Television: Doctor Who and the Nightmare in Silver

"Nightmare in Silver"

Welcome to Webley’s World of Wonders! Roll up, roll up. Miracles, marvels and more await you. The wonder of the age. The miracle of modernity. They were defeated a thousand years ago, but now they’re back to destroy you. So fast, so smart, and so strong that fighting them is suicidal. Nightmares in silver! Ladies and gentlemen, behold- the 699th wonder of the universe – the Cybermen! As you’ve never seen them before…

And so we finally get a proper Cyberman story after 2006’s two-parter episodes Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel. Unless I count 2009’s The Next Doctor. Which I should. But I didn’t like it. I liked the two-parter from Series 2. I loved Nightmare in Silver.

Going into this episode, I actually feared that my bias would color my enjoyment of the episode. To the point that, I might over analyze, and… well, not like the episode. And all because I’m a Gaiman fan.

But I had nothing to fear. Gaiman delivers. And in spade.

The Doctor’s Wife from the last series had a great emotional hook in Amy and Rory, and had the gimmick of turning the TARDIS human. In Nightmare in Silver, Gaiman doesn’t have the luxury of having companions that are already well-loved, that people already care deeply about. His gimmick for the episode isn’t something that all fans are looking forward too–it’s something people are actually apprehensive about: the return of the Cybermen.

Nothing against the previous writers who handled the Cybermen, but when you make emotion their biggest weakness, it makes the Cybermen a bit of a wuss. It was interesting the first time it was done, back in 2006, because it was new. But their subsequent appearances were as easily resolved.

The Cybermen are enduring enemies of the Doctor, but unlike the Dalek, they don’t seem scary at all. Which makes me wonder why lists featuring scariest Doctor Who monsters always include them. Well, Gaiman’s Nightmare in Silver shows us why.

The Cybermen have become too human. To make them scary again, Gaiman took out the humanity. And what we get is an exceptional episode that even includes a great relationship development for the Doctor and Clara.

I do have two gripes for this episode.

Number one, when the Doctor notices the cybermites for the first time, he knew he couldn’t leave the planet. But why have the children stay in the planet instead of in the TARDIS?

Number two, Matt Smith is a great actor, yes–but I thought his CyberPlanner persona was a bit too flamboyant–and not unlike his portrayal of a very happy Doctor. Except more sinister.

I mean, I love the nuances that made Mr. Clever, the CyberPlanner, very distinct from the Doctor. And I get that there’s a bit of tomfoolery in the front that Gaiman wants to keep viewers guessing which Doctor is interacting with Clara. But prior to this–when it’s just the Doctor and the Cyber puppets–I really found it disconcerting that the CyberPlanner and the Doctor were essentially the same.

Unless, there’s a statement there somewhere.

Overall though, excellent episode.

I just hope next week’s finale lives up to the recent exceptional episodes.


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