Silver Nemesis marks the return of the Cybermen. Again.
Shiny new Cybermen which now look absurdly shiny. So much, in fact, that you could probably eat your dinner off them if you could avoid being throttled.
Oh, by the way, spoiler alert.
If Survival looks like a prototype for Russell T Davies, then surely Silver Nemesis must be the harbinger of Steven Moffat’s version of the show.
The opening few minutes of the show look like a master-class in how to emulate Moffat. The first few scenes are in different locations in time and space, a conceit that the Moff would make his own a few decades later. As such, I liked this touch. I thought it was a very effective handling of the show’s unique ability to jump about the time vortex like a box full of temporal frogs.
Also like Moffat, Silver Nemesis makes you feel like you have walked into the plot halfway through the story. We are provided with cryptic clues all the way through the story so that it feels like a sequel to an story we haven’t seen. What would be handy is if Sylvester McCoy provided a voice-over at the start: “Previously NOT on Doctor Who…”
Rather surprisingly, this is a story celebrating the silver anniversary. Surprisingly because, unless you are a Whovian geek like me, you would never have guessed that this was anything but a normal adventure. I assume this is why the Cybermen have all been silver-plated. Either that or they just don’t give a crap about sticking out like a sore thumb.
The titular Nemesis is a statue/weapon that looks nothing like Lady Peinforte. It more resembles a Tenth Planet era Cyberman with a River Song wig. This is not as sexy as it may sound.
And Lady Peinforte? She is an aristocratic witch from 1638 who never uses a door if she can smash through a window instead. But she does have a rather nifty black magic method of time travel so I can forgive her window smashing excesses. Oh, and she has a rather well-acted soppy henchman called Richard who spends the three episodes of the story in a state of constant bewilderment.
A third group, the last remnant of the Third Reich, which consists of one old man and a bunch of hired mercenaries, are in South America with dreams of a Fourth Reich. But quicker than you can say “Achtung, baby”, they have somehow detected the Nemesis and had it away on their toes to Blighty.
The Nemesis is a weapon that is described in nebulous terms. It somehow causes bad things to happen. Everyone is pretty vague about how they plan to use it. A pointless weapon as well considering that two of the three groups who want it, don’t actually need it. The Cybermen have enough power and weaponry as it is. Lady Peinforte has her magic abilities to back her up. Considering that the lady is from 17th century England, why hasn’t she used her witchy powers to subdue the country and become queen? If I were a psycho Jacobean bint, that is what I would do. Turn everyone into toads, oust the king and begin a reign of terror. Simples! But then again, I favour doors over windows as a means of egress, so what do I know?
The only one who does need the Nemesis is De Flores the German. He is seeking it so that Nazism can have a comeback tour. Somehow, with the Nemesis, he and his bunch of hired thugs will take over the world and usher in the glorious Fourth Reich. Yeah, right!
The Doctor and Ace are ducking and diving amongst the three factions, getting the upper hand and having the rug pulled from underneath them…often in the same scene. But their best scenes are when they aren’t involved with any other member of the main cast. Listening to Courtney Pine (who is second to Jacqui Dankworth in my book of great jazz musicians), blocking the Cybermen’s transmissions with jazz, and their near meeting with the Queen and her corgis.
Kudos also go to the American Remington who is just a sheer delight. Absolutely superfluous to the plot but enriches the story with her presence. I also loved the skinheads who mistake Peinforte and Richard for social workers. Especially the punchline of that encounter when they are later found by the Doctor and Ace.
I loved how the Cybermen have now become the vampires of the Whoniverse. Their reactions to gold is now all very Bela Lugosian. They can now be killed with gold coins and a slingshot. Even Twilight’s glittery vampires aren’t that lame. Now I think of it, maybe they DO need the Nemesis. Perhaps they will use it to get rid of the gold for them?
If you swapped the Cybermen with vampires and the gold with holy water, the plot would still be identical. Actually, no, the plot would have been highly improved if it had featured vampires running about in opera cloaks and evening wear. Come on, who wouldn’t want to watch a Doctor Who story involving Nazis, vampires and a Jacobean witch?
Besides a few dodgy moments (a shadowless spaceship? Really? REALLY?), I have to admit to rather enjoying this runaround. Quick paced and fun with it. Probably best enjoyed if you watch it in one huge chunk though.
I still think that Richard should have become the Doctor’s companion though.