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?|
Silver Men by Nathan Mullins 3/11/09
This episode is supposed to be seen as the twenty-fifth annerversary special, though the fans don't seem to think so. This is mainly because some fans believe Rememberance of the Daleks did the job of using continuity well to bind the episode and the very first episode. An Unerathly Child, together well by using the familar; for instance, Coal Hill School, or the exchange of comments between Gilmore and the Doctor where 'Chunky' asks him "How do you know?" and having the seventh Doctor reply "I've been here before." However, there's something that I quite like about Silver Nemesis.
Here, Sylvester McCoy brings a sinister presence to the part, where he lurks around in Lady Peinfort's home, looking for clues as to where she got the knowlage of when the Nemesis statue was going to make its return to Earth. This is also made clear by the dim lighting, and of the darkness in the room. But that could also represent the dark side of Lady Peinforte and her character. The character of Ace is getting to the point where she's becoming mysterious, like the Doctor, where we know that both their characters get fully fleshed out towards the end of Doctor Who's last season. Ace, however, gets quite a lot to do here, seeing off a pack of Cybermen, having a good old chin wag with the Nemesis statue, and enjoying a good jamming session with the Doctor and whilst listening to Courtney Pine, before her adventures really begin to kick off. Ace shows her strength in overcoming the fear she has of the Cybermen, by blowing up their ship and destroying the Cyberleader's minions.
The Cybermen had been given an update for this story and I felt that, although they looked just the same, they were certainly given a slendid story to show their range. Their attack on the guerillas was just one of the best scenes of the whole episode. Plus, the special effects were some of the best, especially the bow, where it seemed to glow when close to both the arrow and statue. I always thought that the Cybermen being allergic to gold was one way of showing they had a weakness for something, and that was obviously why they aimed to destroy Voga, the planet of gold, in Revenge of the Cybermen.
This seventh Doctor adventure is fantastic, in my opinion anyway. I think that it's adventerous, action packed, though where at times the action slows down, it certainly picks up and the episode itself succeeds enough to get my vote. I'd rate this 10 out of 10, and because much of the episode was filmed on location, it makes for a more believable plot and one hell of an episode.
"Such things happen only in the theatre!" by Neil Clarke 3/5/10
It's been ages since I've seen Silver Nemesis, and I'm left unexpectedly torn by it. a) It's crap, contrived and confused but, b), I also found it fairly entertaining. That isn't the best you could ask of a Doctor Who story, but it's not the worst either.
Everything is immediately a bit shonky: the convenient countdown displayed in a massive font on the computer, and a pensioner shooting parrots with a bow and arrow (what?!). But, the (brief) South American-based scene is pleasingly atypical for Doctor Who, though I can't decide whether the cut from there to the seventeenth century is intriguing or alienatingly unexpected? Followed by another seachange shift to Courtney Pine playing outside a pub! What? (Also, how is this bloody November?) The eighties contemporary setting feels very cheap and uninteresting; I would have preferred to see more of the seventeenth century. These opening moments are unfortunately indicative of how choppy the story remains throughout (the random returns to Peinforte's house = very bad plot structuring!).
Basing a story around multiple parties could be interesting, but unfortunately the Nazis are totally bland. (Although, what's with de Flores' numerous costume changes in part one? What a fashion-conscious fascist! He acts like a proper tourist too, talking about the estate of "the infamous Lady Peinforte", though not in reference to the seventeenth centurywomen he'd seen earlier, because he scorns the connection!)
The Cybermen don't fare much better (though they look quite good; it's just a shame they're so turgidly shot). They receive only the most cursory backstory, too. Surely at this point, while not wanting to overdo the fan-oriented back-reference, not giving them any explanation would have been a deadly move? There may not be distracting continuity references like in Attack, but there's barely any acknowledgement that any new viewers/non-fans could be watching, either. It wouldn't take much; surely Ace'd be curious about them?
I hate the Cyberleader's hammy, melodramatic pauses and delivery. And why does he try to have Peinforte driven "in-sane," only to order her death?? Their use of a gold detector (and subsequently wet reaction), further undermines the erstwhile silver giants. The Cybermen's bumbling anorak-wearing stooges are very, very unthreatening, too (and kind of remind me of Cameron Diaz's 'special' brother in There's Something About Mary).
The initial modelwork shot of the Nemesis' comet is strangely excellent; unfortunately, it mainly looks a bit crap after that, while the Doctor and Ace's fall into the river at the exact same moment seems inexplicable because it's oh-so-choreographed that it's not even clear why they do it! It's one of those 'stunts' that's been planned to death, so there's no sense of spontaneity, or of what it was originally meant to look like they were doing.
The whole story unfortunately feels very slapdash compared to the assurance of Remembrance, or the stylistically unprecedented (but consistent!) Happiness Patrol. It also suffers from the typical eighties tendency to intercut various scenes by chopping them into tiny little segments, when they'd be more effective if given some breathing-space. This is especially unfortunate here, as we're already juggling multiple characters and locations.
Tonally, it feels very 'kiddie' too (more like season twenty-four), with stupid ideas like being able to step away from a guided tour and bump into the (unaccompanied!) Queen. Or even the idea that the Doctor thinks she'd be the very woman to help him out! Since when has he needed royalty on his side? Whimsy is one thing, but this is insultingly idiotic. I like the idea of the Doctor raiding the Queen's basement; I'm less keen on an unconvincing impersonator turning up. Also, why does the Doctor inexplicably tell the security guard at the palace that he arrived "by travelling through time and space" when they got to the royal apartments from the tourist routes?
There are lots of bizarre reactions and unfortunate dialogue like this, though bad editing plays its part (the Doctor saying, "Where did that come from?" of an arrow that shot a Cyberman several seconds before; Peinforte randomly noticing the Doctor after a long battle). One of my favourite dialogue clunkers is the line explaining Ace's new ghetto blaster: "Yes, I know I built it for you, to replace the one destroyed by the Daleks."
Essentially, Silver Nemesis squanders the intelligence of the Remembrance reboot. It's all a bit vague and pointless: there's a time-travelling sorceress, a Courtney Pine cameo, a duck, Windsor, tourists, the Queen... None of it adds up. At best, it's very, very unfocused, and desperately needs some decisive editing and tightening up.
Unexpectedly though, Peinforte and Richard are the best thing in it; they're assured and fun, and on just the right side of ham. Though she isn't a well-remembered adversary, Peinforte is really funny in her gung-ho-ness (ie, abruptly smashing the cafe window, rather than using the door). The idea of having the setting change around them during their time travel is effective, rather than showing them disappearing from the set, and reappearing on the cafe version. Although it still begs the question, why does no-one react? Does this happen a lot in Windsor? Ditto the tourists at the castle when the TARDIS arrives.
Fiona Walker's performance is effective because of her self-awareness of its hamminess. ("I shall lead! And you, follow!"; calmly taking over the hitchhiking duties; and leaning over and conspiratorially telling Mrs Remington, "All things shall soon be mine".) Her final enraged scream is very funny, too, especially because you get the impression the actress is having a ball doing it...
It does make me wonder when the Doctor last encountered Peinforte though? (It's jarring that he talks about her as if we should know about her, which could work. But doesn't.) The trouble with a new take on the Doctor - his increased manipulation of events - is that it then gets retrospectively applied to his past, which doesn't really fit. I mean, when did he set all this up? If it was just a couple of weeks back in his seventh life that isn't very 'mythic,' but that sort of behaviour isn't really true of any of the earlier Doctors (not that we've seen, anyway).
The glowing paint used for the Validium makes the Nemesis statue surprisingly effective, but I do find it quite funny how, as Silver Nemesis has such a bad reputation, something like this, which should be a big deal within Doctor Who "mythology", has never been treated as such by being referenced in books, etc, to the extent of, say, the Hand of Omega. The suggestion that the Nemesis caused various 20th century atrocities seems a bit tasteless (also, comparing Kennedy's assassination with World War I stretches things a tad, surely?).
That the statue told Peinforte "who the Doctor is" is quite fascinating, and I like that nothing is actually given away... But, at the same time, it begs the question whether they actually had any concrete revelations in mind at this point? I suppose all the talk of the Doctor's secrets is rubbish, really, because it's so contrived, especially as it compares so badly to Remembrance's gradual mystery (which actually hints at something particularly, as well as expanding on part of the character's past which we've actually seen).
There's too much moving around, with too little justification; the whole production feels cobbled together from disparate elements, with no flow or internal logic. Too much 'stuff' and too little time to do any of it justice! (Meaning that everyone ends up conveniently turning up wherever they're needed. Including much too much TARDIS travel.) The excessive time travel and flitting between locations and times would be okay if the whole story was predicated around that (as in The Chase), or if something clever came of the multiple time zones (as in Mawdryn Undead), but... no. Neither happens here.
There's an annoying sense of missed opportunity here, because an expansive, varied story like this could be unusual and interesting (and even do the anniversary slot justice); unfortunately, it's all too rushed: the concepts/scripts aren't quite good or developed enough and it all comes across as disjointed. In a way, it's ambitious (at least in concepts), but not ambitious enough, because some of these concepts could really do with pushing further. Instead, it just gets absurd when all the various parties roll up at the end, and then just stand around, waiting for a chance to speak.
It doesn't help that there isn't a simple hook like "the Cybermen invade the moon!" ("the Cybermen... and some other guys... try to get their cricket gloves on a MacGuffin artefact from ancient Gallifrey" isn't as self-contained and easily graspable).
Especially in its conclusion, it does feel like a homemade, knocked-off version of Remembrance (there's a "miscalculation" line; the shots of the Nemesis travelling toward earth; even the music's pretty much the same, though it seems even more intrusive here). There's none of that story's cohesive, mythologised approach. There's even another "give me some of that Nitro 9 you're not carrying!" line, too!
However, despite all that, as a Cyber-story at least, I find it (pleasingly) atypical, as it's a billion times more interesting/imaginative than certainly the previous four (rather than just replicating a certain "appropriate" approach). But, it's so badly executed! And, I can't believe there's so much padding in a three-parter full of ideas!
My main problem with this story though, is that the threat never feels expansive, or has any gravitas, because there are no normal, everyday points of reference; instead, we have Nazis, Cybermen, seventeenth century time-travellers, the Queen, a rich American tourist, skinheads... It's like they dared themselves not to include any "everyman" figures. There's no grounding in reality, so it's hard to care. (There isn't even much in the way of police/army/scientific presence at the site of a comet landing!) Real people are almost entirely absent from this story.
I concede that this story is different and imaginative (just unpolished), which at least makes me better disposed to it than if it were unfocused and lacking interesting ideas.
A Review by Harry O'Driscoll 18/6/10
This story is meant to celebrate Doctor Who's 25th anniversary and it is nothing less than a total flop, completely rehashing Remembrance of the Daleks and hardly making for a celebration at all.
Most of the old series were 4-part episodes so with a 3 parter you would expect things to be tighter, but in fact hardly anything happens. The Doctor and Ace just seem to run around Windsor with various parts of the nemesis statue. There are enormous bits of padding such as the stupid scene with that American and the whole neo-Nazi subplot is just there for no other reason but to take up viewing time.
The Cybermen are humiliated in this story. Once they were the next stage of humanity, efficient, emotionless killers; now they wet their tinfoil pants at the very mention of the word gold. Who seem capable of wiping out a group of neo-Nazis but are defeated by a teenager throwing gold coins at them! Worst of all is that hilarious keep-away scene with the Doctor and Ace with the bow. How are they meant to be a formidable enemy?
There are two things I do like from this story, however. One is that scene where Ace tells the Doctor she is scared, really shows another side to their relationship. The other is the scene where Lady Peinforte threatens to reveal the Doctor's secret. What a powerful scene, establishing some mystery back into the Doctor! But two scenes will never be able to compensate and I will always think how Remembrance would have made such a great celebration.
The worst miscalculation since Gallipoli by Richard Evans 16/4/11
The Gallipoli campaign was a shambolic attempt by Britain and the ANZACs to invade Turkey during the First World War. It had been badly planned and several British army commanders refused to support it. In Silver Nemesis, the Seventh Doctor - the lord of preparation - fears he may have made a terrible miscalculation (just like the warmongers did with Gallipoli).Thankfully, it all works out in the end for him. The same cannot be said of much else in the story.
Although I love all on-screen Doctor Who, I am very sensitive to anything that's out of place or imperfect. Silver Nemesis makes the horrible mistake of starting elegantly and then piling up its problems. Just take a look at the unfortunate Anton Diffring: after commanding a scene or two at the very beginning of Part One, he does not reappear until the final scene, and it quickly becomes apparent that his one-dimensional character could have easily been avoided. To add insult to injury, Parts Two and Three replay this formula, dispensing with Diffring and his underlings after scene one and until the closing minutes. Simply put, Kevin Clarke's attempt to juggle three groups of villains - the Cybermen, Lady Peinforte and the needless Nazis - was never destined to succeed, and his solution (which, now that I come to think of it, reminds me of Season 19's tendency to abandon at least one companion per story) epitomises it.
I have always thought that rule number one of a Cyberman story is that the Cybermen are portrayed as terrifying tyrants at the forefront of the action. While Rise of the Cybermen (that startling episode that gave me more than a chill) and, most notably, Tomb of the Cybermen fit this fundamental bill, Silver Nemesis fails on both counts, despite the inclusion of the telling word "Silver" in the title. Gone were the days when many a Cyberman would yell, "You will become like us!" in favour of such pathetic one-liners as "Give me the bow!", which only manage to reduce their standing in the series. The silver creatures' credibility is also hammered by their inability to shoot their targets seven times out of eight, this being a transparent device employed by Clarke to add Cyber gunfire to the story without disposing of any valuable (or otherwise) characters. Rather worryingly, only one attack force of Cybermen arrives on Earth, leaving 10,000 others hiding inertly in the vacuum of space. The revelation of these other ships has absolutely no impact whatsoever, being insufficiently (if at all) foreshadowed and then left alone for just about the whole of Part Three. Even Anton Diffring has more to do in that episode than the Cyberships, and that's saying something. (I've only just realised that the sudden appearance of a great many alien spaceships was later done much more spectacularly in Bad Wolf, the discovery of the Dalek fleet being one of the scariest Doctor Who moments of all time. The unveiling of the Cybermen themselves, punctuated by the classic exchange "What are they?" /"Cybermen", was remade in Rise of the Cybermen and Army of Ghosts much more effectively.)
Recently, I really began to appreciate that a great idea can be recycled many times in different situations, and look great in each case.Regrettably, Silver Nemesis is a total rehash of Remembrance of the Daleks, and that is unacceptable, for a lack of originality becomes incredibly apparent. Rather than displaying the two stories' many similarities in list form, I intend to just roll them off: multiple factions of villains fight each other for control of an old Gallifreyan artefact, hoping to use it for their own good; the Gallifreyan artefact is used by the Doctor to destroy his main enemies, in a plan he conceived ages ago; in order to achieve this, he makes sure the artefact falls into the "right" hands; Omega and Rassilon get name-checked or alluded to, and the Doctor evades mentioning himself as one of their group; there are appearances by royals; a major shuttle craft lands in England, carrying legions of monsters, and looking very similar in both stories; the villains take over a few humans by mind control; Ace gets to run around and bash the monsters; the villainous leader, either the Dalek Supreme or Cyber Leader, survives the massacre of its race and is itself destroyed seconds later. That's quite telling. I could now try and rewrite Silver Nemesis under the title Destiny of the Axons, in which Axos attempts to get its hands on The Eye of Harmony, but that really would be stretching the limits of credibility.
A lamentable sign of the production team's lack of attention to detail is the gold arrow (yes, that gold arrow): it embeds itself in the TARDIS door in Part Two and is clearly missing by Part Three, although it is never seen being removed, but then it magically reappears in the door in the final minutes. All credit to BBC Wales for referencing this moment more subtly, and less sloppily, in The Shakespeare Code and Gridlock.
Those two humans that the Cybermen take over mentally, and who fire upon the Doctor for no apparent reason, have something in common with the irritating American tourist in Silver Nemesis: they are completely unnecessary. Saying any more about either of them would be a waste of time.
On a much more positive note, the recurrence of this plot device to do with old Gallifreyan technology slyly indicates that the Doctor is certainly not known to anyone. The net result is a quite enthralling scene in which Lady Peinforte explicitly alludes to this; not to mention the apparently random chess set that makes several appearances in Silver Nemesis, which plays (somewhat tenuously) into The Curse of Fenric. (Needless to say, this epic piece of storytelling slaughters Silver Nemesis.) This almost redeems the whole three episodes, but it simply is not enough to detract from everything else that goes badly; it does not help that Peinforte is an embarrassingly melodramatic character who may well have worked better in a William Hartnell serial. Redemption is not a concept that applies to stinkers, and this makes for another major humiliation for Silver Nemesis. Once the hole has been dug, it has been dug permanently. Let this be a word of warning to all authors (myself included): if you're writing a dreadfully overloaded story, which is a bad idea in itself, the net result for you and your work will inevitably be negative, no matter how hard you try to throw in good material.
A Review by Jamie Beckwith 11/10/11
It's been a long while since I've seen this one as, despite being a big fan of the Seventh Doctor, I do think some of his stories are less enjoyable; this one in particular. I remember it as being pretty much codswallop. So has my opinion changed?
Well no... BUT it was nonetheless enjoyable. Positive things: the Cybermen have never looked better, the Doctor and Ace are great together, Lady Peinfort and Richard are an absolute hoot and surely contenders for their own spin-off series, and the concept of dazzling Cyber transmissions with jazz is great. There's also some great SFX with the space ship landing and the Nemesis statue.
Unfortunately, into the mix we have to acknowledge that the Cybermen are pretty crap villains and are usually used terribly in Doctor Who stories, with the exception of Tomb of the Cybermen. We've a bunch of cliched Nazis who add nothing to the plot, a non cameo by the Queen and the terrible skinheads who think Peinfort and Richard are social workers. Erm, what?!
Rewatching though did give me pause to wonder if Steve Moffat has a sneaky liking for this story? Not only does it have copious uses of time travel, with implied wibbly wobbliness (Future Ace in 1788, whoever is moving the chess pieces on the board, unless it's meant to be Fenric), but also with a curly haired woman who knows the Doctor's secrets and a scene where the Doctor dons a fez and carries a mop!
Cryptically, Nemesis tells the Doctor he'll need her again in his future. Now I don't actually believe for a moment the following is true because I don't believe Moffat is bereft of ideas... but go with me here. What if River Song is a descendant of Peinfort who has been passed the secret of the Doctor (including that he is more than just a Time Lord)? Alternatively, what if she is the Nemesis statue herself?
If it turns out to be true, then you heard it here first!
"This is no madness. This is England." by Hugh Sturgess 5/5/16
The last three years of Doctor Who's original run show a dramatic and seemingly impossible upswing in quality, such that it has at least five stories that belong on anyone's "best of" list. Andrew Cartmel's work is clearly influenced by the new wave of comic book writers of the time, like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. The endless Aliens retreads end. Doctor Who suddenly becomes satirical, allegorical, vaguely mythic and with an aesthetic unity of purpose that lets it fly over frequent narrative incoherence. Cartmel-era Doctor Who is an intense experience, with an attention to the aesthetic coherence of a story that puts most other eras to shame. With the beginning of the 1988 season, the show hits a run of continual high quality. Even stories like Battlefield, often considered one of the weaker instalments, are very strong. Everyone is clearly willing to go that extra distance to make the show as good as possible, despite a vanishing budget and departed audience.
Silver Nemesis is the closest the Cartmel era (after a rocky start) has to a universally derided turkey, which makes it interesting in itself. What does bad Doctor Who in the age of Cartmel look like? If Silver Nemesis is any guide, it's when the show's creators relax and the train derails. The problem isn't the multitude of villains or the similarity with (and thus unflattering comparison to) Remembrance of the Daleks, or the fact that Ace and the Doctor don't do much of anything before the climax; rather, it's because successfully executing a story with all these things required a lot of effort, and that effort doesn't seem to have been applied.
Silver Nemesis was produced last in the season and broadcast earlier so it coincided with the show's twenty-fifth anniversary, and it feels like the half-hearted effort of a team looking to have a bit of fun at the end of the year. Cartmel-era Doctor Who is an intense experience, but here the production team and the actors appear to have decided to kick back and have an end-of-term party. Silver Nemesis looks like a decision to accept being second best.
The ideas are powerful, arguably a more potent stew than Remembrance of the Daleks. The orbit of Nemesis is clearly inspired by the then-fashionable theory that the Sun has a red or brown dwarf star shadowing it out beyond the Oort Cloud, the irregular orbit of which heralds mass extinctions on a twenty-six million year cycle. So who should turn up but the Cybermen, humanity's own dark twin? For all that the reasoning behind the inclusion of the Cybermen was hilariously shallow, they actually are well suited to such a story. The mythological figure of Nemesis is divine punishment for hubris, which is the Greek root of hybrid; a connection to the Cybermen, outrages against nature created by prideful people who fused man and machine, is tantalising. Despite years of jokes at De Flores's description of Wagner's giants ("They're vonderful creatures!"), describing the Cybermen in mythic terms is encouragingly operatic.
The Nemesis is tied to the broadcast history of the show through the conceit of its twenty-five-year orbit; it is the program's dark shadow. Similarly, Lady Peinforte, the second of the story's three villains, is a time-travelling magician, prone to name-dropping, who travels with a companion of the opposite sex. These parallels, and her claimed possession of the Doctor's secrets, make her a dark twin to the Doctor himself. Casting Leslie French, who was considered for the role of the Doctor back in 1963, as Peinforte's unfortunate mathematician further contributes to her construction as a mirror of the Doctor, a sort of "secret history" of the program. Finally, De Flores and his men are, if my memory does not lie, the only appearance in the original series of actual German Nazis, after twenty-five years of analogues - most obviously the Daleks, who are the Doctor's greatest enemies yet are paradoxically what turned the series into a national treasure.
On the face of it, a story built around these ghosts haunting the series, the new yet familiar, the distant yet near, assembled in pursuit of the lost history of Doctor Who itself could easily have been an epic story. It's not as though the series was incapable of handling these themes at this point in time. Remembrance of the Daleks and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy both interact directly with the show's history and as a cultural artefact in itself. The ways this story could be told are mind-boggling. You could follow De Flores's Wagner obsession and make it operatic - witches, warriors and silver giants fighting a sorcerer. Or you could have a bit more fun and ape Raiders of the Lost Ark (The Last Crusade alas comes a year too late to be an inspiration). But in actuality these concepts are left undeveloped, jostling with each other for space in a story that still finds time for endless jaunts in the TARDIS and contextually bizarre comic relief scenes featuring the Queen, street thugs and Dolores Gray.
Perhaps had the story emphasised one lot of villains per episode, then the themes they embody could have broken the surface. As it is, the jumble of characters and settings provides a pleasingly mental Part One, as we leap from Nazis in Argentina to occultism in the seventeenth century and then to the Doctor and Ace listening to jazz. Yet Part One is all set-up, and nothing is ever really developed. The villains wander around aimlessly, invariably screwing up when they aren't doing nothing at all. Each villain in turn gloats that they need only wait and the Nemesis will fall into their hands - and lets it slip through their fingers.
There is a scene edited out of the broadcast version (probably rightly so) in which De Flores and his men arrive at the scene of the Nemesis crash while policemen are guarding it. Instead of seizing it immediately, they go off to the pub to, De Flores suggests with a meaningful pause, "refresh" themselves (think how much more sense things make if you assume they're all tipsy), on the grounds that they can rely on the British police to effectively guard the alien weapon of mass destruction they have waited fifty years for while they're gone. As soon as they leave, the cops get gassed (the extended cut also explains that the gas is the work of the Cybermen).
Lady Peinforte is a superbly arch performance by Fiona Walker, and she gets all the best scenes. Still, this awesomely powerful sorceress does little but wander around for three episodes, getting into comic miscommunications and gloating that all things shall be hers without doing a damn thing to get them. Despite occult powers and knowledge of time travel, she seems woefully underprepared for her task. Like De Flores and the Cybermen, had she done any actual work to get the Nemesis, she would probably have succeeded. I suppose you could call the villains' excessive confidence hubris and thus to be expected in matters related to Nemesis, but it makes for very poor television.
The Cybermen, of course, come off worst. Visually, their new chrome finish is gorgeous, though overall I was struck by how ramshackle they appear. The cricket gloves sprayed silver are unfortunately very obvious. Instead of the Wagnerian giants, they are punchlines, being slain by gold-tipped arrows and gold coins with ease. As others have noted, gold is treated like silver to a werewolf, with no hint of the original reason for the weakness (that it clogs up their breathing apparatus because it doesn't corrode - which is weird anyway, both because the Cybermen clearly don't need to breathe and why is the metal's tendency to oxidise important?). Ironically, the use of gold dust (the original form of execution) only slightly inconveniences the CyberLeader. (And why does De Flores seem to feel that, because humans are not vulnerable to gold in the same way, they have nothing to fear from Peinforte's arrows?)
Peinforte dismisses the Cybermen swiftly, and their bizarre plan to drive her mad with the knowledge of her own death fails abysmally. Ace easily blows up their ship, and the Doctor somehow walks into a room filled with them and gets out without any of them grabbing him (in a well-executed scene, I concede). Their aim is worse than it has ever been, failing to hit Ace even when she is running straight towards them in plain sight. They really are beneath contempt here. And yet, as always, the CyberLeader smugly asserts that they "cannot fail". A cursory review of his historical data files would suggest otherwise. The Cybermen are truly terrible here, epitomising everything that makes them such generic, uninteresting villains. But what can we expect? They're the Cybermen. They're not good, but we're adults and we can live with that.
An interesting thing to ponder is the similarities between Silver Nemesis and the Moffat era. As I mentioned in my review of Battlefield, the McCoy era is so strikingly modern that it is much more of a piece with present-day Doctor Who than with the rest of the original series. The quantum leap between 1986 and 1988 (or even between 1987 and 1988, to be frank) is enormous. This is a Doctor who can pilot the TARDIS perfectly, hopping around time and space with ease as the plot unfolds. Peinforte has "found his secret out", a secret that appears to terrify him. The secret is the oldest question: "Doctor who?" The Doctor has a secret he will take to the grave...
Lady Peinforte and her manservant Richard get all the best scenes, but those scenes are the bizarre comic relief moments, like those with an alpaca ("The bear will not pursue us; such things happen only in the theatre"), two skinheads and Dolores Gray. Generally these bits, as well as the side-trip to Windsor Castle to visit the Queen, are considered unbearable, but I actually enjoy them. They're a lot of fun. The vignette with Mrs. Remington is actually quite funny; for some reason I couldn't stop laughing at her slightly dubious reply to Richard's comment that the ride from London should take two days: "Well, actually the traffic was pretty reasonable." The uncut version includes a small moment of humour shortly beforehand, when Peinforte waits at what looks like a bus stop while Richard tries to flag down a car, and the sorceress quietly mutters to herself, "All things shall be mine..."
Silver Nemesis is notorious for these contextually bizarre gag scenes, which seem utterly at odds with the tone of the rest of the story. It feels like a party. A three-part story is long by modern standards, but in 1988 it means a vital economy is required. Yet there is far more padding than in Remembrance of the Daleks, despite being an episode shorter. With three sets of villains, a talking MacGuffin and the Doctor and Ace, the story still finds the time to give us the Windsor episode (even longer in the original cut, including a long and pointless chase scene around the castle) and Dolores.
There's nothing wrong with the comedy scenes in themselves (even the "social workers!" bit with the skinheads), but they affect the story negatively in two ways. First, they break up an already crowded story. Secondly, it turns the scenes with Peinforte and Richard from drama to pure comedy. Peinforte is not a bloodthirsty, ruthless sorceress from the Dark Ages, returned to claim her terrible inheritance in the present day, but a batty old lady who is wary of alpacas, gets into tussles with street toughs and goes completely nuts without any prompting. In another scene cut from the broadcast version, the Doctor strongly hints that the mathematician only succeeded in calculating the Nemesis's orbit with a bit of help from the Doctor, presumably so he could lure Peinforte and finish her off; the lady we see on screen is not worth the effort.
(The uncut version also creates an unsolved mystery. When the Doctor and Ace are searching Windsor Castle for the bow of Nemesis, they learn that it was stolen in 1788. Later, they return to Peinforte's home and find that the mathematician's body has vanished. The Doctor makes a noise of agreement when Ace asks whether the body was taken by the same person who took the bow. So... who was it? If it was the Doctor, then why did they bother looking for the bow in the first place? Since it's strongly implied he helped out in the mathematician's calculations - he goes there to destroy one of his papers - why would his other (future?) self remove the body but not the evidence? It hardly seems like a Doctorish thing to do in any case. How did De Flores end up with the bow? Surely the Doctor didn't think De Flores was such a threat he needed to hatch a centuries-long trap for him? Since he spends a lot of time brooding over the chess set later referenced in The Curse of Fenric, does it have something to do with Fenric?)
The whole effort seems entirely too relaxed. The Doctor squares off against a woman so crazy she is mostly a danger to herself, robots who are fatally vulnerable to old coins and washed up neo-Nazis who can't spend five minutes on the job without going to the pub. There is no feeling of a coherent story behind the jumble of elements. The villains mill about for a while, the Doctor and Ace rush around occasionally intersecting with them, and finally the Nemesis blows everything up. The idea that this is some awesome trap conceived by the Doctor is comical. He went to that much trouble to get these idiots? Not merely does the story feel like an end-of-term party, it feels like a first draft that the authors raced to finish, junking the interesting elements they started out with.
It's for this reason that the revelation that the Doctor has sprung a complex trap on the Cybermen falls so flat, not just because something identical just happened in Remembrance of the Daleks. It doesn't feel earned. It is free-riding on the premise of that earlier story - the Doctor's plan is an easy way of invoking mystery and complexity in a plot that has hitherto been a mess. Yet even then the story cops out. Peinforte has been teasing the Doctor's secret throughout, and yet when she comes to reveal it, she just teases more explicitly, until the CyberLeader dismisses her: "The secrets of the Time Lord are of no interest to us." The diminution of Peinforte from a powerful sorceress who knows the Doctor better than anyone else to a rambling madwoman is complete. It was just a bluff all along.
Silver Nemesis is one of those frustrating stories that has all the bones of a great story but a failure of execution. Nevertheless, I'd rather have an interesting but ultimately failed story than an unambitious and unqualified success. Silver Nemesis looks so weak because its context is the centre of one of the strongest runs in Doctor Who history. It isn't so bad by the standards of plenty of other eras.