I first saw Silver Nemesis at the age of seven. The story didn't make much sense then, but at that age, all my playground cronies and I wanted from Doctor Who was action, stunts and explosions, which luckily Silver Nemesis did provide.
I bought the VHS tape about Eleven years ago for nostalgia, and after casting a critical media student eye over it, I have to agree with the umpteen reviews I have read about this episode. It certainly is the weakest of the 25th anniversary season, and one of the overall weakest of Sylvester McCoy's run as the Doctor. The story is garbled and incoherent, there are plotholes and inconsistencies aplenty, and the endscene is a virtual rip off of that of Remembrance of the Daleks, the far superior season 25 opener.
The overall production of Silver Nemesis was lacklusture. By this time Doctor Who's popularity was at virtual rock bottom and, other than us die hard fans, was simply not engaging the younger audience. It suffered from a low production budget and very poor writing. By his own admission, producer John Nathan Turner had at this point had enough of DW (you can see his blatantly defeated outlook on the Special Edition interviews).
JNT did stick it out for the final season the following year, but despite the sudden upturn through the brilliant writing and conceptual design involved in the episodes Ghost Light and The Curse of Fenric, Doctor Who had had its day (for a while anyway!).
On the positive side, we do get a glimpse into Gallifreyan lore, coupled with more thematic references to the mysterious side of this very dark Doctor. Is the Doctor far older than we know? What is his relationship with Omega, Rassilon and the 'dark times'? What are his secrets? These themes were referenced beautifully in the novelisations of the final two series, as well as the Virgin 'New Adventures' book series.
In several scenes we follow the Doctor duelling with an unseen chess opponent in his visits to Lady Peinforte's 17th century home. This opponent is revealed in the following season to be Fenric,the malevolent intelligence whom the Doctor trapped in the shadow dimensions after stumping him with a chess puzzle, which is eventually resolved in the climax of the Curse of Fenric. Although this could be described as the progenitor of the modern series' use of episodic continuity buildup and climax, it is very crudely executed; after a gap of twelve months, could any young fan remember the Doctor playing a game of chess in a study? Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred do their best given the poor direction and script, something which even the inclusion of veteran actor Anton Diffring as the Nazi leader De Flores could not help to alleviate.
Enjoy this one as part of the 25 year celebration series (the cybermen and the Validium statue fronting this silver anniversary as something of a gimmick), but be prepared for a bit of a cringe-worthy performance overall.