The hype for this episode was at a fever pitch. The last time Neil Gaiman wrote an episode for Doctor Who, he wrote what most people would call a game changing masterpiece. The second that Cybermen were mentioned, my hopes immediately took a nose dive. The first time they reappeared with Nine in Series One, they were quite frightening, but every appearance since has been sub par, with the exception of a Cybermen’s hand running amok in The Pandorica Opens. Still, I’d let myself get prematurely disappointed without considering the wild ways of Gaiman.
Nightmare In Silver has little in common with The Doctor’s Wife at first glance. The Doctor, Clara and kids end up on Hedgewick’s World of Wonders for a good time. Soon they hear about the missing Emperor’s war with the Cybermen and things go horribly wrong when the Cyberplanner (a kind of super Cyber consciousness) gets inside The Doctor’s head. Clara is left to try and stay alive before the military, headed by Captain Alice, blows up the entire planet. Meanwhile, The Doctor plays a deadly game of chess…
Apparently Gaiman’s mission was to make the Cybermen scary again and on the whole I think he succeeded. The moments when the Cyberplanner spoke through The Doctor were chilling, especially when he mocked The Doctor with his own catchphrases like “allonsy.” The decision to have Matt Smith play two parts in one body was a bold move but it worked for me, only serving to reinforce how strong an actor the Eleventh incarnation of our favourite Time Lord is. Similarly, the separation of Clara from The Doctor gave us the chance to remember how independant, fun and bold Clara is as the new companion. Warwick Davis as ‘Emperor Of The Universe’ Porridge was wonderfully understated and his quiet speech to Clara about feeling sorry for the people who pull the trigger was both sad and a brilliant piece of forshadowing.
I don’t think this episode is a masterpiece like The Doctor’s Wife was. There are still the typical Gaiman elements; the abandoned circus, the grotesque, the rag tag team of characters, the strange blend of sci fi and fantasy that is Gaiman’s signature style and an emphasis on moral conundrums. But this episode is a lot less serious than The Doctor’s Wife despite Nightmare in Silver’s fear factor, and it has a lot less to say. At least at first glance. On rewatches, the complexities are more noticeable. Nightmare in Silver isn’t perfect, but it is thought provoking and well acted teatime entertainment. That’s all I want from Mr Gaiman.
Nightmare in Silver: 10/10 inky stars
FINALE: YES I’VE SEEN IT AND YES I AM BEHIND WITH MY BLOGGING. My brain is still shattered and I am in no state to review the finale till after another veiwing. Moffat you audacious bastard.
Maureen is addicted to all things speculative fiction, including Doctor Who. She guest blogs for MrsTribble but you can find her at her speculative fiction blog InkAshlings or on Twitter. She also reviews sci fi and fantasy books on Goodreads if you like that kind of thing.