Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Serial 108: The Horns of Nimon

Doctor: Tom Baker (4th Doctor)
Companion: Romana II, K-9

Written by: Anthony Read
Directed by: Kenny McBain

Background & Significance: I'm not a huge fan of the Graham Williams era of Doctor Who.

For those not in the know (or not paying attention or sleeping or whatever it is people with lives do), Graham Williams took over as producer for Doctor Who after three remarkably popular seasons under Hinchcliffe/Holmes. He was told to change the focus of the show from Gothic horror to something... else. In lieu up with as a suitable alternative, Williams and the BBC agreed to do the old standby: make it funny and focus on the comedic aspects of the show.

This suited Tom Baker (and eventually Lalla Ward), who thought of himself primarily as a comedian and improvisationalist and wanted to incorporate those skills into the show.

As such, the show became "funny" and hit on a lot more of the camp aspects of the series. As a result, that's what I think of when I think of Graham Williams, and truth be told, I don't think it's for me. I mean, I liked The Key to Time well enough (for the most part), but his "view" (which was kinda inconsistent) isn't exactly what I'm looking for in Doctor Who. Early on, before I decided I was a huge fan of horror (and eventually, Robert Holmes) I thought it was going to be the thing for me; turns out I was wrong.

"The Horns of Nimon" is the final story of the Graham Williams era, but it wasn't supposed to be. Truth be told, after learning from the mistake of the money always running out in his other season finales, he set aside money to make his intended swansong, "Shada", something bigger and epic and not pathetic looking.

But then there was a labour strike and "Shada" got only partially produced and was ultimately unairable. This left "The Horns of Nimon", Williams' penultimate story, to be his last.

And really, when I think of his legacy this is pretty much how I think of it. I find it remarkably fitting: weak story, really camp, very cheap looking, and ridiculously over-acted. This, in effect, becomes the Graham Williams era taken to its ultimate extreme, which makes this as his last story quite ultimately fitting.

So let's get to it!


Part 1:

We open on a freighter traveling through space! It is epic! On the bridge the two crewmembers argue about not having proper equipment and everything being done cheaply because of budget cuts or whatever.

Oh boy. Look. Another civilization that’s having trouble managing its money.

The much more subdued pilot (foreground) is all chill and zen because Nimon will soon fulfill his promise and all will be well. The co-pilot, who can’t not shout or overact his lines, gives a threatening “he better!” The pilot says that he should worry less because this is the last shipment due to the Nimon and once it is delivered all will be well.

Suddenly excited, the loudmouth picks up his super soaker and heads out to go check on the cargo. Which he does by walking in on the dressed-in-yellow children and yelling at them “Weakling scum!” and then pimping out without another word.

What. An. A-Hole.

He gets all excited because they’re going home for the last time and manages to convince the subdued one that they can make it home to Skonnos in less time if they just push the old ship harder. Sure there’s a possibility of bad things, but who cares? They’ll get home or whatever.

But when they push it too hard to get home in half the time, things start exploding and the ship starts shaking and freaking out. The poor children in the cargo hold are rustling around, and before you know it, the engines go and the pilot dies in the carnage.

(None of this looks very expensive by the way).

We cut to The TARDIS where The Doctor is performing operations on the TARDIS and at some point K-9 got a voice change AND IT IS A HORRIBLE VOICE CHANGE. Seriously. Terrible voice actor being K-9.

The Doctor has stopped the TARDIS (despite K-9 and Romana’s protestations) and we get some nice (not really) slapstick humour about the TARDIS moving when it shouldn’t. It doesn’t help that no one is telling Lalla Ward not to overact, which she does at every chance she gets, which is every time.

After some arguing, there’s a small explosion and K-9 malfunctions. The Doctor performs mouth-to-mouth. It is funny. Not really.

Turns out the TARDIS is suffering some major malfunctions including the defense shields and dematerialization circuits. And now they’re dead in the water. And they’re approaching the derelict transport freighter ship thing. And they crash into it.

The co-pilot of said ship calls for Skonnos and so we cut to the planet where we meet Soldeed, the imperial overseer whatever guy of the planet Skonnos. He reminds me of The Wizard of Oz for some reason and tells everyone that the tribute to the Nimon is almost complete. Once the final transport arrives, the promise will be fulfilled.

And… yeah. Without going into it too too much, Soldeed is the KING of Melodramatic Over-Ham-Acting. You’ll see him a bit later, but my god.

The Doctor, K-9, and Romana extend the freighter’s forcefield to allow them to walk from TARDIS to freighter and break inside, which they do. The Doctor stops K-9 from talking too much (I’m sorry, but thank god. Nu-K-9 is awful) and then sends him back to the ship for repairs.

Now alone, The Doctor and Romana enter the cargo hold to find the children of Aneth, the next sacrifice to the Nimon, including Seth, Prince of Aneth and total pimp (just look at his shirt), and Teka, the girl who’s totally into him and kinda cute in that loyal sorta way.

The Doctor offers them all jelly babies, which they all take (personally, I wouldn’t. Some hobo drunk man in a scarf comes lauding up to me offering me sweets would make me suspicious, but that’s just me) and then they explain to him about why they’re here. Blah blah blah sacrifice to the Nimon blah blah.

The Doctor theorizes that they’re stuck and the gravity is getting better because there’s a black hole starting to form all around them. The co-pilot enters and, overacting as always, yells at The Doctor and Romana to fix his ship.

Oh, and then he leaves the kids, making sure to call them “Worthless scum!” one more time.

Back on Skonnos, Soldeed receives word that the ship with the last shipment has gone missing. Soldeed starts freaking out and tells the messenger to go over it again. Great. Now he has to go inform The Nimon of all the problems.

The Doctor finishes checking out the freighter, careful to note that the engines and such have been patched with entirely new technology and aren’t exactly compatible with the old technologies. The co-pilot continues waving his gun and demands they fix it, the Doctor noting how people get stupider when they hold guns.

He decides to head back to the ship while Romana stays back to convert the ships engines to run on some of the minerals in the freighter’s hold so they can get out of there.

The Doctor heads back to the TARDIS and starts to talk to K-9 about how to fix the TARDIS, taking opportunities to yell at K-9 every chance he gets.

More on that a bit later.

The Doctor takes some parts from the TARDIS and heads back to the freighter so he can help fix the ship. He notices that gravity is worsening and time is slowing as this black hole continues to form.

The co-pilot gets the power back online and disconnects The TARDIS from the ship and starts to fly off. Romana, who was in the hold with the kids at the time, runs into the bridge and starts yelling at the co-pilot, challenging him to an overacting shouting match. But she loses and the pilot refuses to turn around.

The Doctor and K-9 realize the TARDIS has been disengaged from the ship and notice that a small moon space station planet is headed right towards them and they’re dead in the water and can’t escape!

Part 2:

The Doctor starts making his farewells, placing a first prize ribbon on K-9, the best dog he ever had (“Ha ha”). They’re going to be smashed like a cricket ball! But that gives The Doctor an idea……

The Doctor starts to spin The TARDIS so when the planetoid hits them the ship goes spinning off in the other direction. And it works! And now they’re safe and out of the gravity whirlpool.

Off on Skonnos, Soldeed goes to see the Nimon, who looks absolutely ridiculous. He complains that they don’t know what’s happened to the ship and asks that the Nimon front them some tech so they can do an upgrade and go fetch their ship and attack the Aneth.

But the Nimon refuses, saying there will be none of that until the tribute is paid. And that makes Soldeed pissed, so he runs out and yells at the guards to go find demand another tribute from Aneth. Immediately.

Romana attempts to convince the Aneth teenagers to take over the ship so they can rescue The Doctor and take them home, but the children refuse, saying it’s their duty and it would do them no good. They need to kill the Nimon. That’s how they get out of this.

But then the girl goes and blabs to Romana that Seth plans to kill the Nimon and that’s a secret. Romana decides to take back the ship singlehanded, but then realizes she’s unable to access the bridge because she’s lost her sonic screwdriver. Bummer.

And then Soldeed receives word that the ship has been located. Nimon be praised.

Seth starts explaining the mythology about how there was a war between Aneth and Skonnos and with the eventual help of the Nimon, Skonnos totally whupped Aneth. Now they demand tribute and Seth is supposed to be the chosen one who will bring everything down.

But he confesses that he made it all up. Now he walks around with his shirt mostly unbuttoned because he is a pimp master. But he doesn’t get much farther than that. The ship is landing.

And then there’s a funny scene where the TARDIS makes a ton of crazy explosion sounds and then Tom Baker says “That’s very odd.” It’s “funny.”

The ship arrives on Skonnos and Soldeed gets PISSED because two of the crystals that accompanied the Anethan children are missing. Romana explains that they had to use the two to power the ship out of that black hole.

And now Soldeed gets really pissed. Romana demands to know where The Doctor is (oh like he would know) and Soldeed starts losing his shit, demanding to know what happened and telling Romana to shut her mouth.

He turns to the co-pilot who starts fumbling with his words and the three of them start an overacting contest (in which, it’s fair to point out, no one wins). The Co-Pilot explains that he converted the fuel cells to take the crystals (liar. Romana did it) and Soldeed calls him on his bullshit and his corner cutting.

In response to his failure, Soldeed sends him into the Nimon’s complex, which is located behind a green screen curtain.

Feeling a little bit better (but still not 100%), Soldeed demands that the Aneth Children be sent into the Nimon’s complex, accompanied by Romana.

And then The Doctor somehow manages to get the TARDIS working for him again. Good for him.

And then Soldeed gives a speech about how awesome they’re going to be now that the final tribute has been entered. Woohoo.

In the complex, The Co-Pilot wanders aimlessly. He hears a gurgling growl. He pulls out his gun and ducks behind a wall, watching as the Anethan children and Romana travel past.

But strangely enough, as he turns to see where they’ve gone around a corner, there’s a wall in his way. He goes back, but there’s another wall, and then another corridor opens up and it is very confusing to his small pilot mind.

Meanwhile, The Doctor lands The TARDIS in the Skonnos main area and guards point guns at him and drag him off to see Soldeed.

And this brings us to our first youtube, which will take us to the end of the episode. It shows The Doctor facing and running away from Soldeed as well as a look at The Nimon and their weapons and their platform shoes.

Also, I think Tom Baker might be drunk. And there’s definitely some overacting.

Part 3:

The Doctor appears and starts waving the Nimon off the Aneth and Romana with a red neckerchief, playing like a matador. Romana takes the opportunity to steal the co-pilot’s gun and blast some of the Nimon’s equipment and then, eventually The Nimon.

She then runs off with Seth and Teka, distracting the Nimon enough to let The Doctor run off and leaving the other children behind to the Nimon’s will.

Soldeed and his head guard examine the TARDIS. It is nothing special.

Romana, Seth, and Teka get lost running through the halls of the complex. Trapped and panicking, they’re all about to lose their heads when The Doctor shows up as the calm voice of reason. And then he panics because they left all the children behind.

Speaking of the sacrifices, each of the children present their crystals to the Nimon. The Nimon is most pleased, saying the Great Journey of Life is continuing. And then he shoots a kid with his glow-horns.


The Doctor, Romana, Seth, and Teka arrive in the Nimon’s main control room and they start techno-babbling, realizing that the Nimon has built antennae receivers on Skonnos to send out signals of energy to… somewhere.

The Doctor hands Seth and Teka a gun and tells them to guard the door and tell him when the Nimon comes. And then he realizes that, when he was flying in the TARDIS, he got a good look at this place and it’s a giant positronic circuit, which is explains the labyrinthine nature of the complex what with its shifty walls and the like.

And then The Doctor decides to call K-9 to help them out.

The door to the TARDIS opens and K-9 emerges. Everyone starts freaking out. And then someone shoots K-9. For no reason.


And then K-9 shoots him back.


And then Soldeed shoots K-9 with a power dampener.


Soldeed orders K-9 taken to his laboratory and the guards continued to be stationed around the place.

The Doctor realizes that the complex is not a transmat but the transmitter is pointing at the black hole. He then surmises that whatever is going on here, Soldeed knows nothing about it (as he knew nothing about the black hole).

Speaking of Soldeed, he’s so blinded by the promise of power he doesn’t really listen when one of the guards asks (FINALLY AFTER DOZENS OF YEARS) why the Nimon is doing this, what’s in it for them, he totally misses the part where the Nimon are giving something in return for nothing.

Apparently Soldeed is under the impression that the Nimon works for him, which is odd because it was very clear earlier in the story that he was a bit tentative when going to see him.

In the complex, the Nimon stalks towards the main control room. The Doctor and Romana are concerned that K-9 hasn’t shown up yet, but there’s no time to worry about that now! Seth and Teka come in warning that the Nimon is coming. The Doctor tells them all to hide and they do.

And when he’s upset at the lack of effort put into hiding, Tom Baker smacks himself some jailbait ass.

Yeah. That actually happened. I think Tom Baker was hitting the bottle again.

The Nimon enters and starts fiddling with the controls. The Doctor tries to figure out what he’s up to, but he can’t do it. Whatever the Nimon’s doing, he’s too late to stop it.

Outside, Soldeed notices that the antennae (which look like Nimon horns ha ha) have activated and whatever the Nimon is doing it is doing it now. Intrigued, he heads into the complex to go see if the Nimon needs help.

Actually, I have no idea why Soldeed enters the complex. HE JUST DOES. DON’T QUESTION IT.

Teka asks Seth what the Nimon is doing. Seth tells her he doesn’t know. And then Teka asks him why he doesn’t know.

What. A. Bitch. Seriously. Why did you think he would know what this crazy alien bull with a muscle long sleeve and platform shoes (oh yes platform shoes) is doing with its crazy positronic whatever complex? Are you retarded? You ask too much of him! He is only Anethan!

A door slides aside and this egg looking space capsule appears on this… I guess it’s a transporter pad? The Nimon pulls it open and TWO MORE NIMON STEP OUT.


The Nimon says that Skonnos is their new home, the next step in the Great Journey of Life. And just in time, “Crinoth” has just been polished off and they need to move on in their next migration, which is to this planet.

And this is… Cool. I will say. I know I come down a lot on this serial because, quite frankly, it isn’t very good. But this idea of the Nimon as nomadic planet eaters is a cool one, especially as we explore what it is they’re doing exactly. It’s just too bad that the idea comes in such a weak story.

As the Nimon leave, The Doctor et. al. examine the space capsule. The Doctor realizes that the capsule has no engines and is instead propelled along a hyperspace corridor between two black holes, allowing instant transport from one end of the galaxy (where their old home “Crinoth” was) to another (Skonnos).

See? Good mythology.

And this leads us to our second youtube, which is another cliffhanger or whatever. It’s cute and fun and you get some Soldeed, so that’s nice. It’s also a pretty good cliffhanger that’s just kinda “oh no” or whatever…

Also, I still can’t decide if I like Soldeed or not. I guess I’ll make a decision in the final thoughts or something…

Part 4:

Seth totally shoots Soldeed and renders him unconscious. In gratitude, The Doctor disarms Soldeed of his magic staff/wand and gives it to him. Now Seth is the Grand Mage Wizard of Overacting! May his reign be benevolent and porkified!

The Doctor goes to check out what’s going on with the equipment Soldeed shot, but it doesn’t look good, which is bad news for Romana, who is now stuck on Crinoth and being chased by Nimon.

The Doctor sets about trying to fix the system or whatever, realizing that he has his gravitic anomalizer which might work to fix the system. But he’s so focused on that he totally doesn’t notice Soldeed getting up and waltzing out of the room right behind his back.

And then, when he’s far enough away, Soldeed starts laughing maniacally, giving away the fact that he’s escaped their company and is off to tell the Nimon. The Doctor sends Seth and Teka off after him, worried that they will be discovered.

Romana’s about to be zapped by some Nimon when she is rescued by a dude with a laser staff in the vein of Soldeed. This is Sezom, who is an old man apparently out to wage an all-out one-man guerilla warfare against the Nimon. And he’s kind of a badass.

Turns out Sezom is a lot like Soldeed. He was seduced by the Nimon and was the driving force in bringing them to his planet. They had promised Crinoth peace and prosperity and now everyone on the planet is dead and the Nimon have plundered it completely. Romana tells him she has to get back to Skonnos to warn everyone and conscripts his help to get back to the capsule.

Seth and Teka continue to hunt for Soldeed, but they split up for a second and get separated by one of those walls. Seth freaks out and chases after her, running through corridors and hallways like a generic loony.

Teka, (who has the gun) runs into the dead co-pilot on the table and then to her Anethan comrades, trapped in their Nimon bubbles.

Soldeed appears and disarms her to present her to the approaching Nimon.

But then the other two Nimon enter and Soldeed FREAKS THE FUCK OUT.

The Doctor manages to reactivate the transport pad and, thinking it’s Romana inside, opens the door to find two Nimon in there waiting for him. He locks the door and runs back to the controls and sends it back.

The two Nimon emerge from the capsule on Crinoth, angered that they have been betrayed. One heads off to see what the problem is. The other stays behind to guard the capsule (for some reason. I mean, really, the whole planet is dead so what are they afraid of?)

Soldeed’s head guard re-activates K-9 and the two have a conversation about where they are and blah blah and K-9 wants to get off the table but the guard wants to know how powerful K-9 is so K-9 shoots him and it is funny.

So the guard sets K-9 on the ground and K-9 pimps out of there and locks the guard inside, heading off to the complex to go help out The Doctor (over an episode later).

Romana and Sezom hear some Nimon talking about problems on Skonnos. Turns out Crinoth is completely devoid of energy and they’re relying on Skonnos’s power plant to pull them through. Without it, they will be trapped on this world.

Sounds like that’s your solution, no?

Sezom also mentions that his staff was given to him by the Nimon (as Soldeed’s was), but Sezom found a magical-wonder-element called Jacenite that is powerful enough to knock them unconscious. He hands the staff to Romana, for her to use when she gets back to Skonnos.

And this brings us to our final youtube, which involves the final fate of the Nimon. Note the part where they try to re-take the capsule and Romana SNIPES THE NIMON LIKE A BADASS.

Also, crazy overacting and the total insanity of Soldeed. And did I mention the overacting?

So now that the Nimon have been defeated and the complex is set to explode, they need to find their way out. While The Doctor and Romana attempt to figure it out, Teka starts glowing at Seth about how glad she is that he saved her.

She totally wants him to pork her. Seth and his unbuttoned pimp shirt has a groupie!

Before she can start tearing his clothes off, The Doctor calls K-9 and they start making their way to the exit using K-9’s superior sense of smell.

Unfortunately, the Nimon have awoken and are in hot pursuit.

K-9 works to find their way to the exit, but the place keeps changing and K-9’s having to improvise his way to a solution. Which he does. But it looks like there’s a wall in the way. Turns out the wall is just an illusion and they can walk right through it.

Solution solved!

They escape the complex and Teka WILL NOT SHUT UP ABOUT HOW SETH IS THE HERO OF ANETH. The Doctor tells everyone to get clear of the soon-to-explode complex and we get a montage of empty areas.

INCLUDING THE PLACE WHERE SOLDEED DIED THAT IS NOW EMPTY. People might say this is a goof or a production error. But I say HE IS NOT DEAD and he is still running around the galaxy being the giant ham pimp wizard of “awesome” that he is. Story mistake? I THINK NOT.

So the complex blows up in a huge explosion and we’re all back to normal. Sorta. Turns out the TARDIS is still brokenish but it’s nothing they can’t fix. They watch as Crinoth explodes on the other edge of the galaxy (DON’T THINK ABOUT IT) and the Aneths head off in their spaceship, Seth about to land to Teka spreading insane rumours about glorious acts he never committed.

Poor guy.

Then we get a really great moment where The Doctor mentions that he’s glad the ship was painted white. The last time that happened there was bad things. But… Well… We’ll talk about that in a minute.

And with that, they set off to complete the repairs to the TARDIS, which The Doctor says has another couple millennia of life left in her yet.

Final Thoughts?: The Horns of Nimon is one of those stories I find myself agreeing with the vast majority of the public on: it's not very good, but it's hardly the worst serial or even the worst of the Tom Baker era.

That's not to say that it's good. It's not. And you can tell that Williams' loose rein on Tom Baker (or even Lalla Ward) is definitely at its loosest, and under the direction of Kenny McBain the rein is looser than ever. In McBain's defense, it's aptly shot, but his hold over the direction skews into vast melodramatic acting, with each actor trying to outdo the other in how insane they can be. It's something to talk about when one of the straightest performances by the lead cast is Tom Baker (for the most part, even he has his moments).

It also doesn't help that the story is weak. I mean, look. I like the mythology. It's solid and interesting and worthy of the Nimon's eventual return should anyone decide to bring them back (and I listened to one version of it and it was pretty kick ass).

Unfortunately, the story borrows heavily from Greek Mythology, what with the Nimon being Minotaurs and Aneth being Athens and Seth being "Perseus" and the complex being a labyrinth and Soldeed being Daedalus... It's all very thin when you start looking at it. Although it does lead to the whole "Black vs. White Ship" thing at the end, which did make me chuckle.

But when you get right down to it, it's far from a mess. It's just poorly produced. Even Graham Crowden's Soldeed is... I don't even know. There are moments where it's just so over the top it's painful, but it's also totally watchable. I mean, if you're going to go, go big and own the hell out of it and I don't see how Soldeed could be any more completely ridiculous than he already is, which is pretty a lot.

So what it comes down to is... I have mixed feelings about this story. I enjoy it for what it is, but I couldn't say that it's even a Doctor Who story I particularly enjoy, if that makes sense. It definitely would be worth watching if you got drunk with your friends and made fun of it the whole time. Perhaps under a better script editor and producer this would have been passable, but as it stands it's mostly weak sauce and still will be forever.

Which is kind of a shame. I just wish someone would bring back the Nimon and redeem them, cuz uhhhh? Good idea. Tons of potential.

Next Time!: 5th Doctor! Cybermen in moonboots! Lesbian Space Truckers! A Game-Changer Death! And a kick-kick-kick ass story! Total badassery! "Earthshock!" Coming Next Tuesday!

No comments:

Post a Comment