Doctor Who: The Horns of Nimon
(4 episodes, s17e17-e20, 1979-1980)
Doctor Who does mythology once again, and they do it just as well as before. Which, if you’re keeping score, is not well at all.
A Skonnan starship cruises through space. The crewmen grouse about how aged and overwhelmed their equipment is, but, hey, once Nimon fulfills his promise, they will revel in their restored glory. That will happen once their cargo, a batch of children, are delivered. Even before the co-pilot drank the stupid juice, I knew that this crew would attempt delivery at all costs. Lo and behold, the co-pilot simply cannot wait the extra twelve hours, so he overtaxes the engines to make it in half the time. The resulting overload kills the pilot and strands the ship in deep space.
Not too far away, the Doctor, Romana, and K9 are making modifications to the TARDIS. The Doctor expects the time capsule to be motionless in space, but they have stopped in the gravitational field of a black hole. Since the Doctor has shut down console room, the Doctor rigs the force fields and extends them to the nearby Skonnan ship. But first, they collide with it.
You know, I like my silly humor in Doctor Who, but I groaned at the mouth-to-snout resuscitation of K9. It did not work.
The team spacewalks down their makeshift bridge and enters the Skonnan ship. They find a storage room of radioactive crystals and the children that are intended as a sacrifice for Nimon. One of them is Seth, the Prince of Aneth. The Time Lords send K9 back to the TARDIS and are soon discovered by the Skonnan co-pilot. They also observe that the gravity is steadily increasing.
On the Skonnan homeworld, the leader/scholar/priest/overlord named Soldeed is informed of the goings-on and decides to inform Nimon. That whole thing feels like a televangelist in charge of a mega-church. The Nimon is (effectively) a sentient minotaur.
The Doctor and Romana set to work trying to save everyone from the impending black hole. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS as Romana (with her own custom sonic screwdriver!) works on the starship. After Romana completes her work, the co-pilot pulls away and resumes his course, stranding the Doctor and the TARDIS. Within moments, a rogue planetoid bears down on them, caught in the gravity well, ending the boring first episode.
The Doctor sees their situation is hopeless and says his farewells to K9. The “first prize” ribbon for the best dog ever was just about as funny as the earlier mouth-to-snout gag. The Doctor has a last minute revelation and bounces the TARDIS off the planetoid, freeing them from the gravity well. He begins repairs on the TARDIS so he can pursue the Skonnan ship.
Back on Skonnan, Soldeed is scolded by Nimon, and the minotaur repeats already established story details: The contract will not be completed until the shipment arrives. Once we get past this immense plot padding, we find out that Seth is destined to destroy the Nimon, and his father is waiting for Seth’s victory with a vast celebration.
It’s at this point that I understood where this was headed. Aneth is Athens, Seth is Theseus, Nimon is Minos, Crinoth is Corinth, and the last time Doctor Who tried to directly adapt Greco-Roman mythology, we had Underworld.
Adding to the padding, the Doctor is having trouble fixing the TARDIS. The time rotor shorts out with a series of comedic sound effects. Someone whack the showrunner with a wet trout already.
The starship arrives at Skonnan, and Soldeed is unnerved to find Romana among the crew. The co-pilot attempts to frame the Time Lady for all of the problems, but Soldeed sees through his flimsy cover story and sends him to Nimon for punishment. He then sends the children and Romana as tributes. The co-pilot, Romana, and the tributes roam the ever-shifting maze leading to Nimon’s lair in the city’s Power Complex. The maze exists for no reason other than the minotaur of myth lived in a labyrinth.
The Doctor, meanwhile, finally rigs a patchwork repair and sets course for Skonnos. The Doctor arrives in the town square – he bemoans always being the target of guns, phasers, and blasters – and asks to be taken to the Skonnan leader. He is escorted to Soldeed, gains some information, and then escapes into the labyrinth. He keeps track of his progress using green star stickers, however they disappear into the walls. A ball of twine might have worked better.
Romana and the tributes find the previous sacrifices in an Ark in Space cryogenic storage chamber. The co-pilot forces them into Nimon’s lair, but Nimon executes the co-pilot for his previous failure before turning on Romana and her charges. The Doctor arrives, waving a red scarf (¡olé!) to tempt the horned beast, and Romana takes the opportunity to escape with Seth and Tika (a young woman who idolizes Seth). As they meet up with the Doctor and formulate a plan, Nimon loads the radioactive crystals and into a reaction chamber. The Doctor’s group finds a radio room and reasons that the entire complex is a large positronic circuit. He calls for K9 to assist, but the robotic dog runs into Soldeed as the overly dramatic leader analyzes the TARDIS. K9 is immobilized and captured, and the Doctor presumes that the black hole is a gateway through hyperspace.
Nimon arrives in the radio room, forcing our heroes to hide as he begins to transmit, an act that draws Soldeed into the labyrinth to investigate. Nimon opens a portal to reveal a pod containing two more of his kind. His plan is obviously invasion.
The Doctor sends Romana to investigate the capsule as he tries to figure out the portal mechanisms, but he accidentally sends her with the capsule through the hyperspace tunnel. As he attempts to reverse it, Soldeed arrives and shoots the mechanism. As he takes aim on the Doctor, Seth stuns him, and the Doctor begins repairs. As he works, Soldeed comes to and escapes with a melodramatic laugh. On the other side of the cosmos, Romana arrives on a planet chock full of minotaurs and a chase ensues. She is soon saved by Sezom, Crinoth’s version of Soldeed but with less televangelism. He tells the tale of how Crinoth was overrun by the Nimons, a story that parallels the current troubles on Skonnos.
Seth and Tika are separated courtesy of the labyrinth, and she is soon captured by Soldeed and the Nimons.
The Doctor repairs the damage and transmats another pod, but it is full of Nimons. He sends it back, and the angry minotaurs set their contingency plan in motion. It appears that they have drained the planet of energy and must move on before the planet dies. The contingency is a one-shot: They can convert the matter into energy and force the pod through the hyperspace window, but it will destroy the planet. Sezom gives Romana his staff and a quantity of jesonite to supercharge it. They use it to disable the guard at the capsule, but Sezom is killed while providing Romana a chance to escape. The Nimons interrupt the Doctor’s repairs and accidentally bring Romana back. When she arrives, she tosses the jesonite to Seth, and he uses it to stun two of the Nimons.
K9 comes around and forces Soldeed’s assistant to free him from the lab, arriving in time to stun the last Nimon and help seal the hyperspace window. Seth and Romana start to free the cryogenically suspended tributes, and as Soldeed arrives, they confront him with the truth. He activates the reaction chamber with the radioactive crystals before Seth shoots him, setting off a chain reaction that will destroy the complex. K9 leads the entourage through the labyrinth as the Nimons give chase, but they don’t escape before the Horns of Nimon go up in a stunning conflagration.
Back on the TARDIS, Romana and the Doctor watch as Crinoth explodes and the tributes head home. The Doctor muses about being glad that the ship is painted white and points at the painfully obvious premise of the story before joking with Romana and closing the adventure.
The Nightmare of Eden was mediocre. This one was downright painful.
Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”
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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.