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Nightmare in Silver

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

Doctor Who Nightmare in Silver (Poster)

Now that Artie (Kassius Carey) and Angie (Eve De-Leon Allen) know about Clara’s time travelling adventures, Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) talks the Doctor (Matt Smith) into taking them all on a day out. The Doctor decides to take them all to Hedgewick’s World, one of the most spectacular theme parks in the universe, a quarter of a million years in the future. He has a golden ticket that will get them all in for free; it also gives them free ice cream, and will allow them to get to the front of all the lines for the best rides.

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The TARDIS arrives in the middle of a ride that resembles the surface of the moon, but it turns out that the theme park has been closed for some time. They discover that the facility is now being used as a training camp by the military to discipline their troops. The Doctor and his companions meet a small team of soldiers, led by Captain Alice Ferrn (Tamzin Outhwaite), who is also here for disobeying orders. An old showman called Mr Webley (Jason Watkins) and his henchman Porridge (Warwick Davis) have also made their home here, having arrived in their spaceship after the park closed, and they run a small museum that has seen better days. The Doctor learns that the park was closed down some time ago after people started disappearing from the rides and attractions.

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Only a small collection of wonders from cross the galaxy now remain on display in Mr Weebley‘s World. One of the exhibits, the 699th wonder of the universe, is a Cyberman, a race who were defeated by humanity over a thousand years ago in the last Cyber War. As the Doctor ponders the fate of his old enemy, now reduced to little more than a fairground attraction playing chess, he is unaware that strange insect-like creatures are monitoring their every move.

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It would seem that Hedgewick’s World is not as deserted as it appears. When Mr Weebley and the children are infected by the Cybermites, the Doctor tries to rescue them, only to be infected by the tiny robots as well. The Cyber Planner attempts to take over the Doctor’s mind, forcing the Doctor into a deadly game of chess to save Artie and Angie. They manage to get away and join Clara and the soldiers at a castle in the middle of the park. Clara and the soldiers must protect the Doctor while the chess games plays out, but a new race of super intelligent Cybermen are emerging from their tombs and attack the castle. The Doctor manages to defeat the Cyber Planner, freeing himself of its influence, but if they are to escape Porridge will have to make the most difficult choice of all or the Cyber Race will spread throughout the galaxy once more.

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Nightmare in Silver has been one of the most eagerly anticipated episodes this season. Written by best selling author Neil Gaiman, writer of the critically acclaimed sixth season story The Doctor’s Wife (2011), Nightmare in Silver also marks the long awaited return of the Cybermen. Having been asked by show runner Steven Moffat to make the Cybermen scary again, Neil Gaiman has crafted a wonderfully creepy story that is sure to become another fan favourite. Nightmare in Silver features many references to classic Cybermen stories from the 60’s, particularly the Moonbase (1967) and the Tomb of the Cybermen (1967). The design elements from those stories also feature strongly, especially on the Cyber Ship, and the history of the Cyber Race permeates every aspect of the story – detailing the legacy of the Cybermen and some of their weaknesses.

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After their last appearance in Closing Time (2011), the Cybermen have been given a sleek new look for Nightmare in Silver, which also incorporates many design elements from the past. One aspect that is strikingly effective is the way their faces seem better proportioned now, which makes them look more like their 60’s counterparts. Their armoured forms are now far more agile than the clunky modern version that has remained virtually unchanged since they appeared in Rise of the Cybermen & the Age of Steel (2006). The Cybermen now have weapons built into their arms, a bright glowing chest plate, they possess the ability to move incredibly fast, their limbs are detachable, and they have also developed a horrific new way to upgrade their victims. A new variation of the Cybermats also features in this episode, the insect-like Cybermites, which assist in the Cybermen’s new upgrading process.

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Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman continue to impress as the Doctor and Clara face the threat of the Cybermen. The Doctor puts his complete faith in her in A Nightmare in Silver, entrusting her to look after the children, as well as leaving her in charge of a squad of soldiers as the Cyber Invasion begins. Matt Smith gives a stunning performance as the Doctor, even playing opposite himself for the bulk of the episode as he confronts the full horror of Cyber Conversion in his attempt to save everyone from the Cybermen.

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Nightmare in Silver also features a superb guest cast. Jason Watkins is great fun as the world weary Mr Webley, who foolishly tries to bargain with the Cybermen. Tamzin Outhwaite is also really good as Captain Fern, who has to make a fighting force out of her undisciplined troops if they are to fight off the Cybermen’s attack, and Warwick Davis is great as Webley’s affable henchman, Porridge, a man with a secret past who just wants to leave the planet. Kassius Carey and Angie Eve De-Leon Allen are also very good as Artie and Angie.

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This action packed story is directed by Stephen Woolfenden, who really captures the epic scale of Neil Gaiman’s brilliant script, and its great to see the Cyberemen back in force again in Doctor Who. There are some obvious comparisons between Neil Gaiman’s new Cybermen and the Borg from Star Trek, particularly their hive mind, and the way they try to assimilate the Doctor into  their Cyberriad. Matt Smith is brilliant as he portrays the conflict within him, and this is undoubtedly one of his best performances yet, even though it does mirror Captain Picard’s transformation into Locutus in Star Trek The Next Generation. Nightmare in Silver is a brilliant episode, full of exciting set-pieces, and there is even a stunning homage to the Doctor’s past incarnations as the Cyber Planer vies from control of the Time Lords mind. The new Cybermen look amazing and I hope we get to see them again soon.