|By Tea Krulos|
Okay, this seems like a basic formula of the laws of space and time: Doctor Who plus a script penned by Neil Gaiman plus the classic Doctor foes the Cybermen with an “upgrade” is going to equal awesomeness.
It’s solid, but if you were hoping for something with the gravitas of last season’s “The Doctor’s Wife,”you didn’t get it. “Nightmare in Silver” is a different story with a different tone, but it didn’t disappoint.
There were so many fun things about this episode, it’s going to be hard to try to capture them all.
Let’s start with the setting. It’s a wonderful intergalactic amusement park – Hedgewick’s World– that the Doctor is hoping will entertain Clara and the kids that she babysits. But on arrival, of course, something is wrong. The amusement park is decrepit and run down, a victim of war with the Cybermen. It is now home to the eccentric showman Webley (Jason Watkins) and his associate Porridge (a wonderfully cast Warwick Davis.). A “punishment platoon” is also on alert and stationed on the planet.
Webley displays one of his curiosities, “the 699th wonder of the universe,” the shell of a Cyberman, a remnant of a long ago war. Webley has set up the Cyberman as a chessplaying robot, the most classic example of the human mind battling machine.
Something sinister is crawling around nearby: “funny insects” the Doctor dubs “Cybermites,” which infiltrate human hosts to upgrade them to Cybermen. Soon the Cyberman is on the warpath, stalking the cast and capturing one of the kids in a great slow motion/ fast motion sequence. The Cybermites get to Webley and soon start in on the kids. When the Doctor tries to rescue them, he falls victim to the Cyberiad network himself.
This leads to a battle inside the brain of the Doctor between the witty Time Lord and the hive minded CyberDoctor trying to win control of his brain. There’s a flashback to the Doctor’s previous line of regenerations and a back and forth tug of war between the two competitors in scenes that are a bit over the top in a “stop hitting yourself” kind of way. The Doctor and the Cyberiad, “Mr. Clever” decide to have a high stake chess game that will rival Kasparov vs Deep Blue for the control of the Doctor’s brain.
Meanwhile, Clara finds herself as commanding officer of the geek patrol punishment platoon as they hole up in a part of the theme park called Natty Longshoe’s Comical Castle. Their battle against a growing Cyberman army that is quickly modifying themselves is becoming increasingly futile. The Doctor wins the chess game using non-traditional methods and the assembled surviving good guys ditch the planet and blow it. Porridge reveals that he is actually emperor and proposes to Clara, who turns him down and the Doctor safely drops her and the kids off.
Gaiman does a solid job of writing a good Cyberman story, one that reminds of why they became a Who classic but also advances their reputation. The episode is filled with Gaiman’s whimsical fantasy trademark style, and offers Matt Smith a shining acting moment to go a little mental in the scenes where he plays Doctor vs CyberDoctor. As solid, lively, entertaining episode and definitely one of the best from this season.