Nightmare in Silver Spoiler-Free Review
Expectations can be a dangerous thing. Allowing Neil Gaiman, the writer of fan favourite The Doctor’s Wife, to pen a Cybermen story sounds like a surefire recipe for success. This episode promises much; can it live up to the hype? Unfortunately, as you’ve no doubt already gauged from Doctor Who TV’s final score, not quite.
Following on shortly after the conclusion of The Crimson Horror, where Angie had blackmailed Clara for a trip in the TARDIS (although to digress, her dad would probably have had Angie sectioned if she actually did tell him), the Doctor, Clara and the Maitland kids arrive at Hedgewick’s World of Wonders for a fun day out at the theme park. Of course, that would make for a boring story and it’s not long before the Doctor bumps into old foes in the form of the Cybermen. But the old Cyber-menace have acquired some new tricks.
So how are these new and ‘upgraded’ Cybermen? It’s something of a mixed bag. Visually they look superb, but they are not really the scary and silent moving menace we have been promised. They may speak far less (and with changed voices), but they are not that far removed from the Cybus variety in terms of their actions. There are some creepy moments early on, but it never really goes beyond that, especially once the Cybermen start using their fancy new abilities (some better realised than others, and some sure to prove divisive). Surprisingly, it’s also an episode where the Cybermen don’t really feature in the story as much as you might expect. It’s not as little as they were in Closing Time, but you are still left wanting.
Neil Gaiman recently stated that an original draft of the script had the Doctor saying: “No kids on the TARDIS. That’s Rule One.” After this episode you can see his wisdom in those words. If you found Eve De Leon Allen’s portrayal of Angie off-putting before then this episode will do nothing to change your opinion. Her brother Artie (Kassius Carey Johnson) is easier to warm to, but both really add nothing to the story, especially with how events play out.
This is a showpiece episode for Matt Smith who really gets to play with the role of the Eleventh Doctor like never before. Smith gets to juggle conflicting versions of the character and generally he does a cracking job. A couple of moments may misfire, but finale aside, this is Smith’s highlight performance from the second half.
With this being the penultimate episode of the series, you may be expecting some advancement of the ongoing Clara mystery, but sadly not. This is very much a self-contained episode. On the plus side, Clara does see some nice character development as she is forced to take charge once things escalate.
Unlike most of the episodes of Series 7’s second half, there’s a large guest cast here. Unfortunately, none of them really get the screentime they deserve. Both Jason Watkins and Tamzin Outhwaite are the biggest causalities, underutilised as Mr Webley and the Captain respectively. The character served best is Warwick Davis as the likable ‘Porridge’. He’s the most fleshed out character, with an intriguing backstory, and Davis does well.
Visually this is a treat of an episode. Like with The Doctor’s Wife, Gaiman has crafted an intriguing and fantastical world, and director Stephen Woolfenden brings it to life with flair and style.
The easiest way to sum up the episode would be: a flawed gem. There’s enough to enjoy here, and it’s an ambitious episode, but it doesn’t deliver on all its promises.