Doctor Who #525: The Horns of Nimon Part 2

"If we don't pay tribute, the Nimon will destroy us." "Sounds like an insecure personality to me." "He lives in the power complex." "That fits."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Dec.29 1979.

IN THIS ONE... The Nimon gets his tribute with a side-order of Co-Pilot and Romana. The Doctor reaches Skonnos and meets Soldeed.

REVIEW: Romana gets some very good lines, including the one above, stands up to the co-pilot and Soldeed, and makes herself a shield to protect the Anethans from the Nimon. This is an excellent episode for her. I can't say the same for the Doctor who has become, there's no longer any denying it, a cartoon character. He thinks he's going to die, crushed by a planet at the center of a nascent black hole, so what does he do? Pull a First Place ribbon out of his pocket and put it on K9. What next, a bright red stick of dynamite or a piano? On the run from Soldeed's guards, he merely turns his back and despite being the only person not dressed in black, somehow goes unnoticed. I bet these guys would walk on air if no one told them about gravity. The Doctor just makes laser blasts bounce off that piece of junk in his hands, invulnerable and untouchable. And if these examples don't convince you, the silly cartoon noises the TARDIS makes when it explodes should. We've just hit the absolute peak of the Adams/Baker jokey Doctor and the truth of it is, it's not funny.

You can just about see it as the program self-parodying itself - "these corridors look all the same", panto villains who shout "you fools/dolts/weakling scum" at everyone, confused pronunciation of alien words, and the TARDIS' Britishness confirmed by its becoming a cricket ball (a talent that will stick to the Doctor in his next incarnation) - but it's not a sustained enough effort to be a legitimate filter through which we might excuse the story's excesses. Those villains are truly unbearable and you can't wait for them to get laser-horned by the Nimon, and the corridors SHOULD look all the same if the Nimon's complex is to be anything like the Minotaur's labyrinth. Tonally, it can't know it's a proper comedy because there's that startling effect when the mummy turns to dust under the Anethans' fingers. If only the episode had more bits like this.

The Anethans are limp expository machines, and the science is quickly going south (digging a black hole indeed), so is there anything that works? Most things Romana, I'd say, and Read is having fun giving the TARDIS new tricks. Though its plot function is to get the Doctor and his companions to where the action is, there's no reason it can't be used as a interesting gadget in stories, and what it's done in The Horns of Nimon to date is quite sensible, a damn sight better than similar attempts in The Invasion of Time. And the TARDIS arriving right in the middle of the square when the Doctor wants to set it down in a quiet corner is the kind of comedy the program SHOULD be doing. Slim pickings, really.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low
- Romana's heroic (and witty) turn is just about the only good thing Nimon has got going for it as the panto comedy stylings of everyone else in the story falls flat as a pancake on the surface of a black hole.

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