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Graham Crowden was my all time favourite mad scientist. Discuss. I’ve been watching Nimon. Horns of a Dilemma.

July 17, 2015


Graham Crowden was of course, the pre-eminent mad scientist of the late twentieth century. Discuss.   His work with Lindsey Anderson, essentially playing the same role in O Lucky Man! (1973) and Britannia Hospital (1982) illustrates his ability to blend the scientific with the sacerdotal with terrifying implications for the whole power-knowledge axis .  When science loses its critical and redemptive capacity for reflexivity and calcifies into dogma, then what you get it Graham Crowden.  Nobody could shout “the fools! the fools!” with Graham Crowden’s conviction and resonance.

I take the view that certain actors are incapable of “overacting” because they have the presence and passion to give a kind of naive integrity to whatever volume or gesticular extremity they happen to indulge.  Hello Brian Blessed.  Hello Graham Crowden.  Such actors can be miscast.  The decision to use them for particular roles might be misjudged.  But they never “overact” because “overacting” is defined by a paradoxical timidity, a kind of nervous inflation that evidences a lack of fundamental commitment.  Graham Crowden was always committed.

In Horns of Nimon, Crowden would play the logical extremity of his most characteristic register of hubristic priest-scientist convergence.  He is a Minoan priest to the bull-headed Nimon, but he is also the very last scientist his people possesses.  None of his scientific papers have to undergo peer review anymore.

As a story, it’s fairly unmemorable, being a somewhat mechanical retelling of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, with even the character and place names being nothing more than failed/incomplete anagrams of their sources.

For this adventure, Romana has decided to dress up to go fox hunting with no explanation given.

Janet Ellis appears in the Ariadne role.  She was to become the second Doctor Who actor to go on to become a Blue Peter presenter (after Peter Purves of course).

Saddest thing about this story is the fact that it is the last adventure to be scored by Dudley Simpson.  Dudley Simpson was the most prolific composer in the franchise’s history.   If his music sometimes seems inconspicuous compared to that of people like Malcolm Clarke, Tristram Cary or Geoffrey Burgon, it is only because Simpson’s music has become so naturalised and familiar that it seems woven into our collective memory of everything that classic era Doctor Who should be about.

What with The Tomorrow People, Doctor Who and Blake’s Seven, Dudley Simpson scored my childhood.

The association between Graham Crowden and Doctor Who is very interesting.  In the 1980s of course, he was the hilarious senior doctor working alongside Peter Davison in A Very Peculiar Practice.  But apparently, he was offered the role of the Doctor himself in succession to Jon Pertwee.  Had he accepted the gig, then we would have seen an older bad tempered Scottish Doctor in the mid to late 1970s.

Instead of having to wait forty years.

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