and radioactive hymetusite crystals, both of which they are obtaining from the nearby planet Aneth.
With the TARDIS immobilised for repairs, the Doctor and Romana encounter the Skonnan spaceship transporting the latest sacrificial consignment from Aneth. Romana is captured and taken to Skonnos on board the ship, while the Doctor follows in the now semi-repaired TARDIS. Once there, they are consigned by the Skonnans' leader, Soldeed, into the Nimon's labyrinthine power complex.
The two Time Lords discover that the Nimons are a race of parasites moving from planet to planet like a plague of locusts. The bull-headed creatures send a lone representative to an unsuspecting world, offering assistance in order to gain the trust of its inhabitants, then arrive in force to drain it of its resources.
The power complex, fuelled by hymetusite, uses a black hole to create a space tunnel through which the Nimons cross from one planet to the next.
The Doctor manages to destroy the complex on Skonnos, thereby trapping the Nimons on their last home, the dying planet Crinoth.
The Doctor holds on to K9 in alarm as a planet-sized asteroid approaches the TARDIS on collision course.
The Nimon kills the Skonnan Co-Pilot and advances on Romana and the Anethan youngsters.
The Doctor reacts in horror as Soldeed fires bolts of energy from his staff and puts the controls of the Nimon's transmat capsule out of action, effectively trapping Romana on the planet Crinoth.
The Doctor sets about completing his repairs on the TARDIS control console.
Theseus and the Minotaur.
Moses and the plagues of Egypt.
The Iron Sun.
The Doctor : "Come on old girl, quite a few millenia left in you yet."
Romana : "Thank you, Doctor!"
The Doctor : "Not you - the TARDIS!"
"He lives in the power complex."
"Later, you will be questioned, tortured and killed"
The Doctor : "Well, I hope you get it in the right order."
Nimon : [The Nimon assures us] "The programme will continue."
The TARDIS defence shield can extend outside the ship, maintaining an atmosphere (cf City of Death). Even without it, the hull is hard enough to withstand huge shocks, but [in such a bad state of repair] can't land inside the Power Complex's defence shields.
The Doctor carries adhesive stars. Romana has made her own sonic screwdriver (first seen in City of Death). She can use a gun. K9 can measure radiation and make medical assessments, lock the TARDIS doors, follow the 'psychospoor' of the Doctor and Romana, and is armoured.
Skonnos was once home to an Empire of over a hundred star systems, but it fell into civil war. The Empire still includes Crinoth (devastated by the Nimon) and Aneth [The inhabitants of all three worlds seem to be descended from Earth colonists.]
The Nimon journey from world to world ('The great journey of life') in capsules via small artificially created black holes, draining the worlds they leave of all their energy. They can kill with bolts from their horns and the Sknonnon Nimon has consructed a complex of shifting walls, with 'horns' projecting a defence shield. He gave Soldeed his weapon.
The Doctor has been to 'charming' Aneth, 'but not yet'. He was also involved in the original Minotaur story, forgetting to remind Theseus to paint his ship white (see The Creature from the Pit).
Janet Ellis, later to become a presenter of the popular children's magazine programme Blue Peter, appears here as the Anethan, Teka.
The famous 'Bloodnok's stomach' sound effect from the BBC radio classic The Goon Show is used in a scene in which the Doctor tries unsuccessfully to reactivate the TARDIS control console.
The creatures planning to invade Skonnos are called the Nimon. ('Nimons' is clearly given as the plural of the race's name both in the closing credits and in the story's dialogue.)
The TARDIS console makes various silly 'boing!' noises.
The co-pilot's trousers rip at the end of episode three when the Nimon kills him.
In episode four Soldeed's body disappears from where it fell.
The Nimons' platforms.
The Anethans' karate pyjamas.
Sorak has flares on his flares.
Cast & Crew
The Doctor - Tom Baker
Romana - Lalla Ward
Voice of K9 - David Brierley
Co-Pilot - Malcolm Terris Also in Part Four, as a dead body, but uncredited
Nimon - Robin Sherringham
Nimon - Bob Appleby
Nimon - Trevor St. John Hacker
Pilot - Bob Hornery
Seth - Simon Gipps-Kent
Sezom - John Bailey
Soldeed - Graham Crowden
Sorak - Michael Osborne
Teka - Janet Ellis
Voice of the Nimons - Clifford Norgate
Director - Kenny McBain
Assistant Floor Manager - Rosemary Chapman
Costumes - June Hudson
Designer - Graeme Story
Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson
Make-Up - Christine Walmesley-Cotham
Producer - Graham Williams
Production Assistant - Henry Foster
Production Unit Manager - John Nathan-Turner
Script Editor - Douglas Adams
Special Sounds - Dick Mills
Studio Lighting - Nigel Wright
Studio Sound - John Hartshorn
Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire
Visual Effects - Peter Pegrum
Writer - Anthony Read
Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide
Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion
It is fair to say that The Horns of Nimon has acquired something of a reputation amongst Doctor Who fans as an atrocious story with some of the sloppiest production ever seen in the series. The following assessment by Alan Jeffries in Brave New World Issue 1 in 1990 is not untypical:
'Tom Baker shows all the signs of a man long past his prime, and just appears to be going through the motions, sending the show up to alleviate his boredom - something a weak script can ill afford. [The actors portraying] Soldeed and the Co-Pilot also display more ham than a Danish abattoir, so that they stand out from an almost universally appalling cast by virtue of their sheer awfulness. The only person to emerge with any credit is Lalla Ward, who puts in a fiery performance....'
Similar sentiments were expressed by John Peel in TARDIS Volume 5 Number 2 in 1980: 'I found this a rather silly, badly made story. I especially disliked those silly costumes for the Nimons themselves, and the very low level of acting. And who spotted Malcolm Terris' underpants peaking through a tear in his costume...?' Joining in the chorus of disapproval, Richard Walter wrote in Matrix Issue 5, dated February 1980: 'How could anybody take a Nimon seriously? Skinny bodies, arms and legs with an enormous head... In common with many other Doctor Who monsters, they moved so slowly that they never stood a chance of capturing their victims, let alone killing them. Perhaps had the Nimons looked a little more frightening and had the sets not looked as if they were constructed from overturned breadbaskets, the rather flawed plot wouldn't have looked quite so bad. However, I have my doubts.'
Exactly why The Horns of Nimon should have attracted such vitriolic criticism is hard to fathom. It is admittedly a little more light hearted than usual, even for an era of the series that has often been said to have an 'undergraduate humour' quality, and some of the jokes do go too far. However, Tom Baker's Doctor is actually rather more serious and intense here than in most other stories of a similar vintage, and it is clear that much of his flippancy - including his frequently criticised quip of 'Is this a private party or can anyone join in?' when he interrupts the Nimon as it is menacing Romana and the Anethans at the beginning of Part Three - is really just a ploy to put his adversary off guard; the sort of thing that he had done, without complaint by reviewers, many times in the past. The production values, too, are actually no worse than on many other stories of this era, and rather better than on some. Ian Wishart, writing in Ark in Space No. 2 in 1980, pointed out some highlights:
'I was glad to see CSO was not much used in this story. The shots of the spaceships in flight could have been improved if they had [been shot on] film instead of videotape. Two though I thought were marvellous: the first was of the extended TARDIS door leading to the Skonnos spaceship (Part One) and the second was... of the Complex blowing up (Part Four), which was on film... The sets were... far, far the best of the season. Especially [those] inside the [Nimon's] Complex - they were really outstanding...
'Probably the thing I liked [most] about this story... was its fantastic aliens - the [Nimons]... Their masks were very good, but what was most impressive about them was their magnificent voices. I think [they] are a race well worth bringing back!'
The Nimon costumes are indeed quite effective, although it is a pity that shortly before the story went into studio, director Kenny McBain vetoed their freelancer constructor Roger Oldhamstead's original idea of giving the heads an intentionally artificial look so that they would actually appear to be masks concealing the Nimons' true, even more hideous nature. McBain's 'half way house' solution of keeping Oldhamstead's masks but having the transparent glass eyes painted red is the only less than satisfactory aspect of the costumes. Wishart was quite correct, however, in identifying the creatures' splendid voices as a real plus point.
Anthony Read's story, loosely based on the Minoan tale of Theseus and the Minotaur, is ingenious and fun, and the idea of a race of creatures swarming locust-like from planet to planet, leaving each completely drained of its energy before moving on to the next, is actually quite chilling. Tim Westmacott, writing in Oracle Volume 3 Number 7 in 1980, had nothing but praise for the scripting:
'I think that writer Anthony Read came up with a brilliant idea for the method of invasion used by the Nimons. The situation [was] even more horrific than it first appeared because the Nimons obviously moved home fairly frequently, as [became apparent when], on Crinoth, Romana met Sezom.
'By far the [best] character in the story was the staff-carrying, power-hungry Soldeed. From his impressive entrance into the imposing Skonnos Control from the Nimon's Power Complex to his eventual breakdown when he realised that the... [Nimon] was just the first of an invading race of parasitic nomads, his was the most interesting and memorable [part].'
Perhaps what all this boils down to is that, in order to enjoy The Horns of Nimon, the viewer just has to approach it in the right spirit. David Saunders suggested as much in his observations in TARDIS Volume 5 Number 2 in 1980:
'Admittedly The Horns of Nimon was not without its faults... - but they were negligible because of the overall brilliance of the production...
'The whole production was played mainly at the level of camp that made the sixties Batman show popular, but it worked because like that other series all the cast entered into the spirit of it and it meshed well because of this.'