Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Review of Doctor Who's 7x13: "Nightmare In Silver"

Written by Neil Gaiman
Directed by Stephen Woolfenden

Webley: “Hail to you, the Doctor. Saviour of the Cybermen.”

And if we were going with alternative titles for this episode, then perhaps “Saviour Of The Cybermen” would’ve been a marginally more accurate title for this episode because while Gaiman certainly did some interesting things with the Cybermen, I’m not entirely sure if he succeeded in his goal to actually make them scary.

Don’t get me wrong – unlike a lot of fans and reviewers, I actually quite enjoyed this episode but it seems that once again, while the Cybermen learned plenty of new tricks, they weren’t quite as menacing as I had hoped they would be in this episode. It’s a shame really considering the fact that one of their tricks was being able to take over the Doctor with some rather nifty Cybermites.

That leads me to the next thing – the Doctor. Placing Matt Smith in the position where he had to play both the Doctor we know and love and the Cyber Planner who was desperately outwitting him and rattling Clara was a lot of fun and actually one of Smith’s best performances this entire series. Matt really did manage to do a great job in distinguishing between both roles this week.

As for the Cyber Planner, we saw the crazy world of Hedgewick’s becoming a place for the last Cybermen to step out and unleash hell while a punishment group and a hiding ruler of sorts had to rely on Clara more than the Doctor in order to actually defeat the Cybermen in question.

In a lot of ways, this was a great episode for Clara. It’s not unusual nowadays for the companion to be placed in an authority position while the Doctor is otherwise engaged and aside from a few miscalculations, Clara did manage to motivate the punishment crew and Porridge into at least giving the Cybermen a decent fight on their hands, even if it was the Doctor finally getting one over on the Cyber Planner in order to save the day.

The idea of a literal and mental chess game between the Doctor and the Cyber Planner was clearly a throwback to a certain Seventh Doctor story but it worked pretty well here and it was nice that we’ve had yet another episode in a row that didn’t end up relying on a power of love speech or a reset button either. It does prove that the show is capable of doing it when it puts it’s mind to it.

However getting back to the Cybermen for a minute, this was an interesting episode for them. First of all, it seemed like they now share some Borg like traits, we’ve two segments upgraded and when they weren’t trying to convert the Doctor, they did manage to with Webley, Artie and Angie before their hive mind became their undoing and they were blown up by the activation of a bomb by Porridge.

Speaking of Porridge, I think Warwick Davis was the standout performance of this episode but the revelation that he was the King Of The Universe/Imperator Of Known Space had been blatantly obvious long before Angie spelled it out for everyone else. He was a fun character however and I did like the way he handled Clara turning down his marriage proposal of sorts.

As for Angie and Artie – I think some the vitriol they got online was a bit harsh but we’ve had better child characters/actors on the show and while they’re a nice way of representing Clara’s life outside of the Doctor, I do think it would be wise if we don’t see them too often. In a lot of ways, they were rather superfluous to the overall story as were more of the punishment crew on Hedgewick’s if I’m being honest.

Last but not least – the Doctor and Clara. The Cyber Planner had great fun in needling both of them about their friendship but at the same time, this should’ve been the episode where Clara demanded more answers from the Doctor on why she’s impossible. Thankfully, at least the prequel for next week’s finale and the last episode itself should finally do us all a favour and unveil who Clara Oswald really is.

Also in “Nightmare In Silver”

Red button viewers and YouTube fans can find “She Said, He Said” if they want a taster for the last episode.

Porridge: “I feel like a monster sometimes.”
Clara: “Why?

I liked the images of the previous Doctors and the regeneration from Ten to Eleven during the Cyber Planner plot of the episode.

The Doctor: “Clara, stay alive until I get back and don’t let anyone blow up this planet.”

Clara: “I trust the Doctor.”
Captain: “You think he knows what he’s doing?”
Clara: “I'm not sure I'd go that far.”

The punishment crew comprised of Captain Alice, Ha-Ha, Brains, Beauty and Missy while Porridge’s official title is Ludens Nimrod Kendrick Cord Longstaff and there was tragic amusement park owner, Webley.

Captain: “I will follow my orders.”
Clara: “Your orders come from me, don’t they?”

Clara (re Artie/Angie): “Complicated how?”
The Doctor: “Complicated as in walking coma.”

I know the Doctor and Clara took the kids to an amusement park but in some parts, it did look really garish. Maybe blowing up that planet wasn’t such a bad thing after all and the Cybermen are the 699th wonder of the universe.

The Doctor/Cyber Planner: “No, but I know who you are. You’re the impossible girl. Ooh, he’s very interested in you.”
Clara: “Why am I impossible?”

Clara: “What do you mean, he got what he wanted?”
The Doctor/Cyber Planner: “He means ‘good news, boys and girls. They’re here’.”

Advance warning: US viewers have gotten their Blu-Ray sets early so if you don’t want to be spoiled by the finale, tread carefully for the next few days.

Clara: “Do you think I’m pretty?”
The Doctor: “No, you’re too short and bossy and your nose is all funny.”

Chronology: How long has Clara actually been travelling with the Doctor at the on-off rate she’s been doing?

“Nightmare In Silver” won’t go down as a classic in the same vein that Neil Gaiman’s previous story managed to do effortless but even with it’s hiccups, it managed to be a fully engaging story that in some respects did manage to make the Cybermen more lethal if not entirely scary. It might have benefitted from some extra time and them coming into the game earlier but overall, I definitely enjoyed the story.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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