Nightmare in Silver

The Doctor and Clara take Angie and Arty to Hedgewick’s World of Wonders, the greatest theme park ever built. There they find an old enemy is waiting…

Neil Gaiman takes the recently neglected Cybermen and weaves a The Wizard of Oz motif into a homage to the silver giants’ illustrious past. The first appearance of the character Porridge (Warwick Davies), operating the Cyberman chess-player, is like the Wizard operating a facsimile from behind the scenes. He also provides the ‘no place like home’ ending. The Cybermen are physically the Tin Man, but thematically the Scarecrow in need of a brain: the Doctor’s brain. The ragtag punishment regiment are the cowards in need of courage.

In the pre-broadcast publicity Gaiman reveals that Steven Moffat asked him to make the Cybermen scary again. Moffat himself did the best job of this in The Pandorica Opens with the severed head, arm and body operating independently. This is built on here to provide creepy moments such as the dismembered head and hand. There’s an attempt to make them seem an unstoppable force here with, not just killing but using the fallen as spare parts. Unfortunately a vast gleaming army of CGI Cybermen in broad daylight is much less effective. Particularly when they forget they have super-speed and lumber towards Clara and her allies.

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The most memorable scenes are the Doctor battling the Cyber Controller who is possessing him. They are reminiscent of Gollum’s schizophrenic scenes in The Lord of the Rings. A neat directorial touch is to have the Doctor turns his face so that either the cybertised or ‘human’ side of his face is showing, depending who has control of his brain at the time. This is then cleverly reversed when the Cyber Controller is trying to convince Clara it’s the Doctor speaking to get his hands on the trigger.

  • I’ve seen some discussion as to why Porridge doesn’t reveal he’s the Emperor much earlier, but it’s clear that up until quite late in the story he hopes that the Cybermen will be defeated. By the time the characters learn that there is more than one Cyberman, he believes that the electrified moat will stop them. When it doesn’t he picks up the bomb and brings it to the Doctor – the only reason for this would be to use it. He’s already made up his mind to use it when the Doctor tries to convince him. Just as Neil Gaiman borrowed The War Games‘ psychic container for The Doctor’s Wife, the escape scene here echoes the Doctor finally asking his own people for help in that story. The same question could be asked of him, why did he not seek Time Lord help in The Dalek Masterplan? He had to wait until he had no other choice, as it meant losing his freedom and having to face up to responsibility.
  • Just as Clara hit a couple of Sarah Jane’s character moments in Cold War (questionning TARDIS translation and how the past can change when she’s from the future), her planning of the defence of the castle reminded me of Sarah in The Time Warrior planning to kidnap the Doctor.
  • There are some nods to Cybermen and wider Doctor Who history, while forging new ideas like instant upgrades and the Cyberiad. The reference to a ‘moonbase’ when the time travellers land recalls the Troughton story of the same name, the awakening scene recalls Tomb of the Cybermen‘s most iconic scene, and it’s satisfying to see the steps are the same as in that story. Gold and cleaning fluid hark back to the Twentieth Century stories, as does the talk of Cyber Wars as we got in Revenge of the Cybermen. Best of all the chess motif as used in the underrated Silver Nemesis, which this story’s title brings to mind. The seven hundred wonders of the universe line picks up on the Third Doctor mentioning this in Death to the Daleks.

Purchase Doctor Who Series 7 Part 2 on DVD from Amazon:

Doctor Who – Series 7 Part 2 [DVD]

On Blu-ray:

Doctor Who – Series 7 Part 2 [Blu-ray]

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