Timestamp #154: Silver Nemesis

Doctor Who: Silver Nemesis
(3 episodes, s25e08-e10, 1988)

 

We open in South America, 22 November 1988, on a scene of Nazis trying to kill parrots with arrows. A similar scene plays out in 1638 Windsor, England – though without the Nazis, naturally – as a woman tries to kill a pigeon with a bow and arrow. She retreats to a dark room where a mathematician is working on a calculation while the woman prepares poison-tipped arrows. Back in 1988, the Nazi addresses a room of soldiers, heralding the birth of the Fourth Reich before retrieving a silver bow and leaving on a plane.

In Windsor, the mathematician informs the woman – Lady Peinforte – that according to the calculation, the Nemesis comet will return to Earth and land in the spot where it originated on 23 November 1988.

It seems that the Nazis and Lady Peinforte are on a collision course.

The Doctor and Ace are relaxing to the smooth sounds of Courtney Pine when the Doctor’s alarm goes off, but he can’t remember why. The performance ends, Ace gets an autograph, and the pair is ambushed by snipers.  The travelers escape by diving into the river. Later on, they dry out on the riverbank while the Doctor ponders the alarm, knowing that it means a planet somewhere is about to be destroyed. Moments later, the Doctor finds out that the planet in question is Earth. He remembers that he set the alarm in 1638, and they travel in the TARDIS to Windsor Castle’s basement in search of the silver bow.

Lady Peinforte and her assistant use magic fueled by the mathematician’s blood to travel through time, landing in the present day as the Nemesis crash lands on Earth. The Nazis and Lady Peinforte converge on the crash site, but the Nazis decide to bide their time until the site cools down. At the site, Lady Peinforte watches as the police radios stop working and a mysterious gas chokes the officers.

In the castle’s basement, the Doctor and Ace find an empty case and a prophecy: The bow originally disappeared in 1788, and unless it is kept in its case, the rest of the statue to which it belongs will return and destroy the world. The Doctor and Ace travel to 1638 and Lady Peinforte’s cottage and start to unravel her mystery. The Lady originally sculpted the statue, depicting herself, out of a silver metal that fell to Earth near her home. The travel forward again to Windsor Castle and join a tour group before sneaking away into the royal apartments and encountering Queen Elizabeth II. They are apprehended and escape, finding a painting of Ace that has happened yet for them, and eventually end up in the TARDIS.

The Nazis, Lady Peinforte, and the travelers all converge on the crash site. They are joined by a mysterious spacecraft that reveals a group of Cybermen. The Cybermen recognize the Doctor as the three aggressor parties open fire on each other and our heroes take refuge in the crash site. The Doctor and Ace steal the silver bow and escape, leaving the silver arrow in Lady Peinforte’s hands and the Nemesis statue unguarded.

The Doctor and Ace travel back to 1638 where the mathematician’s corpse has disappeared and the chess pieces have moved. The Doctor burns a note and they leave. As they return to present day, he explains to Ace that the validium metal was created on ancient Gallifrey by Omega and Rassilon as a form of ultimate defense. Some of it escaped from Gallifrey and landed on Earth, which the Doctor returned to space. They use the bow to track the other pieces.

They find the Cybermen and jam their transmissions with Ace’s jazz tape. They later find a pair of muggers who were defeated and strung up by Lady Peinforte. The Lady herself takes her assistant Richard to his own grave, and then into the castle where the Cybermen hold the statue, which is apparently her own grave. The Cybermen engage the Lady and Richard at the tomb as the Doctor and Ace destroy the Cybermen ship. The Nazis find the Cybermen and strike a deal, but they don’t understand that the Cybermen will kill them anyway.

The Doctor and Ace discuss the cyclical nature of the Nemesis comet and how each time it comes around, bad things happen in Earth’s history: In 1913, the First World War was about the erupt; in 1938, Hitler annexed Austria; and in 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated. The double their efforts to scan for a Cybermen fleet in space and they find it.

The Nazis arrive at the tomb and drive Lady Peinforte away through Richard’s cowardice, leaving the Nazis with the arrow and statue. The Nazis try to doublecross the Cybermen, but one of the Nazis betrays his leader (De Flores) and they are captured for processing. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Ace arrive at the tomb as the tape ends, presenting the bow to the Nemesis statue as the Cybermen re-establish contact with their fleet. The Doctor and Ace run with the bow, forcing the statue to follow them.

They travel back to 1638 and the Doctor makes another move on the chess board. Ace asks who originally brought the metal to Earth and what is really going on, but the Doctor remains silent as they leave for the hangar where the comet is stored. The Nemesis statue arrives and the Doctor gives it the bow. Soon enough, the Cybermen arrive and Ace battles them with a slingshot and gold coins from 1638.

The Nazis break free from their processing, revealing it to be a ruse the entire time. Meanwhile, Lady Peinforte and Richard hitch a ride with an American woman to Windsor. The woman descends from the 17th century Remington family, whom Peinforte refers to as thieves and swindlers. In fact, Dorothea Remington was killed by poison.

As Ace singlehandedly decimates the Cyberman army, the Doctor loads the statue back into the comet and sets the rocket’s course to the cyber fleet. At one point, Ace is trapped by three Cybermen and only one shot left, but she ends up forcing them to shoot each other. The Doctor talks with the statue, removing the bow and avoiding its questions about mission and purpose. The Doctor and Ace defeat the remaining Cybermen, but De Flores arrives and takes the bow. He is upset that the Nemesis will not speak to him, but he meets his end as the Cyber Leader guns him down.

Lady Peinforte arrives and faces off with the Doctor and the Cyber Leader, and Peinforte asks Ace a question: “Doctor who?” Who is the Doctor and where does he come from. The Doctor relents and passes the bow to the Cyber Leader, defusing Lady Peinforte’s attempts to reveal the Doctor’s secrets with the Cybermen’s apathy regarding them. All the Cybermen want is to transform Earth into Mondas. The bow ends up in the comet with the statue and the Doctor launches it, but not before Lady Peinforte hurls herself into the capsule with the Nemesis.

The comet races toward the fleet and destroys it, confounding the Cyber Leader and leaving an opening for Richard to stab the remaining Cyberman with the last arrow. Ace and the Doctor return Richard to 1638 where Ace figures out the Doctor’s gambit: He originally placed the statue into orbit to lure out the Cybermen and destroy them. As they listen to an impromptu concert, Ace asks the Doctor about his past, but the Doctor puts a finger to his lips and listens to the music instead.

 

Overall, this was a fun 25th anniversary adventure with a lot of moving parts. I’m glad they made the callback to Remembrance of the Daleks to keep continuity rolling. I am intrigued by this “Cartmel Masterplan” idea that mystifies and deepens the Doctor, but I’m cautious and hoping that it doesn’t make the Doctor menacing. Not knowing everything about the Doctor is good, but making him have a dark agenda (potentially one of wiping out his enemies rather than simply defeating them) won’t work for me.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Timestamp #154: Silver Nemesis

  1. I like this one, but since it basically reuses the plot wholesale from Remembrance of the Daleks, which did it with more style, it kind of falls flat for me in places. I’m also not keen on being able to kill Cybermen with gold coins and slingshots. It used to be a time when you actually had to get the gold INTO the chest unit to kill the Cybermen. That was just…silly. Still, the things that made Remembrance great are here too, so even though I don’t think this handles them as well it’s still a good story.

    I was wondering if you’d comment on the idea that the Peintforte says that despite the Doctor’s change in appearance that he’s still the same “little man”, implying that it was the second Doctor, the only other one who could be described as little, who set this up, which leads into the season 6B theory for many fans. In the televised stories the 2nd Doctor couldn’t control the TARDIS, so he wouldn’t have been able to set up anything…

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