Silver Nemesis: A Hidden Classic?

As far as ratings go, reception for 1988’s Silver Nemesis is generally quite poor. The Discontinuity Guide puts this episode down as lacking ‘pace and character involvement’, which could be saying more about the shortcomings of the three-part format than anything else. Regardless, Silver Nemesis does commit the cardinal sin that many post-1960s Cybermen stories are guilty of – including the Cybermen in the story, without doing anything interesting with them. But surely amidst all this negative criticism, there must be something worthwhile to talk about from this story. After all, for better or worse, it will forever remain Doctor Who’s 25th Anniversary episode.

So to begin my analysis of Silver Nemesis, let’s start with the obvious – Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred are fantastic in this episode. The Seventh Doctor is regarded as unpopular, but in reality he is simply overlooked – for those who watch his episodes, a darker, more exciting and more serious side to the Seventh Doctor becomes clear. Once he drops his comic facade, the Seventh Doctor is cunning and devious, but never strays too far from his good nature. In this episode the Seventh Doctor pulls off a daring feat of strategy and manipulation to ensure that neither the Cybermen, the Neo-Nazis, or an insane lady from the past achieve their goals.

Speaking of an insane lady from the past, there is a strange subplot involving a certain Lady Peinforte, who has apparently at some point in the past encountered a Time Lord weapon and managed to bend it to her will (even making it take on her appearance) and has somehow discovered the secrets of alchemical time travel, all whilst being a cavalier from the 1500s. Whilst the character of Peinforte may seem like an odd addition, her presence in the story provides an interesting method by which Cybermen are destroyed – her arrows, which she believes are effective due to being laced with poison, are actually useful for killing Cybermen due to the fact that the tips are made of gold (for some reason.) Ultimately, Peinforte is mostly in the episode for comic relief, and her death is as anticlimactic as her role in the story turns out to be.

The Cybermen in this story are about as effective as they have been throughout the 80s – so make of that what you will. They do prove their effectiveness in combat by annihilating many of the Nazi soldiers, but seeing Cybermen being felled by arrows and tiny rocks of gold flung at them by Ace’s slingshot effectively completes their devaluation as villains that had been in process throughout the decade. After being destroyed by the spears of the Raston Warrior Robot in The Five Doctors it seems that arrows was the next logical step. Nonetheless, the Cybermen do present a threat in the parallels that are drawn between those and the Nazis. Hearing the Cyberleader and the Nazi commander negotiating the division of dominion over Earth in terms of labor camps is chilling.

Ultimately though, having recently read the novelisation of the unmade Season ’27’ episode Illegal Alien, it has to be said that the plot of that book is somewhat superior to this episode. Oddly, both involve Nazis, and one of the reasons why Illegal Alien didn’t make it to Season 26 is due to the fact that there was already a World War 2 episode planned. Silver Nemesis does have some big positives, particularly Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred’s performances as the Seventh Doctor and Ace, who are always a great Doctor/Companion pairing. As with the rest of Season 25, Silver Nemesis is worth a watch for the novelty factor alone.

So there were my thoughts on Silver Nemesis, if you enjoyed be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

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Author: Cameron Walker

Writer, Painter, Dalek collector, Walker, General Idealist but Political Realist, Fan of Doctor Who, Star Wars, Halo, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and Ghost in the Shell, among other things. All Doctor Who discussion particularly welcome, but be warned, I am a huge nerd.

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