The Horns of Nimon

The Horns of Nimon is the fifth and final broadcast serial of the 17th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts on BBC1 from 22 December 1979 to 12 January 1980. It is the last broadcast of David Brierley's voice as K9 (as John Leeson returned in the next season).

108 The Horns of Nimon
Doctor Who serial
The Nimon uses its horns to kill the Co-Pilot.
Directed byKenny McBain
Written byAnthony Read
Script editorDouglas Adams
Produced byGraham Williams
Executive producer(s)None
Incidental music composerDudley Simpson
Production code5L
SeriesSeason 17
Length4 episodes, 25 minutes each
First broadcast22 December 1979 (1979-12-22)
Last broadcast12 January 1980 (1980-01-12)
 Preceded by
Nightmare of Eden
Followed by 
Shada (unbroadcast)
The Leisure Hive (broadcast)

The serial is set on the planets Skonnos and Crinoth. In the serial, bull-like aliens called the Nimons plot to invade Skonnos by creating a tunnel in time and space linked between two artificial black holes.


The glory days of the Skonnan Empire are long since past, but many of its citizens and soldiers yearn for conquest. The arrival of the mysterious horned Nimon on Skonnos brought hope of imperial restoration. The fearsome creature from within its labyrinth 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 comprise groups of youthful sacrifices from the nearby planet Aneth, as well as a supply of hymetusite crystals. Young people have thus been abducted and transferred to the labyrinth. On the final collection, however, the interstellar craft bearing the sacrifices breaks down in space. The ancient war craft has worn out, and when the co-pilot over extends the engines, the Pilot is killed when a control panel explodes.

The Fourth Doctor, Romana and K9 are in the TARDIS console room where he is making modifications to the ship. Various controls are disconnected, but unfortunately the area of space he has chosen to materialise the ship in is close to a manufactured black hole and they are in danger of being drawn in. He extends the TARDIS door force field to a nearby spaceship – the Skonnan battle cruiser – and he and Romana board it. Once aboard the Doctor notices an abundance of radioactive hymetusite crystals, and soon finds a hold full of young prisoners. They are from Aneth, and one, Teka, has a seemingly misplaced faith in another prisoner, Seth, to free them from their incarceration. The Co-Pilot investigates the hold and discovers the Doctor and Romana. He takes them to the bridge at gunpoint and forces them to fix the ship. Romana suggests adapting the ship to use a hymetusite crystal power source, and one is brought to her while the Doctor returns to the TARDIS to gather supplies. Aboard the TARDIS the Doctor learns from K9 of the collapse of the Skonnan Empire in civil war.

With the Skonnan craft repaired the Co-Pilot starts to move his ship away; the TARDIS is stranded and facing obliteration in the vastness of space. The Doctor bounces the TARDIS off the approaching asteroid and starts to repair the console in order to pilot the ship to Skonnos and confront the evil there. The planet is dominated by the Nimon, which exists within its labyrinthine Power Complex into which only Soldeed may venture. The Nimon is angry when Soldeed reports that the last batch of sacrifices have not arrived and says it will withhold the arms that will help rebuild the Skonnan Empire.

Soldeed emerges from the Power Complex and hears from his guard captain Sorak that the ship has been found. It arrives on Skonnos and Soldeed leads the party of greeting, being unnerved to see Romana aboard. The Co-Pilot 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 faces certain death. Moments later Romana and the Anethans are loaded up with hymetusite and sent into the maze. The TARDIS materialises in the central square of Skonnos and the Doctor is taken to Soldeed. He soon escapes, and heads into the Power Complex.

Deep in the Complex – whose walls seem to shift and change creating various labyrinthine patterns that all lead to the Nimon – Romana finds husks of previous Anethans, drained of life. The Co-Pilot also arrives, still pleading for his life, and when the Nimon appears it despatches the desperate soldier first before turning its mighty horns on Romana and the cowering Anethans. The Doctor arrives and distracts the Nimon, saving Romana, Seth and Teka who run after him. The other Anethans are too scared to leave.

The Nimon has reached the power source room and starts manipulating the controls of the machine, which causes the Complex to glow with energy. A shimmering tunnel appears, and a travel globe bearing two more Nimons comes down it. They announce that the planet Crinoth is dying and that all the Nimons must continue the Great Journey of Life to Skonnos. Once the Nimons leave the Doctor examines the globes: they are travelling vessels that have journeyed down a tunnel set between two black holes. The Doctor accidentally 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.

Romana arrives in the dying world of Crinoth and encounters many Nimons and a broken old man named Sezom, who helped the Nimons establish themselves on his world and now knows they have destroyed it. He has also discovered that when jacenite is integrated into the staff that he was supplied with by the Nimons, it has the ability to stun them. He gives Romana a piece, but is killed by a Nimon while helping her to escape.

Seth shoots Soldeed unconscious and the Doctor 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 then reverse the tunnel, which brings Romana back from 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 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 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 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 watches as 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.

Outside references

The Doctor alludes to the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, of which the Nimon story is a partial retelling[1]

Broadcast and reception

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
1"Part One"25:4122 December 1979 (1979-12-22)6.0
2"Part Two"25:0229 December 1979 (1979-12-29)8.8
3"Part Three"23:265 January 1980 (1980-01-05)9.8
4"Part Four"26:4512 January 1980 (1980-01-12)10.4

Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping gave a mixed review of the serial, stating "With its cheap design work, and a wonderfully watchable OTT performance from Graham Crowden, The Horns of Nimon is by turns brilliant and dull".

Doctor Who: The Television Companion's David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker noted that the show had acquired a low reputation but they considered this to be undeserved. Although "admittedly a little more light hearted than usual" it did feature a performance by Tom Baker which was "rather more serious and intense here than in most other stories of a similar vintage". Production values were "no worse than on many other stories of this era, and rather better than on some" and the story was "ingenious and fun".[3]

Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times was very critical of the serial which he described as "a turgid quagmire of vapid characters, amateur dramatics, mirthless antics and clattering sets". Although the script contained "interesting concepts" these were not portrayed well due to the "absurd" Nimon costumes. Mulkern also thought the cast gave "terrible performances" with the exception of Tom Baker and Lalla Ward.[4]

Den of Geek's Andrew Blair selected The Horns of Nimon as one of the ten Doctor Who stories that would make great musicals.[5]

Commercial releases

In print

Doctor Who and the Horns of Nimon
AuthorTerrance Dicks
Cover artistSteve Kyte
SeriesDoctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
PublisherTarget Books
Publication date
16 October 1980

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in October 1980. Dicks begins with a history of the Skonnan Empire and Soldeed, culminating in the arrival of the Nimon. Original author Anthony Read completed a new novelisation for audiobook publisher AudioGo in 2013, but with that company's suspension of operations, the likelihood of its eventual release is now unclear.

Home media

The Horns of Nimon was released on VHS in June 2003. It was released in a DVD box set entitled Myths and Legends along with The Time Monster and Underworld in March 2010. In Region 1 North America DVD, Horns of Nimon as a single title, with extras and commentary, was released on 6 July 2010. This serial was released as part of the Doctor Who DVD Files in Issue 139 on 30 April 2014.


  1. "BBC – Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide – The Horns of Nimon – Details".
  2. "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  3. BBC staff. "BBC – Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide – The Horns of Nimon – Details". Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide. BBC. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  4. Mulkern, Patrick (7 March 2011). "The Horns of Nimon". Radio Times. Immediate Media Company. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  5. Blair, Andrew (28 August 2013). "Doctor Who: 10 stories that would make great musicals". Den of Geek. Dennis Publishing. Retrieved 13 April 2017.


Target novelisation

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