Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Nobody has any nightmares in this, and the plot actually involves gold, not silver.

Nonetheless I grant you, the title Doctor Who: ________ In Gold would have looked strange.

Mind you, Doctor Who is always great when it's strange. Why if you don't believe me, then just watch this episode!

First of all, the Cybermen are back.

I know, big shock, especially since their appearance on the front cover of Radio Times at the start of this season. No, wait, hang on a sec. I've forgotten something. "The Cybermen are back." That sentence looks like it's missing a word from it. More specifically, from after the "the". Hummmm. The Cherry Cybermen? The Zero Cybermen? The Caffeine-Free Cybermen? The Cybermen Tab? No… well in that case, then I guess they must be…

… *gasp!*

No, surely not!

Yes, I managed to watch a whole half of this episode trying to reconcile how all this ancient Cyber-continuity from the 1960s could likewise also be applied to Lumic's Diet-Cybermen from the series' revival last decade, until eventually the gold coin dropped. These metal heavies were the real Cybermen. The ones barely seen since the twenty-fifth anniversary story Siver Nemesis in 1988! Oh, I remember that story now. The American tourist. The cameo by the Queen. That flipping jumper. Oh, well, perhaps we'd best just as quickly forget it again…

Anyway, all that to say, the original and official Cybermen are back at last! Yay!!!

Despite this, probably the biggest nightmare in this one is its tone. It's disjointed and uncomfortable throughout. To a certain extent I suspect that this is the director's deliberate intention - it is a messy war being fought there after all. Unfortunately there is also:

1. Far too much music confusing what's going on in nearly every scene, and
2. A pivotal game of chess taking place throughout that we almost entirely cannot see. It's hard to really hang on the progress of that without knowing what's happening.

Story-wise though, Nightmare In Silver is a romp. The guest characters are all good, the strategising also good, and the realisation of the long-term effects of the Cyber-war impressive too. There are plenty of strong ideas throughout - the variant of the real-life chess robot, the long-term escalation of standard procedure against such an overpowering force, and the brand new Cybermites. It's like flicking channels and discovering an episode in the middle of a much longer serial about this world and its war.

The destruction of a whole star system to wipe out the species was a great bruise on the night sky outside again, reminiscent of the ill-thought-through Turn Left, although this time hampered by the fact that we could see it. (it shouldn't become visible to the locals for a long, long time yet)

Matt Smith gets to pull his weight in a dual role as not just the Doctor, but also as a mid-upgraded version. This sort of requirement tends to prove a bit of a stretch for Smith, but I found these scenes compelling, not least because we could only be mostly sure which Doctor we were watching at the time.

I suppose I have to comment on the inclusion of the first ten Doctors' faces when he's explaining about his ability to regenerate. Reassuring as it always is to glimpse the old guard again, the Doctor is explicitly stated here to be keeping his history a secret. That he then concedes to reveal all this information sits uneasily with me. Not only that, had he carried out his threat to regenerate and cast out the Cybernetics from his system, then his enemy could easily have just reinfected him. Hm, stronger to have cut that whole exchange, I think.

As for drama, well, there isn't any. Emperor Porridge's marriage proposal at the end hardly belongs there, and the children's upgrading is entirely played for laughs. Consequently, I just wasn't that invested in what became of them, as indeed Clara didn't seem to be. Ah, lettem get upgraded, so what. They're not my kids.

Oh yes, Clara. Best. Companion. Ever. Losing both her young charges to an alien race on another planet in the distant future, about to die herself, and falsely promoted to commander of the lone military unit standing between humanity and the Cybermen, and what does she do? She just gets on with it, extremely well. No complaining, no declaring how tough the writers want us to think she is, no breaking off to go phone home. She just gets with the programme.

Clara, where have you been for the last eight years?

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