Recap: Doctor Who S17 E5 "The Horns of Nimon"

...okaaaay, this can be explained...
"Lord Nimon! It is I, Soldeed!"

"Weakling scum!"

The premise starts out as the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur in space. A group of young men and women from the planet Aneth are being taken to the planet Skonnos as sacrifices to Nimon, a powerful alien with the appearance of a bull-headed man who lives in the centre of a vast labyrinth. Among them is the hero Seth, who is going to defeat Nimon once and for all.

Unfortunately for Aneth, Seth is only a Badass on Paper: the truth behind his reputation consists of a little bit of luck and a great deal of exaggeration. Fortunately, the Doctor and Romana have come to help. They're up against the magnificently hammy co-pilot of the slave ship (Malcolm Terris), the even more fantastically hammy high priest Soldeed (Graham Crowden), and the tremendously hammy Nimon itself (Clifford Norgate). Romana gets captured and shoved into the labyrinth with the sacrifices, while the Doctor tries to find out what's going on and plan a rescue.

The Doctor meets Soldeed, who tells him that in return for the sacrifices, Nimon has promised to restore the Skonnon Empire to its former glory. Meanwhile, in the labyrinth, Romana and the sacrifices encounter Nimon, and begin to discover that there is much Soldeed hasn't been told, and that the Skonnon Empire's glory is very low on Nimon's true list of priorities. Instead, the Nimons are a planet-devouring race, and they've built a black hole teleporter that will transport the entire Nimon population to the Skonnon Empire's cities.

The co-pilot is killed by the Nimon, overacting so hard that his trousers visibly split. Graham Crowden (who, incidentally, was cast as the Fourth Doctor but turned the role down) makes up for the co-pilot's death by overacting for two. When he dies as well, K-9 saves the day.


  • Apocalypse How: Crinoth has already experienced what seems to be a Class 5 or 6 when we first see it. It subsequently becomes a Class X when the Nimon blow up the planet to give them energy for their teleportation system.
  • Asshole Victim: The co-pilot from part 1 and 2 and he practically deserved the consequences he received.
  • The Atoner: Sezom
  • Badass on Paper: Seth. He never wanted to be a hero, and now is less worried about what happens to himself than about letting down the people who are counting on him.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Soldeed looks and talks, basically, like Ming the Merciless, and thinks the Nimon will enable him to become an interstellar conqueror.
  • Bull Seeing Red: The Doctor does a bullfighting routine with his coat to distract Nimon.
  • Call Back: When the Doctor gives Romana the task of examining the Nimon travel capsule, the first thing she does is borrow his teaspoon.
  • Camp: One of the series' most glorious examples.
  • Corpsing: Graham Crowden, who plays Soldeed, does this after he gets fatally shot. However, it actually comes across as being perfectly in character, so he gets away with it by turning it into some kind of crazy chortle.
  • Dirty Coward: The co-pilot from part one and two. He tries to pin the blame for his mistake on Romana but Soldeed saw through his lies and sent him to be killed by the Nimon. When the co-pilot tries to save himself by telling Nimon he "brought" the sacrifices to him, the Nimon can tell that he's a liar and a coward and kills him first.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Soldeed is infamously campy. So much so that his confrontation with Romana has a dance remix. "MY DREAMS OF CON-QUEST!"
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Soldeed is a Fake Ultimate Villain — he's supposed to be a great scientist but all his powers and abilities come from the Nimon. This throws him for a loop when a real scientist (the Doctor) turns up.
    • Likewise Skonnos is bluffing Aneth into handing over prisoners based on their reputation as a badass intergalactic empire, when all they've got is a single spaceship that barely works.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Apparently a Nimon racial characteristic. Not only do some of the Nimon fail to see Romana and Sezom hiding behind a translucent wall, two of them fail to notice the Doctor open their travel capsule, look in on them, slam the door, and bounce them back to their start point. Even by the standards of Classic Who villains, that's pretty bad.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: The Nimon's speech, according to Soldeed
  • Fox Hunting: Romana wears a fox-hunting costume, although it isn't indicated whether she knows what it is or just liked the look.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat:
    • Tom Baker vs Graham Crowden.
    • Lalla Ward vs. Graham Crowden.
    • Malcolm Terris vs. Graham Crowden.
    • Lalla Ward vs. Malcolm Terris.
    • Tom Baker vs. the special effects.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sezom.
  • Hypnosis Proof Dogs: The Doctor et al. are in a Minotaurlike maze where the walls keep moving about, but the Doctor's dog-shaped Robot Buddy K9 just goes right through the wall to freedom because he can't see it.
  • Inside a Computer System: The Labyrinth is actually a giant computer, while the Mobile Maze aspect is the computer's circuits moving.
  • The Klutz: Every time the Doctor tries doing anything in this story, he ends up mildly hurting himself through his clumsiness - electrocuting himself on the TARDIS console, trapping his fingers slightly in machinery, injuring himself punching something...
  • Large Ham: Graham Crowden as Soldeed pretty much defines this. See also: Tom Baker, as ever, and Lalla Ward, to an extent.
  • Last of His Kind: Sezom. The first Nimon pretends to be this, but it later turns out to be a Blatant Lie.
  • A Load of Bull
  • Mickey Mousing: When the Doctor starts decorating the labyrinth with the star stickers, Dudley Simpson breaks out the glockenspiel. Later in the story he quickly flashes a grin at someone in mid-flow which is underscored by a glockenspiel chord in the music as well.
  • Mobile Maze
  • Mood Whiplash: Despite the nasty implications of what the Nimons do to unsuspecting planets, the story is generally quite soft and comical for the most part... until the final episode, where Romana is accidentally teleported to the burnt-out, almost totally depopulated planet Crinoth, the previous victims of the Nimon. After that, the story's mood becomes surprisingly grim and apocalyptic.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: The TARDIS encounters one in the first episode which turns out to be a side-effect of the black hole travel system.
  • No Body Left Behind: Soldeed's corpse inexplicably disappears from where it fell shortly before the labyrinth explodes.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: Black holes used as conduits for interstellar travel. (Though the expanded universe pointed out, only Nimons have done that.)
  • Pantomime: This serial was originally broadcast over Christmas; it's a Whole Plot Reference to a legend but full of ridiculous characters who break the familiar plot; it features over-the-top and hammy performances from some actually very good actors cracking themselves up; Romana is the hero in this one and dressed in sexy historical male clothing in the manner of the Principal Boy; it's made on the cheap but with some really fabulous Stuff Blowing Up; the Doctor is mostly relegated to comedy pieces and slapstick sequences done either solo or playing against K-9 and the TARDIS (props) in the manner of the solo skits done in panto by famous guest stars; Soldeed's "Lord Niiimon, Lord Niiiiiimon!" catchphrase has a similar delivery to the panto "he's behind you!" routine; an actual "he's behind you!"-style routine happens in the story in the sequence when the Doctor is evading the Nimon in the control room... Doctor Who fans love to criticise poor stories by calling them 'pantomime' but this one may actually be intentionally a panto.
  • Planet Looters: Nimon
  • Shout-Out: 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.
  • Significant Anagram: Most of the character and place names are derived from their mythological counterparts.
  • Smug Snake: Soldeed, full stop.
  • Space Pirates: The Doctor and Romana are accused
  • Unaccustomed as I Am to Public Speaking...
  • Vestigial Empire: Skonnos
  • Villainous Breakdown: Soldeed does not take the realization that he's been had well.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: lampshaded:
    ROMANA: Don't you think that's a bit dangerous?
    DOCTOR: No, I don't. What could possibly go
    (Lurch. The Doctor falls.)
    DOCTOR: Ow! Wrong. You know, I've simply got to stop saying that. Every single time I say what could possibly go wrong, something goes
  • Whole Plot Reference: To the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur.
  • The X of Y
  • You Rebel Scum!: Parodied with the co-pilot who addresses his prisoners as "weakling scum" every time he speaks to them.

"You meddlesome hussy!!"