“Nightmare in Silver” – Review: Redux

Doctor “Don’t wander off! Now I’m not just saying, “Don’t wander off.” I mean it. Otherwise you’ll wander off. And the next thing you know, somebody’s going to have to start rescuing somebody.”

Nightmar in Silver

The penultimate review. It’s been one helluva journey over the last 101 days to reproduce (or in many cases, write new) blog reviews of all the twenty-first century Doctor Who episodes. And after this one, there is only “The Name of the Doctor” left to complete. It goes without saying that my Doctor Who excitement levels are currently stratospheric and show no signs of slowing down any time soon. Planning for the Official 50th Celebration on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Excel in Docklands area of London, not to mention the 3D screening of “The Day of the Doctor” on Saturday. Once it’s all over, the blog will hopefully be replete with reviews and commentaries on the biggest Golden Anniversary of them all. In the meantime, I was forced into watching “Nightmare in Silver” again. Over the course of the last 100 reviews, only 4 episodes have managed to achieve the Demon’s Run Rating of 20 out of 20. One of them was Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife”: a beautiful love letter to the fans. However, it is unfortunate to report that ‘nightmare’ is a pretty appropriate word.

Let’s get some of the bad stuff out of the way first… just what are Artie and Angie doing there? There performance at the end of the preceding episode was somewhat irrelevant, and I am convinced that this episode would’ve been so much better if they weren’t there at all. Sure, there was a bit of jeopardy for them and the fact that Hedgewick’s World of Wonder was a theme-park world sort of lent itself to having children in attendance but I’m sure writers of Gaiman and Moffat’s experience could have come up with other characters to have been put in peril. You can look at episodes like “Hide” where there is essentially the Doctor and Clara arriving and finding two characters who are brilliantly portrayed and well-rounded additions to the Whoniverse (along with a pair of monsters and a ghost who turns out to be a time-traveller) and all is perfectly fine. Here though, we have Matt and Jenna along with the two children who, as viewers, we barely know. Then we meet Porridge (the fabulous Warrick Davies), Webley (the equally fabulous, Jason Watkins), Tamzin Outhwaite as the Captain and a force of half a dozen members of the “punishment platoon” and there are just too many people vying for screen time and none of them really get time to develop.

This is also an opportunity to put a bit of fear back in to the Cybermen following a series of relatively ineffectual appearances of late. A new design means that they more sleek and less clunky, a facet that actually comes across quite well: a bit like when “28 Days Later” reinvented zombies as creatures that could actually run fast. There ‘upgrading’ capabilities turned out to be a little too good to be true as they adapted to the weaponry that was being used against them. There is a Trek vs Who argument of some standing whereby fans of Doctor Who often claimed that the Borg were just a rip-off of the Cybermen. This outing though left me in little doubt that the upgrading (adaptability) was a case of the Cybermen borrowing back from the Borg, as the silver army adapted a bit too quickly. The Cybermites, though, were a lovely addition, and so much more practical than the chunk Cybermats.

The highlight of the episode for me was without question, the battle of wits / battle of wills between the Cyberised Matt Smith; the self-titled “Mr Clever” and his unconverted counterpart, our Doctor. It’s always a tricky thing to pull-off one actor acting against himself but Matt Smith did it with aplomb. For all the talk of Cyberia, there was a great performance there that allowed Matt Smith to stretch his creative wings a little and give us a little evil. It couldn’t salvage the episode though, which remained a little bit of a mess: all these bombs and triggers and weapons were confusing; the promotion of Clara to lead the platoon was nonsensical from the get-go; and the fact that the collective mind of the Cybermen (more Borg, anyone?!) all had to stop to work on a chess problem was just a little disingenuous. I had hoped for more from Neil Gaiman.

Highlight: Mr Clever vs the Doctor

Lowlight: Too many characters, none of which were properly developed

Talking Point: Are the new Cybermen better?

Demon’s Run Rating: 10 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 11th May 2013

Marathon Status: ONE. MORE. LEFT.

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