Cybermen, Even! (Silver Nemesis)

(49 comments)

But... Bella! We sparkle way more than Edward!
It's November 23rd, 1988. Robin Beck remains at number one with "First Time," a situation resolved two weeks later when Cliff Richard unseats her with "Mistletoe and Wine." Phil Collins, Michael Jackson, Pet Shop Boys, Rick Astley, and Salt-N-Pepa also chart.

In real news, Benazir Bhutto is sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan. The number of HIV positive people in the UK is pegged by a government report at 50,000, and it's estimated that by 1992 as many as 17,000 people may die of the disease. Health Minister Edwina Currie causes a massive crash in egg sales through a carelessly worded claim about salmonella. The last shipbuilding facilities around Sunderland close. And Mystery Science Theater 3000 debuts.

While on television, Doctor Who attempts to provide MST3K with material. Silver Nemesis is the weakest of the eleven Cartmel-shaped stories: a messy and smoldering wreck of ill-defined ideas and unconfident execution. But this fact is in and of itself interesting and worth expanding on, simply because it is in many ways the only artifact of its kind: a really bad McCoy story that has no excuses based on the idea that the era was still coming together and figuring out what it was doing. This was made in between The Greatest Show in the Galaxy and The Happiness Patrol. It has no excuses. And so it's the one point where we can meaningfully ask: what does bad Sylvester McCoy mean?

It's easy to mistake the Cartmel era as being good because of its ideas. This is because the Cartmel era does, in fact, have some really good ideas. In this regard Silver Nemesis is in grand company. At the heart of the story is the Nemesis statue. Although it more colloquially refers to a general case of an archenemy, in mythological terms Nemesis is a primal force of retribution - the thing that balances the scales in reaction to one's hubris. Astronomically, it refers to the idea that the sun has a twin star that has collapsed into a dwarf star, lurking unseen in the Oort cloud and causing mass extinctions according to a pre-ordained twenty-six million year cycle.

The statue Nemesis, on the other hand, travels in a quarter-century cycle in its disasters, bringing instead of extinctions various historical calamities. As About Time points out, this is hopeless - there's no twenty-five year cycle of historical tragedies to build out from here. But the nature of this cyclic disaster is tied here to the history of the program, both extending out of its imagined past (more ancient Time Lords secrets) and tied to its debut. (This is perhaps tempting fate - changing a twenty-six million year cycle to a twenty-five year cycle is almost too apt given what happens for the program's twenty-sixth anniversary.)

Nemesis, in other words, stalks the program as its dark other. And hey, look who's back to accompany her: the program's dark mirror images of humanity. For all that the story gets flak for the supposed reasoning here ("It's the silver anniversary of Doctor Who and the Cybermen are silver, so why not add them?") they are actually the perfect monsters for this, their own qlippothic relationship with the Doctor paralleling the role of the Nemesis statue.

The other two villains reinforce this. Both drip with occult possibilities. De Flores is obviously a Nazi, bringing the old ideas of Nazi mythology and fascination with the occult to bear, while Lady Peinforte is an obsessed sorceress. Both of them represent suppressed early forms of the series' early legacies. The dirty little secret of 1960s scientific utopianism was always that it relied heavily on the legacy of the Nazis. (As the famed line about why the Russians beat the US into space goes, "their German scientists were better than our German scientists") And the Doctor has always been a figure that reaches back to a Victorian magical tradition that Peinforte is an ancestor of.

(There is something unsettling here - the Nemesis statue is at once feminine and, through its silver, Diannic. The Cybermen are likewise Diannic, and this is the most vulnerable to gold that we ever see them. The Doctor, in other words, is positioned as an Appolonian figure, with his catastrophic Nemesis, who brings chaos and ruin according to a cosmic cycle, cast as the Diannic female. The symbolism is, in other words, unsettlingly misogynistic.)

So two suppressed ghosts of the program's ideology and a race of qlippothic nightmares go chasing after a statue called Nemesis that comes out of the program's own erased history. This sounds like the setup for an epic. Indeed, on paper these ideas cohere even better than the ones behind Remembrance. So where does it go wrong?

The difference between great storytelling and pretty good storytelling is that great storytelling makes sure every aspect of the story is working towards the same purpose. What makes the Cartmel era great is that more often than not the script is written with this in mind, so that even when you take a hatchet to the explanatory scenes (which often happened due to the overruns in production) you get a taut, compelling piece of television. Good material is cut from numerous Cartmel-era stories, but what's cut rarely makes a huge difference just because the stories have such aesthetic coherence in their structure that the unexplained things never feel jarring. Everything looks like it goes together, and so it does, in fact, all go together.

And when you have scripts like that you get people eager to go the extra mile to deliver. Survival is a good case in point here - the amount of effort that went into the details on that story speaks to a production team that was trying like mad to get things to go well. Even John Nathan-Turner seems to be roused from his torpor in this era, pushing to get things to be good and getting the show back to the visual panache and consistency that characterized the Bidmead era. (And let's pause and give Nathan-Turner for recognizing the promise implicit in a writer mad enough to dream of using Doctor Who to bring down the government - a joke that, under the surface, amounts to a belief that Doctor Who can aspire to more than just filling its timeslot and bringing in a requisite number of viewers. For all that he was trying to get off the program during these years, the truth is that Nathan-Turner appears to have been as reinvigorated as his program in these final three years)

Except that just never quite happens for Silver Nemesis. The ideas are all there, but the script doesn't actually execute them, wandering off for comedy subplots instead. Peinforte's threat to reveal the Doctor's true nature is a hollow letdown as it turns out nobody cares. The neo-Nazis are mere canon fodder. The Cybermen are predictably stupid. Peinforte commits suicide by jumping into a statue. The Doctor's manipulations are hollow. The statue gestures at ancient Gallifreyan secrets, but in the most insubstantial way possible, mostly constituting creating yet another Most Valuable Mineral in the Universe and this time giving it to the Time Lords.

The biggest problem is an excess of villains. Given that the people who defend this story insist on saying that it would be better liked than Remembrance of the Daleks had it come first, this is worth looking at in particular. Remembrance of the Daleks had two factions of Daleks and a human faction. One of the Dalek factions, however, lacked any mouthpiece character until the fourth episode, and the other Dalek faction was intermingled with the humans. So most of the action focused on characters around the Doctor. Here, though, most of the oxygen is taken up by characters who are opposing the Doctor and each other.

The result is that most of the action is happening away from the Doctor while he travels from place to place. Combined with the McCoy era's tendency to focus on other characters figuring out what the Doctor is up to instead of the Doctor figuring out the plot and you have a story in which the Doctor borders on being spectacularly unnecessary prior to the climax. This can work, but it requires a rock solid supporting cast. Here we have a collection of programmatic archetypes. In general when your story hinges on David Banks's Cyberleader to advance the drama you're in deep trouble.

But even with the Doctor sidelined this story just doesn't have time for three villains. Nazi occultists are interesting. Time-traveling sorceresses are interesting. Cybermen are interesting. But none of them have time to actually be interesting in this story, and so none of them get to contribute their weight to the storytelling. Lady Peinforte is particularly disappointing - a 17th century sorceress who knows the Doctors secrets and can travel in time, but whose motivation seems to amount to "she's a bad guy."

And so without a script that ties the ideas together we get the McCoy era's version of The Time Monster - an interesting idea that everyone has just let their hair down and decided to goof around on. Suddenly Season 25's fetishization of black culture, or, more accurately, the bits of black culture white people like looks tacky and forced. The manipulative and all-knowing Doctor becomes the cheap plot trick Remembrance of the Daleks was ultimately about trying to avoid. Ace becomes tedious and purposeless, reduced to chasing at the Doctor's heels and begging for the plot to be explained, her only difference from past companions being the insertion of scenes where she blows shit up. And the Cybermen finally bottom out to punchline status.

But underneath this is still a pile of good ideas serving as Silver Nemesis's own nemesis. And in this regard, for all the story's flaws, it still demonstrates how things have improved from a few years ago. Even when the McCoy era goes utterly off the rails - and make no mistake, it does here, it's at least clear what the show is trying to do. There aren't dissonant elements fighting for attention here. There's just, from script on, a flaccid and uninspired execution of the ideas. We're not in Attack of the Cybermen or Arc of Infinity territory where one stares at the screen trying to figure out why anybody thought this was a good idea. We're in, as I said, Time Monster territory. Or Planet of Evil territory. If we weren't past the point in the blog where I felt like I had to spell out how something like Nemesis worked symbolically, I could spin out an entire entry like I did on those. But you don't need me to spell out what Nemesis Silver Nemesis (Silver Nemesish?) would be like at this point.

At the end of the day, every era of the show has its turkeys. And you can tell a lot about an era by how it goes wrong. And this is the only point in the eleven stories Cartmel had anything meaningful to do with in which the show does go wrong. The lesson is twofold. First, it lets us understand the Cartmel era as far more than just some nifty and edgy ideas. Comparison to this story demonstrates just how much the other stories in the era - even the much derided Season 24 ones - get right in their execution. It's not just technical matters - Chris Clough gets some very nice directorial moments in this. It's the basic question of having all the parts of the story working towards one goal.

But second, a flawed piece like this gives a sense of how ambitious the series is. In a real and fundamental sense, it's better to fail like this, with all the right elements of the story but without the wherewithal to use them, than to fail at stories that should never have been made. In this regard Silver Nemesis is much like Terminus - a story one wishes had been made. The next time the McCoy era has any sort of a misstep will be similar - an imperfect masterpiece. That's how the show screws up now, and that's how you know it's gone through a real and proper renaissance.

Comments

Dougie 4 years, 10 months ago

When I last watched this one -as part of My Whole Damn Thing Marathon a few years ago- I enjoyed the "moments of charm" most.

Ace and the Professor whistling; the rather fey skinheads and the joke about social workers; Richard's prayer; Lady P's hilariously confidential "All things shall be mine"; and the appearance of the Queen: a "cheeky" gag one would expect from a variety show, like Mike Yarwood in the 70s or the slightly more naughty world of Kenny Everett. It's a sunny summer special, going out in November.

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elvwood 4 years, 10 months ago

This is my son's favourite McCoy story, and Remembrance is his least-favourite Doctor Who serial of all time (mostly, I think, because of the Doctor destroying Skaro). My own opinion differs, but I'm delighted he can ignore popular opinion to that extent!

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 10 months ago

Phil, I think you've hit on the source of my not-as-bad-as-expected-and-actually-pretty-alright view of this story after watching the version with the extended episodes last week. I had heard so many terrible reviews of Silver Nemesis that I was expecting utter torture, but I could still see all the interesting ideas floating around the story entertaining me.

The story ultimately amounts to a comedy runaround, almost like It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World with more Cybermen, sorceresses, and Nazis than mid-20th-century comedians: a bunch of disparate forces converging on a hidden treasure and threatening to expose a major secret of a protagonist. Even the Doctor's secret, which was so seriously suggested in Remembrance, is here a moment of comedic deflation: Lady Peinforte threatens to reveal the Doctor's secret identity, and the Cyberleader's response is, "I don't care. I'm just going to kill him anyway." Perhaps Silver Nemesis could have used some more of the camp sensibility of The Happiness Patrol to sell the comedy better.

I have a nagging wonder about something Henry's brought up in the comments a lot this season: the production order. I watched Season 25 in the production order on this go, and I did notice a pretty clear progression, both in the development of the Doctor and Ace's friendship, and in the rising tension of the Doctor's new secret motives. Remembrance suggests that he has a secret, with the control over ancient Time Lord weapons and the "more than just another Time Lord" line, Greatest Show has him fighting the rock gods with a secret plan, and Silver Nemesis ends with his cheeky response to the audience about Ace's "Who are you?" question.

I wonder if you're going to touch on this production/airing order problem in one of the later essays, or maybe the book version. The discrepancy indicates to me that John Nathan-Turner, despite his likely being overstressed and sick of working on the show, is still exercising his less-than-stalwart instincts for the promotion of Doctor Who, like rearranging the viewing order of the season around puns about the silver anniversary, and not always around the quality of the product or the more subtle aspects of the season's arc. If the Trial season (and the failures of the Davison era generally) proved anything, it's that multi-story arcs were probably Nathan-Turner's weakest talent.

But this is more of a hangover from the looming catastrophe, which in the arc of the Eruditorum, we've moved past with our eye confidently on a future in the underground and eventual triumphant resurgence. By now, I guess we've had enough of John Nathan-Turner's mistakes (in more ways than one), and may as well just let him rest in peace.

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Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 10 months ago

Philip Sandifer:
"De Flores is obviously a Nazi"

Really? (heh) I once saw Anton Diffring play Dr. Frankenstein in a failed TV pilot. Could have almost been some unexplored corner of the WHO universe (so to speak).


"And let's pause and give Nathan-Turner credit for recognizing the promise implicit in a writer mad enough to dream of using Doctor Who to bring down the government - a joke that, under the surface, amounts to a belief that Doctor Who can aspire to more than just filling its timeslot and bringing in a requisite number of viewers. For all that he was trying to get off the program during these years, the truth is that Nathan-Turner appears to have been as reinvigorated as his program in these final three years"

I think that's what I said last time, except you put it nicer.


"Except that just never quite happens for Silver Nemesis. The ideas are all there, but the script doesn't actually execute them, wandering off for comedy subplots instead."

When you only have 3 parts-- in what SHOULD have been at least a 5-parter-- not a good idea. The lady from America had to be the most uncalled-for.


"The biggest problem is an excess of villains..... Nazi occultists are interesting. Time-traveling sorceresses are interesting. Cybermen are interesting. But none of them have time to actually be interesting in this story, and so none of them get to contribute their weight to the storytelling."

Similar problem to "DRAGONFIRE", only with even more characters. And to think, this was before BATMAN RETURNS, BATMAN FOREVER, BATMAN AND ROBIN, X-MEN 3 and SPIDER-MAN 3. All of which tried to cram too much in, so nothing was developed properly. And anyone who saw "THUNDERBALL" from 1965 would have already known that decades before!!!


"That's how the show screws up now, and that's how you know it's gone through a real and proper renaissance."

I agree. I "like" this story. I want to like it more. I just can't. Like "MOONRAKER", it bugs me that it should have been 10 times better than it was, because, the potential WAS there.

Now, if you look at the PACING, it's again clear why this should be seen last. Starting with "GREATEST SHOW", then "HAPPINESS", then "NEMESIS", the pacing keeps increasing. I tend to see the entire season almost as if it were "one piece", less 4 stories than 1 big "mini-series". And "SILVER NEMESIS" is the CLIMAX. It's the last half-hour of a 2-hour movie (so to speak). Because we've seen (or should have seen) the other 3 stories by now, we know the set-up. Because it repeats so much of the plot of "REMEMBRANCE" and therefore acts as a book-end, we already know the plot! So get on with it already, let's have fun, and let's see Ace go wild blowing up Cybermen. That's how it "works". That's not how it SHOULD be working, but it's what we got.

So it's ironic that when JNT planned an entire season with heavy character development, a sports event wound up screwing up the running order. (Some shows have stories that get permanently run in the wrong sequence in syndication, no matter how obvious the correct order should be.)

Incidentally, I personally believe The Doctor conned Lady Peinforte. I don't think he had an big secret. He just fooled her into thinking he did, so she'd do all she did. And it worked. And even Ace, who can be sharp, was fooled.

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Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 10 months ago

Dougie:
"I enjoyed the "moments of charm" most."

Ditto!


Adam Riggio:
"almost like It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World with more Cybermen"

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!! Just watched that again the other week. Ethel Merman steals the movie. (It was a good thing Grucho Marx asked for too much money-- in this case, he couldn't have been as "right" for the film as she was.)

Incidentally, I read about the intended running order in DWM before ever seeing the stories. And somehow, the Shannon Sullivan site got it wrong! (But once you get wrong info posted on the internet, it's tough to "un-post" it.)

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Josh Marsfelder 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm seconding Adam again here, especially in regard to the jumbled production order. In spite of this being my favourite era of the show, I have to confess, somewhat sheepishly, that this was the first I'd heard Nathan-Turner moved the order around. Is it really *that* much better when viewed in production order? This is giving me pause as to how I ought to be re-vist Season 25: Do I show it in order of airdate or (like Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1) does the progression of the year make far more sense and run far smoother if shown in production order?

As for "Silver Nemesis" itself, I freely admit to being the kind of person who gets excited enough about the ideas being explored here that I can overlook most of the flaws (though the Dianic Female screw-up is more than a little troubling).

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BerserkRL 4 years, 10 months ago

And let's pause and give Nathan-Turner for recognizing the promise implicit in a writer mad enough to dream of using Doctor Who to bring down the government

Pause and give him what? See, you can't even say it!

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

You know, to be honest, I just don't see the running order as an issue. The only thing that gets wonky is Flower Child's pin on Ace's jacket and the existence of her rucksack - a pair of staggeringly minor continuity glitches. I just don't see any significant evolution of the Doctor/Ace relationship to speak of over the four stories, in any order. I mean, the secret plan of Greatest Show in the Galaxy is, as we'll see Wednesday, a fairly vexed issue to begin with. And any order runs into the difficulty of Happiness Patrol doing nothing to ratchet up tension no matter where you put it. By almost any measure the Doctor's comforting a disturbed Ace at the end of Remembrance would be a better ending to a character arc for her than the cheeky humor of Silver Nemesis, and that sort of sensible and coherent take on the idea that the Doctor hid powerful Time Lord artifacts on Earth would be a nice way to resolve the oddities of this story.

So yeah, I just don't see the production order argument either here or in Season 26. (Indeed, I think it makes even less sense with regards to Season 26 - the Doctor taking Ace back to the Perivale she left makes more sense after resolving the issues of her history than it does prior to Ghost Light.)

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BerserkRL 4 years, 10 months ago

I don't think he had an big secret.

"Remembrance" and "Fenric" seem to disagree with you....

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J Mairs 4 years, 10 months ago

"If we weren't past the point in the blog where I felt like I had to spell out how something like Nemesis worked symbolically, I could spin out an entire entry like I did on those. But you don't need me to spell out what Nemesis Silver Nemesis (Silver Nemesish?) would be like at this point."

B-b-but... but... this is what I'd been waiting months to read! :(

How about an extra for the book? *hopeful smile*

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

See, I'm not sure I can possibly live up to months of expectation as to my vision of a good version of Silver Nemesis. As it is I'm staring at my computer today trying to figure out if the concept of "having adequately covered Ghost Light" actually exists or if I just have to write this one entry forever now.

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Josh Marsfelder 4 years, 10 months ago

As do "Battlefield" and "Ghost Light", although admittedly in a more roundabout fashion.

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Josh Marsfelder 4 years, 10 months ago

Well, here's a good place to start at any rate, from the estimable Jack Graham:

http://shabogangraffiti.blogspot.com/2012/07/monkey-business.html

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

Read, mentioned in the post, probably saved me at least five hundred words, ARGH GHOST LIGHT IS A BIG STORY *writerly flailing*.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 10 months ago

Heeheeheehee

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Ununnilium 4 years, 10 months ago

"And Mystery Science Theater 3000 debuts."

Augh sudden fixity in time. @.@ Perspective'd!

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Yonatan 4 years, 10 months ago

My first encounter with this story was the Special Edition VHS copy, and i didn't find a copy of the Target book until I was down to having maybe 5 books missing. It was also my first Cybermen story.

The main thing i liked about the Special Edition VHS is that it had a behind the scenes program tacked onto the end. I seem to have found it on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmtCrgTt060:

I was wondering, Phil, if you were going to give any commentary on it?

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David Anderson 4 years, 10 months ago

I don't think I quite agree with the Apollonian aspect to the Doctor here: the Nemesis is a Time Lord artifact and does what the Doctor asks it to do, therefore making it a materialisation of the dark side of the Doctor. Also, it's not just the Doctor and Ace who use gold to destroy cybermen here: both the neo-Nazis and Peinforte also use gold. So any Doctor - Nemesis opposition is disturbed. I think it would be appropriate to argue that Silver Nemesis is secretly short for Quicksilver Nemesis. The Cybermen read that wrong and are destroyed.
That doesn't solve any of the other problems with the story. In particular, Peinforte deserves a far better backstory than she gets. (Battlefield may not be perfect but it gets that bit right: we all know who Morgaine and Merlin are already.)

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 10 months ago

"Silver Nemesish?" I don't want to risk diving into the greatest depths of the mind of Phil Sandifer (both because I'd be imposing myself on you, and for my own psychological safety), but the themes of Season 25 lead me thinking back to your Brain of Morbius entry. The mind-bending montage assaults the Doctor through his past, and the intimations this season of dark secrets in his ancient past strike me as the Doctor taking control of his past. He rewrites himself just as the Valeyard wanted to rewrite him. What would a good version of Silver Nemesis cover?

A comedic runaround of caricature villains is interrupted by the power of the Seasonish that bends the timeline of Doctor Who back on itself? The Nemesis as a prototype Time War superweapon limited only by its surroundings reminiscent of a Hope-Crosby Road movie? The misogyny of The Twin Dilemma rising into the Doctor's character again through the gold-silver / Apollo-Diana conflict, as the Doctor destroys the silver Cybermen (and forces Ace to turn against her own femininity as a soldier following orders of masculine origin, "Blow up that vehicle."), while bossing around and intimidating the Nemesis statue?

The sickly last gasp of continuity fetishism that would change the transmission order of the season to link this story to the silver anniversary? Lady Peinforte as a ghost from the past looks to name the Doctor and fix him forever in a living death (cf. Logopolis entry §13, on how definition = death)? Ending with the ironic subversion of death by naming: the qlippothic force of the Cybermen themselves undercut the Doctor's living death when they interrupt Lady Peinforte with their indifference to her secrets?

The Cybermen are even more pathetic here than in Revenge, nothing more than swaggering generic monsters. The hangover of Saward's superficial take on the Cybermen have ruined them, robbing them of their profundity. In caring only about the superficial death of the Doctor — "We don't care about your secret. We're just going to kill him anyway." — they save the Doctor and destroy themselves. The Doctor finds the salvation of his mystery in the superficial way of thinking that nearly destroyed him in the Saward years. When the exorcism of Doctor Who first occurred, it was a tragedy that nearly destroyed the show. Now, in the comedic tomfoolery of Silver Nemesis, it recurs as farce.

And this redemptive reading isn't even in the blog proper, but buried in a comment thread of a pretentious regular commenter.

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Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 10 months ago

Philip Sandifer:
"So yeah, I just don't see the production order argument either here or in Season 26."

It's not the production order, it's the intended broadcast order. The show was often filmed out-of-sequence because of actor availability or because of weather conditions with regards to location filming. It just happens THIS season was designed to be watched a certain way, but then, it wasn't run that way.

It's real simple... just move GREATEST SHOW to 2nd place and everything else is fine.

Let me put it in more specific terms...

In DRAGONFIRE, Ace is a pain-in-the-ass.

In REMEMBRANCE, Ace is still a pain, but she at least seems to be trying to get along with The Doctor.

In GREATEST SHOW, there's still some tension between them, but there's also a much warmer feeling going on.

In HAPPINESS, they're getting along like gangbusters.

In NEMESIS-- ditto. On steroids. Everything about this story is like "too many cups of coffee". It's clearly meant to be seen LAST.

Maybe it's not obvious to everybody. But try watching it that way and see if you see what I see. (NYAH)

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John 4 years, 10 months ago

I've done my own edit of this story using Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, cut it down to just under an hour. This used to be the only Seven/Ace story I disliked but now I've cut out the pointless comedy scenes I absolutely love it!

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Grant, the Hipster Dad 4 years, 10 months ago

"they are actually the perfect monsters for this, their own qlippothic relationship with the Doctor paralleling the role of the Nemesis statue..."

qlippothic! *drink* Hooray!

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jane 4 years, 10 months ago

I liked the Doctor's brief appearance wearing a fez and carrying a mop.

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 10 months ago

Yes... Phil is addicted to using obscure words. I'd pull an Inigo Montoya here, but I'm afraid I don't get much of the intended meaning, either. :-/

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

In this case it's less a predilection for obscure words as a running theme of the Cybermen. The Tenth Planet entry (http://tardiseruditorum.blogspot.com/2011/04/chrysalis-case-after-its-spread-its.html ) and the earlier Pop Between Realities that included mention of Kenneth Grant (http://tardiseruditorum.blogspot.com/2011/04/pop-between-realities-home-in-time-for_15.html ) provide the original analysis of the concept with relation to the Cybermen.

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Anton B 4 years, 10 months ago

jane just expressed everything I wanted to say in thirteen words.

If you want a master-class in how to pull off the 'Everything but the Kitchen Sink' plotting that Nemesis attempts look no further than Moffet's season (and mid season) finales. He even manages to make the Cybermen look badass and still manage to get their asses kicked by a companion dressed as a Roman.

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 10 months ago

Well, see, I do remember that... but you really are addicted, Phil. You're a thesaurus junkie! ;-)

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

Except that the sort of variance in Ace/Doctor relationship that we see here is par for the course, and little more than what usually happens when you have five different writers tackling a pair of characters. I'll agree, as I said, that Silver Nemesis has the feel of a Pertwee end-of-season "party" story a la The Time Monster, but to my mind the progression you describe can't be called character development. All of the warmth and intimacy in Aaronovitch's writing of the pair in Remembrance is gone from Silver Nemesis, with the two of them lounging around like standard issue companions where previously there had been so much depth to their relationship.

Indeed, SIlver Nemesis and Happiness Patrol feel like they pick up directly from the catchphrase-laden Ace who jumps for joy at being invited onto the TARDIS, whereas Remembrance feels like it connects to Season 26, where the relationship between Ace and the Doctor is continually fraught and complex in that manner.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

"What a strange story to do a making of feature for."

I think that's about all I have on it. :)

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Ununnilium 4 years, 10 months ago

Personally, I'm addicted to "qlippothic". It sums up certain ideas so nicely!

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J Mairs 4 years, 10 months ago

^ In the words of the Great Academician, the above post is "made of win".

Additionally, I'm liking the article posted by Josh above: I've been following your blog since the early Hartnell era, Sandifer, but I regret to inform you that I will shortly be leaving for another blog. ;)

Seriously though, we're entering *my* Era now, and - like everyone who has been following you - I'm expecting you not to disappoint us when it comes to Curse of Fenric (although I think that may be impossible solely on the basis that it is tCoF)

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 10 months ago

I didn't think I was the only one who saw shades of Moffatt in Silver Nemesis. I'm seriously coming to think that this "Doctor Who?" arc he's come up with leading into Season Seven and the 50th Anniversary Special is inspired by the ideas that were suggested in this story. Of course, he'll do something utterly outlandish from them that eventually departs from anything like the original conception or articulation. But the point is, the idea began with an inspiration here, in the one solid turkey of the Cartmel era.

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Russell Gillenwater 4 years, 10 months ago

@ Anton B
Well, I think the "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" finales are one of the weak points of Modern Doctor Who. I think Moffat is as big a culprit as anyone. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang is IMHO a mess. While the whole history is happening at same time in The Wedding of River Song, is as silly as any of the things that weighted down Silver Nemesis.

Oh, as far as the Cybermen looking "badass"in Good Man Goes To War they look just as inept as in Silver Nemesis. I think this just shows that the modern series Cybermen have faired no better than their classic series counterparts. Starting with Doomsday, where they were cannon fodder for the Daleks, it has been downhill for the Cybermen.
Maybe the Cybermen are B-level villains.

To be fair since I referenced an RTD episode he was no better in the finale department. His season enders were just as over the top as Moffat's. I mean when trying to fit too many elements in and not working The Stolen Earth/Journey's End put Silver Nemesis to shame.

In defense of Silver Nemesis, the one positive is unlike the modern series it doesn't suffer from historical celebrity worship. If you want a critic of this idea read Jack Graham's blog (http://shabogangraffiti.blogspot.co.uk/p/churchill-bastard.html?m=1) about Churchill. Unlike a large part of Modern Doctor Who, Silver Nemesis doesn't suffer from the fetishism of historical celebrity. Far from being welcomed as a "friend" of the Queen the Doctor and AceI are treated as intruders not name droppers. This is a plus for this episode, IMHO.

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Alan 4 years, 10 months ago

The first episode cliffhanger was just so ... random. There's this accelerated, bordering on incoherent set-up about the Doctor racing a Tudor-era witch and an ex-Nazi to some McGuffin and then the Cybermen just show up. Also, the whole "social workers!" subplot was weird as hell. A couple of skinhead thugs try to menace a guy with a Van Dyke beard and a puffy shirt along with his camp-as-hell lady employer (who is so butch she might as well be a drag queen) and then the two end up stripped almost naked, tied together, and hanging upside down from a tree. I think that whole sequence might be gayer than anything in "Happiness Patrol"!

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Anton B 4 years, 10 months ago

Moffatt's densely plotted run-arounds work due to their plucky joi de vivre with everyone firing on all cylinders, including the actors who seem to be relishing being given something exciting to do, where late classic era Who seems actually hampered by its production team with everyone operating at different and sometimes clashing levels of belief and execution; not least the performers who wander about, hit their spots with varying degrees of listlessness and declaim their lines in panto or local rep style (with the honorable exception of McCoy, Aldred and one or two others).

I can't really argue with people who dislike Nu Who (it's all a matter of taste) but I'd love everyone to at least watch it for what it is - entertaining Saturday night Fantasy TV done right.

The Cybermen have always been useless as monsters and that's why Moffatt gets them right. He uses them to question the very concept of the 'returning monster' with no motivation they become lumbering metal zombies, Given their own sector of space to patrol (as in A Good Man Goes to War) they function perfectly as a generic 'alien force', I used the term 'badass' ironically by the way.

As to the 'Historical Celebrity' thing isn't it just a lampshading of both the Doctor's constant name-dropping that he's been doing since Hartnell and the Land of Meta-Fiction milleu Nu-Who operates within? these are clearly not attempts to present Churchill, Hitler or even Van Gogh as 'real' characters in 'real' historical settings.

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Russell Gillenwater 4 years, 10 months ago

It is not that I don't like the modern series, it's just I think that the "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" episodes didn't work in the classic series & I don't think the series today does it any better. I guess I like the more smaller scale stories like The Girl Who Waited than something like Good Man Goes To War.

As for "historical celebrity" while it might have been referenced in the classic series it has now become a permanent fetish of the modern one.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

For me the big difference between the modern kitchen sink episodes and Silver Nemesis is one of approach. Silver Nemesis gives the impression that everyone involved is treating it as an anniversary party as well. This is why I compare it to The Time Monster, and really all of the Letts/Sloman finales of the Pertwee era, all four of which are terribly epic and ambitious in concept but are sandbagged by the fact that the people making them seem to have decided to kick up their feet and have an end-of-term party. The result is jarring and disappointing, with the stories feeling frivolous instead of epic.

This is something the new series is good at avoiding. Everybody at least tries to up their game for the big finale. It doesn't always work, but there's a seriousness of intent that is missing in Silver Nemesis.

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Henry R. Kujawa 3 years, 11 months ago

Watched it again last night. My earlier suspicions have only been strengthened. There's a point where the Doctor, in very sombre terms, comments that what happened with the asteroid's tragectory may be "the biggest miscalculation since man first crawled out of the primordial sludge" (or some such words). Which made me think of "CITY OF DEATH". Why should he, of all people, think mankind arising be viewed as a bad thing? Simple-- he doesn't. The "miscalculation" would be Scaroth's spaceship exploding, which led to mankind's rise in the first place.

At the end, Ace sums it up. He DELIBERATELY set the asteroid on a faulty course, to draw the attention of The Cybermen, so he could WIPE them out. I also now believe the apprehension on his face as Lady Peintforte is threatening him is just a charade. He has to play it seriously, so The Cybermen will never suspect he's putting them all on. Minutes later, The Cyber-fleet is vaporized!

The big question I find myself pondering is, WHICH version of The Doctor met Lady Peintforte in the first "half" of this story we never got to see? If it was McCoy, it would have to have been when Mel was with him.

Also, despite both the Doctor and Lady Peintforte time-travelling, and The Cybermen looking like "this years' models", I'm not sure THEY were time-travelling. It's possible these guys only "recently" escaped Mondas' destruction in 1986, as suggested by the line about making Earth "the new Mondas". Which might suggest the Doctor who set them all up to fall was Patrick Troughton. His main recurring monsters were The Cybermen, he regenerated as a result of their first meeting, and he fits the description of "that little man". It would also explain why the Doctor had trouble remembering the prediction of Earth's possible destruction, since he set it all up a long, long time ago.

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Henry R. Kujawa 3 years, 11 months ago

Oh yeah... and Troughton was still doing "historicals" when he started. McCoy mentions "the roundheads".

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Samuel Whiskers 2 years, 11 months ago

I must have missed that episode. Did Papa Hakim fight against the Cybermen? The McCoy era is really getting interesting.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 8 months ago

So I'm about 2 years late here (in true Silver Nemesis style) but (without having seen the feature yet), I'm assuming they did the feature because it was the 25th anniversary special (even though everyone, with hindsight, tends to attribute that tag to Remembrance).

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William Silvia 2 years, 3 months ago

The sad thing about Silver Nemesis is that in any description of the episode you can see the tipping point where it just becomes too much for a 70 minute story to hold as they exist. There are just so many "other ways" to do this to recommend. Just looking at the method that would change as little as possible....
Episode 1: Focus on the Neo-Nazis. Really vibe on this being related to the origins of Doctor Who by having bits of this be inspired by things like Quatermass. Mention mercury to tie this all back in to David Whitaker. Use this segment to demonstrate the 25 year cycle, etc., without explaining what Nemesis really is. Cliffhanger ends with the arrival of the Cybermen.
Episode 2: Focus on the Cybermen. The Doctor reveals more - but not all - about his involvement with the Nemesis. Standard "bad guys are after the Dragonballs" scenario. Use some of the Neo-Nazis as cannon fodder so the Cybermen can be Cybermen. Tie this episode into the monster tradition of Doctor Who, including all of the Dalek references that the serial wants to make (instead of book-ending it with them). Cliffhanger with Cybermen getting killed by a golden arrow.
Episode 3: Focus on Peinforte. This is the episode about Doctor Who's tradition of juxtaposing things and may act as a testing ground for Battlefield. No stupid cringeworthy comic relief scenes unless the serial is too dark for children. Pose the "Doctor's secrets" question earlier in the episode.

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