108 – The Horns of Nimon
Doctor Who serial
Directed byKenny McBain
Written byAnthony Read
Script editorDouglas Adams
Produced byGraham Williams
Executive producer(s)None
Music byDudley Simpson
Production code5L
SeriesSeason 17
Running time4 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)
List of Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)

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).

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


The declining Skonnan Empire is under control of a mysterious horned being called the Nimon. It resides inside a labyrinthine Power Complex on the planet Skonnos, and communicates only with the Skonnan leader, Soldeed, who reveres the Nimon as a god. The Nimon demands a regular tribute of young people, who are flown in from the nearby planet Aneth, as well as a supply of hymetusite crystals.

A transport ship bearing the sacrifices from Aneth breaks down and becomes stranded in interplanetary space, close to a black hole. Outside the ship, the TARDIS materialises. The Fourth Doctor attempts to save the TARDIS from being drawn into the black hole by attaching it to the Skonnan ship with a force field. He and Romana then board the ship, leaving K9 behind. Once aboard they find a cargo of hymetusite crystals and a hold full of young prisoners from Aneth, led by Seth. The Doctor and Romana are captured at gunpoint by the co-pilot, who forces them to fix the ship using a hymetusite crystal. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS to get supplies, and becomes stranded when the ship's engines start. Steering the TARDIS away from the black hole, he travels to Skonnos.

On Skonnos, the Nimon is enraged by the delayed sacrifice and threatens to withhold the promised armaments that will help rebuild the Skonnan Empire. The ship arrives, bearing the sacrifices and Romana, who are forced to carry the hymetusite crystals into the Power Complex. Within the labyrinth, the walls seem to shift and change, forcing them towards the Nimon. They discover desiccated husks of bodies, previous Anethans who have been drained of life. They meet the Nimon, who has the power to fire deadly laser beams out of his horns. Meanwhile, the TARDIS has materialised on Skonnos. The Doctor enters the labyrinth and distracts the Nimon, enabling Romana, Seth and Teka to escape.

In the centre of the Power Complex, the Nimon operates a transit system, opening a tunnel through a pair of black holes. Large globes carrying two more Nimon appear. It is revealed that the Nimon are a parasitic race who travel via artificial black holes between planets, draining their resources, before moving on to conquer new worlds. They refer to this as "the Great Journey of Life". They are now abandoning the distant Planet Crinoth to take over Skonnos. Soldeed questions his faith when confronted with multiple Nimons. Romana accidentally travels through the tunnel to Crinoth, which she finds overrun with Nimons. She is assisted by an old man named Sezom, who gives her a mineral called jacenite which can be used to destroy Nimons. Sezom admits that he was the one who helped the Nimons take over, falling for their promises (much like Soldeed). He realized too late that the small tributes were only the start of destruction of the whole population.

Romana is brought back to Skonnos. Amid a struggle, Seth has taken Soldeed's weapon, a ceremonial staff, and fitting it with the jacenite, he stuns the Nimons. K9, who has been held captive in Soldeed's laboratory, shoots the remaining Nimon. Soldeed is also shot by Seth, but sets off a self-destruct system to destroy the Power Complex. Guided by K9, the Doctor and his party escape from the labyrinth. The Skonnans evacuate their city as the Nimon Power Complex explodes. Seth and Teka take a spacecraft to return to Aneth, while the Nimon-infested Crinoth disintegrates.


Outside references

The Horns of Nimon is an analogue of the Classical Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Several names in Read's script allude to the original myth: the name of the planet Skonnos is close to Knossos; the Anethans, like the ancient Athenians, are sent to die in a Labyrinth; its guardian is Soldeed, whose name refers to Daedalus, designer of the Labyrinth at Knossos; the eponymous bull-headed Nimon is based on the Minotaur; and the Anethan hero Seth is based on Theseus.[1]

In the closing scenes of The Horns of Nimon, the Doctor alludes to the Ancient Greek story by reminding Seth to paint his ship white (in reference to Theseus's return to Athens), and insinuates that he was personally involved in the original events of on Knossos, when he "caused quite a hoohah … Other times, other places".[2][3]

Broadcast and reception

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [4]
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
The Horns of Nimon is a modern retelling of the Ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur
The Horns of Nimon is a modern retelling of the Ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur

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".[5]

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.[6]

In A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television, John Kenneth Muir opined that Read's use of classical allusions to Greek mythology served little purpose, but noted that the December broadcast slot of The Horns of Nimon coincided with the British panto season, obliging the scriptwriter to include in-jokes. He considered the serial was "memorable only in its superficial, mythology-based trappings, not in its content".[1]

Writing in 2017, Carey Fleiner linked the mythological theme of The Horns of Nimon to the idea of the monomyth popularized by the author Joseph Campbell in his 1949 book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. She noted that Campbell's writing had influenced George Lucas for his film Star Wars, released two years before The Horns of Nimon, and suggested that the popularity of Star Wars had inspired mythological content in a number of Doctor Who serials.[3]

Den of Geek's Andrew Blair selected The Horns of Nimon as one of the ten Doctor Who stories that would make great musicals.[7]

Commercial releases

In print

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

Terrance Dicks' novelisation 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 and Read's death in 2015, 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. A "no extras" DVD was released as part of the Doctor Who DVD Files in Issue 139 on 30 April 2014.


  1. ^ a b Muir, John Kenneth (15 September 2015). A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television. McFarland. p. 290. ISBN 978-1-4766-0454-1. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  2. ^ "The Horns of Nimon". Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide. BBC. 2007. Archived from the original on 12 March 2007. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  3. ^ a b Fleiner, Carey; October, Dene (11 July 2017). Doctor Who and History: Critical Essays on Imagining the Past. McFarland. pp. 42–43. ISBN 978-1-4766-6656-3. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  4. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  5. ^ BBC staff. "BBC – Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide – The Horns of Nimon – Details". Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide. BBC. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  6. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (7 March 2011). "The Horns of Nimon". Radio Times. Immediate Media Company. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  7. ^ 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