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3.0 out of 5 stars Hydraulic Brains, 19 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Doctor Who: Revenge of the Cybermen / Silver Nemesis [DVD] [1975] (DVD)
Revenge

Interesting cast this one; most of 'em have done Dr Who before, those that haven't soon would do, except for the remaining one, who featured in the first episode of Blake's 7.

I seem to recall reading that Gerry Davis may not have been too happy with the finished script - increased location filming necessitating more and more re-writes - but I like this, however it may re-use a few ideas from Moonbase and Wheel in Space.

The atmosphere is solidly grim from the outset; political murder on Voga, and a corridor full of corpses on the beacon - don't kid me about sterile atmosphere, the smell in there would have been horrendous - the skeleton Nerva crew doing their duty however much the horrid Professor Kellman stands by and sneers at them - how admirably British; I'd have shot him and blamed one of the corpses in the corridor.

It says something for the plotting of this that the eponymous villains don't really get involved until the end of Episode 2, and that it still works perfectly happily - rather well, in fact, to have the first two episodes telling the massive backstory - the Cyberwar and Voga's involvement - and with sufficient clarity that the first time I saw it, I thought they were talking about the previous Cyberman story (alas there are no Glitter Guns in The Invasion). It is also something of an aceivement that the story is sufficiently well-told that the numerous holes in the plot are not immediately visible.

The Vogans are extremely well-realised; not just well-designed and well acted, but finely drawn; Vorus may be ruthless but his patriotism is beyond doubt; Tyrum may be well-disposed to Sarah and Harry, but he's a staunch separatist and obviously not to be trusted. Michael Wisher turns in a cheekily bronchial performance as Magrik. The 'Dove' and 'Hawk' designs are very good, as are the sets - though I do wonder how the Vogans copied the Great Seal of Rassilon (still, with all that gold, it's amazing what you can afford).

The Cybermen are commendably solid, and I like the voices and the head-mounted guns.

It's a tale of set-pieces; the Dr's escape from Kellman's cabin, the interrogation over the Pentallion Drive, the beacon/rocket/Voga climax, and the protracted massacre in Wookey Hole, entailing two Cybermen and a lot of dead Vogans. It says 'Don't mess with Cybermen' very loudly (especially if you're a Vogan).

The stuff filmed down Wookey Hole looks fantastic, well worth the inconvenience to Gerry Davis, even if the contrast with the studio sets jars sometimes.

The downside is that the BBC (who are selling this thing for money - it's not some cheap giveaway) have produced such a paltry Making Of, and in spite of You Tube amateurs being able to do up the video effects the BBC hasn't bothered - slapdash and shabby. The Cheques, Lies and Videotape is worth watching though - reminded me of a tenth generation copy of Robots of Death I used to own.

Oh, and the Vogan on the cover isn't the villainous Vorus, it's Magrick.

4/5 - for the story - the DVD production is poor.

Nemesis

It has a lot going for it: all shot on location, and Courtney Pine playing jazz; it's the twenty fifth year of Dr Who, so we've got to have something silver in it, better be Cybermen...

It looks very good; Windsor looks pretty, and the shots in Windsor Castles cinematic double, Arundel, fit in well; the South American stuff looks convincing, and even the gasworks, where the Cybermen blow the paramilitaries to perdition, looks impressive. In addition, the Cybermen are looking smart, there's a couple of nicely turned out Skinheads, the paramilitaries look the business, and the pair from the C17 ought to look good, cos their frocks are straight out of By The Sword Divided.

The Making Of indicates that the plot was pretty much slapped together, and it's as uncommonly similar to Remembrance as Attack was to Resurrection. Oops. Everybody seems to want the statue, but it needs the bow and arrow to achieve critical mass, so we can run around for an episode and a half in some nice scenery. One story where it turns out that the Dr has set the thing up all along may be counted an indulgence; two looks like laziness, as does copying the plot from two stories ago.

But if you accept that it's nonsense, much of it is very good; the chase through Windsor Castle, the big shoot out in Episode 2, the stuff in South America, silly Mrs Remington, and the final catapult shoot out against the Cybermen among those creaking gantries - I do pity Sophie Aldred and the poor blokes in the silver suits - it cannot have been nice. Nice Cybership too, and when Sylvester says 'Cybermen!' you can tell he really loathes them.

Fiona Walker and Gerard Murphy do well, even if Kevin Clarke's understanding of 1638 is next to negligible (he refers to it as Jacobbean, even though King James had been dead for 13 years by then, and the idea that Lady Peinforte had anything to do with Roundheads is fatuous) and the time spell is ridiculous, but I like them appearing in the tea room, and they have some nice dialogue (and it could easily have been in iambic pentameter, but JT said no...). Anton Differing, in his last role, seems perfectly aware that he's acting in something very silly, and that he's only really in England for the tennis.

As for the Skinheads, why do they assume that the couple in C17 costume are social workers? I spent a lot of 1988 wearing C17 costume, and I wasn't a social worker, nor were any of my mates - and we never got bother off Skinheads.

The more serious downside is that this is not the extended play version that was on the VHS, and the excellent documentary that accompanied it is absent - this is therefore NOT as good as the VHS release and, since I have spent money to acquire this, I take these deficiencies very seriously (and the way to solve 'rights issues' is to pay the money, BBC - are you not raking in enough? Take it out of the obscene amount of money you pay Jonathan Ross). This DVD is well below the standard that I expected.

2/5 (but not a good 2/5)
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