With Clara’s babysitting charges, Artie and Angie, having discovered her travels in time, she introduces them to the Doctor, who offers to take them aboard the TARDIS for a trip to one of the universe’s most impressive amusement parks, Hedgewick’s World of Wonders. Once there, though, the park is a bit underwhelming, occupied only by Mr. Webley and – to the Doctor’s alarm – what appears to be a severely-damaged Cyberman who plays chess against anyone willing to pay. It turns out that a small man named Porridge is controlling the Cyberman, but the Doctor is still suspicious, and with good reason: Hedgewick’s World is also the home to a tomb of the Cybermen, and they’re evolving new abilities, including downsizing Cybermats into Cybermites to aid in converting unwitting humans into Cybermen. One of the Cybermites manages to gain control of the Doctor himself, and he finds himself fighting for control of his own mind with the consciousness of the Cyber Planner. Clara joins forces with a “punishment platoon” of space soldiers sentenced to patrol the run-down amusement park, but even then she may not be able to save the Doctor – or the children she’s meant to be babysitting.
written by Neil Gaiman
directed by Stephen Woolfenden
music by Murray Gold
Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Jenna-Louise Coleman (Clara), Eve de Leon Allen (Angie), Kassius Carey Johnson (Artie), Jason Watkins (Webley), Warwick Davis (Porridge), Tamzin Outhwaite (Captain), Eloise Joseph (Beauty), Will Merrick (Brains), Calvin Dean (Ha-Ha), Zahra Ahmadi (Missy), Aidan Cook (Cyebrman), Nicholas Briggs (voice of the Cybermen)
Notes: Tombs of the Cybermen have been seen in previous episodes, such as Tomb Of The Cybermen (1967) and Attack Of The Cybermen (1985). The Cyber Planner was last encountered in 1968’s The Invasion. Guest star Warwick Davis (incorrectly credited on-screen as “Warwick Davies”), making his first Doctor Who appearance, is usually associated with the Star Wars franchise, having played such characters as Wicket the Ewok in 1983’s Return Of The Jedi (and two TV movie follow-ups), and a podrace spectator in The Phantom Menace, among other roles. He was also the star of another George Lucas production, the 1988 film Willow.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: Though providing an opportunity for Matt Smith to take over the screen as both the Doctor and his enemy, Nightmare In Silver teeters dangerously on the edge of becoming silly in its running argument between Smith-as-the-Doctor and Smith-as-the-Cyber-Planner. No Cyber-entity should be as mercurial as Smith’s Cyber Planner seems to be – but then again, the new series has given us Cybermen that can be defeated with love (Closing Time) and a Cyber King that demands near-worship from its subjects (The Next Doctor); the new series hasn’t exactly handled its handle-heads consistently.
Their leader aside, the Cybermen in this episode also abandon the “elephant heard of thumping clanking feet” that the Cybermen have had as a trademark since Rise Of The Cybermen: they’re now stealthy and fast, which makes them scary to be sure, but “stealthy and fast” is something that no Cybermen have been… well… ever. Never, in the history of Doctor Who, has anyone ever been suddenly surrounded by Cybermen that they never saw or heard coming; the Cybermen have always overwhelmed with sheer strength and numbers. It seems like a strange decision to start rewriting their DNA now.
Warwick Davis and most of the human guest characters are inspired casting; with Matt Smith talking to himself for much of the episode, Clara and these numerous one-off characters have to keep things grounded. They’re an engaging and sympathetic bunch, even the most seemingly insignificant bit players of the ensemble, so there’s a slightly deeper sense of horror as the Cybermen gradually pick them off. The characters of Clara’s babysitting charges are an interesting addition; unlike a lot of child characters in TV science fiction down through the years, I wasn’t rooting for the Cybermen to do away with them. Part of their charm could be that they were kept at a dull roar, appearing only in this episode and the closing scene of the previous installment.
As excited as everyone was about Neil Gaiman writing another script, and writing a Cybermen script to boot, Nightmare In Silver isn’t quite on the same level as The Doctor’s Wife. In many scenes, the Doctor’s internal dialogue with his silver nemesis is a bit tedious. Again, we know the Doctor’s going to exorcise this particular enemy from his head, so the real suspense lies with Clara and the other characters, and only Matt Smith’s considerable skill at creating two completely different characters makes those scenes anything less than tedious filler standing between the viewer and the real meat of the story.