“Doctor Who” season 7 aired its penultimate adventure in the Saturday, May 11 episode 12, “Nightmare in Silver,” which brought back the Cybermen—and they’ve been upgraded.
Before we get into the review of this “Doctor Who,” we have to start off by mentioning how absolutely brilliant Matt Smith was in what may be one of his best episodes to date and the brilliant writing of Neil Gaiman as the Cybermen were once again brought to life. After we felt like last week’s “The Crimson Horror” was a bit lacking, at least in terms of the Doctor and Clara’s adventure, this week’s more than made up for it and was the perfect way to lead into the season finale. After all, when better to bring back one of the Doctor’s old foes?
After the end of the last episode saw Angie and Artie confront Clara about her time-traveling ways and “boyfriend,” as they called the Doctor, he took them to Hedgewick’s World, which used to be the biggest and best amusement park. Only when they arrived, it was closed and instead they found themselves battling Cybermen, with only a punishment platoon that clearly didn’t know its way around a battlefield very well at their service. Though the Captain was a bit irritating—and so we didn’t mind it when she was killed, especially since she was about to blow up the planet with them still on it for what they thought then was one Cyberman instead of trying to take it out (okay, so it was a Cyberman and we know the damage they can do)—the rest of the army did come around somewhat in the end under Clara’s command, armed only with one anti-cyber gun, hand pulsers, and the bomb that would implode the planet and going up against Cybermen that, when attacked, simply upgraded themselves against it—and because of that, they were scary just like they should have been. We enjoyed seeing Clara take charge, something very necessary with the Doctor battling Cyber-Doctor in a game of chess, and not just take charge of the army platoon, but take charge of the Doctor as well as it fell on her to figure out when he was himself and when it was the Cyber-planner trying to fool her. (Note for the future for anyone who wants to try that: If you’re going to impersonate the Doctor, don’t tell his companion you’re going to talk about your feelings for her.)
Of course taking the kids anywhere in time and space couldn’t be adventure-free, so we weren’t surprised when they ended up in the Cybermen’s possession—or when the Doctor had to bargain for their freedom. Though Angie acted like a typical girl of her age at first—complaining about no phone service, calling the Space Zoomer ride only “okay”—and therefore was on the annoying side, in the end, she did come around and our opinion of her did change—especially as she pointed out that Porridge was the Emperor—despite her very typical teenage girl response to his marriage proposal to Clara.
As we mentioned earlier, Matt Smith couldn’t have been better in this episode as he played the Doctor and the cheeky Cyber-Doctor/Cyber-planner/Mr. Clever/Evil Doctor, whatever you want to call it. We got to see the struggle as the Doctor tried to gain and keep control of his body and mouth from the moment the cybermites hit him, and while we saw this struggle externally, we also got to see the inner struggle, the struggle that allowed us to see the Doctor and Cyber-Doctor facing off. (We also got to see quick flashes of all the regenerations, along with the tease of another one if it came to that to burn the cyber widgets out of his head, though we knew that wouldn’t happen.) And what better way to solve that stalemate than with a game of chess, how it all began as Webley showed them the chess-playing Cyberman (with Porridge inside) and the Doctor raised his hand to play only for Artie to step in? While the Doctor momentarily outwitted the Cyber-planner to gain control with the gold, just as the Cybermen upgraded themselves to fend off attacks, the planner did the same to regain control just as the Doctor was tied up, hands free of course to play the game. Even as Cyber-Doctor thought he got the edge by destroying the remote trigger for the bomb, that didn’t seem to be much of a reason to panic, especially with the Doctor as his opponent. But while Cyber-Doctor though the Doctor’s emotions crippled him, in the end he was no match for him, as the Doctor managed to outsmart him, get the children back, and destroy him. He may not have had the moves on the chess board, but he did have the win in fewer moves than Cyber-Doctor’s five in the game—and he managed to buy them the time they needed by forcing Cyber-Doctor to tap into all of the Cybermen to pull in extra processing power to figure out how. But the Doctor’s win wasn’t in the game; it was with one of the hand pulsers and his screwdriver.
With the Cyber-Doctor, we got some pretty great lines and a series of terrific scenes in which Smith was outstanding (thanks, Neil Gaiman!) in the dual roles. Plus, how perfect was Smith’s delivery of “They’re here!” and his reaction to his own words about Clara at the very end of the episode? Things like that are why Smith was clearly the write choice for the Eleventh Doctor.
We also had perfect guest casting with Warwick Davis playing Porridge/the Emperor, and early on, we learned what it meant to be in that role—even before they outright confirmed that was who he was. It meant having to make the tough decisions, having to decide others’ fates and changing or ending lives with, essentially, the push of a button. “I feel like a monster sometimes. …Because instead of mourning a billion trillion dead people, I just feel sorry for the poor bloke that had to press the button to blow it all up,” he admitted to Clara as he told her the planet’s history early in the episode. And in the end, when he reclaimed his title, he admitted he liked being a person, not the Emperor whom people waited for to tell them what to do. It was the “loneliest job in the universe,” one he knew he wouldn’t be able to run from again. While we knew Clara would turn down his proposal, it was a nice touch, especially after their interactions throughout the episode.
Finally, with the next episode, the season finale, set to finally solve the mystery of Clara, “Nightmare in Silver” spent just the right amount of time on that—and revealed yet another clue to Clara, who had seen the photo of Christmas special Clara in Victorian London on her computer at the end of the last episode when the kids went snooping. Cyber-Doctor noted that the Doctor was thinking about Clara a lot and asked her why she’s the Impossible Girl. That prompted her to throw the question back to the Doctor when he was in control, but he was able to dodge that for the time being with the grave matter at hand. However, the episode did end with him wondering, after she left, “What are you?” We know that we’re going to be getting answers, and with that coming, she had to find out more in this episode.
Quotable and notable quotes:
- “Don’t wander off. Now I’m not just saying don’t wander off, I mean it. Otherwise you’ll wander off and the next thing you know, somebody’s going to have to start rescuing somebody.” “From what?” “Nothing. Nobody needs rescuing from anything. Don’t wander off. Sweet dreams.” –The Doctor and Angie
- “I hate the future. It’s stupid. There’s not even phone service.” –Angie
- “Hail to you, the Doctor, Savior of the Cybermen.” –Upgraded Webley
- “I trust the Doctor.” “You think he knows what he’s doing?” “I’m not sure I’d go that far.” –Clara and the Captain
- “Oh, this is brilliant. I’m so clever already. And now I’m a million times more clever and what a brain. Not a human brain. Not even slightly human. I mean, I’m going to have to completely rework the neural interface, but this is going to be the most efficient Cyber-planner. Not a great name that, is it? I could call myself Mr. Clever.” –Cyber-Doctor
- “Oh this is just dreamy.” –Cyber-Doctor
- “Bit of a good news, bad news, good news again thing going on. So, good news I kidnapped the Cyber planner and right now I’m sort of in control of this Cyberman.” “Bad news?” “Bad news, the Cyber-planner’s in my head, and different bad news, the kids are, well, it’s complicated. “Complicated how?” “Complicated as in walking coma. … In other good news, there are a few more repaired and activated Cybermen on the way and the Cyber-planner’s installing a patch for the gold thing. No, wait, that isn’t good news, is it? Um, so, good news, I have a very good chance of winning my chess match.” –The Doctor and Clara
- “I’m working the mouth now. Allons-y! Oh, you should see the state of these neurons. He’s had some cowboys in here. Ten complete rejects.” “You aren’t the Doctor.” “No, but I know who you are. You’re the Impossible Girl. Ooh, he’s very interested in you.” “Why am I impossible?” “Hasn’t he told you, the sly devil?” –Cyber-Doctor and Clara
- “Why am I the Impossible Girl?” “It’s just a thing in my head, I’ll explain later.” –The Doctor and Clara
- “It’s time to get up. Wakey wakey, boys and girls. Wakey wakey.” –Cyber-Doctor
- “Does it happen to have a remote trigger thing? Brilliant, pass it here.” “No.” “Why not?” “In case you’re not you right now. Or even if you are, just in case.” “Oh, don’t worry. The Cyber-planner’s hibernating between moves right now. Shh.” “Prove you’re you. Tell me something only the Doctor knows.” “Clara, I suppose I’m the only one who knows how I feel about you right now. How funny you are, so funny. How pretty and the truth is, I’m starting to like you in a way that is more than just— [slap]” –Cyber-Doctor and Clara
- “Good news, boys and girls. They’re here!” –Cyber-Doctor
- “Broken trigger unit.” “But you signed for that.” –Clara and a soldier
- “That’s cheating.” “No, just pulling in the local resources.” –The Doctor and Cyber-Doctor
- “Just taking advantage of the local resources.” –The Doctor
- “Do you think I’m pretty?” “No, you’re too short and bossy, and your nose is all funny.” “Good enough.” –Clara and the Doctor
- “Nice ship. Bit big. Not blue enough.” –The Doctor
- “See you next Wednesday.” “Well, a Wednesday, definitely. Next Wednesday, last Wednesday, one of the Wednesdays. Impossible girl. A mystery wrapped in an enigma squeezed into a skirt that’s just a little bit too tight. What are you?” –Clara and the Doctor
“Doctor Who” season 7 airs Saturdays at 8 p.m. on BBC America. What did you think of “Nightmare in Silver”?
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