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Silver Nemesis

Reviewed by Graham Howard

Silver Nemesis was something of a disappointment to me. I liked the Doctor/Ace relationship, and even from one story it seems clear they "gel" together as a team. As for the story itself, the return of the Cybermen, being my favourite Doctor Who "monster", was the biggest drawcard but ultimately the biggest disappointment. Their sudden appearance at the end of episode one with no build up or explanation, gave the impression that they had been added as an afterthought, as they weren't really necessary to the plot. If the Cybermen had not been included I would suspect the `Fourth Reich' would have had a larger role in the story. With chunks of the story apparently being edited out, the end result was that three episodes was simply not long enough, and the story seemed incomplete in places. The Cybermen themselves looked impressive although I prefer the helmets of the sixties episodes. I also prefer the emotionless "metallic grating" Cybermen voices of the sixties. Although this may not make for "sustainable dramatic characters" in Paul Scoones' view (TSV 10) in my opinion it is this emotionless quality which gives them their menace, and, after all they are supposed to be emotion-less. I was pleased to see that they were invulnerable to bullets, but their weakness to gold was overdone to the point of it being severely reducing to the credibility of the Cybermen. The low point of the story for me had to be Ace being able to destroy Cybermen with a slingshot and gold coins - surely a race as advanced as the Cybermen would have removed, or at least worked out some defence to such a debilitating weakness. This along with the amazingly inaccurate aiming of their weapons served to remove any menace or fear the Cybermen may have been able to evoke. If all this sounds like I hated the story, I didn't - in many ways I liked it more than Revelation of the Daleks - but I just feel it could have been much better.

Reviewed by Ken Tod

Silver Nemesis was quite a good yarn, although I think a bit over-rated considering the build up it got. The scenes with the American tourist was unnecessary and the Cybermen are just too vulnerable, being destroyed by gold tipped arrows dipped in poison is rather hard to believe. Their vulnerability to gold has become the same as the Doctor's sonic screwdriver - a crutch for writers to lean on, or an easy way out of a difficult situation - very unoriginal. Surely with the changes Cybermen have undergone they could redesign their breathing units so that they are not affected by gold. The clash between the Nazis and Cybermen was good, at least they weren't being blown apart left, right and centre. Then Ace zaps them with gold coins, oh dear. The revelation about the Doctor's background was a non-event for me, perhaps more will be revealed in season 26.

Reviewed by Richard Scheib

Silver Nemesis (a really poetic title) was a reasonable improvement. McCoy I'm still making my mind up about, but I'm sure he will grow. Ace is the best companion since Leela, or at least Romana 1, but she wasn't put to much use here. The story was only ho-hum, rather too much running about from Point A to Point B and back again. Rather liked the idea of the Nemesis but never developed. Also irritating was the character of Lady Peinforte - the script never defining the nature of her relationship with the Doctor, nor adequately how she manages to travel through time. The mystery about the Doctor thrown in was irritating, seeming to suggest that he may not be a Time Lord after all, thrown in with all the hallmarks of something to create a mystery effect, unlikely ever to be followed up on. Better were the throwaway lines of humour - the glimpse of a certain royal person walking her corgis at Windsor castle, the encounter between Lady Peinforte and an American tourist. Must admit I find it difficult to take the new credits - the graphics are excellent but the new theme is inferior to the old and sounds as tinnily mixed as your average Flying Nun record.

Reviewed by Adam Schwarz

Silver Nemesis: fantastic! Impressive is every sense. The production was tight and robust, with the production team finally seeing fit to place the incidental music around rather than all over the dialogue (compare Revelation of the Daleks and even some of the Peter Davison stories). Sylvester McCoy was outstanding as the Doctor, displaying a perfect mix of gravity and frivolity. I was also impressed with the show seemingly being pitched at a more adult audience (compare the lamentably childish and overly slapstick season 24, eg. Dragonfire). Here's hoping that that is the tone of all of season 25, and that it continues.

And now to the startling revelation: so it seems that the Doctor was a contemporary of the big R. Perhaps he was granted a new regeneration cycle like the Master was offered in The Five Doctors. In this case I guess one would retain vestigial memories of the previous cycle (or in the Doctor's case, I wage he could read all about himself in history books anyway. Even better if he kept a diary). Or he may have been cryogenically frozen or something about the time of Rassilon's final bedtime, to be reawakened in time for the TV series. No doubt many more explanations will be volunteered. As to his importance on the cosmic scale of things, I think the Doctor's line, "not yet, things are still imperfect" (uttered in reply to the statue's query as to whether she was free yet) is quite significant. Ordinarily, I would be wary of reading too much into any one line, but with this story, designed for a revelation and an anniversary, and everything and all that, I think it may be okay. This line (and the rest of the mysteriousness at the end of the story) seems to suggest that rather than being just an amiable renegade struggling against evil, injustice and other nasties largely because of personal values, the Doctor is in fact a major proponent of the force of good in the universe, playing a significant role in the achievement of "perfection" (refer line quoted above) which I suspect would be the eradication of all evil in the universe.

Reviewed by Alistair Hughes

Silver Nemesis impressed me very much. I found the story to be an ideal length. The most interesting and enjoyable characters seen in some time were well established, if not developed, (a bit of a bonus for Doctor Who especially in a mere three episodes) the narrative was kept at a cracking pace throughout, with still time for explanations (and a certain un-explanation) tension was allowed to build and welcome (for a change) humour to feature.

After the wanton devastation of the Who mythos at the end of Season 23, it was very refreshing to have some of the mystery replaced. Lady Peinforte's line "Doctor Who, indeed?" said it all, and all that needs to be said, as far as I (and, thankfully, the late Cyberleader) are concerned. Having said that, I was still intrigued by the Doctor's own startling degree of involvement and responsibility for the events causing the story and the over all concept of 'living metal'.

I enjoyed the humour immensely, particularly the superb Black magic time-travel sequence, depositing a howling Lady Peinforte and Richard into a contemporary country pub, complete with apparently unfazed patrons. In a similar vein the complete non-reaction of the Cybermen, when a deft adjustment brought Ace's jazz music blaring from the cyberscanner, was also amusing.

The satisfying conclusion was unexpected, but with quite a traditional climax (both in Who and dramatic terms in general). Our heroes and antagonists arrive (by various means) at the same final destination for the object of their quest. A revelation and sacrifice ensue, resulting in a fiery conclusion as the tables are turned at the last moment.

The acting and direction were, in my opinion, easily of the standard to make such an interesting story work. Foremost on NZ Who fans minds on 25 November must have been speculation about Sylvester McCoy himself. I would have to say that I've never taken to a 'new' Doctor quite so quickly. Being of Scottish origin myself, perhaps his accent helped, but McCoy managed to be everything at once. Endearingly clownish (not irritatingly so as Troughton and Baker were sometimes prone to be). Determined yet flippant, athletic but vulnerable, compassionate though uncompromising. His almost guilty evading of Ace's urgent questions as he toyed with the chess board in Lady Peinforte's Manor made him appear almost sinister. For the first time in years the Doctor's own motives appeared in question.

I was slightly disconcerted to find that I didn't really know why he might do, rather than what. It was suddenly easy to believe that this was the same Time Lord who had once sabotaged the TARDIS, endangering his companions, simply to satisfy his own curiosity. But in the end McCoy triumphed in the best Who fashion, only just but with style, and a future for Planet Earth and Doctor Who is ensured.

If I instantly warmed to the lead, the same must be said for the support. Not since Romana 1 had I so readily accepted a new companion; the convincingness of Sophie Aldred's actions and responses pleased me greatly. An obvious example being Ace's earlier admission of being "really frightened" to her later courageous defense against the Cybermen, 'Silver Nemesis' seemed to contain ample opportunity for Ace to develop.

Every other character was a sheer delight from Lady Peinforte and Richard (a real Holmesian duo) to the royal security officer at Windsor Castle, but the most notable to me was the Nazi Commander. The character was so convincing that I found it difficult to believe he wouldn't catch a plane back to his South American villa when filming finished.

The two battle sequences were well handled, the Cybermen vs the fourth Reich skirmish being suitably exciting without undermining the 'invulnerable' image of the Cybermen. (great to see them once again shrugging off machine-gun fire!) Ace's frantic scrape with them was compelling, though I can't help wishing that the Cybermen weren't quite so methodically defeated (why don't they simply cover their chest units, for goodness sake!). The wounded Cyberman toppling from the gantry to crash beside the Tardis in a shower of sparks was a lovely shot, but what is the point in Cybernising if reflexes become so slow that one tends to shoot comrades in arms rather than the enemy? David Banks once again brought impossible depth to the emotionless Cyberleader. (I actually cheered when he pulled out the gold coin!)

But have a special interest in effects it was the production values which really got me. The definite highlight was the awakening of the Nemesis. The entire sequence, culminating in the exterior shot of the Abbey wracked by a supernatural storm as the window explodes outwards, was awesome. Even my fiancee, inclined to treat the programme with distain, was caught up by this. It and the time travel sequence were surely of cinematic standard.

Other pleasant surprises included the theme sequence and music (traditional and state-of-the-art well combined), the richness of the incidental music and the abundance of location work.

I feel that the evident time, skill and energy put into these area; script, direction and acting, production and the consistency with which each was lavished is at least part of the reason why Silver Nemesis was such a memorable experience. A strong performance wasn't let down by a weak effect, or a potentially tense moment lost through bad direction, everything gelled to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary in fine style.

Review by Graham Muir

Silver Nemesis in general, was the sort of Doctor Who story the fans shouldn't dislike too much. On one hand it contained the elements of a traditional Who plot whilst also having the glossy look and humour of the eighties Doctor Who.

Kevin Clark turned in an interesting storyline with original ideas combining 17th century time travellers, a small army of Nazis and the Cybermen all pursuing a statue of living metal. This intriguing mixture kept the story going at a good pace and it only slowed down towards the end.

Chris Clough's direction was good and he seems to be able to handle location work well. His battle scenes were excellent especially the one between the Nazis and the Cybermen. It was pleasing to see the Cybermen standing up to machine guns again, but I do wish the whole plot device of having gold as the Cybermen's weakness hadn't been created, since nearly all the writers nowadays make it so obvious and overuse the fact to kill them off. If fact the Cybermen seemed to have more character than usual and didn't seem quite as emotionless. This made it hard not to feel sorry for them as they got killed off in the traditional gruesome and dramatic JNT fashion!

As for the other villains of the piece, De Flores and his Nazis weren't terribly outstanding but were an original contribution to the storyline. Fiona Walker's role as Lady Peinforte was much more interesting. Lady villains work well on Doctor Who and it was a shame that she was killed off at the end. Lady Peinforte was quite nasty and rather mysterious at the same time. It would have been interesting to discover a bit more about her.

Gerald Murphy's Richard wasn't as good. He was meant to be portrayed as a lovable bad guy, and it didn't really work (one had to remember he did help murder that poor old man at the start!). Still, he would have been a good companion. What a shame the TARDIS actually got him home!

Incidentally, the TARDIS seemed to be working well, going all over the place in Time and Space. I have always thought it couldn't do small hops! Must be the fact it likes Earth!

The set pieces scattered across the story weren't bad. The scene with the two yobbos hassling Peinforte and Richard was very amusing and was reminiscent of Funny Business. The scene at Windsor Castle, likewise, was pretty inoffensive also, if a little pointless. But the sub-plot of the rich American woman was a complete waste of time. It was nothing more than an excuse to pad out the last half hour!

I can't help noticing the introducing of comic Americans in the show. The two agents in Delta and the Bannermen were rather irrelevant to that story as was this woman. Looks like Andrew Cartmel thinks he's doing The Avengers what with all these eccentric characters popping up in the current series. That in itself is not a bad thing, but I would prefer if these characters played more importance to the plot.

I didn't mind her in Dragonfire, but in this story I found Ace disappointing. She had some rather childish lines and sounded bored and lifeless at various points in the story. This may or may not be Miss Aldred's fault, but she sure got up my nose!

Sylvester McCoy was much better. I think McCoy is a great Doctor and acts like one. He's not as callous as Colin Baker, and is a return to the moral, just and eccentric Doctor of old! Although McCoy's promise off the Doctor being more sinister in this story did not appear, he still played the role of Doctor as good as he ever had. There may have been no sign of being sinister, but McCoy did add a bit of mystery to the Doctor which has been missing over the last few years.

Another thing that didn't crop up in Silver Nemesis was the so-called "shock revelation" about the Doctor's past. I was on the edge of my seat when Lady Peinforte was threatening to reveal the Doctor's secret and what happens? Nothing! What a rotten trick! Though, to be honest, the story revealed the Doctor did have some power of his own. Nemesis obeyed his command to destroy the Cyberfleet and the Doctor's remark of needing Nemesis again in the future did not pass unnoticed. It will be interesting to see if the next production team will follow up this intriguing storyline.

Overall, I thought that Silver Nemesis was a step in the right direction. More stories like this with less emphasis on humour will give the show a good kick in the pants. Here's hoping the next producer will keep that in mind!

Reviewed by Jon Preddle

As I had seen all the other stories shown for the Jubilee Week before, Silver Nemesis was the only new Doctor Who story for me. And what a story!

My first impressions were "What? Huh?" This is because I had read that the real reasons for why the Doctor left Gallifrey would finally be revealed, as well as who he is. I even contacted the NZ Herald who kindly quoted me in the article that appeared in the Friday 25 November issue. So what happens? I spend the whole time watching and waiting for this revelation and in doing so missed most of the plot!

However, thanks to modern science and technology (e.g. VCRs!) I watched the story again and have come to the conclusion that it is McCoy's best story. (It should be noted that at that time, I had not seen Remembrance of the Daleks, which I now consider to be the best McCoy story.)

The return of the Cybermen always excites me, as they are my favourite monsters, however, the latest Cyber-stories have left a lot to be desired under JNT, so I was a bit sceptical at first. Unfortunately my fears were founded, and the silver monsters were irrelevant to the story (it could have been any alien, new or old - the Zygons perhaps?).

But, that aside, it was still an enjoyable story. The in-jokes and continuity links were fun and didn't ruin the story for the casual viewer, but the story was a bit messy. By this I mean we have four groups - the Doctor and Ace, Richard and Lady Peinforte (Peinforte is a French word meaning severe and harsh punishment), the Nazis lead by De Flores, and of course, the Cybermen - all seeking the Nemesis statue, the existence of which could spell the end of the world. Then, at the climax, all four groups come together in the warehouse - and nothing happens!!!

As for Lady Peinforte's time travel capabilities - I hardly think that a potion and a few funny rhymes would enable one to travel to the future. Mind you, the explanation of how Ace got to Svartos in Dragonfire was a bit corny (the Cartmel Factor??).

But what did we learn about the Doctor's past? A lot!!! From what I could deduce from the story, the Doctor was involved with Rassilon and Omega - either directly or indirectly (as was hinted at in Remembrance) - and the development of Validium. This substance was developed as the ultimate defence for Gallifrey. I gather that the Doctor experimented with it and gave it life. It had an evil nature and its influence caused a Time of Chaos on the planet. Ashamed at what he had caused, the Doctor fled Gallifrey (with Susan) taking with him the Hand Of Omega (see Remembrance of the Daleks) and the Validium, which he expelled into space. The metal travelled the heavens causing destruction and disaster - which is why the Doctor must now redeem himself for his ways by helping other planets. The metal eventually crashes on Earth, where Lady Peinforte makes it into a statue. The metal told her of Gallifrey and of its Creator - the Doctor. She became obsessed when the Doctor arrived, having located the metal in 1638. The Doctor launched the statue into space, left the arrow with its owner, and gave the bow to Charles I (the reigning monarch at the time) for safekeeping. The bow, and the coordinates worked out by the mathematician, were stolen from the castle in 1788, and eventually came into the possession of De Flores. The Doctor calculated that the Statue would return to Earth every 25 years and cause havoc - and would crash again in 1988. He therefore set his alarm clock to remind him.

Exactly how the Cybermen know all about the statue and Lady Peinforte was never revealed - and they seem to recognise the Doctor. That is just one of the few unanswered questions. There are others, but not important ones.

Overall, the locations were well utilised, the story having been filmed entirely on location, and the regulars, the Doctor and Ace, have settled into their roles. I am sure, that given the right scripts, and if he loses his clownish mannerisms, McCoy will really shine.

For those who didn't realise - New Zealand was the first country in the world to see all of Silver Nemesis! Only episode 1 had screened in the UK - two nights before!

This item appeared in TSV 11 (January 1989).

Index nodes: Silver Nemesis