Who Dropped the Bomb on Me? 'Doctor Who: The Horns of Nimon'

There’s half a story here that has all the makings of a solid, if not explosive, effort. Instead we’re left with a bomb of a different sort.

Doctor Who: The Horns of Nimon

Distributor: Warner
Cast: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, Graham Crowden
Network: BBC
Release Date: 2010-07-06

If there's an easy way out of anything it’s by blowing stuff up. This can be achieved through the use of explosives of any sort, mental, emotional or good old fashioned TNT. Explosives have gotten people, real and imagined, out of jams throughout history. The point of this review, though, isn’t to ruin the ending of the story for potential viewers, but in this case you’re in luck. It’s already been ruined for you.

While making repairs to the TARDIS, the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) find themselves drawn into the gravity of a newly formed black hole. They make their escape courtesy of a passing ship from the planet Skonnos, a once powerful planet that’s beholden to a mysterious and powerful creature known as the Nimon. The Skonnans are lead by Soldeed (Graham Crowden), a maniacal scientist. who is the only person to see the Nimon.

Soldeed arranges for prisoners from the nearby planet Aneth to be brought to Skonnos as tributes to the Nimon. In return, the Nimon promises Soldeed to restore the Skonnan Empire to its former glory. This has been going on for generations. When the Skonnans fulfill their end of the bargain, it’s revealed the Nimon is only the first wave of an invasion force that moves from planet to planet and devours people and natural resources before moving on to its next target.

There are things about this story to like, starting with both the Doctor and Romana. Baker is as playful and fun as ever, and his zany sense of humor is the highlight of many scenes. At times it seems he’s acting outside of the scene, simultaneously commenting on his lines as he delivers them. His interaction with Ward, to whom he was briefly married, is also fun. For her part, Ward plays Romana as tough and serious, a calming influence to the Doctor’s manic personality. Then, there’s Soldeed.

When he first appears, Soldeed is sick-looking, pale and gaunt, and his eyes dart around when he speaks as if every word is a lie. Soon, though, Crowden’s performance deteriorates to the point where it seems he’s on the edge of cracking up at every line, like he’s making fun of his character. When he enters the power station that’s home to the Nimon, Soldeed walks the halls with his staff in his hand and calls out, “Lord Niiii-mon!” like a little boy searching for his puppy instead of a frightened man appearing before a monster.

He’s supposed to be afraid, but he has a plan. Soldeed talks of playing the Nimon on a long string, of giving the creature what it wants only as a way of furthering the power of Skonnos and of himself in particular. After the Nimon gets all the tributes it requires he promises the Skonnans a new fleet of ships. Soldeed will presumably turn that power back on the Nimon, but his desperation for power blinds him to what’s really going on.

The Doctor and Romana work with a group of prisoners from Aneth, including Seth (Simon Gipps-Kent) and Teka (Janet Ellis), to repel the coming invasion of the Nimons. There’s so much tinkering with machinery and running around to try and thwart the threat of invasion it that it feels like the story can’t wrap up in four episodes, but it does.

As with Soldeed and the Nimon, the audience is kept on a long string, too. Keep in mind the story originally aired in four weekly installments, with each episode ending in a cliffhanger. Like any episode of Doctor Who these cliffhangers were quickly resolved at the beginning of the next episode, but they were designed to keep viewers invested in the story from week to week.

Even watching the episodes all together on DVD, one expects to have some sort of resolution to the threat of the Nimons. Instead, we’re treated to a big explosion that defeats the Nimon and it’s all over with the Doctor and Romana having a laugh on the TARDIS. There’s passing mention of the prisoners getting a spaceship to return to Aneth, but none of what the Skonnans will do in the aftermath of their former master’s destruction.

Much more enjoyable is the bonus feature “Who Peter-Partners in Time”. It explores the long relationship between Doctor Who and Blue Peter, the long-running BBC children’s television program. Fans of Doctor Who were treated to behind the scenes looks at the characters and creatures thanks to Blue Peter, and actors from the show were frequent guests.

Blue Peter is also responsible for the survival of some early Doctor Who video clips that were otherwise erased by the BBC, including first Doctor William Hartnell’s regeneration into the second, Patrick Troughton. The two shows were so intertwined that Janet Ellis, who played Teka in “The Horns of Nimon”, was later a presenter on the Blue Peter.

Another interesting feature is “Read the Writer”, about “The Horns of Nimon” writer Anthony Read. In it he discusses his inspiration from Greek mythology, as well the importance of humor in a story. He’s critical of the story, saying that once the actors start “hamming it up, you lose credibility.” Unfortunately, no one said that to poor Soldeed.

At its core, “The Horns of Nimon” is about taking the easy way and having it blow up in your face. Strangely, no one making the thing seemed to notice. There’s half a story here that has all the makings of a solid, if not explosive, effort. Instead we’re left with a bomb of a different sort.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.