The Deadly Assassin
The Five Doctors
|Dates||Nov. 23, 1988 -
Dec. 7, 1988
With Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred.
Written by Kevin Clark. Script-edited by Andrew Cartmel.
Directed by Chris Clough. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.
|Synopsis: In this twenty-fifth anniversary special, we are once more forced to ask the question of just who is the Doctor?|
A Delightful Return to the Old Recipe by Carl Malmstrom 2/3/97
I love Silver Nemesis. It's an excellent story. At least, all but the last three seconds. It features the Cybermen, crazed, power-hungry Nazis, the strange Lady Peinforte, and a living metal statue called Nemesis. It features seventy-five minutes of everyone running around trying to completely reassemble the statue with it's bow and arrow and gain ultimate control. Of course we all know from the beginning that the Doctor will triumph in the end, but we have a lot of fun getting there. The treachery, the humor, and the generally high spirits and suprising light-heartedness, for once, give us a Doctor Who story that almost never drags. The Seventh Doctor, of course, has a few cute lines like, "Don't worry, we won't harm you!" (to the armed, power-crazed Nazis) and (Ace:) "You mean the world's going to end and you'd forgotten about it?" (Doctor:) "I've been busy".
However, I think we could have done without Ace's "Professor... Doctor... Who are you?" at the end. It was an attempt by the producer to throw a little mystery on the Doctor, and in my opinion, it utterly failed. Other than that, though, I thought it was a charming episode. It's light, it's fast, it has a moral at the end, and it's what Doctor Who should be all about.
A Review by Leo Vance 28/3/98
As someone who has seen roughly sixty Doctor Who's, I may not be qualified to judge, but Silver Nemesis is the only Doctor Who I've seen which actually works everywhere (Logopolis has script problems, The Romans goes too far in its sillyness, City of Death's monster is a bit silly looking).
As usual, David Banks and Mark Hardy steal the show as the Cyberleader and Cyberlieutenant. The Cybermen themselves are perhaps a little weak (I mean, coins) but otherwise, they are well written. Fiona Walker as Peinforte is wonderful, particularly with the support given by Richard. De Flores is the epitome of the Who villain, with Anton Diffring putting together the best acting performance I've yet seen in Doctor Who. Karl is less effective, but still a good deputy villain. The combination of enemies makes this story great.
Sylvester McCoy is brilliant in this story, equal to his performance in Delta and the Bannermen. His confrontation with the Cyberleader and Peinforte in Part 3 is perfection. Sophie Aldred is quite wonderful, and the lines which run like this:
DOCTOR: I don't suppose you would have disobeyed my instructions and made nitro-9 in the TARDIS?This is what makes Silver Nemesis perfection: the script. If Kevin Clarke had written Season 26, we might be seeing Season 35 right now.
ACE: No professor.
DOCTOR: And if you had, you wouldn't do something so insanely dangerous as to carry it about with you?
ACE: Of course not professor, I'm a good girl.
DOCTOR: Good. Blow up that vehicle!
The special effects and the all location filming is another good point. Ace's encounter with the Nemesis is excellently done, as is the Nemesis' desire to be free. At the end, even the direction shines, and Dolores Gray is excellent as Remington, and the scene where the Doctor hypnotises the royal minders is another great one.
Hip hip hurray! Silver Nemesis is one of the best television programs I have seen. 10/10
Not Very Threatening by Kris Hough 20/8/98
After reading the first two reviews posted for this adventure, I felt that I had to chime in with a negative one. Upon first watching this adventure, I came away thinking, "That was the 25th anniversary show... too bad." I really was not at all impressed with the adventure. So, when I discovered this site, I expected others to share my view. To my dismay, the two reviews here were extremely positive. One going so far as to give it a 10/10.
So I just watched it again, and feel I can now give a reasonable review.
My first problem with this episode is the look. For some reason, all the location shooting looks weird. It just doesn't feel right. The effects actually were pretty decent. The glowing bow, arrow, and statue were well done. The Cybermen ship looked pretty good. The music, for the most part, was awful. I am not going to say that the music in Doctor Who is great, but it is usually either unobtrusive or pleasant. But in Silver Nemesis, the music often distracted me.
The acting was just below par as well, but the story felt a little better to me this time around. This may have been because I have seen many more Who's since my first viewing. The concept of the Doctor's "secrets" was pretty interesting.
However, my main problem with the story is that it just is not very engaging. I would often find myself bored, despite how much I wanted to like it. I just think they could have picked a better script for the big 25. Oh well... 5/10
A Review by
I remember seeing this story when it was first broadcast and liking it, however I was only about 8 at the time and after seeing it on video several times many years later I have to say I think it is one of the poorest stories of the McCoy era, as bad as anything from season 24.
Generally speaking the whole thing looks thoroughly shoddy. The cybermen's suits do look an improvement, but their guns are nowhere near as impressive as those in Attack of the Cybermen, besides which they don't seem to be able to use them very well, missing the target on most occasions, most notably in the old gas works when Ace is duelling with them, and their spacecraft is a real cereal box sprayed silver job which seems to wobble severely when flying. Obviously, being a Dr.Who fan I can live with dodgy effects, but the whole thing seemed rushed, there didn't seem to be any heart put into it. It's all very disappointing, especially when you look at it against the other season 25 stories. There is no underlying message, and the direction is very slack.
As to the plot, well, is there one? The story seems to consist of the bow and arrow changing hands between the three factions, until the Nazis are killed off and the Doctor, having drawn all three parts of validium together, uses it to remove Peinfort and the Cybermen. We even know that the Doctor is bluffing when he appears to give into the cyber leader, which is a shame as, like the conclusion to The Curse of Fenric it could have at least provided a moment of tension had we not really known the Doctor's true intentions.
I also found Lady Peinfort's ability to time travel through having a drink of some sort of mixture concocted from the blood of her dead mathematician very silly. Added to that Keff McCulloch provides another corny score. Also, did anyone else notice how warm and summery it appeared for England when it is supposed to be set around the end of November?
What a terrible mess. Fortunately, Battlefield aside, the ensuing stories of the McCoy era were all excellent.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 8/7/99
The twenty fifth anniversary story, an accolade which would`ve suited the far superior Remembrance Of The Daleks. Instead we get Silver Nemesis a less than enjoyable outing for the Cybermen.
There are many negatives to this tale, not least the fact that there are too many enemies, and the Cybermen are chronically underused. Sylvester McCoy`s Seventh Doctor reverts to his season twenty four persona, and even Sophie Aldred`s Ace is less gritty than usual. Something else that gets a minus point is the realisation of the Cybership and their weapons which aren`t very effective at all.
In the story's favour, the overhaul of the Cybermen does actually make them look somewhat menacing. The villains are the real stars however, David Banks is excellent as the Cyber Leader and Anton Diffring as De Flores is competent. It is Fiona Walker as Lady Peinforte who goes one better and actually steals the show, although I can`t help but wonder if her knowledge of The Doctor was little more than false promises, given that nothing is actually revealed.
The location work takes nothing away from the story, but the inclusion of supposed royalty and then Mrs Remington is totally unnecessary. Silver Nemesis is easily the worst tale from season twenty five and the worst Cyberman story (just), fortunately things would improve.
A Review by Andrew Boland 8/1/00
Silver Nemesis is oft considered, by fans, to be quite a disappointing story. I should start by saying I am not a McCoy fan at all, but I was under the impression this was a good story. It is in (in my opinion) the best McCoy season. The 25th season is well paced, brings back past elements without saturating stories in obscure references and the mix of stories is much better than season 26. In fact. I like all four stories in this season. However, I had somehow got it in my mind that Silver Nemesis was, in some way, better than Remembrance of the Daleks, two stories that demand comparison. I like the pacing in Silver Nemesis. The plot, when refined is simple to grasp, and could have made for a top anniversary piece. Some of the script is rather faulty though, and it seems to have a horrifically low budget compared to Remembrance of the Daleks (still, at least the title is vastly superior) and the Happiness Patrol.
Sylvester McCoy's portrayal was really quite convincing, especially when he rates a stone cold last in my list of preferred Doctors, before he just went too far in season 26. Some dialogue is indeed well crafted throughout the story - Lady Peinforte and Mrs Remington in the car, the Doctor and Ace in many scenes, particularly the 'nitro nine you're not carrying' bit, and truly if there was a character who should have become a companion, Peinforte's servant Richard would have been perfect. A well-written part indeed and well portrayed. Then we have Nazis…… this third party was superfluous to the story to be quite honest. Before my reviewing I had forgotten they existed, not that they were a bad idea, but they had to compete against the Cybermen and Peinforte. Still, 'we are the supermen, you, you are the giants' was a nice touch I thought.
So, to things more critical. The plot is far too similar to Remembrance of the Daleks, but that's probably Cartmel's fault. The Doctor tricking the Cybermen into destroying their own fleet rings too true of him getting Davros to destroy Skaro, but at least we didn't have the 'unlimited rice pudding' line. The first two episodes underline problems with the plot. No Doctor - Enemy confrontation until the last ten minutes of the whole story is quite frustrating. The Doctor and Ace pop from one place to another so quickly and meaninglessly that it makes you dizzy. And the three evil parties keep swapping ownership of the statue pointlessly from go to woe. But I liked the idea about there needing to be so much of the metal to 'make it work' and the fact it changed shape. But down to real criticism. The music - yuck! Over used, that stupid drumbeat drove me round the bend. Too loud and too often, and just plain wrong. The budget really destroyed the story. You're trying to follow it, enjoy some excellent acting performances when you have to blink twice and see - the Cybermen are wearing friggin' cricket gloves. Lovely bits of by-play between the Cyber Controller and his second in command, but the gloves are so obvious! It is, unfortunately, a major distraction. And the bit about them saving Ace's life should have been cut from the story. Review it yourself, I'm not going to explain. The cybermen were far more convincing up to and including Revenge, their chest units had a purpose, and thought went into the design. I'd rather the wetsuits than the cricket gloves anyday.
I feel a few opportunities were missed with Silver Nemesis. Even Lady Peinforte was underused, and there is too much silliness with the Windsor Castle - amusing but just too much. Bits like the limo and Richard's fears of the llamas however were very funny indeed. The tape machine was tacky, but the Cybermen's confusion at the jazz music blocking their signal hilarious! But when the tape ran out it seemed to have no affect on the story. I think the story is a bit light as well. It doesn't quite have the atmosphere - but I already mentioned the music which greatly contributes. Seems like light weight bit of fun in three episodes.
In short, hastily put together, on a tight budget, a decent idea which needed to be worked better and involve less running around….. pretty decent effort for a McCoy.
Back to the good old days by Mark Irvin 16/8/01
In the later few seasons of Doctor Who, I regretfully admit that the majority of the stories were complete rubbish. However every now and then one would emerge that was a return to of the high standard of the seventies. Silver Nemesis is one of those stories.
Being a very young fan of Doctor Who, Silver Nemesis was one of only a handful of adventures that I was fortunate enough to be able to view as new. At about the age of seven I can recall sitting at home watching the first episode and being utterly surprised to see the Cybermen disembark from their spacecraft - gloriously unspoilt due to the absence of their name in the opening title. Perhaps this one off element of surprise is why to me personally I hold Silver Nemesis in such high regard.
One of the more impressive aspects of Silver Nemesis is the fast pacing of the plot, which is neatly tucked into three episodes. I have often found that slow storylines have often spoilt many Doctor Who's, especially in the Pre-Tom Baker era. The simple yet effective idea of the four different parties trying to acquire the bow and arrow is real winner. The Cybermen themselves look much more modern with an impressive facelift (except for those cricket gloves!) and the performance by David Banks and Mark Hardy as the Cyberleaders is well worth watching.
The return of comedy into the series was also very good to see. Lady Peinforte and Richard tying up two English thugs and burning their clothes - only for the Doctor and Ace to rescue them. Doctor - "Who did this to you"......The young Mugger replies - "Social Workers!" Other enjoyable moments include the Doctor asking Ace if she had prepared any forbidden explosives to blow up the Cybership. Interaction between the Cyberleader and the Cyberlieutenant - When Lady Peinforte is screaming he asks "Is this the human condition of Madness?" the leader replies "Yes..........kill them!".
I really must disagree with previous reviewers criticisms of the music. I thought that the score was well suited to the nature of the story particularly when in conjunction with the rather impressive action sequences. The eerie sound effect that the Cybermen make when struck by gold is unforgettable.
Overall a great storyline, good action sequences with decent effects, quality acting and interesting characters make this one stand out from much of the garbage surrounding. Happiness Patrol - you have got to be kidding..... Silver Nemesis is a flashback to the past days of classic Doctor Who.
A Review by Rob Matthews 18/9/01
If nothing else, this story appears to have exposed a deep schism between us Who fans. Quite a few people here have praised this story as a 'return to the good old days' and one of few good stories in Sylvester McCoy's horrible era. Others have condemned it as a load of deeply disappointing and pitiful rubbish, a feeble throwback to the clumsiness of the previous season, and just when things were going so well.
I'm very much in the latter group, thank you very much. It's awful.
First of all, I love the later stories of the McCoy era. I think Ghost Light-Curse of Fenric-Survival is the highest quality run of stories since The Deadly Assassin-Robots of Death-Weng Chiang. Seasons 25 and 26 are like a blast of fresh air to me. The stories feel creative and vital. They're atmospheric, well-acted and, most importantly, original.
Aye, but there's the rub. Some fans don't want originality. They want the 'good old days' (a phrase which translates roughly as 'whatever episodes were on when the reviewer was eleven'). Not a cutting edge, but a comfort blanket. This whole idea is anathema to me. Its that kind of attitude that led to the show's huge potential going largely untapped through the larger part of its run. If you want the old days, dig out a Jon Pertwee tape or something. There you can watch Suffolk being invaded by green monsters led by Roger Degado week after week after week. I don't want nostalgia. I want something that challenges me and entertains me now.
But this is all academic anyway, because Silver Nemesis is in fact not all like any Doctor Who story of the past. Even the less watchable stories of the seventies like The Android Invasion, Underworld and The Creature From the Pit were competently and interestingly plotted. Silver Nemesis is the Doctor Who equivalent of Casino Royale. There's too much thrown in for no reason, and barely any of it works.
Oh, actually Silver Nemesis is, in plot terms, very much like one previous Doctor Who story. It's called Remembrance of the Daleks and it finished showing four weeks before this one was broadcast.
(In the meantime, they had the barefaced gall to broadcast a story that was a bit quirky and experimental)
Remembrance of the Daleks didn't have any superfluous parties chasing after it's own particular all-powerful Gallifreyan artefact. It didn't bring back favourite villains and then make them completely irrelevant, or unbelievably vulnerable ("Ooh, a gold coin just bounced off my finger, I think I'll explode in a shower of sparks"). It made a cleverly subtle reference to Quatermass rather than chucking in a cameo from that woman who's meant to look like the queen in a scene that makes no sense. And no-one was transported through time by a beverage.
There's are, I'd say, three good scenes in this story. The first is when the Cybermen are baffled by jazz. The second is Lady Peineforte meeting the descendant of a woman she poisoned. The third is when the Doctor suggests that Ace goes back to the Tardis and she angrily tells him "No chance!". And I only really like this bit because it comes up in Ghost Light.
But Remembrance of the Daleks felt skilfully-plotted and had lots of forward momentum. Silver Nemesis, a mere three-parter, is full of filler and irrelevancies. There's so little to this story that it barely fills a little over an hour. And the music, which can often help no end (in Dragonfire, for example)... well, let's just say it doesn't help in this story.
No, in fact let's say it's absolutely bloody hideous.
There's a clunky scene in which the well-acted Lady Peineforte threatens to spill the Doctor's secrets. But, again, this was done more subtly in Remembrance of the Daleks. No, Silver Nemesis just goes to show - along with The Five Doctors - that, for TV shows at least, anniversaries should never be celebrated with over-indulgence.
Get me a padded cell... by Joe Ford 3/7/02
My boyfriend is having me committed and it’s all Silver Nemesis’ fault. There, I was trying for a opening sentence that nobody else could write and I think I've finally succeeded! I am usually a perfectly rational person but for some reason during the recent experience of watching this travesty I became violent, aggressive and rude! I threw the video cover at the television more times than I can remember! I spent the entire episodes screaming abuse and recived some rather odd looks from the my two friends and partner sitting nearby.
How was this made in the same season as Rememberance of the Daleks (a nostalgic classic!), Happiness Patrol (Doctor Who goes gay!) and Greatest Show in the Galaxy (surreal, scary, funny…). Silver Nemesis epitomizes everything Doctor Who haters throw in our faces to take the piss. Crap monsters. Bad acting. Dodgy music. Low budget FX. Geez it’s like a throwback to Blakes Seven (which I quite like but you’ve gotta admit it aint gonna win any Oscars!).
I watched it on Sunday and it left me unable to watch anymore Who for a day! I just don’t know where to start so I’ll begin with the plot. Did Kevin Clarke actually think “hmm Doctor Who is quite a versatile show let's have four completely different plot threads that compete for stupidity and stick them together?” Two historical characters spouting out nonsense about controlling the world, a group of insultingly stereotyped Nazi’s, the Doctor and Ace with the secrets of the Nemesis (and secrets of the Doctor’s identity) and the Cybermen who just pop up for a laugh (and a statue). Maybe fleshed out and given a story each these may have worked but compressed into three parts they merely expose how badly suited they all are. The wrap up (more on that later) of these plot threads is so rubbish, so casual and so undramatic I was lauging out loud.
The acting? McCoy and Aldred are actually quite good but they aren’t given ANYTHING to do! And they’re the stars! They just wander around from time to place giving the audience the explanations. The two best scenes (“Hello I’m the Doctor and I believe you want to kill me!” and “I’m really, really scared Doctor”) involve these two. The Nazi’s are horribly done... bland, daft and most of all pointless. Herr Deflores makes the Caretaker infested Kroagnon reach Sutekh/Davros status. Was that guy asleep when he read his lines? Peinforte is fun in spots (especially her non reaction to her grave) but again pointless and seriously OTT (“All things will be mine! ALLLLLLLLL!!!!”) and if were Richard I would leave her to the Cybermen.
Ahh yes the Cybermen. If I put a pair of bollocks on a stick and sent them into retrieve the Nemesis I think they would be more effective than the Cybermen. And more scary. And intelligent. How bloody useless are they? Just sniff a little gold dust and sneeze on them…or prod them in the chest with your finger…they’ll go down sparks a blazing! That stupid Cyberman who misses Ace a million times in the hanger but falls down when her first gold coin hits him square in thre chest was the source of most of my anger and provoked many violent reactions including “STUPID CYBERMAN! YOU’RE SO THICK! WHAT WERE YOU BEFORE YOU WERE CYBERTISED? A POLITICIAN?” also the bit at the end where the Doctor tells the two cybermen he is going to pre-arrange the rocket to fire and gives them a hint by saying “Ace what is the time?” and yet they STILL walk into the flames beggers belief. These are the formidable foes that stormed down the steps of St Pauls during their invasion? Stupid, stupid Cybermen.
Chris Cloughs direction is usually something special. He managed to bring the Trial to some excellence after the dismal Mindwarp and he gave us one of my favourite McCoy’s Delta and the Bannermen but you can tell his heart wasn’t in it anymore. His shots are basic with no trace of inventiveness or style, the action scnes are flat and have no real energy to them, the location work is dull and unexciting… with some pace and geared up performances and a real pulse racing score things could have been improved. Instead the direction is as bad as the script and they compliment one other to make a sub standard attempt.
What is soooo bad about the story is there is nothing instinctively WRONG with it’s presentation but it’s just really bland. If somethings going to bad it should be so bad it’s funny (The Chase and Warriors of the Deep are prime examples… I watch these when I'm feeling particularly low!). This is only one of two Doctor Who stories which is bad AND boring. At least the Cybermen are really stooped… something to laugh at.
Let me finish with what I think is one of the WORST scenes in Doctor Who’s long history… that truly, truly appalling scene at the beginning of episode three “Herr Deflores your day is over!”, not just because the performances are so bad (although they are desperately poor) but because this is supposed to be dramatic and we are actually meant to buy it! Of all the insults! Did they just point a camera and leave it? And what about Deflores lightly throwing the gold dust and the Cyberleader having a spasmatic fit! Dear oh dear!
So I shall be writing reviews from a padded cell in the future, rocking back and forth in my straight jacket saying “It was Silver Nemesis…It was Silver Nemesis…”
Ho-hum Silver by Andrew Wixon 8/8/02
One wonders at what point during the making of Silver Nemesis the production team realised that they'd accidentally embarked upon an inferior remake of Remembrance of the Daleks. It's not the first time something like this happened in Doctor Who, but the gap between the airdate of the original and that of the knock-off is normally a bit more than three weeks.
Because Silver Nemesis is inferior in every way. Where Remembrance had a devious, well-thought-through plot, this is a jokey runaround with very little depth to it. Where Remembrance had several different sets of villains each with plausible motivations, here we have dubiously acted cartoon characters (compare Ratcliffe to De Flores and you'll see what I mean). Where the first story spectacularly reinvented the Daleks, this one can't even make the Cybermen look particularly good (and who told Kevin Clarke they were fascists?). And while Remembrance includes marvellous character-defining scenes like the one in the cafe, here we get badly-thought-out comedy sketches like the one with the Queen, the one with the skinheads and the one with Mrs Remington.
So it's tempting just to dismiss the story entirely, but annoyingly there's that scene at the climax where the Cartmel masterplan suddenly kicks into gear and the bottom drops out of everything we know about the show. It's a masterstroke, and a defining moment for Doctor Who - arguably the Virgin range and everything that followed them is are down to this one scene, this new look at a too-familiar character. And McCoy plays it well, his face still, it's all in the eyes. In repose he's no betters as a Doctor, it's just the running around and shouting that let him down a lot of the time.
Without Remembrance, Silver Nemesis would probably be remembered as a fairly amusing runaround with one great scene in it. Even then it would still have been a disappointment as an anniversary show. With Remembrance on the scene, though, it just demonstrates how two writers can take the same idea, one producing solid gold, the other - well, the silver medal is far more than this story really deserves.
Remembrance of the Daleks, the sequel by Michael Hickerson 27/8/02
I've often wondered if fan response to Silver Nemesis would be more positive if it didn't air two stories after the instant classic Remembrance of the Daleks since it's really the same story -- mysterious object that several competing sides want to control has a link to the Doctor and his mysterious past. I've even tried to watch Silver Nemesis outside of the context of season 25 on the off-chance that this anniversary story will suddenly click for me and I'll step back and see it in a new light.
Unfortunately, no matter what I try, I just can't get around that Silver Nemesis is just a derivative story that can't hold a candle to the greatness that is Remembrance of the Daleks. (Another thought that enters my brain from time to time is -- what is Nemesis had aired first -- would we praise it and not love Remembrance as much. And my answer to that one is still, no. We'd probably say -- boy, look how Remembrance took the same plotline and did it so much better).
Certainly there are some good things here. As a fan of the McCoy years and the direction that script-editor Andrew C. Cartmel took the Doctor, I like the hints about the Doctor's past. One of the things Cartmel wanted to do in his time on the show was to introduce the "who" back into Doctor Who and he does a good job of that here with Lady Peinfort's hints of the Doctor's nature and that he might be more than he lets on. And certainly any time you have McCoy and Aldred sharing screen-time, there are going to be some good scenes to go around.
And certainly the script does have a few isolated nuggets -- such as the Nemesis comet being tied into disasters that take place every 25 years in Earth history.
That said, there isn't much else about Silver Nemesis that bears much recommendations.
The script tries too hard to bring three separate groups together after the Nemesis, calling for way too much suspension of disbelief. The biggest being how does Lady Peinfort whip up a time warp from the 1600s to 1988. Next, we have the group of Neo-Nazis that are all one-note characters -- bent on world domination. Finally, there is the inclusion of the Cybermen, who only seem to be in the story since they are silver and the show is celebrating its silver anniversary.
Of all the things that 80s did to cripple the Cybermen as villains, this is by far the worst. In Revenge of the Cybermen, we learn that gold is crippling to them and we see this used to great effect in Earthshock. But at what point did the Cybermen start to wet their pants any time gold was in their immediate vicinity. I thought it was gold dust or small particles of it that jammed up their internal workings, not just gold in general. Of course, if it has to be introduced as dust or particles, you don't have the scenes in episode three of Ace running around and using the gold coins to destroy them all. It all feels like sloppy script-writing and script-editing.
Add to it that there are some isolated attempts to be a bit too witty. Seeing Queen Elizabeth is a bit over the top, but is a nice little moment. However, the skin-heads subplot and the rich American woman in the limo all go a bit too far and waste valuable time that could be better used (if you've read about the deleted scenes that didn't make it into the final story, you understand why this screen time is so wasted).
The producers did try to make amends for this by giving us the video version that is re-edited with the lost footage put back in. But unlike Curse of Fenric, where the extra footage makes a great story even better, the restored footage here seems like a desperate attempt to get Who fans to invest in what is, otherwise, a rather pedestrian story.
Overall, Silver Nemesis is one of the lesser anniversary stories and, by far, the weakest link of all of season 25.
Human adolescent with sling: 10, Cyberman Attack Force: nil by Will Berridge 8/7/03
Life must be frustrating as a cybercontroller. Quite apart from having to suffer mockery due to your risibly phallic head, the fulfilment of your tedious craving for galactic conquest is reliant on an army clad in silver foil and cricket gloves, with the average reaction time of an inebriated hippopotamus. They display ineptitude on a Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard level of repeated occasions here. Shall I humiliate the cyber-race further by listing them? Oh, alright:
As for the Nazis, no, they don’t come across as particularly interesting or well defined either. De Flores is one of the blandest villains in DW, and he’s also appallingly acted. The way he states ‘I have the bow’ whilst the Doctor is ignoring him and his fellow psychopaths to explain things to Ace is faintly comical. And what about 'and in the 17th century, this was rumoured to be the estate of the infamous lady Peinforte…’? He’s supposed to be a power-crazed Nazi who believes he has reached the eve of the Fourth Reich! He has not come to England as a tourist! Oh well, at least they all gave the Cybermen something to maintain their integrity by shooting. And that seems to be their sole purpose. You can almost imagine DeFlores reminiscing on how the 3rd episode went for him: Turned up briefly, got shot. Bugger.
Lady Peinforte is the only villain with more than one dimension, expressing shock at Richard being willing to save her life, threatening the Doctor with her knowledge of his secrets, and hilariously crying ‘Fiiie!’ then crashing through a window. Unfortunately, her insanity tends to get a bit one-note after a while. As for Richard, he starts of as a ‘hardened criminal’ with Lady Peinforte, who helps her murder an innocent astrologer, then becomes ‘terrified peasant’, then ‘a good man’, who saves the day. His character development seems to have taken a few random leaps.
As I mentioned, the paltry number of episodes are probably responsible for this, not helping us focus on the plethora of characters. But does it help when the writing wastes time by throwing in so many pointlessly inconsequential scenes, such as Peinforte discussing family history with an irritating American tourist (irrelevant and annoying - not good). This also ruins an excellent action sequence as these scenes are intermixed with those of Ace battling the cybermen. Then there's the queen and her corgies, a random encounter for Peinforte and Richard with a pair of skinheads, and the Doctor's somewhat vain effort to get the armed forces on his side. Why doesn't he just realise he'll have to tackle things himself like all the other Doctors? And, while I'm about it, why do the security men just let him and Ace go after they wander around Windsor castle unannounced? Do you only get arrested if you're dressed as Osama Bin Laden?
Fortunately, the Doctor/Ace moments ('blow up that vehicle') redeem these turgid moments a little, but even McCoy has a horrendous moment or two when he tries to act 'serious'- such as 'may I remind you, the fate of the world is at stake!'. Lines involving the end of the world are normally just a very cheap way to heighten the drama, and McCoy fails even to do that here.
So it's not really a great anniversary story, then, and in truth I don't like to look on it as the anniversary story at all. Remembrance of the Daleks is done much better and has exactly the same plot. Oh yes it does. Lots of different parties hunting the same ancient Gallifreyan artefact? Tick? Fascists amongst them? Tick? One of the two oldest enemies in the series? Tick? The Doctor deceiving his enemies by allowing them to release the power of the ancient artefact, having deceived them by pre-commanding the ancient artefact to destroy their ship(s) instead? Tick again. Both stories blatantly have the same basic plot outline. My theory is there were two different writers commissioned to have a go at writing the anniversary tale to see who would come out with the better plot, but when plans for other stories fell through, both got produced in the hope no-one would notice. Well it's possible!
It isn't, however, completely submerged into the depths of Turkey-dom, though I could just be saying this because I'm a passionate fan of the McCoy era. There are a couple of well scored and directed action sequences, the first at the start of the second episode after the Cyberman land and do battle with the Nazis, and then as Ace single-handedly destroys a whole Cyber-Patrol, though the latter sequence made the cybermen far too vulnerable to be the heartless killers we used to remember - 5.5/10.
Script Nemesis by Tim Roll-Pickering 23/7/03
The series' twenty-fifth anniversary is celebrated not by a major reunion of past faces but by a fast paced story focusing on a silver statue and featuring silver monsters. This is certainly an original way to mark an anniversary but unfortunately Silver Nemesis is a story intended primarily for a single viewing. The originally transmitted version of the story has been so heavily edited that it is sometimes difficult to keep track of the story. The extended video release fortunately puts things back in the right order and ensures that the pace is slackened just enough to keep track of everything but even then the story is not the greatest. The plot is straightforward but there is no real sense of just how the Nemesis can grant such great power to its wielder and so at times the potential threat just never feels strong enough. The Cybermen are shown as tougher than in Attack of the Cybermen, with bullets barely denting them, but they are far more vulnerable to gold than ever before. Originally gold was a problem because it could clog their systems. Now it has become like Kryptonite (even though they are 'the giants' rather than 'the supermen'!) and so makes them seem weak and ineffective. The groups of Nazis introduced in the first episode do little more than arrive at the crash site and set up guard before the Cybermen turn up and wipe them out, making one wonder what the whole point of including this strand of the story ever was, especially since the attempts to make comparisons with Nietsche and Wagner fall flat. Only Lady Peinforte comes out well of all the story's villains, showing a strong sense of cunning and hidden powers beneath her exterior and is privy to knowledge about just who the Doctor is. Putting the 'Who' back into Doctor Who was undoubtedly a good move at the time and it still stands up now. It is unfortunate that these revelations come at the climax of a story and so get little airtime to settle in. Kevin Clarke's script has some good moments and gives great lines to many of the characters, especially Peinforte and De Flores, but never quite sparkles.
Despite these script problems, the realisation of the story is highly competent. It is unfortunate that although claiming to be set in November the story was clearly taped in the height of summer, but otherwise the direction is highly competent, making full use of the locations through some clever camerawork to keep the production moving fast, whilst the music enhances the score no end. Of the cast there is a strong competition between Anton Differing (De Flores) and Fiona Walker (Lady Peinforte) for the best performance, whilst David Banks once more makes the Cyberleader a powerful threatening presence in many scenes. Both Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred give good performances too and the result is a production that never once lets up. It is thus unfortunate that the script is in such a poor shape that it lets down the side but luckily the rest of the production has not followed it. 5/10
Frankly, B*ll*cks by Steve Scott 12/11/03
The Old Testament, that mildly influential work of collaborative fiction, contains a curious omission in its second chapter Exodus. Specifically it lies in the tale of the plight of Moses’ people in Egypt, where numerous terrors are conjured up by God to punish the Pharaoh. It is my contention that they forgot to include (between the plague of locusts and the Passover, one imagines) the night when Moses made the hapless Egyptians en masse watch the distilled whippet shit that is Silver Nemesis.
I’m sorry, but reputed clunkers such as The Krotons, piss-poor Pertwee The Time Monster and Warriors of the Deep couldn’t hold a candle to this unbridled feculence.
- pause for breath –
Right, now I’ve regained my composure and have stopped spitting sulphur, I’ll elaborate.
Things that are exasperating about this tale:
Quick nurse – the screens!!
A Review by Jason A. Miller 22/1/04
Silver Nemesis is Doctor Who's 25th anniversary story only in the sense that Part One aired 25 years to the night after the first episode of An Unearthly Child. It wasn't even the season premiere, and there wasn't a whole lot of celebrating going on. Most of the nods to Unearthly, in fact, came in the Season 25 opener, Remembrance of the Daleks. What made Silver Nemesis the anniversary -- apart from the token appearance of classic Who adversary the Cybermen -- was the plot, which purported to reveal great secrets about the Time Lord's true origin.
As an actual story, Silver Nemesis never got off the ground. Most of the best material was left on the cutting room floor, as evidenced when the extended VHS release added nearly half an episode's worth of extra scenes.
Each of the three parts of Nemesis contains one utterly pointless extended sequence that adds nothing to the ongoing story, except lame laughs. In Part Two, 17th century villainness Lady Peinforte is stalked through the streets of 1988 Windsor by a couple of skinheads, who repeatedly berate her as a "social worker". What the heck is that about? In Part Three, Peinforte takes a long car ride with a tourist from Virginia, who speaks in the most inflated Southern accent since the movie Steel Magnolias. All right, this actually gets funnier in retrospect, but it sure wasn't amusing in 1988. In Part One there is some promise, as Doctor Who veteran Nick Courtney makes an unbilled, dialogue-free cameo as a tourist at Windsor Castle. A stand-in for the Queen also shows up, walking her dogs.
The best version of Nemesis that exists is neither of the "official" ones (broadcast or VHS). A "lite" edit circulated around the Internet a couple of years ago, which eliminated all of the go-nowhere scenes listed above, and replaced them with the most interesting extra bits from the VHS release. The story is made markedly tighter by this substitution, while still coming in at a manageable three parts. The most interesting alteration is the change of cliffhangers: Part Two no longer ends with the non-terrifying revelation that "thousands" of Cybermen spaceships are orbiting the Moon. Instead, it concludes with a screech as the story's Nemesis -- the living Gallifreyan statue forged as the ultimate weapon of mass destruction -- comes to life in a shower of impressively digitized sparks. As the story is really about the Nemesis (not the Cybermen) and what she knows about the Doctor, Silver Nemesis takes sharper focus when she's given center stage.
But Silver Nemesis ultimately cannot deliver on any meaningful level. It asserts that the Doctor has "secrets", about "the old time, the time of Chaos". However, no matter how you edit the story, those secrets will never be revealed. Oh, Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred still have terrific by-play together. You'll find out a little more about the Doctor's ongoing chess game with the shadows in Lady Peinforte's study, solved in the following season's Curse of Fenric. However, it will still end with Ace asking the Doctor, "Who ARE you?", and will still end with Sylvester shushing her. That's not an anniversary. That's just par for the course.
Ah, for a return to the heady days of 1993... by John Anderson 26/4/05
It was a simpler time, pre-Sky (well, for me at least), pre-disposable income (again, this may not apply to everyone), I was only 13 and guess what? One of my friends received Silver Nemesis for his birthday (I'd received The Keeper of Traken) and he was popping round to put it on. Fantastic, eh?
Not feverish with excitement yet? No? Well let me tell you that it's "extended!" Can you not feel your palms sweating in anticipation?
Oh well, bully to you!
It's easy to forget over a decade later just how exciting it was when new videos were released - this was generally the first time I'd seen the serials in question. No Sky, remember? But what was doubly exciting about Silver Nemesis that it was one of only the 8 serials I'd seen on their original transmission. Happy times and places.
As a result I always think of the extended edition as the proper one - this being the one to which I have been most exposed, and the one on which I shall cast my critical eye in this review. My memories of the original, and of which bits are the added bits are less than accurate, but of the original I will say this - if Remembrance laid the foundations of my fandom then Nemesis filled them with cement.
Now, let me say that Silver Nemesis is sh*te - completely and utterly. It's always best to get that ambiguity out of the way first of all. It does however, have a few redeeming features that I'll mention first so that I can get to the criticism.
There's the Cybermen themselves - all spruced up for the anniversary year. I don't think they've ever looked more solid than this - gone are the jumpsuits and moon-boots and not a piece of vacuum attachment in sight. The ability to see the actor's jaw moving is a lovely touch and I defy anyone not to feel a thrill as they exit the Cybership at the end of part one when their shiny new masks reflect the murky green light. Like the Daleks two serials previous, the design teams have made subtle innovations to the design and I think they deserve to be applauded. These were the kind of adaptations that used to go on every time the Cybermen appeared in the Sixties but ground to a halt in Earthshock. Plus ca change?
Lady Peinfort - she's hilarious beyond measure. I sometimes wonder whether it's intentional or not, but there's no denying that it's laugh-out-loud funny. It's always great when guest cast members seem to be really enjoying themselves and we should be grateful that this is an all location serial because the scenery of Television Centre would not have survived this performance. "Twas a slow poison..."
"Who did this to you?" "Social workers." Well I laughed.
Sylvester and Sophie put in another good shift, and I'm particularly fond of the "Am I beautiful?" exchange between Ace and Nemesis. And just how glorious is it to see Sophie and Sylv lying in the grass enjoying some jazz? The rapport between them is lovely - and so far removed from the Saward era bickering that I'm retrospectively sympathetic to Peter Davison for getting lumbered with the man. Never mind.
But that's it, really, isn't it?
From 75 minutes of television these are the only things for which I can find praise - and even then some of you will think I'm being generous. (Although, not as generous as some of the other reviews here.)
Again we have a serial suffering from the fact that the summer of '88 was rather glorious, all told, yet we're being asked again to believe that this is November. I defy anyone to sit on plastic garden furniture in short sleeves in the open air in November and not turn an unhealthy shade of blue. You see, BBC, there's a reason why music festivals are held in the summer months in the UK and it's not because the heating bills are cheaper... but I digress. At least the brief scene set in South America looks nice.
I remember listening to Anton Diffring saying in an interview that he only came over because it meant he could watch Wimbledon at the same time - and you know what, I absolutely believe him. He certainly didn't come over to do any acting. His is the most arse-clenchingly poor performance on display here - say what you like about Delores Gray or those skinheads, their characters are undeveloped comic support, not one of the major antagonists. He's bored; he's clearly got no idea what's going on (although he's hardly alone on this point); he delivers lines like he's reading from a cue card just out of shot with a leadenness that would set off airport alarms. Which begs the question - just HOW was he allowed into the country?
For Doctor Who to work there must be a clear and present threat to the protagonists to drive the drama. Without that threat you end up with a rather empty fantasy with a few jokes thrown in. In fact, you get season 17. And of course you get Silver Nemesis. The ineffective Nazis, coupled with the Cybermen on display here - beautifully designed though they are - leave the Doctor with little or no threat at all. The Doctor does his best to talk them up and the gun-fight makes them look good but once 17th Century time-travellers start taking them out with arrows then you're on a hiding to nothing. And I swear Sylvester tickles a Cyber-tummy when he's in the ditch by the Nemesis comet.
If the Doctor and Ace had drowned at the beginning of the serial when they fall acrobatically into that river, the combined ineptitude of the other three interested parties would've still seen them all fail. The flaws in the plot are endless and in the hands of the ever-unreliable Chris Clough with his point/shoot mantra it's dull, too. And considering Inferno can take you all the way to part five before your bum starts to twitch then this is surely unforgivable.
"Who did this to you?" "Social workers." While I was laughing two million viewers switched over to watch the end of Corrie.
I consider this to be the nadir of the McCoy era - and I think this is in part due to the fact that my expectations were being raised by the steady upward curve that I felt began with Paradise Towers the previous season. However, with seasons reduced to only fourteen episodes and with a nine-month gestation period between seasons Doctor Who couldn't excuse/afford to be transmitting such substandard fare. This would however prove to be the last time the series seriously misfired, Cartmel by now had a good grip on just how far the budget would stretch and this time it is the script's horrendous lack of ambition that lets him down rather than that of his design teams.
Back in '93 it was great, but even those warm feelings of nostalgia cannot disguise what a shoddy mess this really is.
A Review by Charles Tuck 9/5/05
Silver Nemesis is thankfully only a 3-part story. Ok, that’s the good point done, now for the ‘constructive criticism’ (or necessary complaints’.)
Unfortunately, the Cybermen seems to have gone down hill over the years, their first few stories (e.g. The Tenth Planet, Tomb of the Cybermen) were classics. It was all going well until Revenge of the Cybermen, which was certainly not up to Cyber-standard. Earthshock (thank god) was superb and a definite classic, while Attack of the Cybermen was more of a Cyber-salad of previous stories than an ‘original story.’
Right, so I’ve given you an insight into Cyber-History but we’re not here for that. We are here for Silver Nemesis.
Let’s start with the Cyber element; the Cybermen shouldn’t really be in it at all. The reason for this is that it does not connect to other stories at all. It just shows that the writer was not very imaginative…
Unfortunately, this is not their greatest problem. If you watch Earthshock and Revenge of the Cybermen carefully, you will discover that gold DUST is only effective against Cybermen because it suffocates them. Why is a gold coin going to suffocate them??? Also, an entire squad of Cybermen is killed by Ace (a 16 year old….). Does that mean a 13 year old like me can take down a couple, YAY!!!!
But that’s enough about the Cybermen. Ace is supposed to be scared of a Cybermen, why?? A 16 year old that has killed a Dalek with anti-tank rockets and waved hot pokers at sweet-monsters, is scared of a war fleet of Cybermen, rubbish! Absolute rubbish!
Overall, this is the kind of story you show your 5 year old cousin to get them into it and not for serious Doctor Who fans.
More than it can chew by Tom Berwick 11/11/05
The trouble with Silver Nemesis (well, the big one) is that it tries too hard. Consider what it is about: three rival groups of villains seek a weapon of unimaginable power. The Doctor cannot defeat them, and they cannot defeat one another: alliances must be formed, rivals must be double-crossed, and the Doctor must play his enemies off against one another until he finally uses the weapon himself to finish them off.
This is a great idea, a great epic idea. And that's the problem: you can't do epic in three 25-minute episodes. Cybermen suddenly being vulnerable to golden arrows and coins? No, that's dumb. But give them longer, and Ace and Lady Peinforte could easily have come up with a way of using gold dust, or a cerebration mentor, or anything else that Cybermen are vulnerable to. But there was no time to explain how the sides learned each other's weaknesses, so the Cybermen's weakness to gold suddenly becomes a form of inexplicable metallic anaphylaxis. They fall for absurdly simple and obvious tricks because the show doesn't have time to set up anything better.
Why does Lady Peinforte merge with the statue? Dunno. But I can think of several possible reasons that could be related to the Doctor's control of the statue, or perhaps to her relationship with the statue she made. We needed time to explore her relationship with her creation. We didn't get it, so we got nonsense instead. How did the Nazis get the bow, and how did they know about the statue at all? Hitler's occult obsession, perhaps? Again, no time to explain. How did the Cybermen know about the statue?
I could go on. The story is full of rushed gun battles, partial explanations and other haste. Imagine it as a six-parter: alliances last longer, with traps carefully set. The plot is deeper and better explained. We learn of the Doctor's previous encounter with Peinforte, and the adventures of the bow in the intervening years. Slowly, the sides learn each other's weaknesses, and eliminate one another, unaware that the Doctor's machinations are behind it all. There is a really good epic in here. What we got was a parody of it.
Of course, there are other things wrong with Silver Nemesis as seen on TV, such as it being badly acted by half the guest cast, flatly directed, and with some shocking effects. (The cybership landing reminds me of the floating tray in Planet of the Spiders, except that back then they had the excuse that the technology was in its infancy.) Not all the effects are bad: the 'glowing bow' effect is simple but very effective, but overall, the production is a mess.
And yet, dammit, I can't get out of my head the thought that it could all have been fantastic. Okay, it needed a bigger budget, but you'd think the silver jubilee story could have had one. But above all, it needed room to breathe.
Oh, and I like the Doctor using jazz against the Cybermen. So much more could have been made of that one...
Still trying to keep the nose up by Thomas Cookson 16/10/07
Doctor Who was probably right to end in 1989. This story, Remembrance of the Daleks and Survival had brought closure to the show's 'unfinished business'. The show knew it was going to end and it ended properly.
And also there was a fear that given John Nathan-Turner's disastrous track record, the success of Seasons 25 and 26 might have been just a fluke (much like Season 18) and maybe had the series survived them it would have been unable to maintain that quality and would simply go downhill again, and so it was better to remember it ending on some kind of high. But, to me, the show had fully regained its competence. With Season 25 the show rediscovered its sense of fun again after such a long period of po-faced hard science, obsessive nerdishness, lethargic apathy, and self loathing towards the end.
Greatest Show in the Galaxy was a perfect example of that triumph; in an era where Doctor Who's budget was getting sliced it manages to give us a vast and strange alien world, intense suspense, some genuinely frightening sequences and, all in all, it completely defies conventions of what is possible on TV when Doctor Who is on the cheap even by its own standards.
But even a maligned story like this was at least competent, as was Battlefield. And, as such, I rather enjoy Silver Nemesis and Battlefield.
Silver Nemesis may be the poor story of the season but it is still done by a creative team that finally know what they are doing. The worst stories of the Barry Letts era tended to be lazy, patronising, cosy rubbish but that's all they were meant to be, and all they needed to be. The first scene of Silver Nemesis in which the chief neo-Nazi nearly shoots an arrow into a rare bird specimen is an effective hook for subtly engaging the casual viewer from the first shot. Imagine that, appealing to a casual viewer.
The following scene, where the Doctor and Ace are attending an open air jazz performance in the summery sun, only to be shot at by your typical brainwashed enemy agent goons and having to dive into the local river to avoid them, seems to have that right sense of confidence and energy and seems like a return to the cheap and cheerful mode.
There are, of course, embarrassing moments, mainly when the Doctor is surrounded by Cybermen and yet manages to get past them with the bow with some kind of on-the-spot choreographed spinning dance. But, by and large, there's a kind of brevity to such scenes and the action moves fast enough for me to not really bat an eyelid. Compare with the static, lingering embarrassments and absence of damage control in Warriors of the Deep or The Twin Dilemma.
In fact, I even take Silver Nemesis's risible flippant moments over those of Russell's stories. The best way to explain why is that a Russell comedy moment is far more awkward. A typical RTD slapstick moment seems to bring absolutely everything else in the scene to a standstill and seems to bear the heavy handed message that 'this is a gag' (which we think is so funny that we're going to repeat it ad nauseam). But that's typical of Russell: take something potentially annoying, repeat it constantly and then retort that those fans complaining on messageboards are being nitpicky and won't give the show a chance. I have come to think that Russell considers humour to be so mandatory, that he probably flicks through his script and adds a gag wherever the page lands, and probably does the same thing concerning emotional dialogue, the Doctor's shouty moments, flirtatious moments, sexual overtones and pop culture references. Here, it just feels more natural, more spur of the moment and spontaneous. So it's daft without feeling contrived if you get me.
Many of the Sylvester McCoy stories can be praised for their ideas and deeper themes. The Greatest Show in the Galaxy and Survival made some quite-ahead-of-their-time social commentary that would crop up again in the cinema of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach during the 90's. Stories that echo the view that society was once a strong, kind and co-operative place but that, since the 1980's, things have become more conservative and reactionary and society has become a far meaner place to those who wish to be non-conformist individuals, forcing them to stand alone and be downtrodden and victimised.
Silver Nemesis is pretty vacuous in that area; in fact, even Battlefield was more topical. There are skinheads which hint at how Doctor Who is beginning to acknowledge the realities of modern urban life and gang culture, but, unlike Survival which built a theme around gang culture, they are simply there for a set piece. Likewise, the neo-Nazis are your generic fascists. In Remembrance of the Daleks, the fascists had a point of view and sense of politics which spoke to the times around them; these, however, are just bad guys to despise. They're such ciphers with such an obvious sealed fate that when they got killed off I literally failed to remember after a minute, particularly since the impact of their death was immediately superceded by the Cybermen going kaboom.
In that regard, this is probably something to categorise in the cozy, dumbed-down Pertwee era, but, like the stories of that era, it still works as a piece of television and you can still engage with it now. One thing Silver Nemesis shares in is the newfound good-naturedness of this era, and it was such a breath of fresh air after the soulless fan-pleasing continuity, the pointless bloodbaths and cheap sensationalism of Season 21 which said nothing positive about humanity at all. Arc of Infinity was shallow, fan-pleasing trivia. Warriors of the Deep was a pointless massacre signifying nothing but twisted scorn on humanity. Twin Dilemma was nothing but a cheap shock tactic. But, with the McCoy era, the show gradually became about championing people and diversity again for the first time since Kinda. Whether it was the 60's summer of love ethos of Greatest Show, or the Doctor having a philosophical chat with the Jamaican cafe owner in Remembrance of the Daleks, or even the tweeness of Delta and the Bannermen.
The scene where Lady Peniford hitches a lift from that Yankee socialite woman who enthusiastically invites her to share a wine and a chinwag makes it clear that we're in a much more friendly environment than the belligerent, backstabbing and paranoid Sawardiverse. Even the rather childish scene where the Cybermen's transmission is blocked by the sounds of Jazz music is saying something about art and creativity and human achievements that the soulless Cybermen can never appreciate.
However Silver Nemesis did inherit the Sawardian, cavalier, shoot-em-up attitude to the Cybermen. Something that sadly hasn't gone away in the nasty, modern Cyberman stories like Doomsday and Torchwood's Cyberwoman. And this isn't just a rose-tinted charge; the 60's Cybermen stories were very moral tales, and often showed the Doctor trying to redeem the human bad guys and he tended to repel or incarcerate the Cybermen without actually destroying them.
The Cybermen are pretty hopeless cannon fodder here. Many would blame this gold allergy strand on Revenge of the Cybermen, but even then the Cybermen were incredibly difficult to kill. No, it was really The Five Doctors where the Cybermen became cannon fodder, and they stayed that way to the show's end. But it is somewhat appropriate here, given that this is supposed to represent the 'final end' of the Cybermen. Certainly, it is hypocritical of fans to lambast this as a poor Remembrance rip-off, and how the Cybermen have become bad shots and cannon fodder when Remembrance is just as guilty.
But, as I said, this was all about unfinished business and bringing a finality to the Doctor's foes that had plagued him throughout his lives. In many ways Season 21 nearly did the same thing, but the show didn't honour that finality. Besides, Season 21's demise of the Master and the Daleks came about by accident rather than design on the Doctor's part. Here the Doctor masterminds that elimination.
I think the Doctor always had a ruthless streak, but gradually he was emancipated by the sanctimonious image that fandom hoisted upon him and a need for recurring villains to get off easy. When the Seventh Doctor nearly bludgeons the Master in Survival, it's not the first time he's tried to kill his old foe, if you remember The Mind of Evil or Logopolis. Likewise, I can easily imagine Patrick Troughton blowing up Skaro. The Doctor cavalierly butchers one-off foes, such as Shockeye or Solon, but shows mercy to the Master, even after Logopolis. Likewise, genocide was never an issue when the Doctor wiped out the last of the Zygons or the Nimons or the Vampires, but it was an issue with the Daleks. Which is a bit backwards really, because it means the Doctor is more likely to be lenient if you're a repeat offender.
But the point is, it was because of the wrap-up the show was trying to achieve that the Doctor was becoming ruthless again and eliminating foes that he used to tolerate.
Sylvester McCoy finally is the Doctor the show was meant to have. The proactive, courageous, confrontational hero who relies on brain over brawn, occasionally questions his own methods but gets on with the job without agonising over his decisions, and is a perfect match for even the Gods, demi-Gods and titans that he confronts. Something we'd been absent of throughout most of the 80's.
It's been said that the leap of the Seventh Doctor from pratfall clown to cosmic manipulator is too sudden, implausible and consistent. But Season 25 is the transitional period where the Doctor's clownishness and darker side co-exist. One is a front for the other, particularly in Greatest Show. Indeed, I think the show might have evolved naturally to this point without the hiatus panic of 1986 giving it a push. Tom Baker's Doctor had the power of hypnosis, and in Genesis of the Daleks he weighs the fate of worlds in his hands. In Logopolis, the Doctor had involked the chess metaphor while realising that the Master had checkmated him, and in Snakedance the Doctor drags Tegan kicking and screaming through her own demons in a way that he would do again to Ace in Ghost Light. So I think the potential of the cosmic manipulator was always there, and it was only when the show was finally running on full steam that this came to the fore.
And, of course, it's also said that Sylvester McCoy's performances were poor, which I can't really disagree with. But then again his performance wasn't exactly ill-fitting with the flamboyant, frivolous style of the show in this period. And that's really why the McCoy era is still so divisive. You either tolerate the pantomime style or it completely repulses you. Personally, I think it was workable.
The era has been criticised as being inaccessible, which I find can be applied to the more didactic, ruthlessly edited and incomplete stories of Season 26. But the McCoy era dispensed with the alienating continuity that had bogged the 80's. Its possible to enjoy Time and the Rani without prior knowledge of the Rani, if Time and the Rani actually was enjoyable. Battlefield was my first proper exposure to UNIT at the age of 11, and I followed it easily. Unlike most other Master stories of the 80's, Survival could easily have taken place immediately after Logopolis.
Remembrance of the Daleks is very liberally revisionist, so much so that it's caused plenty of controversy and John Peel even wrote War of the Daleks as a berzerk and bitter attempt to erase Remembrance's events from established canon. Big Finish took some of the more inspired ideas of War of the Daleks, such as the Emperor fiddling while Skaro burns, but it tackled the issue of Skaro's destruction rather more maturely and simply had the Daleks move home to a new powerbase in the Seriphia galaxy. And it was a very effective and terrifying move. So much so that I've actually searched Wikipedia to make sure there's no such galaxy called Seriphia anywhere nearby (and was relieved and a little disappointed that there wasn't).
Likewise, Silver Nemesis actually requires you to forget everything prior in order to buy its premise, of the Doctor having a weapon of mass destruction that he could have used anytime he wanted. Likewise, the Cybermen here contradict the established timeline of the Cybermen. But I treat it like a lightweight tale that takes whatever liberties it wants and I enjoy it as such. Certainly, I think this approach is preferrable to the nerdish 80's obsession with continuity. Attack of the Cybermen clings in a conjoined fashion onto the events of Tomb of the Cybermen, but shares none of its morality. Resurrection of the Daleks likewise drags in its retreading of Dalek continuty. In Warriors of the Deep, it makes no sense why the Doctor believes the mass-murdering Silurians are noble and peace-loving, unless you've seen The Silurians and The Sea Devils, and even then...
Even as a fan who is in on the humourless joke, I much prefer stories that are competent, original and inspired enough to work in their own right. Silver Nemesis is for the undemanding viewer who doesn't mind some woeful and cheap action sequences as long as things explode, but I enjoy it nontheless. Besides, isn't it nice to be able to wipe the slate clean and forget about the travesties of yesteryear, such as when the Doctor regenerated into the Boston Strangler in a technicolour dreamcoat? And the faster the story moves, the quicker it washes away the stain.
But I must say that lore-wise I don't quite see the Cybermen having huge battlefleets, seeking a weapon of mass destruction or killing their own human agents as the penalty of failure. Somehow I see the Daleks being more in that light.
One issue I don't have a problem with is Lady Peinforte's ability to travel in time. She has the bow of a Gallifreyan artefact which makes the sequence believable, and the sorcery and spells are just a bit of mumbo jumbo to make it work televisually and symbolically.
You can see by the interview in the 'making of Silver Nemesis' documentary that John Nathan-Turner was by now a lot more confident about the show in a very calm way rather than the overblown, loud and really rather insecure way the show and its producer had been beforehand. It's like after all those abominable years, John has actually become the right man for the job, but first he had to acknowledge under crisis that the show was not indestructible and needed care and dedication.
Indeed I'm going to involke a rather crass metaphor and suggest that the McCoy era was the point where the show actually 'came out'. I do actually think now that maybe in some strange, anthropomorphizing way, the John Nathan-Turner era was struggling with its sexuality. Now I'd hate to come across as echoing Russell T. Davies' obnoxious remarks at his critics being somehow 'too straight' to appreciate his oh so 'sensitive' new series. But I'm going to describe a condition that to me best explains the transformation and new-found confidence of the John Nathan-Turner era during this time.
It starts off exaggeratedly masculine, trampling the camp frivolity of the previous era like a killjoy. It's got so many masculine qualities: stiff, pretentious, humourless, macho, belligerent, violent, misogynistic, exploitative, brooding, superficial and more likely to prefer nouns to adjectives. In the crisis point it becomes confused, schizophrenic, self-loathing, insecure and attention seeking. Eventually it comes out, bearing gay rainbow colours (as opposed to the more lazer quest fluorescent colurs of the Colin Baker era, which were simply a superficial detail to set the era apart from the Davison leftovers it otherwise was), a more flamboyant, confident, easy going and frivolous personality, and becomes more social. It becomes more actively gay, doing stories like The Happiness Patrol and raising its fist against neo-Nazism and the family institution and, most significantly, concentrating on an adolescent coming to terms with the aspects of her personality that she has repressed for so long.
Oh yes, then there's Ace. I don't know what they were thinking when they replaced Romana with Adric, or brought back the irrascible Tegan after seemingly giving her the boot in Time-Flight, but certainly it was a long time due for a good companion like Ace to compensate for all the dumb ciphers we'd had to suffer throughout most of the 80's. This isn't one of Sophie Aldred's better performances as Ace; that would be Greatest Show in the Galaxy or Survival where she does very sublime work.
But I like Ace, even though she shares many of the worst qualities of Rose. I see past Ace's moments of rudeness, belligerence, ageism, clinginess and verbal diaorhea but am less forgiving of Rose when she behaves that way, because Ace is more honest than Rose. She doesn't manipulate people or turn on the nice and smiles when she's not really sincere about it. You can trust Ace to be a woman of her word and heart, but I'd keep Rose at a bargepole's distance. And so, when Ace dodges the lousy-shot Cybermen and throws coins at them in the woeful action scenes, I find myself cheering her on all the same.
I'm not going to pretend this is a great piece of television. Its action scenes are pretty woeful when you strip away the appealing fizzles and bangs. The conclusion actually is a substandard rip off of Remembrance with none of its wit or turning of the screw - and, besides, exploding Cybermen is hardly a climax when it's been going on all the way through the story - but I like it. It inhabits its three episodes well and passes the time.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 4/8/08
This may qualify as the worst miscalculation since life crawled out of the seas on this sad planet.
I've avoided this story for a while, because the last time I watched it, I felt like I'd lost an hour and a half I'd never get back again. In fact, I told Tom Cookson "...I'd rather have my leg and chest hair waxed than sit through Silver Nemesis again." It's a cheap shot and, well, I should be above such things. So, after much deliberation and a few stiff drinks, I popped the tape in, strapped meself down Ludovico style, and faced the dreaded hairy breasted, flatulent-smelling beast known as Silver Nemesis.
All right, lets do this properly. To its credit, Silver Nemesis does a lot of the nuts and bolts things right. The effects are quite good, and Chris Clough shoots it in a way that at least makes it visually interesting. Syl and Sophie manage to overcome some ripe dialogue and have good chemistry together throughout. The Cybermen get a spiffy makeover that I think is cool.
But (and it's a big one)...
This is a story in desperate need of a proper story editor, and an additional episode. There are three different adversaries in a story which kind of ignores them for bad jokes with bad actors posing as skinheads, Southern Belles and the Queen. There's a good story within this mess, but the priorities are not where they should be. There's an additional flaw in that we've seen this exact plot only two stories previously, and done a million times better. Except for Fiona walker, who plays Peinforte large enough to make her a bit fun, the guest cast suck. Take, for example, the wannabe Skinheads. My cat Willie, a skinny moper who's afraid of his own shadow, is far scarier than these two clowns. It's the grimaces they use to look tough that instead make them seem like bigger wusses. They're memorable for all the wrong reasons. Example two is Mrs. Remington. I actually broke the restraints to fastforward though her scenes. Accent, pacing and performance are bollocks. It's worse than Peter Purves as Morton Dill.
One more thing. If you want proof that Cartmel really had no master plan for Who, Silver Nemesis proves that any sort of big concept was no more than a throw-it-on-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach. Peinforte's knowledge of the Doctor is shoved off in a way that anyone with half a brain can see coming a mile away, and is meaningless in itself. Although, the Doctor's reaction to Peinforte's threat is nicely nonchalant.
So, Silver Nemesis now has three hours of my life, but I have done my duty and reviewed the hairy breasted, flatulent-smelling beast. And I stand by what I said earlier, I'd rather have a full body wax than ever see this again.