DVD REVIEW Doctor Who: Revenge Of The Cybermen/Silver Nemesis

Cyber-encounters for Doctors four and seven

1975/1988 * PG * 170 mins * £29.99 * 9 August 2010
Distributor: 2entertain
Directors:
Michael E Briant, Chris Clough
Cast: Tom Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Elisabeth Sladen, Sophie Aldred, Ian Marter

Back in 1983, Tom Baker tale “Revenge Of The Cybermen” was the first old Who to be released on video. You might infer classic status from that, but the fact that it’s taken this long to hit DVD is fitting.

It’s noteworthy for introducing an achilles heel for the Cybermen – gold. Otherwise, it’s blandly competent, meat-and-potatoes action-adventure fare. The title refers to the Cybermen’s plan to destroy Voga, “planet of gold”. The story doesn’t bear much thinking about, the bickering between Vogan factions soon becomes tedious, and the parping score sounds like a constipated elephant pleading for death. On the plus side, Christopher Robbie’s hands-on-hips Cyber Leader has camp appeal; a sequence where the Doctor’s turned into a walking bomb has added edge today; and the leads are reliably brilliant. Tom Baker is authoritative and unpredictable, while Lis Sladen lends the story a sense of urgency by hyper-ventilating her way through it.

Seventh Doctor adventure “Silver Nemesis” –  the 25th anniversary story – is more ambitious, perhaps too much so. The Cybermen are jostled to the sidelines by a would-be Fourth Reich (a Transit full of Nazis with cap-gun Uzis), ‘50s starlet Dolores Gray (who?), saxophonist Courtney Pine, the bleedin’ Queen (well, her double), and the fanboy cock-tease of a major revelation about the Doctor’s true identity. The Cybermen look like dozy wimps, outfoxed by all-comers and merrily slaughtered using a catapult. And the spine of the story – Doctor returns to Earth, retrieves Gallifreyan superweapon, tricks enemies into obliterating themselves – is identical to “Remembrance Of The Daleks”, which finished airing less than a month before. Lazy.

Scattered amongst all this are a great concept (a statue of “living metal”), some cool moments, a couple of enjoyably awful puns and one superb character: nutjob Jacobean villainess Lady Peinforte. But someone should have pruned back this dense thicket to something more manageable.

Extras:

Both stories come with above-average Making Ofs. The everything-and-the-kitchen-sink nature of “Silver Nemesis” means there’s plenty to talk about (33 mins), while the production team on “Revenge” regale us with tales of ghosts and sinister accidents during filming in Wookey Hole (25 mins)  – there’s a short local news piece from the location too. The VHS of “Silver Nemesis” was an extended cut; here you get a whopping 22 minutes of deleted/extended scenes instead. There are commentaries on both stories (Sophie “Ace” Aldred has a keen eye for cock-ups!), plus all the usual features: info text, Radio Times PDFs, trails and galleries. But the highlight is “Cheques, Lies And Videotapes” (28 mins), an inspired featurette about the trade in bootleg VHSes in the pre-net, pre-DVD age. Liable to send any thirtysomething Who fan who had a “special tape” for recording snippets of Saturday Superstore into a nostalgic reverie, it should also be fascinating viewing for don’t-know-they’re-born young ‘uns.

Ian Berriman