Doctor Who (1963–1989)
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Silver Nemesis: Part One 

Earth faces imminent destruction. Nemesis, a comet containing a statue composed of validium (living metal) is due to strike, needing only its bow and arrow to achieve critical mass and ... See full summary »

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Anton Diffring ...
Fiona Walker ...
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Leslie French ...
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Metin Yenal ...
Karl
Martyn Read ...
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Storyline

Earth faces imminent destruction. Nemesis, a comet containing a statue composed of validium (living metal) is due to strike, needing only its bow and arrow to achieve critical mass and become active. Four converging parties know of its power: The Doctor, Nazis assault troops from South America, a 17h century noblewoman steeped in the black arts (in whose image the Nemesis statue was fashioned), and discreet but lethal extra-terrestrials. Written by statmanjeff

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23 November 1988 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

Simon Callow and Alun Armstong were offered Richard. See more »

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When the Doctor and Ace fall into the river, it is obviously a stunt double and not actually Sylvester McCoy; aside from the careful camera angles only showing him from the back, the stunt double moves very differently and is at least half a head taller! See more »

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The Seventh Doctor: Don't you find it embarrassing asking for autographs?
Ace: Not as embarrassing as forgetting what you set your alarm for.
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Referenced in 'Doctor Who': The Hartnell Years (1991) See more »

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User Reviews

All that glisters is not silver.
20 February 2015 | by (Tunbridge Wells, England) – See all my reviews

The first episode of "Silver Nemesis" was originally broadcast on 23rd November 1988, the 25th anniversary of the very first "Doctor Who" programme on 23rd November 1963. It was specially commissioned to mark this "silver anniversary", hence the numerous references to silver and gold throughout the serial and a mention of the assassination of President Kennedy on 22nd November 1963, the day before that first broadcast. The original plot was rewritten to feature the Cybermen, their last appearance in the original run of "Doctor Who".

The action takes place in England in 1988, ostensibly in November although filming obviously took place in summer. Part of the story is set lines in and around Windsor; it was hoped to film in Windsor Castle but permission was refused so Arundel Castle was pressed into service as a substitute. (Which explains just why the countryside around "Windsor" looks so much like the South Downs). Attempts to persuade a member of the Royal Family to appear were met with a polite refusal.

The plot is a complicated one and I will not attempt to summarise it in any detail. It revolves around the "Silver Nemesis" of the title. This is a statue which appears to be silver but is actually made of a "living metal", validium. The statue has three components - a bow, an arrow and the figure itself – and if they are brought together it possesses immense destructive power. Three rival groups of villains are therefore attempting to get their hands on it. These are the Cybermen, a gang of Neo-Nazis who (like all Neo-Nazis in fiction) have been hiding out in the jungles of South America and Lady Peinforte and her servant. Lady Peinforte is an evil 17th-century aristocrat; her name derives from a mediaeval form of the death penalty, the "peine forte et dure", under which the criminal was crushed to death by heavy weights. As usual, it falls to the Doctor and Ace to save the Universe by foiling the plans of all three groups.

The serial was broadcast in three weekly parts rather than the more usual four or six, which is unfortunate as there is really too much plot to fit in to only three episodes. It might have been better if the Cybermen had been omitted; their inclusion was, apparently, a late afterthought to fit in with the "silver anniversary" theme. (Because they are silver in colour). There are a number of plot-holes, mostly involving Lady Peinforte. Exactly how she has been able to travel 350 years into the future is never really explained. It is normally taken for granted in "Doctor Who" that time travel is a Time Lord monopoly, and yet here is a human from 1638 who has managed to master the art. It is implied that she has done so by sorcery which, if true, would be contrary to the traditions of the programme. Characters in "Doctor Who" can possess superhuman powers, but not supernatural ones. Their abilities must always be the result of advanced technology, not magic. (The "Daemons" in the serial of that name, for example, are alien beings, not supernatural entities).

(Something else never explained about Peinforte is why such a grand aristocrat should live in such a modest house; she must be the only woman in history whose tomb was more magnificent than her home. The true explanation is presumably that the BBC's limited budget precluded filming at an authentic 17th century stately home so they had to make do with a timbered cottage).

It is a pity that more care was not taken with creating the character of Peinforte, as from an acting point of view Fiona Walker is by far the best thing about this serial. I particularly liked her altercation with that dreadful American tourist. There seemed to be something of a vogue for glamorous, over-the-top female villains on "Doctor Who" during the late eighties; this was also the period of Kate O'Mara's Rani and Jacqueline Pearce's Chessene in "The Two Doctors". Otherwise, however, there is not much to arouse interest. Sylvester McCoy is his normal dull self, and Anton Diffring is insufficiently menacing as the chief Nazi.

The scriptwriter Kevin Clarke has admitted that he had seen very little of Doctor Who before writing the story, and doesn't seem to have had much idea about what the series is about. That would explain a lot. At one point he appears to have come up with the idea that the Doctor is actually God, although this did not make it into the finished programme. For which we can all be thankful. It would be a black day for religion in this country if it were ever to be revealed that the Supreme Being of the Universe is really Sylvester McCoy. All we are left with is scenes in which the Doctor suggests darkly that he is something much more than a mere Time Lord, but his exact identity is never specified.

I have always felt that "Doctor Who" went into something of a decline following the enforced departure of Colin Baker and, although I never liked McCoy as his replacement, not all the blame can be laid at his door. This was also a time when there were too many over-ambitious and under-developed plots, resulting in messy, muddled serials, and unfortunately "Silver Nemesis" is one of these. A pity something so leaden was chosen to celebrate the silver anniversary. All that glisters is not silver.


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