Rule number one of plagiarism – don’t make it glaringly obvious where you have stolen the idea from.
So when Ace remarks at the end of Silver Nemesis that the Doctor tricked the Cybermen “Just like the Daleks” (in earlier season story Remembrance of the Daleks) the script writers inadvertently drew attention to the fact that both stories are essentially the same – specifically:
1. Several groups fighting for an ancient artefact of immense power.
2. A famous enemy from the show’s past (Daleks and Cybermen respectively).
3. One of the groups competing for the artefact are neo-Nazis.
4. The Doctor wins by tricking the famous enemy into using the artefact, which destroys their battlefleet.
And that’s where Silver Nemesis is on a hiding to nothing – because Remembrance of the Daleks was a much better execution of the plot idea. In the latter, it is kept simple – the battle is between two competing factions of Daleks, with the human involvement either as lackeys to the renegade Daleks, or the poor military caught in the crossfire. Simple – but effective. Silver Nemesis on the other hand, features a witch who time travels from Tudor days and kills Cybermen with gold plated arrows, and neo-Nazis – and just for good measure, the Cybermen were included as silver-skinned enemies for a story in the show’s silver anniversary year. In a three-part episode that’s ever so slightly overkill.
Which brings me to why Silver Nemesis has plummeted in my estimation. The serial was first released in 1993 as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations – not only was the cover fantastic, but it was released as a ‘director’s cut’ – effectively three 30 minute episodes. For 18 years, this was the only version of the story I had seen, and I rather enjoyed it – I may even have ranked it somewhat higher than Remembrance. Then I bought the DVD version, and I was horrified to see just how poorly edited the broadcast version was. The plot was far too busy and clunky – it really was a shock to see the qualitative difference the missing ten minutes made.
If the showrunners had taken an episode from the truly awful The Greatest Show in the Galaxy and given it to Silver Nemesis, this would have been a much better executed and very enjoyable serial. As it is, I am intensely frustrated that the BBC did not include the extended version as a bonus disc in the DVD release.
As a final thought – this is the lowest rated Cybermen story in these rankings, but it may not remain so. I am now resolved to buy The Moonbase sooner rather than later – although I am not expecting it to be worse than Silver Nemesis – on the contrary I think it may be strong contender for the top 20! It is possible however, if The Wheel in Space is either recovered or animated, that it may suffer from the opposite problem to Silver Nemesis – not enough plot in too many episodes. That being so, then there may well be competition for the dubious honour of being my least liked story to feature the Cybermen.