Doctor Who: Silver Nemesis (part one)

“Cybermen! Cybermen mean trouble! Cybermen TOTALLY mean trouble!” That was our son’s excited response to this episode’s cliffhanger. I asked him what he thought of the three evil parties now competing for a statue made of living metal. “The Cybermen want it so they can make MORE Cybermen, and the Nazis want it to last for a thousand years, and the evil lady just wants it.” We’d paused earlier to explain what the Nazis’ leader meant when he gave his soldiers – who, like no Nazis I ever heard of, are armed with Uzis – a toast to the Fourth Reich. Television Nazis are always offering toasts to the Fourth Reich.

The evil lady is played by Fiona Walker, and interestingly, her character, Lady Peinforte, is presented as an old foe of the Doctor’s from an adventure we’ve never seen. This would be done again to better effect in the next season with Fenric. Her henchman is presented as a ruthless criminal and murderer. In the same way that the story itself will disappoint us over the next two parts, he’ll deteriorate into a comedy stooge.

This morning was the first time that I’ve watched this episode as it was broadcast in almost thirty years. The script editor, Andrew Cartmel, did a lot for Who that we can genuinely praise, but the fellow was just no good at actually timing the scripts before they taped them. Most of the twelve serials that he worked on overran by several minutes, and most of the DVDs feature some deleted scenes.

When they released “Silver Nemesis” on VHS, it was in an extended edition, with each episode bulked up with material, about twelve minutes in all, most in part one. I certainly used to have a DVD-R of the tape, but I seem to have gotten rid of it, which isn’t like me. What’s more like me is buying the official release and putting the sleeve and proper disk into a double-disk case with the bootleg of the extended edition.

I recall watching the extended version with my older kids around 2005, and my son spotting Nicholas Courtney as an extra in the Windsor Castle tourist group, and shouting “Hey, it’s the Brigadier!” That shot didn’t make the broadcast cut, so even if our boy, who is the same age my older kid was when he saw it, was able to identify actors, he never had the chance. Courtney’s back is to the camera in the only shots in the original version. I am disappointed that the BBC didn’t include the extended edit on the DVD version, although there is a lengthy deleted scenes package, so we will go back and see the timey-wimey moment with Ace’s portrait later tonight. Funny how I got so used to the longer VHS version that its original twenty-five minute form felt like watching a “chopped for syndication” version. Hey, there’s a scene missing there!

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