Nightmare in Silver
|238 – "Nightmare in Silver"|
|Doctor Who episode|
Poster from the BBC website
|Directed by||Stephen Woolfenden|
|Written by||Neil Gaiman|
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Originally broadcast||11 May 2013|
"Nightmare in Silver" is the twelfth and penultimate episode of the seventh series of the British science-fiction drama Doctor Who and was first broadcast on 11 May 2013. It was written by Neil Gaiman and directed by Stephen Woolfenden. It was watched by 6.64 million viewers in the UK and received mixed reviews from critics.
The episode starred Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor and Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara Oswald. The episode marked the return of the Cybermen, following their last appearance in the sixth series episode "Closing Time".
The Doctor takes Clara, and her nanny charges, Angie and Artie, to Hedgewick's World of Wonders, an extraterrestrial theme park. They find the park is closed down and under military occupation. The Doctor convinces Captain Alice Ferring that he is an ambassador working for their missing Emperor, and is allowed to stay. They encounter a man named Webley, hiding from the troops, and he shows the visitors his "Webley's World of Wonders", a collection of oddities from across the universe. Deactivated Cybermen are harmless museum pieces, because Cybermen were defeated and exterminated a thousand years ago. He promises a silver "Imperial penny" for defeating one converted into a chess-playing machine, but they discover the operator is really Porridge, a chess champion with dwarfism.
The group prepare to return home, but the Doctor elects to stay and investigate some small metallic insects. The "insects" are Cybermites, which reactivate the Cybermen, who abduct and partially upgrade Webley, Angie, and Artie. Under threat from the reactivated Cyberman army, the Captain reveals that her platoon are incompetent, a punishment unit banished to this planet to keep them out of trouble, and are unfit to defend against Cybermen. Porridge explains the Cybermen were only defeated by blowing up a galaxy occupied by trillions: "blow up" is now the default defence protocol. The Doctor puts Clara in charge of the troops, warning her not to let them destroy the planet while he rescues the children.
The Doctor finds Angie and Artie and is partially upgraded into a Cyberman, sharing the Cyberman super-consciousness, the "Cyberiad". This gives him a split personality as both the Doctor and the "Cyber-Planner", who names himself Mr Clever, share the same body and each control almost half of the brain. The Doctor and Mr Clever agree to play chess for the complete control of the body. Mr Clever is temporarily stopped by the Doctor placing a golden ticket on his face, explaining that the Cybermen's weakness to gold is still present in their current code.
Clara relocates the army to a 'comical castle', an attraction at the theme park, where they take stock of minimal arms: one large anti-Cyberman gun with a limited charge, five hand pulsers, and a planet-imploding bomb. She confiscates the bomb's hand trigger, and forbids Alice to use her assigned verbal command over the bomb. Alice disobeys and attempts to activate it, but is killed by a Cyberman before she can complete the command. The Doctor returns with Angie and Artie, and demands that Clara tie him up to let him finish his chess game, while the army hold off poorly against the Cybermen, who can quickly adapt and upgrade to overcome any obstacle. Mr Clever tricks Clara and destroys the bomb trigger, leaving the group defenceless. Just as Clara and the remaining soldiers are about to be killed, the Doctor manages to distract Mr Clever, claiming that he can win their chess match in three moves. Mr Clever, finding it impossible, diverts the entire three million strong Cyberiad's minds onto the problem, halting the oncoming Cybermen, who have entered the castle.
The Doctor then uses a hand pulser to remove Mr Clever. Angie reveals that Porridge is the Emperor — she recognised him from the imperial penny and waxwork from Webley's World of Wonders, although the artwork portrays him in a more flattering manner than in reality. Porridge/The Emperor activates the bomb verbally and signals for an imperial spaceship to teleport them away. At the Doctor's request, Porridge/The Emperor retrieves the TARDIS just before the planet implodes, destroying the three million Cybermen. Impressed by her intelligence and resourcefulness, Porridge/The Emperor proposes to Clara, who respectfully declines, not wishing to rule the galaxy. The Doctor returns Clara, Angie and Artie home, leaving the Doctor to puzzle over the mystery of the 'impossible girl' while in space a single Cybermite is shown to have survived.
Previous Doctor Who stories featured two varieties of Cybermen: those from Earth's twin planet Mondas (introduced in 1966's The Tenth Planet), and those created by Cybus Industries in a parallel-universe Earth (introduced in 2006's "Rise of the Cybermen"). The Cybermen in "Nightmare in Silver" appear to be a mixture of both. Gaiman's rationalisation was that the Cybus Cybermen who were "zapped off into time and space" at the end of "The Next Doctor" eventually met the Mondas Cybermen; cross-breeding and exchange of technology resulted in the new variety.
Writer Neil Gaiman had previously written the series 6 episode "The Doctor's Wife", which was positively received. Lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat contacted Gaiman about writing for the series and asked him to make the Cybermen "scary again". Gaiman announced his return to Doctor Who during his Hugo acceptance speech for "The Doctor's Wife", commenting that "only a fool or a madman would try again – so [he was] on his third draft now". Gaiman stated that the episode was planned for the second half of series 7, but could be delayed, as happened with "The Doctor's Wife".
On redesigning the Cybermen, Gaiman thought back to classic series serials The Moonbase and The Tomb of the Cybermen (1967) and decided to "take the 1960s Cybermen and [incorporate] everything that's happened since". However, Gaiman said that he "got completely side-tracked by a mad, strange romp". Moffat stated that the Cybermen were redesigned because they did so often in the classic series, and yet had been consistent in the new series. The previous design of the Cybermen also appear in this episode, but are not the primary threats. Gaiman was motivated to provide a "rationalisation" for the Cybermen in current Doctor Who continuity. The classic series had depicted the Cybermen as alien cyborgs, while the revived series depicted them as human cyborgs from a parallel Earth; Gaiman opined that his Cybermen stemmed from an encounter and amalgamation of these two types of Cybermen following "The Next Doctor".
During filming at Castell Coch, a copy of the readthrough script was found in a taxi in Cardiff. It was marked as being Eve De Leon Allen's copy and had the working title of "The Last Cyberman", which was subsequently changed. The script was found by Hannah Durham, who posted a picture of the script to Facebook with the caption: "found Dr Who script in the back of a taxi. Cheeky spoilers anyone?" It was then posted to Reddit by Dan Rowling with the caption: "Look what a Facebook friend found in a taxi in Cardiff on Monday". Arrangements were then made by Hannah Durham and Dan Rowling to return the script to the BBC.
Broadcast and reception
Overnight viewing figures estimate that the episode was watched by 4.7 million viewers, rising to 6.64 million after calculating the final ratings, making it the ninth most-watched programme of the week on BBC One.
The episode scored 84 on the Appreciation Index, indicating that the public enjoyed it. Media critics had a more mixed reception to the overall episode, but Smith's performance was universally praised. Neela Debnath at The Independent called it "another episode which failed to live up to the hype," and said that "None of this episode seemed to make much sense," but praised Matt Smith's performance saying "Matt Smith’s performance was one of the few reasons to watch this episode." Sarah Crompton at The Daily Telegraph gave the episode 4 stars out of 5. She felt that Gaiman succeeded in making the Cybermen scary again, though the episode "could have done with more variation in pace and tone". She also praised Smith's and Davis's performances. IGN's Mark Snow gave a negative review, saying there was an "underwhelming concept and execution," and "terrible child actors." He thought that it was "hard to feel as though Gaiman missed an opportunity to reinstate the psychotic cyborgs as one of the Doctor's most terrifying enemies." He did however praise Warwick Davis' performance. Radio Times was negative, describing it as an "almighty Cyber flop", and comparing it to the "execrable" Silver Nemesis. The redesign of the Cybermen was also criticized by fans who had felt that they were similar to the Borg from Star Trek. Simon Brew of Den of Geek wrote that "You can't help but feel the influence of the Borg from Star Trek in here".
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