13
May
2013
Doctor Who: Series 7, Episode 13
Nightmare in Silver
Sam
Neil Gaiman's latest episode of Doctor Who probably has the most going against it of any episode in recent memory; well, at least until next week where the "name" of the Doctor will be "revealed". The problem is Gaiman is up against what is one of the best episodes of Doctor Who ever - his own.

Now there's nothing really linking "Nightmare in Silver" with "The Doctor's Wife" other than Gaiman, but that's all that is necessary for the inevitable comparisons. So let's get this out of the way first. It's not as good. There - you happy? "The Doctor's Wife" was a revelatory episode, making us care about the TARDIS as a real character, rather than just a ship. It was a brilliant stroke by Gaiman that made it difficult to follow up.
I'm not sure "Nightmare in Silver" really changed the game in terms of the Cybermen, though it did reboot (and then completely destroy) the Doctor's robot/human hybrids. This is not to say it was a bad episode, in fact it will end up as one of the better ones this season (still behind last week's "The Crimson Horror").

Let's get some of that nasty plot out of the way so we can get to the meat of what worked and didn't in the episode. The Doctor, Clara and her two snot-nosed wards land on an amusement park planet that sports such great attractions as The Spacey Zoomey ride. The Doctor is excited to use his golden ticket to hop on board. They quickly discover that the planet has been repurposed after the park's been shut down thanks to those nasty Cybermen. We meet an army commander (of who I care so little about, it hurts) and Warwick Davis', Porridge, who is not-so-cleverly the secret emperor, who was tasked with killing a billion-trillion innocent people to wipe out the Cybermen in the latest battle to save humanity. We're not supposed to suspect he's important because he's a dwarf! The hand was pretty much tipped with Davis' knowing glances and the army commander's interest in him and the two eventually meeting and taking orders like he was someone important. What made the episode most interesting is that the new Cybermen (who had kind of been hanging out in little mechanical bugs while they were waiting for more children/super-large, Doctor-sized brain to come around) take hold of the Doctor (and the little kids, who could have died for all I cared).

This gives us our first taste of Matt Smith as a Who villain. Gaiman chose to go the Gollum route when having the dueling Doctors go at it (or as the baddie liked to be called, Mr. Clever). I think it ultimately worked and it was by far the most entertaining portion of the episode. Smith went over the top, as he should, when portraying the diabolical Cyber-part of his psyche. Watching Mr. Clever explore the inside of the Doctor's mind was, well, Fantastic! (Allons-y would not work here, but you get the fucking point).
Unfortunately, the rag-tag army felt very flat. They were stranded on that planet as a punishment, explaining why they think throwing chairs at a Cyberman would do anything. Its commander had trouble following orders, but other than that, there wasn't much of a character to her at all. The rest of the crew was basically unfit for duty that I think was supposed to play a bit more charming and funny than it actually did.

The Doctor agrees to play chess for control of his mind against Mr. Clever. Contrived? Yes. Did it work? Kind of. Ultimately the Doctor out-wits Mr. Clever by smacking himself in the head with a Nintendo Power Glove that can disable Cybermen.

So how to deal with the brand-new, upgraded horde of Cybermen heading toward our heroes? Well, we'll just blow the whole thing up. Seemed to work last time. Porridge reveals his true identity and sets the planet-destroying bomb for level "Alderaan" and then beams everyone aboard his empirical cruiser in space. How in the fuck was this not an option earlier? Sure, the Doctor said not to blow up the planet, but as soon as the going got tough, the Doctor thought it was a fine idea. Safely aboard the ship, everyone watches the planet explode, destroying the new army of Cybermen.

After a quickly rebuffed marriage proposal from the Emperor, Clara swooped up her kids (she's the worst babysitter/best babysitter ever, right?) to head home in the TARDIS. The kids slunk off to their regular lives and Clara joined them, leaving the Doctor alone until next week - where we finally learn his name. Or something.

Grade: B

Stray Observations:

-First - I'm now officially disappointed with the handling of Clara. To be clear, I'm not upset about the character - who's turned out to be great - I'm upset that the show spent only the series seven premiere ("Asylum of the Daleks") and the Christmas special ("The Snowmen") giving us anything on her. Plus, each of those episodes served as an introduction. The rest of the series has been the Doctor staring off exclaiming, "She's impossible!" We get it. The crack in Amy's wall and her pregnancy/the Silence were prevalent throughout their respective series. If Moffat is permanently stepping away from any sort of serialization of the show, it would be to its detriment. Even something as slight as "Bad Wolf" spiced things up among a necessary batch of non-arc episodes. When it's only stand-alone episodes, there doesn't seem to be much movement (Well, duh, that makes sense). However, I did enjoy that this episode delved more into the Doctor's sexual interest in Clara, even if they'll never cross that bridge, it's there.

-Doctor Who line of the week: When the commander suggests holding up in Natty Longshoe's comical castle - "Is it a real castle?" "Yes, but comical."

-There were actually a bunch of great one-liners throughout the episode, which was to be expected from a great mind like Gaiman: "It's here to destroy you"¦at chess!" and "The next thing you know, somebody's going to need rescuing from somebody."

-The line "Hail to you, the Doctor, savior of the cybermen!" was an awesome line, but ultimately felt like a great way to sell the episode, while it ultimately wasn't particularly Earth-shattering.

-The floating piece of Cyberman is still blinking at the end, guess they're not written off the show for all time"¦

-The kids I can do without forever. I get that the teenager was Gaiman showing us how awful teenagers can be, but for fuck's sake she's in outer space after travelling in a time machine. C'mon.

-I feel like my review was a bit snippy, but I did enjoy this episode for the most part. Smith, not-so-shockingly, was the MVP of this week's episode, revealing some great range and, like in Gaiman's other entry into Who, gave a voice to the voiceless.
Tags: Doctor Who
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