The Doctor and Ace visit England in 1988, where the statue of Nemesis crashes in a meteor near Windsor Castle. It is made of living metal called Valadium and was created by theTime-Lords Omega and Rassilon as the ultimate defense of Gallifrey. There are three parts to the statue—a bow, an arrow, and the statue itself. The three parts have been separated since 1638 when the Doctor launched it into orbit in a satellite made from an asteroid to keep it out of the hands of Lady Peinforte (Fiona Walker), the 17th Century sorceress on whom the statue was modelled. It has been approaching the Earth as a comet at 25-year intervals, leaving a series of disasters in its wake, and is now coming to Earth. But Lady Peinforte is not the only power trying to get hands on it. A group of Neo-Nazis from South America led by De Flores (Anton Diffring) are coming as well, and there is a Cyberman fleet in orbit, led by the Cyberleader (David Banks).
First, we meet the Nazis in 1988, who see on a screen the landing location. Then we see Windsor, England in 1638, where Lady Peinforte and a mathematician (Leslie French) are planning to travel to 1988. Back to the Nazis who toast the Fourth Reich and take a silver bow with them to England. The Doctor and Ace are listening to a jazz performance by Courtney Pine (himself), and Ace reads a newspaper item about a comet as the Doctor’s watch alarm rings, but he doesn’t know what for. As they head back to the TARDIS, some gunmen shoot at them. The Doctor realizes the comet is coming. Lady Peinforte and her guard Richard (Gerard Murphy) time travel by magic means to 1988 with the arrow. The Doctor and Ace attempt to get help from Queen Elizabeth but are arrested and escape.
The Cybermen arrive. The Cyberleader recognizes the Doctor, even in his new body. The Nazis open fire on the Cybermen to no avail and are driven off. Lady Peinforte kills one of the Cybers with a gold-tipped arrow. She and Richard go off and leave the Nazis and Cybers to fight it out. The Doctor and Ace seize the silver bow and take it to the TARDIS. De Fortis and his Second-in-Command are the only survivors among the Nazis. The Cybermen cut the statue out of the crashed comet and place it in Lady Peiforte’s crypt. Peinforte and Richard are attacked by muggers on the road. The Doctor finds the muggers semi-naked, dangling from a tree. The Doctor tells Ace to destroy the Cybermen’s landing craft with her Nitro-9. The Nazis make a deal with the Cybermen, who intend not to honour it.
The Doctor discovers an entire fleet of Cyberships in orbit. The Cyberleader turns on De Flores, but the Captain throws gold dust in his face and flees. The Doctor enters Lady Peinforte’s crypt and awakens the statue. The statue follows the silver bow to the comet crash-site and the Doctor gives it the bow. The Cybermen arrive and Ace shoots one down with a gold coin from a slingshot. As the Doctor begins to launch the statue toward the Cyber fleet, Ace battles the Cybermen. The Cybers kill De Flores, then Peinforte and Richard arrive. The Doctor pretends to surrender, but to the Cybermen, who plan on creating a base on Earth. Peinforte screams and throws herself onto the statue, merging with it as it is launched. The Cyber ships are destroyed. The Cyberleader is about to kill the Doctor, but Richard strikes him with a gold-tipped arrow. He is the only one to survive and the Doctor and Ace return him to 1638.
Writer Kevin Clarke had seen very little of Doctor Who and met the production team with no idea what the story should be about. He made it up on the spot for producer John Nathan-Turner. He told Nathan-Turner that to all intents and purposes, Doctor Who was God. He was given the job if he would not tell anyone else about this idea, and if he threw in the Cybermen for the Silver Anniversary. Permission, of course, was not given to film at Windsor Castle, so scenes were shot at Arundel Castle, and in a nearby forest where a storm in 1987 had ruined and flattened many old trees. The disasters associated with the return of the comet include World War I, the rise of the Nazis, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Fiona Walker had been around Doctor Who for a long time. She had appeared in 1964 with the First Doctor in a lengthy series called the Keys of Marinus. She played Kala. Leslie French, who played the old mathematician, had turned down the role of the Doctor himself in 1963. Anton Diffring took the role of De Flores so he could leave his native France for a few weeks and watch the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament. He was ill at the time and died a year later. Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, Donald Pleasence, Herbert Lom, and Christopher Lee passed on the role, though any one of them would have made a fine Nazi. Prince Edward was invited for a cameo, but his mother refused the offer. Instead, an impersonator played the Queen. Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart) appeared in a cameo as a tourist in Windsor Castle. The entire tour group was former cast and crew. The Courtney Pine Jazz Quartet play themselves.
Penelope Wilton was on the short list for Lady Peinforte. She later played a Member of Parliament in some Ninth Doctor stories. The name of Peinforte comes from a 17th Century torture device in which the body is crushed by heavy weights. She and her sidekick Richard bring something interesting from the 17th Century, ranging from comic to creepy as they wander about 1988. She uses genuine magic instead of technology that looks like magic. The name De Flores is a reference to a 1622 play called The Changeling. This is the only time actual Nazis appear in Doctor Who instead of bad guys who just look and act like Nazis, though some had wondered why they are in the story in the first place. The Cybermen have a great cliff-hanger entrance, but don’t do much afterward. However, Ace versus the Cybermen is exciting.
The story did not garner great reviews and was thought to be something of a mess, lacking pace and character development, and the story was quite similar to that of the recent Remembrance of the Daleks. However, the chemistry between the Doctor and Ace was praised. Lady Peinforte’s growing madness had a certain manic charm. Director Chris Clough was disappointed in the special effects. Producer John Nathan-Turner wanted a bigger budget for what was the 25th Anniversary story, but the BBC Controller Jonathan Powell, who actively disliked Doctor Who, refused.