5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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THE HORNS OF NIMON
"It's as though something had sucked the life force out of it and left just a husk."
Buy this Doctor Who DVD: UK
"It", of course, refers to the audience. Because this is truly terrible.
Now we know that at this stage of the season they were desperate and budgetless. But that's still no excuse. Why, for God's sake, when Anthony Read said "I liked Underworld and I want to do the same only with the Minotaur" didn't someone say "Sorry, Ant, we already did that in Time Monster"? Why, for God's sake, didn't someone look at the Nimon and say "We have to do something about this - they're just too crap"? And why, for God's sake, didn't someone lock Tom Baker in a cupboard until he promised to stop doing panto stylee?
There's really very little in Horns Of Nimon to recommend it at all. The plot? Stealing it from mythology would be fine - if it weren't for the fact that what emerges from the script is an unending string of cliches. From the larder stuffed with tasty Anethans to the alien invasion, it's all by the numbers. Bits of it we were even reciting along with the characters, like Sezom's Dying Good Guy Stock Speech Number 14: "It's too late for me... I'll try to hold them off as long as I can..." .
Mixed in with this stuff are scenes so wincingly embarrassing you can only peek at them through your fingers, like the awful, awful bits with the Doctor et al sneaking round behind the Nimon. Argh. And they top it all off with the most hackneyed ending possible: blowing everything up. Look out, he's got a bomb!
And Horns Of Nimon's characters are as unoriginal as the plot. Seth and Teka are so bland they seem to merge into the set, the co-pilot is One-Note Ranty Guy, and Soldeed is like every other fanatical-type leader you've ever seen. Even the Doctor's not immune. Business with scarf? Tick. Business with sonic screwdriver? Tick. Business with jellybabies? Tick. Right, he's all set. It's not that the guest characters' acting is necessarily bad - Graham Crowden as Soldeed in particular does a competent job as far as it goes - but we defy anyone to extract a reasonable performance from this script.
The sets don't improve matters: they're claustrophobic and embarrassingly cardboardy. As for the monsters, they're indescribably bad. In fact, we're not even going to try. And the more there are of them, the worse they get.
The episodes also suffer horribly from the speed at which they were thrown together. People are fluffing lines and treading on each other's speeches constantly, and there are some slip-ups so blatant you'd expect to see them on a blooper reel, not in a finished production. The co-pilot's ripped trou is probably the most incredible example of this, although the Amazing Vanishing Soldeed isn't far behind.
It is at least a great part for Romana, who gets to do the important people-saving stuff while the Doctor cracks on with his "I say, I say, I say" routine. Unfortunately, though, this really exposes Lalla Ward's weaknesses as an actress. She's supposed to be impressively Doctoresque as she's thumping the console and yelling, but she's utterly unconvincing. Instead, she comes across as a little girl playing grown-ups. What a waste. (Nice costume, though.)
But the absolute worst part, as far as we're concerned, is the ghastly comedy turn from the Doctor. We hated this in The Ribos Operation, but this is worse. In fact, it may very well be Tom Baker's worst performance. The terrible hamming and goggling totally undercuts the Doctor's character, taking away the powerful and complex individual we know and love and replacing him with a buffoon. It's not that we have any objection to comedy in Who - it's often our favourite bit. But we've already seen plenty of proof that you can make the Doctor killingly funny without having him lapse into clowning. It's a total error of judgment by all concerned.
Is there anything positive? Well, we quite liked Sorak, with his stegosaurus-alike costume and entrancing hat. The eyeliner, though, is a bit tragic. Romana's costume's nice. Oh, we said that already.
Out of time, out of money, out of inspiration. Bury it under twelve feet of concrete before it contaminates the rest of the universe.
MORAL: Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
BEST IN SHOW
As we said, we hate all of the Doctor's performance here, but the absolutely worst bit, the thing that made us groan out loud, was the rosette he puts on K9. Could this be any more squirmy? It's even worse than the sproingy TARDIS noises.
PASS THE GINKGO BILOBA
Of course Romana's in the capsule, you moron! You just sent her there!
SHAKE IT ALL ABOUT
It's a bit of a shame that at the very moment the Doctor is saying that the Anethans are only paralysed, one of them is moving his leg.
HOW MANY NIMONS AM I HOLDING UP?
Soldeed briefly acquires a burst of interestingness near the end ("You meddlesome hussy!"), but sadly lapses back into hokiness as he dies, with "You fools! You are all doomed!" accompanied by maniacal laughter. The laughter is famously a mistake, but frankly, we can't see that things would have improved much without it.
DOES SHE MEAN THE SCRIPT?
We can only pity Lalla having to struggle with: "It's turned into a bomb! And there's nothing we can do about it!" What a clunker.
Why does the Doctor burble on about K9 following the scent back to the door when he knows perfectly well the walls are constantly moving? And why is he so slow on the uptake about the wall really being a door?
HAVE I THE RIGHT?
Far from agonising about the morality of consigning an entire species to oblivion, the Doctor cheerfully offs them without a second thought. Charming.
Buy this Doctor Who DVD: UK