Anthony Read once admitted that The Horns of Nimon was written as a somewhat tongue in cheek story, but he’d hoped it would have been played in a slightly more serious manner. Although if you script scenes like the opening one of this episode – the Doctor uses a red handkerchief to indulge in a spot of impromptu bull-fighting with the Nimon – then you can’t really be surprised if things turn out the way they did.
After being absent from the main action for the last episode or so, the Doctor is back in the thick of things after meeting up with Romana, Seth, Teka and the remainder of the Anethans (who remain – as befits non-speaking extras – mute). He starts to wonder exactly what the Nimon are up to, whilst also highlighting Soldeed’s clueless nature (whatever the Nimon are planning, Soldeed seems to be kept in total ignorance).
Sorak has begun to question why the Nimon has decided to aid them in their quest to once again become the dominant force in the galaxy. “Soldeed, it sometimes occurs to me to wonder exactly why the Nimon is doing this for us. I mean, to be blunt, what’s in it for him?” It’s a reasonable question, which you’d have assumed someone would have asked before. Possibly Skonnos is a totalitarian state which brooks no free will from any of its subjects or maybe Read’s script was just rather ill-defined on this point. Skonnos is pretty much represented by two individuals only – Soldeed and Sorak – which means that it never comes alive as a real, functioning society.
This isn’t a problem isolated to just this one story, since Doctor Who often struggled to create well-rounded civilisations. Some writers – such as Robert Holmes – were skilled at using dialogue to put meat onto the bones (think of The Ribos Operation which builds up a fairly vivid portrait of its planet – complete with changing seasons and a strong air of religious dogma) but this isn’t something that Read attempts here.
The major revelation in this instalment is that the Nimon isn’t a single creature as Soldeed thinks. There are many, many others and they all plan to use their newly built hyperspace tunnel to travel to Skonnos and take over the planet. As far as invasion plans go it’s rather long-winded – couldn’t they have found a planet closer to home to colonise?
This leads into a rather nice piece of dialogue, with Teka declaring that the Nimon’s invasion is going to take quite a while, considering they’ve only got the one transmat machine.
DOCTOR: Yes, it happens all the time. When a race runs out of space or destroys its home, it has to find somewhere else to live.
SETH: But it’s already inhabited.
TEKA: Then how many more are coming?
ROMANA: To make all this worthwhile, there must be thousands.
TEKA: What, two at a time?
As Romana is accidentally transported in the hyperspace capsule to who knows where, Soldeed once again pops up to menace the Doctor ….