Doctor Who #687: Silver Nemesis Part 2

"A Cyberman killed with an arrow? But that's ludicrous."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.30 1988.

IN THIS ONE... Events converge on Lady Peinforte's tomb. The Doctor discovers the hidden Cyber fleet.

REVIEW: It's starting to smell a lot more like Remembrance up in here, as the Doctor name-drops Rassilon and Omega again (but not himself, despite Ace's prodding) and makes the Nemesis a Time Lord artifact apparently responsible for causing war and assassinations every 25 years as its orbit brings it close to Earth (a major miscalculation on his part; also, see Theories). There's also a sequence where the Doctor asks Ace to use the explosives he's told her not to carry, and an enemy force out in space, waiting. Oh, and Remembrance also had Nazis, or at least, a Nazi sympathizer. Was Kevin Clarke copying on Ben Aaronovitch's notes?

I'm also straining to buy into the sense of fun the story is evidently going for. Peinforte's henchman Richard being afraid of llamas (it turns out the Nemesis is hidden in a safari park). The Cyber Leader having placed it at the 1638 villains' tombs to make them go insane with the realization of their own deaths, something Peinforte is more than immune to (she's already insane, I'd say). The absurdity of arrows downing Cybermen. The muggers who confront Peinforte and find themselves strung up a tree in their underwear. Even the otherwise neat bit where the Doctor jams the the Cyber signals with jazz. It all falls a little flat. Why? Varies. Sometimes it's the pacing (too much of the Doctor's leisurely bits), sometimes it's not earned (the gold arrows who just get mashed up and not pierce Cyber armor; the muggers wind up extremely far away from the mugging). In fact, a lot of Silver Nemesis feels unearned. The Cybermen have converts (who look like couch potato robo-men) that are explained after the fact. All the villains know way too much about each other (the Cybermen place the Nemesis inside Peinforte's tomb?!). It's like we're missing a number of scenes that would make the episode's narrative structure a lot smoother.

Still, it's not an unentertaining mix, only an unfocused one. It ALMOST gets us there. I like, for example, Ace feeling guilty over the robo-men getting killed over her destruction of the Cyber-ship. She's a good kid. I also want to mention the arrow that gets stuck in the TARDIS, which also happens in the new series (The Shakespeare Code), in case you didn't know this era was the biggest influence on RTD's But yeah, this is mostly about the villain factions trying to outplay each other while our heroes lounge about in the country waiting for the last man, woman or Cyberman standing.

THEORIES: In light of what we know thanks to the new series, is it possible the Validium/Nemesis and the Hand of Omega are Time War weapons? Think about it. The Daleks went after the Hand and it was used to destroy Skaro. The Cybermen are after Nemesis, and they too are time-active. Both were apparently created by Rassilon and Omega (and possibly the Other/Doctor). The Nemesis can CREATE war, which surely isn't a property normal for any metal. We're talking about epic-strength artifacts, and the Doctor may be trying to keep them FROM his own people, or just from their enemies, depending on his involvement. If the Time War is going on RIGHT NOW, it explains some of the inconsistencies. The first Doctor, taken out of time to hide the Hand, changing his history to set his 7th self up. Doc7 leaving Ace somewhere between Dragonfire and Remembrance so he could take part in some way, and returning to her (because Fenric) a changed man, less of a clown and more of a dark mastermind. And we did see a "Rassilon" in charge of Gallifrey in The End of Time, so he and Omega might be resurrected to fight in the War, which makes it much more possible for the Doctor to work with them on creating these apocalyptic weapons.  Who knows what kind of temporal shenanigans he got up to in an untold interstitial story? Remember, we never see the Time Lords or Gallifrey after the Trial. It could even explain the whacked-out opening speech in the TV Movie. But I realize I'm well off the reservation now.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - It's having fun, but pacing and tone never gel quite right.


Madeley said...

I remember really liking Silver Nemesis as a kid- the Cybermen have always been my favourite Who villains, even if they haven't really been any good since The Invasion- but I've found I like the story less every time I watch it.

The shoddiness kills it for me. The actress playing Lady Peinforte is on the awful side of camp (although actually really creepy as Nemesis, go figure), and the 17th Century scenes are twee and cheesy instead of intriguing. And the Cyberman are totally pointless, just shoehorned in.

But there's a skeleton of a GREAT story here, and the foreshadowing is amazing, so far ahead of its time. The chess game can be read one way in the context of first viewing, and then changes COMPLETELY post-Fenric. They warp forward in time, it seems, because of the properties of Validium, but the events of Fenric suggest what we're actually seeing is a time storm, making Peinforte one of his Wolves. Was Fenric expecting to be free on Earth by 1988, with Peinforte there to deliver Nemesis to him? Was Nemesis herself meant to be an all-powerful vessel for Fenric to inhabit?

Siskoid said...

Right! I didn't go into it as far as I could have (maybe during Fenric), but that is exactly right.

Fenric is a bad wolf, isn't he?

Madeley said...

At the time I was desperate for the Bad Wolf to be Fenric, even though in my heart of hearts I knew Russell T was never going to use such a relatively obscure enemy in the relaunch.

Crazy to think it's exactly ten years since he was appointed as the new Who producer.

Siskoid said...

While I also thought that would be awesome, I knew (and even argued at the time) it wasn't going to happen, not a new series trying to forge its own mythology so as not to lose new recruits. This was the year we never even left Earth, after all.


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