Sunday, 28 July 2013

Silver Nemesis: The 25th Anniversary Story!

Originally Broadcast 23rd November-7th December 1988

Written by: Kevin Clarke

In a nutshell: A meteor carrying an ancient Gallifreyan weapon crashes to Earth in 1988 where the fight for ultimate power is carried out by a neo-Nazi, a villainous Lady from 1638 and a fleet of Cybermen. Oh and the Doctor and Ace are caught in the middle as the Doctor celebrates 25 years in time and space!

Review: OK, so this review is going to be different to all my others and it’s the only one that will be laid out like this. ‘Silver Nemesis’ is the 25th anniversary serial and was always intended to be. When the series got delayed by a few weeks the running order was even swapped so this episode would air on the 23rd November 1988 itself. With that in mind, this review is going to be ‘movie-length’ and encompass all three parts into one. But Doctor Who A Day set off with the task to review each episode alone so this will still have a clear cut-off point for each episode! So sit back and celebrate 25 years in style!

I don’t think I would be proud if the opening episode was to celebrate the 50th anniversary later this year, but it’s still a pretty strong episode. I wasn’t once bored or unnecessarily confused by the intelligent plotting that’s taken place. The idea behind the story is clever and brilliant and I’m begging to find out more. It’s a sort of “out of the frying pan into the fire” problem except there’s about three different fires and the Doctor is still stuck in the frying pan too! Everything is going wrong for him.

There is a distinct lack of characters and extras, as the episode sometimes feels a little empty in the same way The Happiness Patrol did. We’re cutting to and from the same three stories, which are all exciting and great, but sometimes it just isn’t quite enough. The stage only feels half full as well as we’re watching these few plot threads. That aside, it’s clear a lot of money has been spent on this episode with some great location work and some convincing studio set pieces.

Somewhat surprisingly, there has been very few effects shots, which is usually what lets the show down in the late 1980s. I’m not sure if this was a deliberate move to save money or look better, but I don’t actually miss the effects, I’ve been lost in the story and the acting for twenty-five minutes instead. And then as if the storyline wasn’t great enough, the Cybermen turn up at the show’s climax with a powerful final camera shot which bursts into the closing credits with style. I think this is a very strong opening to the anniversary, although it could be a bit tighter in appearance.

I thought the end to episode one was good, the cliffhanger to episode two has completely blown it out of the water. It’s taken the idea and magnified it a thousand times better! It’s one of the greatest endings and not all too different to one from Planet Of The Daleks nor that of Bad Wolf yet it is still fantastic. I’m not sure this episode on the whole was quite so good, however. The Cybermen are awful in this, something is really wrong with their (very) fat fingers and the voices just don’t work for me at all. Add to that the actors look and walk like actors in a suit, not like Cybermen. There’s no unison to the way they move, they just carry on how they want with no thought or menace.

There’s also the case of the two thugs attacked by ‘social workers’ Lady Peinforte and Richard. I think the prize for the two worst actors in Doctor Who since The Twin Dilemma has found a home. They were just laughable. I don’t even think this is a ‘dark’ story that needs some comic relief to knock it up a bit and cheer up the audience, I think the tone (minus this scene) is spot on and creates a great atmosphere for the episode.

I’m not entirely convinced behind the use of the Nemesis as an explanation for why WW1 and WW2 started, as well as Kennedy’s assassination. It just feels a little too close to home for Doctor Who and I disagree with it’s inclusion. My best guess for the finale, however, is that Lady Peinforte is going to turn out to be the Nemesis because they look similar. Oh and did anyone notice Anton Diffring was walking around with ear plugs in?

I’m still finding myself enjoying this serial, but part two doesn’t add a lot to the mix, it just expands badly on what was already there. I have a feeling the first and third instalments will be the ones to watch so with that in mind - roll on part three!

The third and final instalment is a lot better than the previous but it also feels a little short. I’m left with questions. Questions as to who the Doctor really is and why everyone was after the Nemesis so badly. The Cybermen didn’t explain their reasons until they were given a throwaway line near the end of this serial about bringing back Mondas.

This episode raises a lot of questions about ‘Doctor Who?’, which is very apt for the 25th anniversary as it’s also Moffat’s main plot for the 50th anniversary, which shows we haven’t moved on very much in 25 years! I’m also shocked at the Doctor using Ace to fight the Cybermen as he does here. There’s some fantastic acting and direction through the scenes of Ace battling or running from Cybers, but I can’t imagine any other companion being this brave – not even the new ones! It adds to the ‘Who is the Doctor’ theme as I can’t see him doing this to any other companion.

With all this fighting and running around we’ve lost track of the plot for this episode because there isn’t really any. The Doctor and Ace are just pottering about until the Cybers turn up followed by Lady Peinforte with Richard and then De Flores. It certainly feels a bit limp on the plot side but nevertheless I would’ve liked to see Kevin Clarke write another Doctor Who story, as it feels like he has more to give the show, especially seeing as his first delved into the mystery of who the Doctor really is.

I think this was an acceptable anniversary episode. It raised some questions and doubts about the Doctor (great) whilst carrying some old villains, the Cybermen (great) and had dollops of time travelling (great) and some funny characters (great). But what we didn’t really have was much plot in there, sure there was a lot in part one but afterward it felt more like an action adventure on the scale of Remembrance Of The Daleks but with a whole let less budget. Whilst I’m giving this one a hard time and saying it wasn’t the greatest story, I still came out happy and excited by the adventure, it definitely kept me awake and interested in the special serial, but next time it’s time to see if the series can finish with the bang it started with!

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