Doctor Who #527: The Horns of Nimon Part 4

"Later you will be questioned, tortured and killed." "Well I hope you get it in the right order."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.12 1980.

IN THIS ONE... The Nimon are defeated and stuff.

REVIEW: "It's a completely different system, it might be compatible!" A line that perfectly encapsulates the writing strategy at work in this episode. Things happen because the story needs them to happen, not because they make sense. So Sorak, with no previous engineering experience or motivation, rebuilds K9 and sets him free. Useless little Teka lets Soldeed take her gun. The Nimon bring the T Mat capsule to Skonnos as the Doctor grins, but the Time Lord has very little reason to believe it'll bring Romana instead of more Nimons. At the end, Soldeed flips a switch on the complex's furnace and the thing blows up, and we're told how everyone escaped even if it doesn't seem possible from the UNIT-era model explosion. For that purpose, the TARDIS scanner acts strangely, changing its point of view to whatever's needed to illustrate the accompanying exposition.

But it's not the lazy scriptwriting that most offends, it's Graham Crowden's performance as Soldeed. It's been over-the-top the to date, but in Part 4... Wow. He sticks out his tongue in horror, tears at his face, his voice cracks... It's just AWFUL. And while the last three serials have had a lot of problems, what really sank each one, I think, is exactly this - actors not taking it seriously, camping it up, the villains especially. Lady Adrasta, Tryst, Soldeed, all three were just terrible. The Nimons, though they're more effective than the Creature from the Pit or the Mandrels, still look like they're walking on tippy-toes. They've got a great big head and warbling growl, but the gestures, almost on par with those of the Menoptra, tend to take the stuffing out of them.

So what are we left with? Well, the concept of the Nimon race setting up religions all over the universe, sucking their host cultures dry and leaving to do the same thing elsewhere is a fantastic one. Is this what the Minotaur of Greek myth was? Alas, the Doctor comments that he was present at those events, forcing a comparison with a much better story, but also eliminating the possibility that he might some day discover the Nimon needed to be defeated on Crete as well. Romana's trip to one such dying world shows the Nimon playing on different desires - Crinos wanted peace, Skonnos war - and Soldeed's analog there is rather more affable. Romana and the Doctor are both fine, even if watching them follow K9 through a maze is akin to watching paint dry. Still, I let myself be charmed by Romana's face-pull/smile combo at the every end.

VERSIONS: I am unaware of any important differences between the Target novelization and the televised program except that it obviously lacks the latter's action excesses and production deficiencies.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Romana's bits are most watchable, but the whole enterprise sinks on Skonnos thanks to Crowden's ghastly panto performance.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - A fantastic premise, but ill-judged comedy, a panto villain and a lazy script makes this three strikes in a row for Season 17. Did someone mention strikes?

4 comments:

Lentil said...

Are you doing Shada next? Just wondering. :)

Siskoid said...

Yes I am. And for 6 days too.

LiamKav said...

After the last three stories, are you actually looking forward to JNT now? Or at least, can you see the thinking behind some of his actions?

Siskoid said...

I always knew his thinking. As far as the humorlessness goes, my problem is less with JNT than it is with the pre-Saward script editors (and Saward comes with his own problems, but it's not lack of humor exactly).

No, JNT's true legacy is silly marketing stunts that attracted more attention to the program while simultaneously hampering story telling. So more people saw terrible stories, whereas I would have liked fewer people to see better stories, which through word of mouth would actually have attracted more viewership. But no, it's weird guest stars, and trips abroad, and action figure costumes, and the Concorde, and forcing Janet Fielding to try and start a fad with her Restoration haircut...

 

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