DOCTOR WHO - Looking back at SILVER NEMESIS

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Christopher Morley turns the clock back 26 years for a battle with the Silver Nemesis.


Somewhat fittingly, the twenty-fifth anniversary of Doctor Who fell during Season 25 in 1988- with the third story given over to marking the occasion. Anyone in the know on the subject will tell you that if you happen to have been wed to your good lady or chap for that length of time, its known as your silver anniversary........so Doctor Who did what only Doctor Who can in taking something seemingly normal & twisting it into something altogether more alien!

The edict to use silver as a theme came from producer John Nathan-Turner, who decided he also wanted royalty involved- thus Windsor Castle ( or more accurately Arundel Castle standing in for its illustrious counterpart) came into play.


Writer Kevin Clarke was keen to pose the question 'who is the Doctor?', as the chap with the spoons was now beginning a transition from something of a clown into an altogether darker, more manipulative sort- a change which Ben Aaronovitch's Remembrance Of The Daleks would offer the first glimpses of as the maiden outing of the series, & indeed his novelization of his own story goes into even greater detail on certain points.

Next up was The Happiness Patrol, Helen A & her quest to enforce smiling faces on those she led viewed by many as a critique of Margaret Thatcher's Britain- script editor Andrew Cartmel later recalling that:
''My exact words were: 'I'd like to overthrow the government'. I was a young firebrand and I wanted to answer honestly. I was very angry about the social injustice in Britain under Thatcher and I'm delighted that came into the show."
...in response to a question from Nathan-Turner on what he'd like to achieve after being given the job.

Sylvester McCoy, the man behind the Seventh Doctor, told the Sunday Times he had backed Cartmel's stance:
"We were a group of politically motivated people and it seemed the right thing to do. Our feeling was that Margaret Thatcher was far more terrifying than any monster the Doctor had encountered.''
Against which backdrop Silver Nemesis becomes quite a knockabout romp by comparison! Four competing parties- the Doctor himself, De Flores & his gang of Neo-Nazi thugs, sixteenth century sorceress Lady Peinforte & a squadron of Cybermen- are after the Nemesis statue.



And to think Ace is more interested in the football results ( ''Have you seen this? Charlton picked up three points.'') than a story about the return of the Nemesis- she & the Doctor seem to be having a nice enough time at a performance by jazzman Courtney Pine, who contributed three original compositions to the soundtrack- Pe Pi Po & Adrian's Affair can be heard in Part One, while Part Two features Frank's Quest, both these latter two pieces named after co-writers Adrian Reid & Frank Tontoh.

The Doctor loves it, outing himself as a jazz fan- ''This is my favourite kind of jazz, straight blowing.'' Pine even signs a cassette for Ms McShane ( younger readers might like to know that in a long-forgotten age music wasn't available solely on CD or download). The little Scot in the pullover's even been kind enough to make her a new tape player to replace the one blown up by the Daleks.


This is no time to turn on, tune in, drop out, realise your cassette's been chewed, get a pencil & try desperately to salvage the spooling remains of the tape, though. Luckily this particular model does so much more than just play music- the Doctor's added a few other handy features, one of which enables him to work out that the Earth's in a spot of bother thanks to what's heading for "Landing Location, Windsor, Grid Ref: 74W 32N, November 23, 1988" according to De Flores's computer.

He & his cronies want to use the power of the Nemesis statue ( as Peinforte rather grandly dubbed it) to bring about a Fourth Reich! The Third one was bad enough, thank you very much.......meanwhile a few centuries earlier a mathematician is about to meet a very nasty fate as thanks for helping the Lady with the calculations necessary to jump forward in time from 1638 to 1988. He's managed to work out that the comet circles Earth every twenty-five years ( see what they did there?) & it will eventually crash down from the heavens in the late Eighties:
"It will circle ever closer until finally it once again strikes the Earth at the point from which it originally departed, the meadow outside. When? Oh, yes. Yes, of course. On the twenty third day of November in the Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Eight''
Clever chap isn't he?

Whether he was able to jot down any other foreboding notes- ' Kylie Minogue will be top of the charts the week you arrive' etc- before snuffing it, we never see. The Doctor & Ace arrive in the sixteenth century just too late to save the poor maths boffin, but Seven can't resist trying on a fez...



...a look he'll come to love once more five incarnations down the line.

Somewhat ominously, Peinforte's managed to take herself & her manservant Richard into the Eighties with only a rudimentary knowledge of time travel, a little help from black magic doing the rest. Richard's a bit of a wuss, too, being terrified of llamas ( ''What creatures are these? They will eat us. I beg you, my lady, return us to our own time. The England now is full of terrors.'') There's a chessboard lying around back in her own time, too- a portent of what was to come in The Curse Of Fenric. ''Do you think I didn't know? The chess set in Lady Peinforte's study? I knew.''.

Its implied that the black magic woman knows more about the Doctor than she'll ever let on, though the editing out of most of the references to the central ideas of the Cartmel Masterplan renders it all a bit of a footnote:
"He will soon arrive, Richard. Oh yes, I expect him. This time there'll be a reckoning with the nameless Doctor whose power is so secret, for I have found his secret out. In good time, I will speak it. I shall be his downfall.''
...is but a taster. Perhaps the juiciest nugget comes later.....
PEINFORTE: Doctor who? Have you never wondered where he came from, who he is?
ACE: Nobody knows who the Doctor is.
PEINFORTE: Except me.
ACE: How?
PEINFORTE: The statue told me.
ACE: All right, so what does it matter? He's a Time Lord, I know that.
PEINFORTE: Well, Doctor...
DOCTOR: If I give you the bow...
PEINFORTE: Your power becomes mine, but your secrets remain your own.
DOCTOR: It's all over, Ace. My battle, all my battles, I've lost. I can only surrender.
PEINFORTE: Yes.
DOCTOR: But not to you. The Cybermen will have the Nemesis.
(The Doctor gives the bow to the Cyberleader.)
Cyber-LEADER: This is most rational, Doctor.
PEINFORTE: But I know your secrets.
DOCTOR: Very well, tell them.
PEINFORTE: I shall tell them of Gallifrey, tell them of the old time, the time of chaos.
DOCTOR: Be my guest.
PEINFORTE: Your secrets.
Cyber-LEADER: The secrets of the Time Lords mean nothing to us.
DOCTOR: Exactly. Thank you for coming to the twentieth century and giving me assistance. Thank you for bringing the arrow. You may go now.
PEINFORTE: What?
DOCTOR: You had the right game, but the wrong pawn. Check.
And so the mystery remains- ''Professor? Doctor? Who are you?''

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