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24 September 2014

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Production Code: 5M

First Transmitted

1 - 02/05/2003 12.00

2 - 09/05/2003 12.00

3 - 16/05/2003 12.00

4 - 23/05/2003 12.00

5 - 01/30/2003 12.00

6 - 06/06/2003 12.00


The Horns of Nimon was originally intended to be followed on transmission by another story - a concluding six-parter entitled Shada - but a recurrence of an industrial dispute that had previously caused difficulties during The Invasion of Time and The Armageddon Factor eventually led to its cancellation, even though extensive location filming in the Cambridge area and the first of its three planned studio sessions had already been completed.

Written by Douglas Adams as his final contribution to Doctor Who, Shada was envisaged as a Time Lord story without a Gallifreyan setting. It sees the Doctor bringing Romana to present-day Earth to visit Professor Chronotis, an elderly Time Lord who absconded from Gallifrey and now lives a quiet academic life at St Cedd's College in Cambridge. Also seeking Chronotis is a scientist called Skagra who has a device, in the form of a floating sphere, with which he intends to steal the Professor's mind and thereby learn the location of a book entitled The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey. Skagra eventually succeeds in obtaining the book, which has been borrowed from the Professor's study by a student named Chris Parsons. He then kidnaps Romana and hijacks the TARDIS.

The book turns out to be the key to Shada, the ancient prison planet of the Time Lords. Skagra's objective is to use his sphere on one of the inmates, Salyavin, whose unique mental powers he can then exploit to project his own mind into every other creature in the universe. When the TARDIS reaches Shada, however, he discovers that Salyavin's cell is empty.

After a number of close encounters with the Krargs - Skagra's monstrous crystalline servants - the Doctor, Chronotis and K9, along with Parsons and his friend Clare Keightley, arrive on Shada in Chronotis' TARDIS, which has been disguised as his study. Chronotis admits that he is in fact Salyavin; he escaped from Shada centuries ago and has been living on Earth ever since. The Doctor thwarts Skagra's plans by winning a mind battle against him.

Shada was formally droppped from the seventeenth season in December 1979, it having become apparent that due to the backlog of Christmas specials waiting to be recorded there was no prospect of studio time being found for its completion. A number of attempts were subsequently made to remount it but these ultimately came to nothing, and in June 1980 it was officially cancelled. A version of the story was eventually released on video in 1992 with Tom Baker providing a narration to cover the missing scenes.

Episode Endings

Skagra, ranting: '...and then let the Universe prepare itself for me.' His ship replies 'Everything is ready, Lord.'

The sphere has caught up with the Doctor.

Skagra's ship, attempting to conserve resources, shuts down the life support system.

The fiery Krarg advances towards the Doctor.

Chris and the released prisoners are under Skagra's control. 'Now, Doctor, we will deal with you'.

The Doctor and Romana take tea with Professor Chronotis.


Among Professor Chronotis' books are Wells' The Time Machine, Saul Bellow's The Victim ('Read that,' says the Doctor), a book beginning 'Once upon a time' ('Read that'), Roget's Thesaurus, a colour edition of the British Book of Wild Birds, Alternative Betelgeuse, Wuthering Heights, a volume that recommends Tandoori chicken for starters, and Sweeney Todd.

The Doctor reads from 'The Old Curiosity Shop' towards the end ('"Her little homely dress. Her favourite!" cried the old man, pressing it to his breast and patting it with his shrivelled hand "She'll miss it when she wakes."')

Einstein's theory of relativity.

Dark Star (logical confrontation with the computer).

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "When I was on the river I heard the strange babble of inhuman voices, didn't you, Romana?"

Professor Chronotis : "Oh, probably undergraduates talking to each other, I expect. I'm trying to have it banned."

The Doctor : [Regrettably unfilmed is an exchange between the Doctor and Skagra on ruling the Universe.] "It's a troublesome place, difficult to administer, and as a piece of real estate it's worthless because by definition there'd be no one to sell it to."

Skagra : [Skagra doesn't want to conquer the Universe] "The Universe, Doctor, as you so crudely put it, will be me!"

Dialogue Disasters

Romana : "It's just a Gallifrey nursery book. I had it when I was a Time Tot."

Professor Chronotis : [Professor Chronotis is trying to remember the name of the person he lent the book to:] "A? A? No, it doesn't begin with 'A' B? B, B... "

Doctor and Romana : "C?"


Salyavin was a notorious mind controlling criminal and a semi-hero of the young Doctor's. He was sentenced for 'mind crimes' to the Time Lord prison Shada. (When Gallifreyan judges pass sentence they say 'We but administer. You are imprisoned by the power of the law.') Older and wiser (although it seems that his 'crimes' were blown up out of all proportion), he escaped, trying to cover his tracks by stealing The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey and by using his unique mental powers to cause the Time Lords to forget about the existence of Shada.

Getting towards the end of his last regeneration, Salyavin has been at Cambridge for three hundred years in the guise of Professor Chronotis. He has lived in the same rooms (his TARDIS), and asks the Doctor to help him find the stolen book.

Taken from the Panopticon archives, the Ancient Law of Gallifrey dates back to the days of Rassilon, and is one of the 'artefacts'. 'Rassilon had powers and secrets that even we don't understand,' says the Doctor. All of the artefacts have 'stupendous power': although many of the meanings are lost, the power and the Gallifreyan rituals remain.

(Romana runs through the words used at the Academy induction ceremony: 'I swear to protect the ancient Law of Gallifrey with all my might and brain. I will to the end of my days with justice and with honour temper my actions and my thoughts.') Time runs backwards over the book (carbon dating puts its age at -20,000 years). The Ancient Law of Gallifrey is also atomically unstable, and seems to absorb radiation.

The book is actually a 'key' to Shada: turning to the last page will send a TARDIS there. Also held captive on Shada are a Dalek, a 'Revenge' style Cyberleader, and a Zygon.

When Chronotis dies after the sphere's attack, he promptly vanishes [it is possible that this happens to some Time Lords when they finally 'die' and are absorbed into the Matrix]. He reappears (in nightshirt and cap!) when Clare operates his TARDIS, which is even more primitive than the Doctor's. He states that she has tangled with his time fields at the critical moment. 'Think of me as a paradox in an anomaly, and get on with your tea.' [Clare's operation of his TARDIS interrupted the flow of information to the Matrix on Gallifrey, prompting Chronotis to return to life in a Watcher-like state (see Planet of the Spiders, Logopolis).]

Chronotis recognises the TARDIS as a Type 40 ('Came out when I was a boy: that shows you how old I am.'), whereas Skagra's ship thinks that it's a Type 39, or possibly a Type 40. After the attack of the sphere, and with the help of a collar from the TARDIS medical kit, Romana is able to free the autonomic areas of the Professor's brain from their usual work (breathing, reflexes, etc.) to allow some degree of conscious thought. (Humans cannot do this.) Chronotis is then able to beat out a message with his hearts in Gallifreyan Morse code.

The TARDIS medical kit is on the top shelf of a white cupboard opposite a door. From the control room, Romana gives the directions as first door on the left, down the corridor, second door on the right, down the corridor, third door on the left, down the corridor, fourth door on the right.

The Think Tank scientists used by Skagra are Dr A. St. John D. Caldera, neurologist; A. S. T. Thira, psychologist, G.V. Santori, parametricist, Dr. D. Ia, biologist, and Professor R.F. Akrotiri, unspecified. Dr. Skagra is a geneticist, astro engineer, cyberneticist, neurostructuralist and moral theologian. Although not a Gallifreyan, he knows a good deal about the Time Lords: his home planet, Dronid, was briefly home to a rival Time Lord President after a schism in the College of Cardinals. (See The Five Doctors for a discussion of canonicity.)


The Doctor's Doctorate


The Think Tank space station, Cambridge, Skagra's ship, Shada, [late 1970s: Parsons graduated in 1978].



The Doctor received an honorary degree from St. Cedd's College, Cambridge, in 1960. He visited Professor Chronotis in 1955, 1960 and 1964, and also in 1958 in a different incarnation. In order to defeat Skagra, the Doctor goes 'vortex walking' (a trick he says he learnt from a space/time mystic in the Quantocks [K'Anpo?]).


Skagra subjects Chronotis to 'psychoactive extraction'.

The Doctor orders Skagra's ship to reverse the polarity of its main warp feeds (this, and various other modifications, turns the ship into a primitive time machine).

Chronotis and Clare find themselves 'jammed between two irrational time interfaces': his TARDIS' conceptor geometry relay, with magranomic trigger, has a defunct field separator, but this won't be needed if they can fix the interfacial resonator.


Clare Keightley drops her books before running into the porter.

In episode two, Romana calls Chris by his first name, despite having not heard it.

Fashion Victim

Skagra in a white outfit, complete with silver cloak and hat (Christopher Neame played the swingin' villain in Hammer's Dracula AD 1972 and would not have looked out of place in this get up). 'I'm not mad about your tailor,' notes the Doctor later, even though the poor bloke's done his best and stolen some less ostentatious clothing.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Tom Baker

Romana - Lalla Ward

Voice of K9 - David Brierley

Caldera - Derek Pollitt

Chris Parsons - Daniel Hill

Claire Keightley - Victoria Burgoyne

Krarg - Harry Fielder

Krarg - Lionel Sansby

Krarg - James Muir

Krarg - Reg Woods

Krarg - Derek Suthern

Passnger - David Strong

Police Constable - John Hallett

Professor Chronotis - Denis Carey

Ship - Shirley Dixon

Skagra - Christopher Neame

Voice of the Krargs - James CoombEs

Wilkin - Gerald Campion


Director - Pennant Roberts

Assistant Floor Manager - Val McCrimmon

Costumes - Rupert Jarvis

Designer - Vic Meredith

Make-Up - Kim Burns

Producer - Graham Williams

Producer - Graham Williams

Production Assistant - Olivia Bazalgette

Production Assistant - Ralph Wilton

Production Unit Manager - John Nathan-Turner

Script Editor - Douglas Adams

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Writer - Douglas Adams

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'I dunno, nowadays they'll publish anything.' Infamous because it was never completed, it was for a long time stated that Shada would have been the highlight of the seventeenth season. What was filmed doesn't quite encourage such optimism.

It's a very cheap looking story, and there are lashings of bad puns and dull comedy, including three takes on the 'One lump or two? Sugar?' joke. Against that, the basic plot is interesting - almost justifying its six episodes, which is rare - and the Cambridge scenes, though stilted, are well executed. It's hugely flawed, but it's a shame that this one was clobbered by a strike and Creature from the Pit wasn't.

< The Horns of NimonFourth DoctorThe Leisure Hive >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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