Though Tom Baker's tenure as The Doctor is fondly remembered
by most fans, not every story he was in is great. Case
in point: The
Horns of Nimon. This 4-part episode
that wrapped up season 17
had an interesting plot and some very nice touches, but the actor
villain was too much of a ham and the humor lacked the necessary subtle
that would have made the show fun without being silly.
Though fans deride this serial, with some
justification, it's not nearly as bad as I remember it being and has
In this retelling of the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur,
the Doctor (Tom Baker) and his Time Lord companion Romana (Lalla Ward)
accidently crash land on an old spaceship.
It's carrying a tribute, six teenagers, to the planet of Skonnos
their living god, the Nimon. This
bull-headed creature lives at the center of an ever-changing maze, and
high priest, Soldeed (Graham Crowden), can navigate it.
The Nimon has promised to revive the Skonno
Empire by providing Soldeed with advanced technology that will allow
create an unstoppable armada of space-faring battleships.
After an episode long subplot involving the Doctor and
Romana repairing the space craft they've landed on and matching wits
conniving captain of the ship, the whole crew arrives on Skonnos and
thrown into the maze as an offering. But
just what is the Nimon up to, and why does he need sacrifices? Is Soldeed really playing the Nimon for a
fool or is it the other way around? The
Doctor discovers the insidious plot that the Nimon is hatching, but is
late to stop?
While I enjoyed this story over all, I'll be the first to
admit that it has some huge flaws. The
first one that springs to mind is Graham Crowden's over the top acting. He chews the scenery every time he's on
camera, shouting his lines and running through a series of ludicrous
expressions. The last scene that he's in
is painful to watch it's so overblown.
Not all of the blame can be laid at Crowden's feet
though. Based on the rest of the story,
I think that hammy acting was what the director, Kenny McBain, was
get out of the actor. The whole serial
has broad comic touches that fail miserably.
When the Doctor is trying to fix the TARDIS, a small explosion
which is overdubbed with sound effects you'd expect in a Bugs Bunny
including a particularly unfunny *SPROINGGG* at the end.
Who is at its most hilarious when the jokes are subtle and
none of the gags in this story can claim that distinction.
The fact that the story ends with The Doctor
and Romana laughing as a race is totally annihilated is a little
That's not to say that the story has no redeeming
qualities. With a gentler hand at the
helm, it could have been very good.
First off Romana really plays an important part in this story. She's a Time Lord too, and this is one of the
stories where she actually acts like the Doctor's equal.
She comes up with ideas and gets some useful
information and it's nice to see a pair of Time Lords working together.
Then there's the story itself, which isn't too bad at all.
The Minotaur myth is an exciting tale (it has
already been done once on Doctor Who,
in The Time Monster) and this adaptation
has a lot of potential. The story is
nicely paced, and the ultimate origin of the Nimon was good, though not
unexpected. There are some nice touches
included in the plot that desperately try to overcome the bad acting,
nearly do. I particularly liked the
explanation that the maze was a huge circuit that changes when it's in
the subplot with two of the tributes, Teka and Seth, was one of the
interesting, and amusing, parts of the story.
Basically Seth had told a lie or two and it spiraled out of
until he found himself on the ship to Skonnos with Teka believing that
he was a
royal prince who was brave, strong, and resourceful who had a plan to
Nimon and free his planet from the constant threat of Skonnos. He was none of those things in reality, but
the love-struck Teka kept interpreting everything he did as a heroic
feat. If only the rest of the story could
played in a lower key, this would have been a decent adventure.
The mono soundtrack has been cleaned up and is very
good. It is nice and clear with no hiss
or background noise to take away from the story. Being
a mono track, there's really not much
more to say about it.
The full frame video has been cleaned up by the Restoration
Team and it looks good. The
original cinematography wasn't that
impressive, there's a few spots where whites bloom and the color design
drab, but the disc reproduces that well.
The whole serial was recorded on sets so videotape was used
and the picture isn't as sharp as it would have been with film. The colors are solid though and the level of
detail is decent. This is an average
looking Doctor Who disc.
While it wasn't the best story, there are some entertaining
and informative bonus features. There's
a commentary track featuring actors Lalla Ward, Graham Crowden and
along with script writer Anthony Read.
Lalla Ward especially seemed to be having a good time and gently
fun as some aspects of the story.
Anthony Read gets his own featurette, Read the Writer (6 min) where he
talks about his script, script editor Douglas Adams, and points out
wrong with the serial. (He mainly blames
the director for letting the actors ham it up too much.)
My favorite bonus item was Who Peter--Partners in Time a half-hour look at the
classic Doctor Who series and it's promotion on the kid's show Blue
reason that many important clips from
'lost' Who episodes
are still around (Hartnell's transformation sequence for
example) is because they were shown on Blue Peter and that series was
preserved. This apparent made-for-TV
special looks back at the various stories and interviews that were done
show, including several segments on 'how to make a Dalek.'
The segments were cute and this special is
well worth watching.
There is also an 'info-text' option for each story.
This is something that the other Who releases
have and I'm a big fan of them. This
pop-up text options allows viewers to read about the shooting schedule,
between various story incarnations and the final version and learn
history of the supporting actors. It's
well worth watching, though it can be distracting so watch the story
extras are wrapped up with a three minute Radiophonic Workshop music
photo gallery, and the usual Radio Times listings.
While the Horns of Nimon will never be considered a high point in the history
of Doctor Who, it's not
nearly as terrible as some fans remember it. Yes
there is some horrid overacting and
terribly unfunny broad humor, but beneath that there's a solid story
nice touches. Fans of the classic series
should check it out again. It gets a