On 26th December 2019, 627 pieces of Classic Doctor Who content were made available to Britbox subscribers. Every Sunday in 2020, our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, looks back at some of the classic stories. Today is the Seventh Doctor adventure Silver Nemesis...
Find Tony's full Classic Doctor Who on Britbox list of reviews here.
So after magnificent stories Season 25 stutters with Silver Nemesis, which features a cunning plan by the Doctor to deal with one of his old foes once and for all using an old piece of Gallifreyan technology as bait. Yes, they've remade Remembrance of the Daleks with Cybermen. The fact that no one seems to have noticed this is a black mark against Andrew Cartmel, the script-editor and JNT, the Producer.
It wouldn't have mattered quite so much if Silver Nemesis had been as well-made as Remembrance of the Daleks but it isn't. It feels a bit half-arsed. Like a Season 24 script: under-prepared, ill-thought-out and stuffed with pointless special guest performances from actors who don't know what programme they are appearing in.
Even Sylvester and Sophie are a bit off the beat in this one, which is a shame.
It isn't helped by the fact that the Cybermen in this story are the most pathetic bunch ever. They get out-manoeuvred and out-paced by a septuagenarian Nazi war criminal for heaven's sake. They're supposed to be emotionless killers but this lot is a musical number short of being the cast of 'Glee'. The Cyberleader is played in traditional fist into palm stylee by David Banks even shows a kind of smug pride when De Flores (Anton Differing) starts throwing Wagnerian compliments at them. Most insultingly not only does gold seem to kill them the mere presence of gold has them flapping about like drunks trying to fend off a wasp.
It's a sad decline for the Cybermen, particularly as this is their last story in Classic Who. I have said before that the Cybermen generally get rubbish Doctor Who stories for one of the shows greatest villains. Compare their stories with Dalek stories? Where is the Cyber equivalent of Power of the Daleks or Evil of the Daleks or Genesis of the Daleks or Remembrance of the Daleks? As @TMDWP quite rightly pointed out on Twitter whilst we were discussing this story the best Cybermen stories generally become less interesting once the Cybermen actually appear. It's a shame as the idea of the Cybermen - they are us stripped of what makes us human - is a coldly terrifying one.
Unfortunately, the humans in this story aren't particularly interesting. Lady Peinforte (Fiona Walker) isn't given much to do except like an aged Ophelia go quietly mad, which is the waste of a damn fine actress. Her companion Richard though is brilliantly played by Gerard Murphy. He's the only character in the whole thing that feels like a real human being.
There's De Flores (Anton Differing) and his gang of neo-Nazis who have all the character of cardboard. Anton Differing was a regular player of Nazis in films- he even plays the commentator in Escape to Victory for heaven's sake - but here he looks like he's only in this story for the paycheque. It's as if the production team thought that cast Differing was enough as if we were all going to accept whatever performance he put in because of the history. If this was an echo of Remembrance of the Daleks' themes it's a pretty weak and unsubtle one.
Then there's all the padding. This is a three-part story and there's so much padding it could be a six-part Pertwee story: what's the point of the two stupid skinheads, of American tourist Mrs. Remington (Dolores Grey) or of all the sitting about in the countryside?
I do like Ace's battle against the Cybermen in the final episode, which is well-directed. I do like the little scene when Ace confesses how scared she is to the Doctor, I do like Richard...but after that, I'm struggling. This has too many characters behaving in stupid ways. It's a mess.
And the Cybermen are rubbish.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.