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Recap / Doctor Who S25 E3 "Silver Nemesis"

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Silver Nemesis
Written by Kevin Clarke
Directed by Chris Clough
Production code: 7K
Air dates: 23 November - 7 December 1988note 
Number of episodes: 3

The Doctor: I don't suppose you've completely ignored my instructions and secretly prepared any Nitro-9, have you?
Ace: What if I had?
The Doctor: Naturally, you wouldn't do anything so insanely dangerous as to carry it around with you, would you?
Ace: Of course not. I'm a good girl, I do what I'm told.
The Doctor: Excellent. Blow up that vehicle.
Ace: *delighted grin*

The one where the Doctor wears a fez... before wearing a fez was considered cool.

The first episode of this serial first aired on 23 November, 1988 — the day of the big two-five.

The Doctor and Ace visit England in 1988, where three rival factions – the Cybermen (whose costumes are a lot more reflective this time around), a group of Neo-Nazis and a 17th-century sorceress named Lady Peinforte – are attempting to gain control of a statue made of a living metal, validium, that was created by Rassilon as the ultimate defence for Gallifrey.

The statue has three components — a bow, an arrow and the figure itself — that must be brought together in order for it to be activated. They have been separated since 1638 when, in order to foil the first attempt by Peinforte to seize it, the Doctor launched the figure into orbit in a powered asteroid.

This asteroid has been approaching the Earth at twenty-five yearly intervals ever since, leaving a succession of disasters in its wake, and has now crash-landed near Windsor Castle.

The Doctor plays the three factions off against one other and eventually appears to concede defeat to the Cyber Leader. However, this is just part of a carefully laid trap, and the Cybermen's fleet is totally wiped out by the statue.

"Silver Nemesis" was promoted as the show's 25th anniversary special; the first episode airing on the anniversary itself. Because of the broadcast rearrangement to facilitate this, it aired before "The Greatest Show In The Galaxy", but clearly follows it in chronological order. Also, unlikely as it may seem, this is the first Doctor Who story to feature actual Nazis, rather than Nazi analogues.


  • All There in the Manual: Later expanded universe sources, Doctor Who: Cybermen and its audio adaptation The ArcHive Tapes, have In-Universe historians name the Cybermen who appear here as CyberIsomorphs, explaining the some minor cosmetic differences between them and the earlier CyberNeomorphs (80s' Cybermen) as well as explaining their presence in the 20th century by linking back to their use of Time Travel in "Attack of the Cybermen".
  • Argentina Is Nazi-Land: De Flores and his crew are hanging out in a South American hacienda at the start of the story.
  • Artistic Licence – Geography: In Episode One, the Nazis in the present day have stolen Lady Peinforte's calculations on when and where the comet Nemesis will return to Earth; the results are displayed on a computer screen. While the date — 23 Nov 1988 — is correct, the grid reference — 74ºW, 32ºN — is not (quite apart from the fact that references are cited as ºN then ºW); this would actually place it in the Atlantic Ocean some 420 miles east of Savannah, Georgia, USA. The actual location is in or near Windsor, and would have a grid reference of approximately 51.5ºN, 0.6ºW.
  • Author Appeal: Writer Kevin Clarke threw everything and the kitchen sink into the story.
    • He wrote a part for Courtney Pine because he wanted to meet him. He also made the Doctor a jazz fan. (The "straight blowing" line refers to clarinet technique).
    • The Nazi plot comes from his love of action films like Where Eagles Dare.
    • He also drew influence from Jacobean theatre (De Flores is named after the servant in The Changeling).
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Subverted. The TARDIS arrives in the present day on the grounds of a castle. When the Doctor sees an elderly lady coming toward them he continues confidently, telling Ace, "Act like we own the place... Always works. We own the place." Ace has to point out that the woman they're approaching really does own the place — the place is Windsor Castle.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The Doctor had launched the Nemesis weapon from the Earth inside a satellite to keep it out of the hands of his enemies, only to have that satellite's orbit bring it close to the Earth every 25 years, where the weapon's energy would adversely affect Earth history. The Doctor claimed that Nemesis may have influenced the start of both World Wars and the assassination of President Kennedy.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The Cyber Leader, Lady Peinforte and Herr De Flores are all competing against the Doctor and each other to gain the Nemesis for nefarious purposes.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Subverted; at the end of Episode One, a big spaceship shows up conveniently in time to distract the neo-Nazis who are preparing to execute the Doctor and Ace. Ace gladly welcomes this development ... for about a second, until she notices the grim look on the Doctor's face. Sure enough, when the spaceship opens, the Cybermen emerge.
    The Doctor: Don't thank them yet. You might live to regret it.
  • Blatant Lies: As quoted above, Ace is a good girl who does what she's told!
  • Bullying a Dragon: A pair of local louts make the unlikely assumption that a pair of characters dressed in 17 century garb and carrying a bow and arrows must be social workers and attempt to pick a fight with them. Lady Peinforte leaves the suffering Unwilling Suspension in their underwear.
  • Celebrity Star: Jazz musician Courtney Pine and his band.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The chess set in Lady Peinforte's house, and the question of who is moving the pieces.
    • Also the bag full of gold coins she pays the scholar with.
    • The arrow stuck in the TARDIS door comes back into play later.
  • Coffin Contraband: The Cybermen hide the Nemesis statue inside Lady Peinforte's casket.
  • Comet of Doom: The Nemesis asteroid, that, according to the Doctor, really does bring misfortune: it's actually an alien superweapon that somehow (ahem) wound up in a solar orbit. He cites the the two World Wars and the assassination of JFK as the results of the last three times it came near Earth.
  • Continuity Nod: Ace compares the events she encounters here with her encounter with the Daleks. The Doctor also mentions that they had destroyed her stereo, and he built her a new one.
  • Continuity Porn: References to Rassilon and Omega, Earth becoming "New Mondas", and in the deleted scenes the Doctor hypnotises some security guards by wearing spectacles in an overt reference to "The War Games."
  • Contrived Coincidence: Lady Peinforte and Richard just happen to hitch a ride with a descendant of the Lady's neighbors. Not that it ends up mattering much.
  • Costume Evolution: While the base design for the Cybermen in this story is unchanged from previous '80s stories featuring them, the details of the costumes are noticeably adjusted, with reflective heads, darker, scale-like slacks, and studded chins. Since this was the last Cyberman story of the Classic Series, this particular variation of the design would only appear once.
  • Creator Cameo: A number of contemporary and past Doctor Who cast and crew play the tourists at Windsor Castle.
  • Deadly Gas: The Cybermen use nerve gas to take out the policemen guarding Nemesis. The original intention was that Cybermats would be used, but there wasn't the budget.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Lady Peinforte is implied to have had another noblewoman murdered for hiring the former’s cook at a better wage.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Taken on its own, this story appears to claim that Lady Peinforte's powers are literal magic, making it the only story in the Original Series to allow such a thing rather than handwaving it somehow ("Battlefield" doesn't really count, because the Arthurian characters are visitors from another universe with different physical laws). However, a throwaway line in "The Curse of Fenric" establishes that, in fact, Lady Peinforte got her powers from Fenric. So there.invoked
  • Duck!: The Doctor yells out "Duck!", Ace immediately throws herself flat, scene cut and the Doctor is chasing a small gaggle of ducks out of the TARDIS.
  • Establishing Character Moment: De Flores is first seen preparing to shoot an inoffensive and attractive parrot with a bow and arrow. We then cut to out first sight of Lady Peinforte, doing the same thing to a group of pigeons.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Cybermen versus Neo-Nazis. Ace isn't sure which to cheer for.
  • Exact Words: The Doctor allows the Cyber Leader to give commands to the superweapon and has the superweapon confirm that it understood those commands. At no point does he instruct it to follow them.
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Lampshaded.
    Lady Peinforte: The bear will not pursue us. Such things happen only in the theatre.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Richard spends most of his time in the future panicking about every single thing he comes across. It helps his Heel–Face Turn towards the end, when he's just so happy that the Doctor can take him home that he resolves to change his ways.
  • Foreshadowing: Part of the plot involves breaking into the Peinforte family tomb — where Richard, already a bit jumpy having come across his own gravestone, notes that there doesn't seem to be any sign of Lady Peinforte's body. She's too obsessed and blinkered for it to really register, because if it had then certain ominous implications for her future might have presented themselves...
    • The deleted scenes seem to imply that the Doctor is playing chess against an unseen opponent each time he returns to Lady Peinforte's house. Later revelations in "The Curse of Fenric" would suggest that Fenric is operating behind the scenes in this story, and the chess motif later takes on great significance in that story.
  • Fourth Reich: The neo-Nazis hope to start onenote . Getting the power to do so is their motive for stealing the validium statue.
  • Frictionless Reentry: Averted. De Flores specifically warns his men not to try touching the asteroid until it's had time to cool down.
  • Gambit Pileup: Between the Doctor, Lady Peinforte, the Neo-Nazis, and the Cybermen.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: One of the skinheads who ends up tied upside-down in his underwear is wearing boxers with a pattern of lip-prints on them.
  • Grand Finale: To the Doctor vs the Cybermen story arc for the Original Series.
  • Gratuitous Nazis: There is really very little plot or metaphorical justification for having Nazis in this story.
  • Heroes Gone Fishing: The story opens with the Doctor and Ace contently enjoying some outdoor live jazz and reading the Sunday newspapers.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The Cybermen. Makes one wonder why they carry guns in the first place.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: It has Cybermen vs Neo-Nazis, but it sets up the "Wolves of Fenric" arc with Ace and the Doctor as The Chess Master motif which concluded in rather sinister style in "The Curse of Fenric".
  • It's All My Fault: Ace's guilt when the Cybermens' guards are killed.
    They killed them, 'cause I blew up their ship.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Ace points out that the resolution is exactly the same as that from "Remembrance of the Daleks," a story only two serials before this one.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Richard, to the point where at the end of the story the Doctor and Ace take him home and let him play the recorder for them. He does seem a bit more sinister and thuggish at the beginning of the story, when he's at home and in his element, but his experiences as a Fish out of Temporal Water go some way towards helping a Heel–Face Turn along.
  • Mugging the Monster: The skinheads who try to rob Lady Peinforte and Richard.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Ace has a minor one when she blows up the Cybermens' lander and they execute their human minions for allowing it.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast / Punny Name: Lady Peinforte is named after "peine forte et dure", a historic English torture method involving slowly crushing people to death with rocks.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: There are hints, especially on the DVD deleted scenes, that "De Flores" is meant to be a pseudonym for Martin Bormann, the most senior Nazi unaccounted for in 1945 who was widely believed in the 1980s to be still alive and hiding out in South America.
    • During the scenes at Windsor Castle, the Doctor and Ace encounter a woman who theoretically is supposed to be the Queen. Unfortunately the lookalike hired by the production team doesn't look all that much like the Queen, and in fact more resembles her daughter, Princess Anne.
  • No Swastikas: Averted. John Nathan-Turner got cold feet about having actual Nazis in Doctor Who at the last minute and had some of the dialogue toned down to make it less explicit. Unfortunately, the director and set designer didn't get the message so De Flores's introductory sequence begins with a close-up shot of an enormous swastika-decorated ink stand and then a portrait of Hitler while Wagner plays in the background.
  • The Power of Rock: The Doctor had built a tricked-out boom box for Ace. At one point the Doctor and Ace use the boom box to broadcast jamming frequencies which disrupt communications among a fleet of Cybermen vessels, while listening to some jazz tapes (the Seventh Doctor is a jazz aficionado).
    "I do love a jam session."
  • Proportional Article Importance: The Daily Mirror has a huge headline proclaiming that the meteor that kicks off the plot is returning to Earth. Ace, however, is more interested in the football results at the bottom of the back page, and the Doctor doesn't notice.
  • Sanity Slippage: By the time they get picked up by Ms. Remington, Lady Peinforte can't even manage a facade of normalcy and just keeps rambling about destiny and immesurable power. It gets worse when they get to the warehouse, and finally peaks when she suicidally throws herself into the Nemesis' rocket.
  • Secret Identity Apathy: Lady Peinforte (who has managed to divine "Who" the Doctor really is) tries to blackmail him by threatening to reveal that information to the Cybermen. But the Cybermen say they simply do not care about that.
  • Shout-Out:
    • De Flores is a reference to a character in The Changeling.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare:
  • Significant Reference Date: The story is set on the 23rd of November 1988.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: Lampshaded when the Doctor and Ace find themselves wandering around Windsor Castle — walking towards the Queen:
    The Doctor: Act as if you own the place.
    Ace: What?!
    The Doctor: It always works!
  • 30-Second Blackout: Electricity going in and out for seconds at a time is a sign that the Cybermen are approaching. A Call-Back to their first appearance when their objective was draining all the power on Earth to power Mondas.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The only twentieth-century Doctor Who television story to feature actual Nazis, as opposed to evil fantasy cultures with a suspicious resemblance.
  • Trapped in the Past: Subverted — Richard is transported to contemporary times with Lady Pentiforte and finds himself stranded in the future and bemoaning his fate. Fortunately, the Doctor and Ace immediately arrive and playfully tell him they can help, considering they can easily give him a ride home.
  • The Unreveal: Lady Peinforte claims to know a dark secret about the Doctor's past, but doesn't get to reveal it; at the end, Ace asks the Doctor what she was on about, and he just smiles.
    • Word of Godinvoked states that the writer intended the Doctor to be...a Gallifreyan God, of sorts. Or the reincarnation of one, essentially.
    • A later short story in the Expanded Universe subverted this by suggesting that the 'secret' Lady Peinforte knew about the Doctor wasn't actually that impressive to begin with.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Lady Peinforte uses sorcery to travel through time from her front room in 1638 to her front room in 1988, which is now a quaint tea rooms. None of the customers seem at all perturbed by the pair of screaming figures who arrived in their midst in a halo of green flame.
  • Unwilling Suspension: After a pair of local louts make the mistake of attempting to pick on Lady Peinforte and Richard, Lady Peinforte leaves them hanging upside down from a tree in their underwear.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Lady Peinforte has a slow-burning one throughout the final episode.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Cybermen's vulnerability to gold — originally a difficult-to-exploit weakness where gold dust, if gotten into their workings, could incapacitate them by suffocating them — is taken to utterly absurd levels in this story. While they at least regain the resistance to bullets that they somehow lost in "Attack of the Cybermen," they are now killed on impact by Lady Peinforte's golden arrows and Ace firing gold coins at them with a slingshot. Evidently the writer never stopped to think how absurd it was that the Cybermen could withstand high-velocity impacts without any trouble, but be instantly killed by a low-force impact with any gold or gold-plated object. This came about because, at the time, the only knowledge the writers had of this vulnerability was a throwaway remark about gold from John Nathan-Turner. The common joke at the time was that the next time they showed up, they would explode if someone just shouted the word "gold" at them.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Validium statue, which is capable of wiping out entire Cybermen warfleets.
  • We Meet Again:
    Cyberleader: So, Doctor, a new appearance. Otherwise, our anticipation of your presence has proved entirely accurate.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Not so much in this story, but in the ongoing series. What is Lady Peinforte's history with the Doctor, and how in the world did she learn secrets about his life on Gallifrey? Fenric is clearly involved, but decades later, we still have no details.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Has clear similarities to The Ring of the Nibelung, which is lampshaded by De Flores.
  • You Have Failed Me: The Cybermen kill their ship's guards after Ace blows it up, claiming betrayal.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The scholar at the beginning predicted the exact time and place Nemesis would land, then was killed to fuel Lady Peinforte's trip to the present-day.