Directed by Chris Clough in 1988 in honor of Doctor Who's twenty-fifth anniversary, Silver Nemesis (get it? Silver? Like in silver anniversary?) stars Sylvester McCoy as the good doctor in an adventure in which series' producer John Nathan-Turner decided he should square off against some of his most popular foes - the dreaded Cybermen. Sounds like a fan favorite in the making, right? Well, sure, it sounds like one, but unfortunately Silver Nemesis doesn't rank up there with the best of the doctor's outings - in fact, it's regarded as pretty goofy, and rightfully so.
When the feature begins, we're taken back to the 1600s where Lady Peinforte (Fiona Walker) is trying to calculate the exact time and location that a comet called Nemesis is supposed to strike the Earth. The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) inadvertently launched it and so he and his pal Ace (Sophie Aldred) have to do whatever it takes to stop anyone, including some despicable Neo-Nazis, from getting it and using it for evil. Unfortunately for The Doctor and Ace, the head Nazi scientist, De Flores (Anton Diffring), plans on using the comet and harnessing its power to bring about a new era in Nazi-dom.
Complicating matters further is the fact that Peinforte and her assistant Richard (Gerard Murphy) manage to make their way through time to 1988 where they hope to get their hands on the comet for their own reasons. This wouldn't be so bad if there weren't a third party involved here, but there is and that third party is the aforementioned Cybermen , who are silver and evil and perpetually up to no good.
When you take into account that Doctor Who has been on British TV for close to five consecutive decades (excluding the gap where it was cancelled) it's not surprising that sometimes the storylines seem a bit familiar. While the latest revamps have been interesting and intent on trying new things while staying firmly rooted in what makes the show popular, there have been storylines that have felt pretty much phoned in, and this is one of them. The biggest problem that long time Who fans will notice is that this is basically a remake of the Remembrance Of The Daleks storyline right down to many of the core story elements.
What saves this storyline from winding up in the trash bin is the enjoyable chemistry shared between stars Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred. They seem to get along quite well and it's easy to believe their relationship here. There's a liveliness to their work together that is refreshingly enjoyable and a bit more fun than most 'hero/sidekick' team ups tend to be. Of course, there's also the fact that the Cybermen are here. They generally make for enjoyable villains often times simply because they look cool in an old British low budget sci-fi sort of way. Sure, their presence here feels like little more than a tacked on story gimmick but it's still a kick to see them on screen, particularly during the last chapter in which Ace is basically cornered by them. Anton Diffring's supporting role as a Nazi scientist sees the actor fairly typecast but he does alright in the part and adds some welcome menace to the role.
Even if the storyline is regurgitated to a very obvious extent, at least this time around the action moves quickly. Silver Nemesis is fairly well edited and put together and while it might not be deep or original, it is at least quite entertaining. For that reason alone it's worth checking out, particularly for fans of the series and of the Cybermen.
This installment of Doctor Who arrives on DVD in its original fullframe aspect ratio. This episode was shot on ½ inch tape, so the transfer was obviously taken from tape masters, so the image is a fair bit softer than some of the other releases that the series has enjoyed. There are moments where the picture is muddy looking and fairly murky and detail is generally below average throughout playback. It's all watchable enough and scenes shot inside tend to look cleaner and clearer than those shot outdoors, but this isn't really a great transfer even if it's obvious that the powers that be have done their best with the material that they had available. The disc is well authored in that there are no problems with compression artifacts and as soft as it all is, at least it's clean in that there aren't any nasty issues with print damage.
Silver Nemesis is given an English language Dolby digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix for its DVD debut and generally it sounds pretty good. There isn't a ton of surround activity to wow you but the score is spread out nicely and the dialogue is always easy to follow. There aren't any problems with hiss or distortion worth noting and the sound effects have some good punch to them. The original Stereo mix is also included, subtitles are offered in English only.
The extras for this disc start off with a commentary track from stars Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, and script editor Andrew Cartmel. It's a reasonably well balanced discussion that covers most of the basics but which can be a little bit on the dry side at times despite some moments of good humor scattered throughout. Fans will appreciate this one, however, as it gives us a good feel for what the actors went through and it allows Cartmel to discuss the writing process a bit.
Up next is a featurette entitled Industrial Action in which actors McCoy and Aldred are joined by co-star Gerard Murphy, writers Clarke and Cartmel and director Chris Clough among others to talk about their work on this project. It covers some of the same ground as the commentary track but has the added bonus of visuals. They also discuss some of the stunt work, effects work and the musical score - all in all, it's a good featurette.
Rounding out the extras from there are some production notes, twenty minutes worth of deleted scenes that are presented without a whole lot of context (but which do add a bit more character development to certain areas), a collection of trailers, a still gallery, an isolated score, menus and chapter selection. There was an extended edition of Silver Nemesis released on video in the 1990s, but that version has not been included here, instead only the broadcast version is to be found.
Doctor Who: Silver Nemesis is hardly the best that the series offers, but neither is it the worst - it falls safely and quite comfortable in the middle area, and as such, it's worth seeing but not necessarily an entry in the series that you're going to watch time and time again. The BBC's DVD looks about as good as the source material will likely allow and there are some good extras here. Collector's will want to add it to their collection regardless, while casual fans and curious viewers will be best served with a rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.