Monday, May 13, 2013

Doctor Who Season 7, Episode 12: Nightmare In Silver

The Cybermen are back! And Doctor Who's got 'em!

Nightmare In Silver was written Neil Gaiman, noted writer of various novels and comic books. He also penned last season's episode The Doctor's Wife (the one where the TARDIS inhabits the body of a young woman).

Supposedly showrunner Steven Moffat contacted Gaiman and asked him to do a new Cyberman story and "make them scary again." So did he succeed? Eh, I suppose. He definitely made these new versions a more powerful and unstoppable enemy.

For the second week in a row there was no "Doctor Who?" joke! Hurrah! They'll make up for it next week though, as the season finale is titled The Name Of The Doctor. I fully expect nothing but 45 minutes of various characters looking at one another and saying, "Doctor Who?"

Someone should do a takeoff on the old Abbott and Costello skit with Captain Jack and River Song. It could go like this:

River: You know, they give these Time Lords nowadays very peculiar names. 
Jack: You mean funny names? 
River: Strange names, pet names. For example, I know one who owns his own TARDIS.
Jack: Who?
River: Yes.
Jack: Who?
River: I just told you, Who.
Jack: I'M ASKIN' YOU!!!

Well, crap in a hat! Looks like now I'm gonna have to update this poster. Thanks a lot, Neil Gaiman!


The Plot:
Clara's annoying young wards apparently blackmail her and the Doctor into taking them for a spin in the TARDIS. The Doctor takes them to Hedgewick's World of Wonders, the greatest amusement park in the universe. Unfortunately the park has been closed for quite some time, and even more unfortunately it's home to an army of Cybermen who are quietly rebuilding themselves in preparation for universal conquest.

The Doctor is partially converted into a Cyberman as the evil Cyber-Planner tries to take control of his mind. The Doctor must defeat the Cyber-Planner, win back his mind, save Clara and the kids and keep the Emperor of the Galaxy from destroying the planet to keep the Cybermen from fanning out into space again, all before tea time.

• Wow, if you didn't see the tag scene at the end of the previous episode you'd be totally lost during this one, wondering who the hell these two kids are and why the Doctor's endangering their lives.  

It's odd that they'd set up the kids' "blackmail" scheme last week instead of at the beginning of this episode. It makes me wonder if this episode was running long, so they stuck the beginning of the show to the end of last week's story?

• All that said, let's hope we've seen the last of Artie and Angie. Artie wasn't too bad, but Angie had to be the most annoying character ever since Mel Bush walked into the TARDIS. That whole "entitled teen princess" attitude just made me want to slap her face off her head. She just met an alien and traveled to the future in his time machine, and she's "bored." Thank the maker the kids spend the majority of the episode in a cyber-coma. 

Which brings up another point: why bother with the whole idea of bringing the kids along if you're just going to make them sit out the episode?

• Angie actually thinks she'll be Queen Of The Universe someday? Sorry, kid. Universal Queens need more talents than being able to text and loudly announce they're bored. Set your sights on something within your skill set, like a rewarding career in the food service industry.

• Always nice to see Warwick Davis, aka Wicket the Ewok and Willow. He's actually quite a good actor; it's a shame there aren't more good parts out there for a man of his stature.

• So I guess Cybermites have now replaced Cybermats? The Cybermites bore an uncomfortable resemblance to silverfish, which of course are one of the most disgusting creatures that ever slithered across the earth's surface.

• The Doctor states that the Time Lords invented the game of chess. I bet that comes as a surprise to Indians and Persians.

• The Chess-Playing Cyberman that the gang encounters in Webley's World Of Wonders is based on a real 18th century automaton called The Turk. It was constructed in 1770 by Hungarian inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen. It appeared to be a fully functional robot that could play chess against human opponents, but it reality was a hoax as it was operated by a person hiding inside the machine. Just like in this episode! Except, you know, it looked like a Turk instead of a Cyberman.

The Cybermen's continuity is pretty much a mess at this point. In the original series they were aliens from the planet Mondas who replaced their body parts with machinery. Then in the new series we saw redesigned Cybermen who were from a parallel earth and were cyborg humans created by corporation called Cybus Industries. Then a couple seasons ago in the episode A Good Man Goes To War we saw what looked like the Cybus versions but they were apparently from our universe. So what the heck's going on?

According to writer Neil Gaiman, he imagines that at some point in the past some of the Cybus Cybermen crossed over into our universe and met up with the Mondas Cybermen. They then merged into a single new and improved version. Sounds reasonable, but would it have killed them to have said that in a line of dialog? I shouldn't have to discover info like that in a press statement.

• The Cyber-Planner, which tries to take over the Doctor's mind, first appeared waaay back in the 1968 episode The Wheel In Space, a Second Doctor adventure. Back then though it was a piece of stationary physical equipment, not an artificial intelligence living in the Cyberiad.

The Cybermen's deadly allergy to gold was first mentioned in the 1975 episode Revenge Of The Cybermen. You'd think what with all that upgrading and adapting that they'd have eliminated that weakness by now, but no. 

• Speaking of gold, the Doctor temporarily incapacitates the Cyber-Planner by slapping his Golden Ticket (to Hedgewick's World Of Wonders) onto the Cyber circuitry on the side of his face. So I guess it really IS a Golden Ticket, not just printed on gold leaf.

Man, they digitally graded the hell out of this episode! Virtually every scene has the same pale blue cast to it like the image above. That doesn't happen naturally-- they process the video after the fact with Photoshop-like software to change the color of each scene. I assume the steel bluish cast is because it's a Cyberman episode?

• The Cybermen have always been a bit Borg-like (actually the other way around, since the Cybermen came first) but never more so than in this episode. When they're confronted with a new weapon it's only effective a couple of times before they pause for a few seconds and upgrade themselves to be able to overcome it. Exactly as the Borg do on Star Trek.

Also, in the past the Cybermen could only assimilate humans, but they've upgraded and adapted and can now take over any life form, including Time Lords. Again, just like the Borg, who were always droning, "You will be assimilated. We will incorporate your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own."

• Loved the super fast Cyberman, especially when we saw it in "bullet time," moving amongst the seemingly motionless humans. I noticed that these new Cybermen had quite a similar gait to that of Robocop. Coincidence, or intentional?

When the Cybermen begin emerging from their cells en masse, there's a scene showing three columns of them marching toward the camera.

This scene is virtually identical to one depicting the very same thing in the 1982 episode Earthshock. It's too similar to be a coincidence; I'm guessing it's an homage and a little shout out to the fans.

Then there's a wide shot of the Cybermen waking from their vast underground tombs...  

That once again is very similar to a scene from the 1967 episode Tomb Of The Cybermen. Again, I'm betting on homage.

Natty Longshoe's Comical Castle didn't look all that comical to me. It looked much like a normal British castle that was available to film in.

When the Cyber-Planner is in the Doctor's mind it realizes that he's trying to eliminate all record of himself from history. The Planner says that it might be possible to reconstruct the Doctor based on the hole he left. A pretty cool idea!

It took me a while to realize why the Cyber-controlled Doctor only had circuitry on one side of his face. It's so he could flip from side to side and do his Gollum/Smeagol impression.     

When the Cyber-Planner calls Clara "The Impossible Girl," why does she act like she's never heard the phrase before? Didn't the Doctor call her that a couple weeks ago in Journey To The Center Of The TARDIS? Or am I misremembering?

UPDATE: I forgot that at the end of Journey To The Center Of The TARDIS, the Doctor reset everything so that the bulk of the episode never happened, so he never told Clara about the mystery surrounding her. My bad! Actually more like my rapidly failing memory.

There were several call-outs to previous Doctors in this episode. When the Cyber-Planner's inside the Doctor's mind we see a mental montage of all ten of his previous incarnations. Later when Clara's talking to the Cyber-controlled Doctor, he says "FanTAStic" in the Ninth Doctor's northern accent and then says "Allons-y!" which of course was uttered quite often by the Tenth Doctor. 

The Desolator is designed to implode the planet. So why then when it's activated does it cause the planet to explode? Whoops! Someone on the effects team didn't read the script!

• Naturally after the planet implodes explodes there's one little Cybermite left floating through space... The old "The End. Or is it?" ending.

Back on earth the Doctor gives Angie a new phone (presumably with Universal Roaming, like the one he gave to Rose and Martha). The horrible little wretch is all smiles after he gives her something, saying she's sorry she said his blue box was stupid. Grrrr...

• Next Week: There's one place in the universe the Doctor must never go... so of course he makes a bee line right toward it!

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