Doctor Who #524: The Horns of Nimon Part 1

"Have to noticed how people's intellectual curiosity declines sharply the moment they start waving guns about?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Dec.22 1979.

IN THIS ONE... There's a space minotaur and a run-down ship is bringing it sacrificial lambs. The TARDIS has a new off-ramp.

REVIEW: A flashback to Seasons 15 and 16, Anthony Read writes another of his Greek myths in space, this one featuring the Nimon, an alien minotaur living behind greenscreen drapes and requires sacrifices in exchange for rebooting a crumbling empire. The Nimon is supposed to be fed an Anethan prince (you decide if Seth is completely off-culture or if it sounds enough like Theseus). Speaking of things that are mirrors of other things, there's an interesting parallel between the ship we see and the TARDIS, both falling apart thanks to humanoid error. The show should be careful to imply it is now in its waning years like the Skonnan Empire, because the last couple serials have certainly felt that way. This is the third story set on alien worlds/outer space in a row, and there's a sense that those aren't exactly Doctor Who's sweet spot.

The Time Lords interact with an impatient thug and befuddled Anethans, but they might as well be in their own bubble for how much they actually engage with them. It's a Read plot, but it's an Adams (or maybe a Baker) bubble filled with gags and camp dialog. It's like they're doing a shtick around the guest characters and it really doesn't matter what they say or how they react. Romana is turning into a secondary Doctor, just as odd in her language and now with her own sonic screwdriver (which the Doctor tries to nick so it can't be as "basic" as all that). What they need is to meet Soldeed, a character that appears to be as over-the-top as they are. A character I really hate during Adams' season is K9, not just because he has the wrong voice, but because Tom Baker uses him as a prop in the most ridiculous ways. When he stops working, the Doctor gives him mouth-to-mouth. In the cliffhanger, he grips K9 tightly for comfort instead of, you know, resolving the problem. These gags don't amuse me, they irritate me.

Though the Time Lords are in danger of phoning it in, the story has some big ideas going for it. The Skonnan ship is stuck at the center of what threatens to become a black hole. When the ship leaves, those properties are transferred to the TARDIS. Too early to tell if this is mad science of the sort we've been experiencing for the last few stories or if it'll be grounded in something a little more reasonable. As gravity increases, voices are distorted, heavier air and all that. I don't know if that's real physics, but at least someone's been trying to think things through. And then there's the TARDIS force field bridge, currently taken for granted by the new series, and well-realized for the time. You might just have to ignore the fact that it's the only forcefield the Doctor hasn't shut down in his big snafu. Back on Skonnos, the sets and costumes are interesting and vaguely Asian. Let's get there already.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Though the regulars could use a dose of restraint, Part 1 holds the promise of big, epic ideas. (Yeah, I'm not holding my breath.)



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