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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
Cybermen Box Set
(Revenge of the Cybermen / Silver Nemesis)


Starring: Tom Baker and Sylvester McCoy
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: PG
Available 09 August 2010

Second only in popularity to the Daleks, the Cybermen had a few memorable outings with the Doctor, even contributing to the first Doctors demise. So what better way to remember them than with a two story box set containing Revenge of the Cybermen and Silver Nemesis...

Revenge of The Cybermen was originally transmitted between 19th April and 10th May 1975. The story was written by Gerry Davis and directed by Michael E. Briant. The story was originally part of season twelve and stared Tom Baker (The Doctor), Ian Marter (Harry) and Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith). This was also Tom Baker's first season as the Doctor.

Following on from Genesis of the Daleks, the Doctor and his companions use their time ring to return to the Nerva Space Station, but at a completely different time period. In this time the station acts as a shipping beacon, but something is not right. A plague has infected the station, but the spread and symptoms make the Doctor suspicious, a suspicion which is confirmed when Sarah is attacked by a Cybermat. It seems the Cybermen plan to smash the station into the Vogan’s home planet in an attempt to destroy all the gold, the source of their only weakness.

I have to be honest and say that this is not a classic ‘Who’ story, with some internal weaknesses in the script - which, when noticed, are pretty unforgivable. Like a lot of the Master stories, the Cybermens plot is so complicated as to be nonsensical. Why would any race with a space faring capacity have to steal a space station when they could just tow a decent sized bit of rock straight into the planet killing everything and saving themselves the problem of having to go there to their inevitable demise?

Although not the strongest story, or even the best Cybermen story (those have already been released), the story still has something going for it. Special effects from this and earlier eras tend to look a bit dodgy to an audience brought up on cutting edge CGI, but if you look closely there is some nice use of early blue screen, especially in the monitors which does help give the show a feeling of higher production values. The station itself is spread across a large set, thankfully getting away from the corridor feeling and lastly the filming in the caves open up the story even more.

Tom Baker is on top form, as is Elizabeth Sladen, unfortunately for Ian Marter he is once again relegated to his usual nice bloke role. Harry, as a character, hardly had much to do apart for being protective of Sarah Jane, though this appears to have been a general writer’s block with almost everyone who wrote for the character. The pace of the show is a little slow and would have benefited if one of the episodes had been dropped.

Disc one has a full length audio commentary from Elizabeth Sladen, Philip Hinchcliff (Producer), Roger Murray-Leach (Designer) and David Collings (Vorus). It’s a muted affair as it is missing the lovable bombast of Tom Baker. The Tin Man and the Witch (25 min, 25 sec) is another good documentary looking at the making of the show, Location Report (5 min, 56 sec) which is part interview and part behind the scenes footage. Cheques, Lies and Videotape (28 min, 18 sec) takes a look at the original trading that used to go on, between fans, for rare or missing Who material. The extras are rounded off with the usual photo gallery, PDF’s , the production text and a ‘Coming Soon’ for The Mark of the Rani.

If the first story suffered from being slow in pace and a bit lacking in story, The Silver Nemesis suffers for being so full of characters that no one really gets to develop anything.

The Doctor and Ace are enjoying a relaxing time in 1988, when he is alerted to an imminent disaster. Returning to Earth is the Nemesis, a weapon created to defend Gallifrey, but placed in a decaying orbit by the Doctor, with its return more than one faction wishes to acquire its power. Lady Peinforte travels to the present day from the seventeenth century, from across the stars the Cybermen return and on earth a remnant of the Nazi party stakes its claim, but will the Doctor be able to navigate and defeat these three factions and avert a disaster...

The Silver Nemesis is a three part, Sylvester McCoy story, originally transmitted between 23 November and 7 December 1988, as part of season twenty-five. The story, designed to celebrate forty years of Doctor Who, was directed by Chris Clough and written by Kevin Clarke.

Having a major villain return to celebrate Who’s fortieth must have seemed like a good idea. What wasn’t such a good idea was to make this story so laden with characters as to make much of the script incomprehensible. It feels more like a wish list - the Doctor, his companion, Cybermen, Nazi’s, a mad Jacobean woman, with her own companion and even the odd guest star - than a well constructed narrative.

There is much running around and a pretty good fight scene at the close, but much of the rest of the story epitomised what was going wrong under JNT’s loss of direction. Here we have another story whose scope was never going to be matched by the budget.

On the plus side the redesigned Cybermen were particularly effective, possibly my personal favourite incarnation of them. Sylvester and Sophie Aldred continue to have a good chemistry, but as the show progresses the two look more and more worn out. Anton Diffring turns up as the leader of the Nazi faction and Leslie French, one of the people who turned down the chance to become the first Doctor, makes a cameo appearance.

Although not a total disaster the show was below par and in the final analysis the story could have lost the Nazi faction and been none the worse for it - their contribution is minimal as is their impact on the story.

The disc comes with a full length commentary from Sophie Aldred (Ace), Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Andrew Cartmel (Script Editor), Chris Clough (Director), it’s another muted commentary, which is informative but not very funny.

For extras you get Industrial Action (33 min, 32 sec) which looks at the making of the show, with a large contribution by Kevin Clarke. Next up are some deleted and extended scenes (22 min, 34 sec) which have a few nuggets of interest but nothing which would have rescued the final show. You get the trailers and continuity announcements (5 min, 33 sec), and the usual PDF’s production notes, photo galleries and the same Coming Soon.

Although bolstered by some good extras, you can’t get away from the fact that these are both below par stories, the first is too slow and lacking in action the second has way too much happening. Still the Cybermen remain a popular villain, so this alone will always create some interest.


Charles Packer

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