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09 March 2015 @ 08:53 pm
The Randomizer: Silver Nemesis  
Silver Nemesis has the profound misfortune of not being as good as Remembrance of the Daleks. Since they have virtually identical plots and aired within a couple of months of each other this means Silver Nemesis generally gets somewhat overlooked.

I believe Andrew Cartmel has said that it was only late in the day that the similarity between the two stories was noticed. Unless one of them changed profoundly between the original pitch and the final script however one feels someone ought to have noticed that they had two stories, celebrating 25 years of Doctor Who, in which the Doctor, in back story, lays a trap involving an semi-sentient ancient Gallifreyan artefact for one of his oldest enemies only to have the closing of the trap complicated by the appearance of additional factions.

Remembrance of the Daleks works better for a number of reasons. It probably helps that it is written by Ben Aaronovitch who these days is a pretty successful urban fantasy novelist so the script just is a cut above Doctor Who's run-of-the-mill. Aaronovitch latches onto the allegory of the Daleks as fascists-cum-racists and uses this to drive the story both in terms of the animosity between the Dalek factions, and to provide the motivation for Ratcliffe's men. Silver Nemesis, on the other hand, just has miscellaneous factions of evil: Cybermen, Nazis and a 17th Century sorceress without anything particularly linking them together. Rememberance of the Daleks puts its humour in the character interactions - particularly the reactions of Rachel and Alison to being bossed around by Captain Gilmore and the Doctor, while Silver Nemesis is aiming at a broader comic tone that involves narrowly missing an encounter with the Queen, skinheads getting their comeuppance and Joan Rivers as an American in search of her roots. The broader humour prevents the story having the gravitas of Remembrance. Though it also lacks the conviction for the nastiness of its characters. Rememberance's human baddies are apparently decent people who turn out to be unpleasant, while Silver Nemesis is full of allegedly completely evil people who, for instance, don't arbitrary kill skinheads who try to mug them despite being one of the most wanted men in Stuart England. Sadly Remembrance even works better as an anniversary story. Silver Nemesis just has Cybermen and a Silver statue, while Remembrance has the Daleks and Coal Hill School, and November 23rd 1963.

But, apart from being worse than Remembrance of the Daleks, Silver Nemesis isn't bad. It is interesting to contrast Sylvester McCoy's darker Doctor with Tennant's. Although the 10th Doctor can be vengeful, he lacks the cold long-term planning of the 7th. These traps have been laid years before, it is implied, long enough for the Doctor here to have forgotten the details of his own plan and are executed with cool detachment, not vengeful wrath. He's also desperately secretive, refusing to tell Ace what he is about even though he has plenty of time to do so.

Ace feels like a very unique companion, which is odd in lots of ways, for although action-oriented companions are in the minority, it is difficult to see what Ace brings to the table that, say, Jamie and Leela (or for a modern example Captain Jack) did not. Maybe its just that the 1980s had such a stretch of rather helpless companions.

Silver Nemesis is from the period when, arguably, Doctor Who was just beginning to get its act together again. It suffers, like much of 1980s Doctor Who, from some dodgy production values and somewhat wooden acting, but its a likeable enough tale. It is just a shame that Remembrance of the Daleks pretty much does everything Silver Nemesis tries to, and does it better.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/146742.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 9th, 2015 11:28 pm (UTC)
I used to dislike this a lot, but I watched it when I bought the DVD (partly from completism, partly because it was in a box set with Revenge of the Cybermen which is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me) and was pleasantly surprised by it. The 'comedy' bits don't work and there are some historical errors (everyone fixates on the move to the Gregorian calendar throwing the comet calculations out, but I'm more concerned about Lady Peinforte fighting Roundheads several years before the Civil War), but mostly it's good natured fun.

It seems a lot like new Who, especially under Davies: a bunch of elements that probably don't go together, but it's all so fast you don't really stop to notice, plus some pop cultural references (Courtney Pine) and the Doctor wears a fez! Like all the Cartmel era, it really wants to be a comic and it would probably be more fondly remembered if it was; it's an exciting adventure to be raced through, not something to be mulled over in the way that Ghost Light or Fenric might be. In graphic format the fact that the different factions are really there to look impressive in different ways rather than each to contribute a unique form of villainy might be less problematic too.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 10th, 2015 03:00 pm (UTC)
I think you've hit the nail on the head that the additional villains, particularly the Nazis, but to a lesser extent also Lady Peinforte (even though Fiona Walker is giving the part her all) don't really contribute very much either thematically or in terms of advancing the plot. They're really just there to look pretty.
bookwormsarah: idealistbookwormsarah on November 25th, 2015 08:19 pm (UTC)
I'm in the process of watching Silver Nemesis for the first time and I rather like it. Neo-Nazis, a mad time travelling Jacobite and the cybermen defeated in part by jazz? Genius!
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on November 26th, 2015 08:35 am (UTC)
I think it would definitely be better appreciated if it were not for the proximity of Remembrance. It's a fun little story, but definitely over-shadowed.