The Horns of Nimon was the fifth and final serial of season 17 of Doctor Who. The original intention was not for Horns to be the last story, only becoming the case when Shada was cancelled. The story marked David Brierley's final vocal appearance as K9 after John Leeson reprised the role from The Leisure Hive onwards. Moreover, it was the final story to be broadcast, in full or in part, during the 1970s and the first during the 1980s.
When the TARDIS collides with a spaceship en route to the planet Skonnos, the Fourth Doctor, Romana II and K9 soon uncover the horrific truth about its cargo. The ship is carrying young sacrifices for a powerful, horned creature called the Nimon.
But why is the creature so desperate for the delivery, and what other dangers await the time travellers? All will be revealed at the centre of the labyrinthine Power Complex on Skonnos...
The glory days of the Skonnan Empire are long since past, but many of its citizens and soldiers yearn for those days of control and conquest. The arrival of the mysterious horned Nimon to Skonnos has brought hope of imperial restoration. The fearsome creature lives within its labyrinth Power Complex, and has promised to rebuild the empire providing it receives a series of tributes from the Skonnans and their fawning, arrogant leader, Soldeed. This tribute is to consist of groups of youthful sacrifices from the nearby planet Aneth, as well as a supply of hymetusite crystals with each group. Young people have thus been abducted from Aneth and transferred to the labyrinth of the Nimon, into which only Soldeed is permitted to venture. On the final collection, however, the interstellar craft bearing the sacrifices breaks down in space. The ancient war craft has simply worn out, and when the co-pilot over extends the engines, a control panel explodes and kills the pilot.
The Doctor is in the TARDIS console room with Romana and K9, making modifications to the ship. Various controls are disconnected. Unfortunately, the area of space he has chosen to materialise the ship in is perilously close to what seems to be the basis of a manufactured black hole. They are in danger of being drawn in. The Doctor extends the TARDIS door force field to a nearby spaceship – the Skonnan battle cruiser – and he and Romana board the ageing warship. Once aboard the Doctor notices an abundance of radioactive hymetusite crystals and then soon finds a hold full of young prisoners. They are from the peaceful world of Aneth and one of them, Teka, has a seemingly misplaced faith that another prisoner, Seth, can free them from their incarceration and defeat the Nimon. The co-pilot investigates the hold and there finds the Doctor and Romana among the “weakling scum”. He takes the two of them at gunpoint to the bridge and forces them to help fix the stranded Skonnan ship. The Doctor is suspicious about what really happened to the ship. Romana offers to repair the ship using a hymetusite crystal and one is brought to her while the Doctor is permitted to return to K9 and the TARDIS to assist from there. Aboard the TARDIS, K9 informs the Doctor about the collapse of the Skonnan Empire in civil war.
With the Skonnan craft repaired, the co-pilot starts to move his ship away, stranding the TARDIS in space. With the TARDIS still not fully repaired and the gravity increasing, the Doctor and K9 face obliteration as a vast planetary body advances directly toward them.
Using a cricket ball strategy, the Doctor bounces the TARDIS off the approaching planetoid. He then starts work on repairing the console in order to pilot the ship to Skonnos. On Skonnos, the Nimon is angry when Soldeed reports the Skonnan craft with the last batch of sacrifices has not reached Skonnos and says it will withhold the arms that will help rebuild the Skonnan Empire until the ship arrives.
Fortunately for Soldeed, once he emerges from the Power Complex he hears from his guard captain, Sorak, that the ship has been found. The warship soon arrives on Skonnos and Soldeed leads the party of greeting, being unnerved to see Romana aboard. The co-pilot then lies that she is the cause of all the problems on the ship, being a pirate who stole aboard and killed the captain. Soldeed does not believe this and then forces the co-pilot into the Nimon Power Complex where he is sure to be killed. Moments later Romana and the Anethans are loaded up with hymetusite and also sent into the maze. Shortly thereafter the TARDIS materialises in the central square of Skonnos and the Doctor emerges. He is taken to Soldeed but soon escapes and heads into the Power Complex to escape his pursuers.
Deep in the Complex – whose walls seem to shift and change creating various patterns of progress that all lead to the Nimon – Romana finds the husks of previous Anethans, the life drained from them. The co-pilot also arrives, still pleading for his life, and when the Nimon appears too it dispatches the desperate soldier first before turning its mighty horns on Romana and the cowering Anethans.
The Doctor arrives in the nick of time to distract the Nimon and thus save Romana, Seth and Teka who make a break for it after him, though the other Anethans are too scared to leave. He leads them deeper into the Complex and finds a power source close to the heart of the maze, but he needs a computer to interpret the machine and so blows his dog whistle to summon K9. When the robot dog emerges from the TARDIS it encounters Soldeed, who immobilises it and takes it away for examination.
Back in the heart of the Complex the Nimon has now reached the power source room and starts manipulating the controls of the machine, which begins to cause the Complex to glow with energy. It also enables a shimmering tunnel to appear, down which comes a travel globe that bears two more Nimon. They announce to the other Nimon that the planet Crinoth is dying and that all the Nimon must continue the Great Journey of Life to Skonnos. Once the Nimon stalk away the Doctor examines the globes and pronounces that they are travelling vessels that have journeyed down a tunnel set between two black holes. By mishap the Doctor sends the globe down the tunnel with Romana in it but before he can reverse this Soldeed arrives and uses his staff to destroy the control panel. Soldeed then raises he staff at the Doctor, proclaiming "You meddling fool! You shall die!"....
Romana has arrived in the dying world of Crinoth where she encounters many Nimon who live as per their operation on Skonnos. Their equivalent of Soldeed is a broken old man named Sezom, who helped the Nimon establish themselves on his world and now knows they have destroyed it. He compares the Nimon to intergalactic locusts, swarming between planets and draining them of energy. He has also discovered that when jacenite is integrated into the staff that he was supplied with by the Nimon, it has the ability to stun them. He gives Romana an extra piece that he has, but is shortly afterward killed by a Nimon while helping her to escape.
Seth shoots Soldeed unconscious, and the Doctor then attempts to repair the transportation system. Just as he is about to complete the repairs, the Nimons return to the power source room and restrain him. However, they finish his work by reversing the tunnel, which brings Romana back in the capsule she had been waiting in on Crinoth. Romana tosses the jacenite to Seth, who now has possession of Soldeed's staff, and he uses it to stun two of the Nimons. Having managed to free himself from Soldeed's laboratory, K9 arrives just in time to deal with the remaining one. Soldeed, having escaped from the power source room, has seen the multiple Nimons and his faith is badly damaged. He is shot down by Seth but in his death throes manages to trigger a chain reaction, which will destroy the Complex. The Doctor and his party make their way out, using K9 to work out a proper exit path through the labyrinth. They all escape and join up with the remaining members of the Skonnan military council, all of whom evacuate the main square as the Nimon Power Complex explodes.
Later in the TARDIS, the Doctor reflects on their adventure as they watch Seth and Teka pilot a spacecraft away from Skonnos, having been granted their freedom. Elsewhere, Crinoth can be seen disintegrating. It seems that the Nimon threat is over.
- Doctor Who - Tom Baker
- Romana - Lalla Ward
- Soldeed - Graham Crowden
- Sorak - Michael Osborne
- Pilot - Bob Hornery
- Co-Pilot - Malcolm Terris
- Nimons - Robin Sherringham, Bob Appleby, Trevor St. John Hacker
- Teka - Janet Ellis
- Seth - Simon Gipps-Kent
- Voice of K9 - David Brierley
- Voice of the Nimon - Clifford Norgate
- Sezom - John Bailey
- Assistant Floor Manager - Rosemary Chapman
- Costumes - June Hudson
- Designer - Graeme Story
- Director's Assistant - Elizabeth Sherry
- Electronic Effects - Dave Jervis
- Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson
- Make-Up - Christine Walmesley-Cotham
- Producer - Graham Williams
- Production Assistant - Henry Foster
- Production Unit Manager - John Nathan-Turner
- Script Editor - Douglas Adams
- Senior Cameraman - Alec Wheal
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Studio Lighting - Nigel Wright
- Studio Sound - John Hartshorn
- Technical Manager - Derek Thompson
- Theme Arrangement - Delia Derbyshire
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Video-Tape Editor - Rod Waldron
- Vision Mixer - James Gould
- Visual Effects Designer - Peter Pegrum
- Make-Up Assistants - Francoise Cresson, Christine Greenwood, Jenny Hughes (INFO: The Horns of Nimon)
- Grams Operator - Gordon Phillipson (INFO: The Horns of Nimon)
- Desgn Assistant - Rorie Mitchell (INFO: The Horns of Nimon)
- Floor Assistant - Sally Bates (INFO: The Horns of Nimon)
- After spinning the TARDIS to kick an asteroid out of a gravity whirlpool the Doctor imagines that he would have been a "great slow bowler". Somewhat ironically, his next incarnation would indeed be an expert at cricket.
- The Doctor says, "We're up a gum tree without a paddle".
- Skonnos was once home to an empire of over a hundred star systems, but it fell to civil war. The empire still includes Crinoth, which has been invaded and devastated by the Nimon, and Aneth.
Plays from the real world
- The Doctor quotes Hamlet in saying, "Oh my prophetic soul".
- The TARDIS defence shields can extend outside the ship, maintaining an atmosphere. In addition, the TARDIS' gravitic anomaliser could generate a localised field of artificial gravity around the outside of the TARDIS.
- Romana has built her own sonic screwdriver. The Doctor tries to swap his own for hers, but Romana catches him out.
- The Doctor states that everywhere he goes he has guns, phasers and blasters pointed at him. (Phasers are the main personal weapon in Star Trek and blasters are the main handheld weapon in Star Wars.)
- This story had the working title Horns of Nimon (minus 'The').
- This story is based on the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Several names in the story are anagrams or near-anagrams of names from the myth: thus, Athens becomes Aneth, Knossos becomes Skonnos, Theseus becomes Seth, Minos becomes Nimons, and Corinth becomes Crinoth. The Power Complex is analogous to the Labyrinth, and the Nimon to the Minotaur.
- The time rotor in the Doctor's TARDIS is removed, the first and only time this has occurred.
- The line, "I'm glad I reminded them to paint their ship white; last time anything like this happened, completely forgot; caused quite a hoo-ha," is another reference to Greek mythology, specifically when Theseus forgot to paint his flag white, causing his father Aegeus (who had an agreement with Theseus to paint his flag white if he came back alive) to jump off the palace in despair.
- Radio Times credits Clifford Norgate as "Voice of the Nimon" for parts one and two, and as "Voice of the Nimons" for parts three and four. On-screen credits read "Voice of the Nimon" for parts one to three, and "Voice of the Nimons" for part four.
- A black-and-white head-and-shoulders publicity shot of Lalla Ward as Romana from Destiny of the Daleks accompanied the Radio Times programme listing for part two, the accompanying caption of which also mentioned Ward's appearance on the children's phone-in programme Multi-Coloured Swap Shop that very same morning: "Dr. Who's friend Romana (Lalla Ward) has another date in space at 5.50, but you can talk to her this morning in Multi-Coloured Swap Shop: 9.30". (original published text)
- The two Nimons who arrive on Skonnos in the transmat capsule in part three did not originally have any lines, but this was changed on recording. Because this was a late decision, Bob Appleby and Trevor St. John Hacker were uncredited both on-screen and in Radio Times for part three. Also, lead Nimon actor Robin Sherringham was credited on-screen for part three, but not in Radio Times. The omission of the aforementioned actors from the Radio Times programme listing was due to "a lack of space this issue", as Graham Williams was informed by the publishers.
- This serial was supposed to have been followed by one more, Shada, but due to a strike, production of Shada was abandoned, making The Horns of Nimon a premature season finale. As such it marked the end of several eras:
- This is producer Graham Williams' last Doctor Who story, as well as the final script to be edited by Douglas Adams.
- This is the final story in which David Brierley voices K9.
- It featured the final use of the original 1963 arrangement of the "Doctor Who Theme", from the 1967 remix by Delia Derbyshire, as well as the last use of the diamond-shaped series logo and "tunnel" opening sequence by Bernard Lodge, which had been in place (with some modifications) since The Time Warrior. The opening credits image of Tom Baker, now close to six years old, is also retired.
- This is also the last story to be scored by composer Dudley Simpson.
- Further, this story marked the final appearance of Tom Baker wearing his "original" trademark scarf and coat before they were replaced in the next story by their burgundy counterparts.
- Besides the incomplete Shada, this is the last story of the original series that wasn't produced by John Nathan-Turner.
- Both the Pilot and the Co-pilot were unnamed on-screen, but were given the names Sekkoth and Sardor respectively by Terrance Dicks for his novelisation of the story. This was not derived from any information given in the televised version.
- Graham Williams disliked the story, thinking it wasn't strong enough. It was made because there were no other scripts available. It was placed in the season's fifth slot in the hope that it would quickly be forgotten once Shada, began transmission; unfortunately, this backfired when Shada had to be abandoned, meaning "Nimon" ended up as the season finale. "It was a weak script and a weak programme, hence why we buried it at Number 5".
- The Nimon wore ten-inch platform heels to give the impression of height.
- Soldeed begins laughing hysterically during his death scene, while yelling "You are all doomed! All doomed!" The line was scripted, but the laughter was (nearly literal) corpsing. Graham Crowden had thought it was a camera rehearsal, but the take got used anyway — partly due to a lack of time, and because the director felt that it was still in-character.
- Malcolm Terris ad-libbed the line "Weakling scum".
- Tom Baker ad-libbed the scene where the Doctor gives K9 mouth-to-mouth.
- The vacuum-formed cryogenic pods used in The Ark in Space show up again.
- During the production of The Leisure Hive, newcoming producer John-Nathan Turner asked Peter Howell and Paddy Kingsland to do incidental music demos of a scene at the beginning of part two of The Horns of Nimon. Only Howell's demos are known to survive and are included on the DVD as an extra but were also released individually as part of Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop Volume 2: New Beginnings 1970–1980.
- Part one - 6.0 million viewers
- Part two - 8.8 million viewers
- Part three - 9.8 million viewers
- Part four - 10.4 million viewers
- BBC Television Centre, Studio 3
- The Co-pilot's trousers rip at the end of part two (and the reprise of part three) when the Nimon kills him.
- In part four, Soldeed's body disappears from where it fell. (This occurs between his death scene and the shot of the nuclear furnace about to explode.)
- The Nimons' headpieces become loose on several occasions and the actors' necks are visible beneath.
- The "computer bank" scenery elements on the set of the Nimon Power Complex control room are unfortunately all too recognisable as those seen in Noel Edmonds's desk area on Multi-Coloured Swap Shop.
- When the Co-pilot is forced into the maze, you can still see part of him lying in the doorway (look for his shoes).
- In part four, when the Nimons are lying on the ground, the shoes of the actors are more than clearly visible.
- In part two, the original Nimon's headpiece is seen sliding off the actor. This is noticeable because a gap is visible between the headpiece and the actor.
- During his demise scene, Soldeed begins laughing hysterically as actor Graham Crowden mistook the scenario as a camera rehearsal; however, due to time constraints, the scene had to be left in.
- The Nimon appear again in AUDIO: Seasons of Fear, COMIC: Space in Dimension Relative and Time, and PROSE: The Maze of Doom'.
- The Minotaur is a distant cousin of the Nimon. (TV: The God Complex)
- The Third Doctor had earlier acted like a toreador to distract a Minotaur with a red cloth in Atlantis. (TV: The Time Monster)
Home video and audio releases
- This story was first released on DVD in the UK on 29 March 2010 as part of the Myths And Legends Boxset, alongside The Time Monster and Underworld. The one disc set includes a restored version of the story, as well as the following special features:
- Commentary by Lalla Ward (Romana), Janet Ellis (Teka), Graham Crowden (Soldeed) and Anthony Read (Writer)
- Who Peter: Partners In Time - A special documentary looking back at the relationship between Doctor Who and Blue Peter since the 1960's, presented by former Blue Peter presenter, Gethin Jones
- Read The Writer - Anthony Read, writer of The Horns of Nimon, looks back at the story
- Peter Howell Music Demos - Peter Howell's demo music over the beginning of Part Two of The Horns of Nimon
- Coming Soon Trailer
- Radio Times Billings
- Production Subtitles
- Photo Gallery
- Easter Egg - On the special features page, go to 'Read the Writer', then press right to highlight a hidden Doctor Who logo. Press enter to see a sketch by the sock puppets
- Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.
- The Horns of Nimon at the BBC's official site
- The Horns of Nimon at RadioTimes
- The Horns of Nimon at BroaDWcast
- The Horns of Nimon at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)