|(Doctor Who Story No. 154, starring Sylvester McCoy)
- written by Kevin Clarke
- directed by Chris Clough
- produced by John Nathan-Turner
- music by Keff McCulloch, with jazz source numbers by Courtney Pine
- 3 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: A race is on to capture the power of
a legendary Gallifreyan statue. Lady Peinforte
wields the dark arts of the past, while
a military cult employs the weapons of present day
1988, and the Cybermen arrive with the technology
of the future. The Doctor is also ensnared
by his previous involvement with the statue,
and some of his oldest secrets may come to light....
DVD Extras include:
- Audio commentary by Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor),
Sophie Aldred (Ace),
director Chris Clough,
and script editor Andrew Cartmel.
- "Industrial Action" retrospective making-of featurette (33 min.)
adding Gerard Murphy (Richard),
writer Kevin Clarke,
stunt arranger Nick Gillard,
and musician Courtney Pine.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (22 min.)
- Audio Options: 5.1 Dolby mix and Isolated Music
- Photo Gallery
- Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
VHS Extras include:
- Special extended version of the story
- NJN's Making of Doctor Who / Silver Nemesis
special, interviewing cast & crew on location
during the taping of the story. (58 min.),
with McCoy, Aldred, Clough, Murphy, Clarke,
Fiona Walker (Lady Peinforte),
David Banks (Cyber Leader),
Anton Diffring (De Flores),
producer John Nathan-Turner,
production manager Gary Downie,
lighting manager Ian Dow,
designer John Asbridge,
video effects supervisor Dave Chapman,
assistant floor manager Lynne Grant, and
composer Keff McCulloch.
Hosted by Eric Luskin.
Buyers' Guide Review
by Martin Izsak
(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended
for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed
This story had the ambition to try to become the main event for
the 25th Anniversary of Doctor Who's beginning, and indeed its first episode
holds up quite well while cashing in on the precise timing of its
November 23rd, 1988 broadcast slot.
But though the central idea easily sells itself as something that
should turn out to be exciting, this tale has great trouble figuring out how
to make the interaction between its various competing forces of characters
believable and compelling, and ends up reusing too many ideas we've seen
elsewhere recently, feeling like a re-run at half-proficiency.
Early portions are largely fueled by the calculated anticipation of
all the various characters meeting and coming into conflict with each other,
which for the most part means that they will all be introduced separately
and kept apart for a while. This kind of tension is made to
work well, while remaining immune from most of the
interaction believability problems that later crop up.
Though the TARDIS
is once more treated as just a background detail of the Doctor's existence,
it's a particularly busy one in this adventure, as we see far more
satisfying movement of the vehicle in these three episodes than we usually
would in an entire season of Doctor Who. Only after the materialization
effect has been done many times do they start skimping on it here and there,
and at that stage, one doesn't mind so much. Sadly, the interior does
not feature at all - with its most important scenes being rewritten for
outdoor gatherings around Ace's ghettoblaster. Not very nostalgic
or Anniversary-like in my book.
When the characters finally do come together, we get bizarre flip-flops
in the style of their interactions with each other,
and trying to follow the logic behind all these changes of tactics
is a struggle. Sometimes it works, sometimes it's ridiculous as written,
sometimes it needs far more careful blocking of character movements and
cameras than the director and crew could find time for.
The bottom line may well be that these characters are all too self-centered
and violently antagonistic towards each other to be able to sustain a
satisfying drama when put together. Even the one-dimensional
"you can't shoot me because I'm holding the Tarranium" gag, initiated in
"The Dalek Masterplan" (story no. 21)
and copied half a dozen times
in later stories, might offer an improvement in clarity and believability
over the much more complicated face-to-face tactics attempted here,
even if it still isn't the greatest idea.
The Cybermen are the most famous draw amongst the story's villains,
but this isn't one of their greatest showings, probably competing with
"The Wheel in Space" (story no. 43)
for the honour of their
lightest, least effective story.
Some of their most staple story ideas
are thrown casually into the mix here, without any hint of the atmosphere
that such ideas should be at the center of.
However, watch for some VERY exciting, energetic, atmospheric Cybermen
beats in the later portions - which I think show where talented director
Chris Clough's efforts went before the production ran out of time.
The South American neo-nazis led by Anton Diffring's character
are really never interesting at any point. They're not really a great
idea as written, and none of them receive very inspired performances
from the actors.
Lady Peinforte and her sidekick Richard drip with the atmosphere
of a British medieval theatre production, which I suppose is the
"romantically correct" modern interpretation of life in the 1600's.
There's quite a bit of rich "fish out of water" drama
sprinkled throughout the story for these two, alternating between
comedic and dark creepy moments, but sadly this is often at odds
with the plot, not finding a place where it complements action
and motivation. Fiona Walker and Gerard Murphy milk the roles
for as much of a sense of classical drama as they can, until these
two easily become the most compelling guest stars that the story has.
Again, the arbitrary decision to continue to shoot a story all on
location while the same team does a completely different story all in the
studio seems to have been disadvantageous with the pairing of
"Silver Nemesis" and
"The Happiness Patrol" (the previous story),
and I'm not at all sure why they continued to do it. If it's about saving
money by not having to book the same members of the cast for both
location and studio sessions, maybe they should have just written stories
with smaller casts in the first place, as these three-parters seem to be
filled with more characters than one can properly appreciate, and many
of them inevitably get short-changed in development and/or have their
scenes cut for time.
"Silver Nemesis" probably would have worked better with some studio
work - the scenes in Lady Peinforte's crypt in 1988 probably would have been
more spacious and received better camera blocking (in fact, ditto for
Peinforte's 1638 study), the Cybermen would have been
more clearly audible whenever they're inside buildings, and scenes inside
the Cyber spaceships and the Doctor's TARDIS would have helped keep the
science fiction background of these characters more pronounced and powerful.
Special effects are a bit disappointing, and my disappointment has
quite a specific arc this time around - though I'd already seen
Ace's debut story "Dragonfire" (story no. 151),
the New Jersey Network's "Making of Doctor Who Silver Nemesis"
50-minute special aired here in North America before I saw anything of
season 25, and it helped shape my expectations of this story.
Specifically, long time video effects man Dave Chapman gives an interview
where he justifies his presence on location, saying how he is ensuring
that the footage will be ideal for easily superimposing laser effects
on top, and indicating that the new cyber weapons will show the energy
rings actually moving from weapon to target. I was over the moon upon
hearing that, believing we would finally be getting what we'd always
deserved in laser effects. If only Chapman had been on the floor of
"Warriors of the Deep" (story no. 131) and
"Resurrection of the Daleks" (story no. 134),
maybe they would've turned out better as well.
Then I saw the amazing work Chapman did for
"Remembrance of the Daleks" (story no. 152),
and I felt sure that the cyber weapons would finally be truly awesome
and cool. Finally, "Silver Nemesis" came along....
and revealed that Chapman had added nothing to the picture at all.
What the hell?!?! I don't know why so many British people working
in science-fiction settle so easily for spark-charges going off all
by themselves. It's definitely sillier that way.
The effects Chapman does work on are not always so great either....
but I'll save those details for the
in-depth analysis version of this review.
Thankfully, the Doctor and Ace are a highly enjoyable and entertaining
pair as usual, providing a great deal of the story's draw. Sophie Aldred
seems as fluid in the role as she was in
"The Happiness Patrol", although the writing is
largely much better for her here.
Still, one scene in particular sticks out sorely,
where Ace stops everything to tell the Doctor that she's really scared,
and then promptly shrugs it all off to go tackle the danger
of the day. This doesn't seem to actually do anything for plot, or
character arcs, nor does it fit Ace's character, particularly as she
has no idea what actually awaits her in the next parts of the story....
Although many of the ideas for this story feel unique at first,
the ending can easily leave you feeling like you've seen the whole thing
done better before. But there is
a lot to enjoy here, and even the repeated bits work well to
cement into place McCoy's take on the long-running character.
This is a fun story.
A good part of the fun is undoubtedly NJN's documentary on the story's
production. (See the commercially available VHS videos, if you haven't
yet had occasion to tape it off of TV.)
Unlike a lot of other contemporary TV interviews and appearances
from the time, there is a great deal of energy, enthusiasm, and candor
among this cast and crew behind the scenes, as they tackle adversity to
accomplish their project. Undoubtedly this spills over in front of the
camera as well.
In many ways, this tale manages to encapsulate most
of the pros and cons of McCoy's era, and to become one of the most nostalgic
of his installments. Even though it doesn't quite manage to be one of his
best, it remains enjoyable and is a lot of fun.
This story has become available on DVD and VHS video.
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