Sunday, May 12, 2013

Review - "Doctor Who: Nightmare in Silver"

Again, spoilers if you have not yet seen the episode...you have been formally warned

I love the Cybermen. When I began watching Doctor Who, I found them to be quite terrifying. The fact that they are so human and yet not is perhaps what's so scary about them. They are devoid of emotion and intent on destruction no matter what the cost. So did this episode which sees the return of the Cybermen live up to the promise of restoring this terrifying angle?

Following closely on from last week's episode, the two children Clara looks after as a nanny tag along in the TARDIS. The Doctor (Matt Smith) decides to take them to the "biggest and best amusement park in the universe." What he doesn't realize is that this planet has been ravaged by the Cybermen in the past and although it may seem as though there are no Cybermen left, something sinister and evil is lurking, lying in wait...

"Nightmare in Silver" was written by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman, a prolific author has dabbled in a number of different genres writing books such as "Coraline," "American Gods" and "Neverwhere." The third of which was recently adapted into an audio drama featuring the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch and Sir Christopher Lee. Gaiman also wrote "The Doctor's Wife," the most beloved episode of Series 6 by many. I am certainly the minority, but I felt as though "The Doctor's Wife" was a rather overrated episode. Yes - it was good, in fact one of the best episodes of Series 6, but it receives so much recognition which I feel is somewhat unwarranted. I'm sorry and please save your cabbage and tomatoes until I've finished.

In my mind, Neil Gaiman has actually surpassed himself with this story. It begins right away and it never lets up. The story is able to get across a great deal of plodding exposition quickly and in true Neil Gaiman fashion we're introduced to a host of quarky characters straight away. The tension is also great throughout these early stages of the story. The reveal of the chess-playing Cyberman was also great, and I loved how it was based off of a real automaton in the late 18th century which toured the Thirteen Colonies beating the likes of Benjamin Franklin at games of chess.

As to the actual Cybermen, I thought they were great. The creepiest part of the whole thing was how little we actually saw of them. While some people might criticize the episode for not showing the Cybermen enough, I felt like seeing little of them actually added to the overall spookiness of them. Towards the middle of the episode there was a brilliant shot of the Cybermen emerging from their tombs and a countless number of them flood the television screen. It was a brilliantly composed shot and it was truly our first glimpse of the enemy in this episode.

The Dueling Doctors
However, the real star of this episode is Matt Smith who is brilliant as always. However, this time his acting chops are extended a bit as the Doctor must battle his evil side. The Doctor begins a Cyber conversion and therefore must defeat the Cyber-Controller who is trying to take over his body. The Doctor must gamble his life over a game of chess. Matt Smith is brilliant in this dual role and his subtle change in character is wonderfully executed. With just a little change in his voice and facial expression, he is able to convey a completely different character. I thought that this was possibly Matt Smith's finest hour in the show and surely one of his greatest performances in the series thus far. However, not all the acting and characterization was not up to Matt Smith's level. The characters of the two children, Archie and Angie are incredibly tedious and annoying. Luckily, they do not have too much presence in this episode, but it was rather detracting in the episode's early stages.

In all "Nightmare in Silver" was a brilliant episode. I loved it immensely - Matt Smith was brilliant as was the writing and atmosphere. I know I didn't talk about her in the body of this review, but Jenna-Louise Coleman came into her own in this episode and has become one of the most well-rounded characters in Doctor Who's history since it returned to screens in 2005. The Cybermen were incredibly creepy and it was a wonderful upgrade. I award, and I use the word "award" with great honour, "Nightmare in Silver" a 4.5 out of 5 - thus making it one of the best episodes of Doctor Who in a long time.

Coming Next Time: All will be revealed in "The Name of the Doctor" (Here's a bit of something to wet your appetites)

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