|"I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake! |
I shake it off, I shake it off!"
If you’re looking for a classic Doctor Who serial that represents the show at its absolute best, then I’m afraid you’ve come knocking on the wrong door. Instead, this is a fine example of the show at its absolute worst. Incidentally, that is not necessarily a bad thing.
This was the final story of season 17 and therefore the last with Graham Williams as producer and Douglas Adams as script-editor, although that wasn't how it was meant to be. The season was originally going to end with 'Shada', a six-part story written by Adams set mostly in Cambridge, Adams' old stomping ground. Production on that story was halted after location filming was completed due to strike action. By the time the strike had ended there was no studio space available at television centre to complete filming and the story was subsequently abandoned (although it would live on in other mediums). Thus 'The Horns of Nimon' brings the Graham Williams era to a premature end.
‘The Horns of Nimon’ is story that clearly divides fandom. You either hate it or love it. And I absolutely flaming love it. This is a tale so astonishingly bad it manages to double back on itself all the way into utter genius. This is Doctor Who as a drunken Christmas pantomime. You know from the moment that Tom Baker starts giving K-9 mouth to mouth that this is not a story that should ever be taken the slightest bit seriously.
Like 'Underworld', this one takes story elements form classic mythology - in this case the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur - but does so in a far more entertaining way. The tales' Minotaur substitutes, the Nimon, are one of Doctor Who’s most lovably laughable creations. The papier-mâché heads are bad enough, but the platform boots take it to a whole new level of naffness.
Fun as it is, there’s no question that the whole thing is a shoddy production. The memorable sets and costumes are all bargain basement. There’s nothing remotely special about any of the effects. And the acting... Ohhhh, the acting! Graham Crowden’s outrageously OTT performance as Soldeed has become the stuff of legend. He completely dominates the entire story, managing even to blast the mighty Baker off the screen. Everyone else, bar Tom and Lalla, are rather bland and forgettable.
Notes and Quotes
--Janet Ellis (Teka) would later become a presenter of the popular children's magazine programme Blue Peter.
--Romana has made her own sonic screwdriver and it's so much better than the Doctor's that he tries to pinch it.
--The scene where Soldeed addresses his minsters reminds me of that bit in Blazing Saddles when Mel Brook's governor is chairing a meeting ("I didn't get a "harrumph" out of that guy!", "Give the Governor a harrumph").
--The Nimon later appeared in the Eighth Doctor audio adventure 'Seasons of Fear'. A distant relation was encountered by the Eleventh Doctor and the Ponds in 'The God Complex'.
--This is the last story to feature David Brierley as the voice of K-9.
The Doctor: "Come on old girl, quite a few millennia left in you yet."
Romana: "Thank you, Doctor!"
The Doctor: "Not you - the TARDIS!"
The Doctor: "Why don't you give me the gun and then I can keep an eye on myself so I don't get up to any funny business."
The Doctor: "Aneth. That's a charming place."
Seth: "You've been to Aneth?"
The Doctor: "Yes, but not yet."
Co-Pilot: "Weakling scum!"
Nimon: "Later, you will be questioned, tortured and killed."
The Doctor: "Well, I hope you get it in the right order."
Romana: "The Nimon be praised? How many Nimons have you seen today?"
Soldeed: "Do not blaspheme the Nimon!"
Romana: "How many?"
Soldeed: "Skonnoth will-"
Romana: "How many Nimons?"
Soldeed: "Threeeee! I have seen three!"
The Doctor: "You know K-9, sometimes I think I'm wasted just rushing about the universe saving planets from destruction. With a talent like mine I might have been a great slow bowler."
Three out of four dreams of conquest.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.