Episode Review & Analysis – Nightmare in Silver

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Ah, Ah, Ah… Spoilers

The TARDIS materialises on the biggest and best theme park that would ever exist. They are in a mock-up of the moon landing site. When I say “they” I mean he has brought Clara and the annoying children she is tasked with looking after. A funny looking man asks if he is the person he has been waiting for. The Doctor looks at him blankly and the man ducks back inside when Tamzin Outhwaite arrives with a group of squaddies proclaiming the planet closed. She asks who he is and he uses the psychic paper to introduce himself as the Pro-Consul.

The soldiers disappear and Mister Webley re-appears, offering to show them his collection. He is a collector who landed there not realising that the theme park had closed many years before. He asks if any of them play chess. Archie proudly proclaims that he is in the school chess club. But who is the opponent? It’s a cyberman!

CREDITS

Don’t worry, everybody knows that there hasn’t been a living Cyberman for 1000 years. Yet this one can play chess, how? Webley says it is magic and there is a great reward if he can beat the Cyberman. Archie promptly loses in three moves. Surely he should have known about the Fool’s Mate? There is only one answer to this conundrum. The Doctor opens the bottom of the device to discover Warwick Davis. He introduces himself as Porridge. Webley takes them around his collection, proudly announcing that he has two other Cybermen in his collection. But nobody but The Doctor has noticed the fast moving worms yet… He also has a statue of the Emperor that sort of looks slightly familiar. Take a loooooong look at that face and remember it.

After enjoying some anti-grav shenanigans The Doctor says they are not yet leaving. He is concerned about those funny looking insects and he goes looking for them. He puts the kids to sleep and tells them not to leave, slightly unnerving them in trying to calm them down. Uh-oh, The Doctor has a very bad feeling about this.

Mister Webley is tidying up the chessboard when the empty Cyberman leans forward and grabs him. The insects come out of its eyes and travel up Webley’s arms and the Cyberman speaks “Upgrade in progress”.

Porridge tells Clara about the Cyberwar, explaining that they could not win. He points to a black area of space that used to have a galaxy but was destroyed in order to stop the Cybermen. The Doctor interrupts their conversation asking if Angie has asked to go to the barracks. She says no and the group run off after the girl. Meanwhile Archie is all alone, worried about the strange sounds in the room they were left in. He switches the lights on and is promptly grabbed by a Cyberman.

The Doctor and Clara arrive at the barracks but a Cyberman arrives too and begins to attack them. He must have seen The Matrix because he is moving very quickly with slow-motion video and everything. It adapts to their weapons quickly and grabs Angie. The Doctor realises that these soldiers are not used to fighting. The Captain admits they are a punishment platoon with no further explanation for what that means but The Doctor looks annoyed anyway. Still under the guise of Pro-Consul, he declares Clara in charge. The Captain says that protocol would be to destroy the planet – a proposition that Clara rejects. They retrieve and reactivate all of the anti-cyber weapons in preparation for a battle against one Cyberman.

The Doctor tracks down the Cybermite, zaps it with his sonic screwdriver and examines it. It teleports him to the control room where Archie, Angie and Webley have been upgraded. Webley decares The Doctor “the saviour of the Cybermen”. The normal exposition takes place and The Doctor pokes his tongue out (metaphorically anyway) declaring “nerrr, you can’t get me I’m not human.” To which he replies “Oh but Mister The Doctor. We can upgrade non-humans now.” The Cybermites take over The Doctor, giving him a nice neat upgrade. The new Locutus-Doctor is very impressed with the body and the mind of the host but The Doctor isn’t giving up so easily. Inside his mind, the two versions fight it out. Locutus-Doctor wants to know why he is so obsessed with Clara… why is she the impossible girl? The Doctor proposes a game of chess in which the marginal areas of his brain, his memories, are controlled by the winner.

In the power station, one of the soldiers sees a Cyberman pass through, she threatens it, hides but is then grabbed by a hand.

The Captain explains to Clara how the Cyberweapons work, Clara takes charge of the trigger unit that would blow up the planet in the event of being overrun by Cybermen.

The game of chess begins but The Doctor has a trick up his sleeve. Gold! He sticks a bit of gold leaf to his face, breaking the link with Locutus-Doctor and plans the escape.

Porridge and The Captain are talking – she realises who he is (if you hadn’t figured it out he is the Emperor) because she worked in the Imperial Guard. He forbids her from blowing up the planet. Clara arrives and needs to have it explained to her why they would destroy a planet just to kill one Cyberman – as though Porridge’s lengthy explanation for destroying a galaxy earlier on wasn’t quite enough. Now we know what a Punishment Platoon is – it is a dumping ground for insubordinate soldiers. She grabs the bomb and uses the voice override to destroy the planet. But before she can complete the code, she is shot by a Cyberman sniper. Clara takes charge of the remaining soldiers but a couple of them are picked off. Clara and the slightly rotund soldier lure one into a trap, destroy it and the soldiers that were taken over are saved. Hurrah!

The Doctor arrives but Clara doesn’t trust him because he has those implants. He explains how he is now in control of his body. He reels off a list of bad news, about him, about the kids and about the pending arrival of the Cybermen (this he labels as good news). They get him back to the chess table, he removes the gold and in the meantime, Locutus-Doctor has acquired a northern accent.

Clara confronts Locutus-Doctor who tells her she is the “impossible girl”. The small part of him that is still not Locutus-ified writes the message HIT ME. To which she does, our Doctor returns and she demands to know why she is the “Impossible Girl”. After being berated by Locutus-Doctor, she marches off to round up the soldiers, telling them that thousands of Cybermen are on their way. She comes up with a plan of action to defend the castle in which they are taking sanctuary.

Back inside The Doctor’s mind, Locutus-Doctor is waking up the Cybermen and there are thousands of them on the Cyber homeworld! At his holler, Clara returns to the chamber to see The Doctor. He wants to know the weapon strength and asks her to hand over the detonator. She refuses without some sort of proof that he is The Doctor. He confesses to being in love with her and she slaps him. That was Locutus-Doctor! She knew that it wasn’t true and even if it wasn’t he’d rather day than say something so mushy. But Locutus snatches the detonator from her and destroys it. Eeeeek! “They’rrrrrrreee heeeeeeerrrreeee!” Thank you Carol-Anne. And they are, thousands and they are on planet.

The siege begins. One steps into the electrified water, is deactivated but promptly reactivates again, upgrading against electrocution. While the battle rages outside, The Doctor has his own private battle raging inside his head against Locutus-Doctor. The children are freed but as Webley is about to kill them, Porridge zaps him with the immobiliser.

The cybermen have now over-run the castle but just as they are about to grab Clara and the last remaining soldier, they shut down. The Doctor is winning the battle, uses the sonic screwdriver to de-cyber himself. Clara races in, asks if he thinks she is pretty. He declares not and she accepts the insult with relief. The Doctor is back! Finally, Porridge is revealed as The Emperor, he sets the detonator and they all teleport to his ship in orbit. The Doctor asks to have the TARDIS transported. Just as the Cybermen reach the bomb, it explodes destroying the whole planet.

After lamenting his role as Emperor, Porridge asks Clara to marry him. She lets him down gently, she doesn’t want to rule the universe.

They say their goodbyes, The Doctor returns all three of them home. Back at the planet, there is a small piece of Cybertech floating in the debris…

Next week is the grand finale! Vastra, Jenny, Strax, The Great Intelligence and those mysterious Whispermen.

Analysis

Quite possibly the best episode since the Christmas special and it had a couple of other contenders to fight for that title. It was dark, edgy, exciting. There was so much going on that the episode seemed to fly by. And it had Warwick Davis! What else could you ask for? Actually, it could have added a sense of impending doom, a greater sense of unease at the return of the Cybermen but what the hell, it worked.

Moffat promised to make the Cybermen scary again and this was mostly accomplished. Jettisoning practically everything about the Cybusmen (the alternate reality Cybermen of Tennant’s era) he returned the design to something more akin to the 70s. These were not simply the Daleks on two legs that RTD had made them, they are now much closer to machines again. Perhaps part of this reboot was the reference that Webley gave to the Cybermen having no reference to The Doctor but that he seemed to know so much about them – that his existence had been wiped out. This was of course the other Clara in the first half of this season who wiped all record of him from time.

I thought The Doctor faux-flirting with Clara was amusing and perhaps a bit of a poke at RTD? After all, he reinvented the Cybermen and made The Doctor a bit lovestruck. Moffat undid both of those things and when he confirmed that with the comment “No I don’t [think you’re pretty]. You’re too short, you’re bossy and you have a funny nose” I laughed. Perhaps I am reading too much into that and it was just there for comic effect to prove that The Doctor was back to his normal self.

And what about The Cybermen? Now they can upgrade Timelords are they going to make The Doctor their top priority? Universal domination but take The Doctor hostage at all costs? Will they seek to resurrect the Timelords to get hold of their technology, their brain power so that they can be unstoppable? Or am I getting way ahead of myself?

Finally, the tantalising hints to “The Impossible Girl”. Clara is getting closer to the truth. Hopefully so are we from the trailer to next week, The Doctor has to go somewhere that he could not bring himself to go. Would this be Gallifery? It looked burnt, a parched world and Ecclestone’s Doctor made reference to it being in this state. If so, what secrets are to be revealed about Clara, The Doctor and maybe… The Time War? Watch the prequel video at this link. Two very short monologues referencing “the day we went to Trenzalore”. This is what we know about Trenzalore.

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6 thoughts on “Episode Review & Analysis – Nightmare in Silver

  1. I really liked this one too. I felt both it was good that it was only one episode and also bad at that same point. It could still have been a great two parter because it whizzed by and the cybermen’s resurrection would have had more impact, instead of just feeling like another encounter, but to be honest I’m tired of enemies being resurrected only to be completely “killed off again”, RTD’s old trick. Also, many typical DW cliches, like the annoying woman who wants to kill everyone to solve the problem, she got ended pretty quick. Loved Matt’s performance though. Top knotch without being too showy.

    1. On reflection, yes it would have worked better as a two-parter. There are three sub-standard episodes in this half of the season that could have been scrapped to make way for it too (Crimson Horror, Cold War and Rings of Akhaten). The arrival felt too rushed and we didn’t a sense of building horror when they arrived. That said, the battle was effective… there just could have been more of it.

      I think that the piecing together of Clara’s story has proceeded far too slowly. We should have been tantalised in every episode to up the frustrations but we are no closer now than we were in her first episode. But that finale looks interesting! Hopefully we’ll get some answers next week.

  2. T’was a good one. With regard to being a two-parter: I must confess I still miss the older format of multi-part stories of cliffhanger endings, the stories were all deeper, and characters had more time to grow. That aside though this episode rocked.

    1. Me too when it comes to episodes like the lacklustre ones we have seen in this half of the season. Splitting up the season like this probably didn’t lend itself well to multi-parters. Hopefully when we get back on track next year it’ll be business as usual

  3. just a note – it was written by Neil Gaiman so although Moffat certainly had his hand in it (much more obvious than with The Doctor’s Wife) you gotta credit Gaiman with the dialogue and changes to the Cybermen. Also apologies if I entirely missed you crediting Gaiman 🙂

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