The Doctor brings Clara and her wards too far into the future, where Hedgewick's World is abandoned. What was once a thriving amusement planet is now a desolate wreck, but there were rumours in the last days of the Theme park - people were vanishing. And now, a threat long thought dead is waiting to rise again... Spoilers. of course, beyond the cut!
To get it out of the way at the start: Nightmare in Silver is no The Doctor's Wife. To a lot of people, I imagine that's disappointing, but in all honestly, it never could be The Doctor's Wife 2: This time it's Wifeier. Nightmare in Silver is a very different beast to Gaiman's past work, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's bad for it. There are moments of greatness in the script, fantastic ideas - the new changes to the Cybermen, the Cyber Planner/Cyber Doctor conflict - but somehow, it didn't quite come into a cohesive whole. Bits felt slow, yet at the same time it felt like we weren't using the slower pace to learn much or really care about the characters we're introduced to. The idea of the 'Punishment Platoon' was introduced, mentioned a few times, and then not really covered before being just dropped, and the characters - apart from Warwick Davis' lovely Porridge - felt like that too, especially Tamzin Outhwaite's Captain Hansen. It just sort of spent a chunk of the episode feeling half baked, with nothing really happening outside of the Doctor/Cyberplanner's chess-based scuffling, until the Cybermen attacked with about 15 minutes to go. It was shame, because when it really got going it was going wonderfully, with a relentlessly frenetic pace, but the lulls really tarnished the overall episode.
Matt Smith pretty much saved the episode (apart from the luvverly new cybermen, more on them later), thanks to his dual performance. What could have been - and sometimes bordered on - a really hammy performance actually worked for me, the duality, and the interesting contrast, between a relatively calm and collected Doctor versus the pompous and overconfident Cyber Planner (what a shame he didn't pop an 80's-esque EXCELLENT! out while he was at it!), and the central conflict between them, over the chessboard, drove the episode, and saved some of the lower points. Matt's not really had the opportunity so far in his run to have that villainous turn, á la Meglos or even 42, but he really shone in it.
Despite the fantastic performances from Matt Smith, elsewhere the acting disappointed - especially, and unfortunately, with Eve De Leon Allen and Kassius Carey Johnson's Angie and Artie. I thought after young Emilia Jones' lovely turn as Merry Gejelh in the otherwise disappointing The Rings of Akhaten, maybe Doctor Who could begin to change its uneven past with child actors, but neither Eve nor Kassius fit comfortably here. Gaiman writes the children interestingly (for the little they actually get to do), but their delivery is over thought and emotionless. It's a damn shame, because both Matt and Jenna work brilliantly with kids - it's perhaps too much to ask child actors to rise to their levels, yes, but nonetheless I was not down with the kids this week.
Let's take a moment to talk about our new Cyber-pals, because hoo boy, they certainly stole the show for me. I might be a tad biased here as the Cybermen are my favourite Who monster, but I absolutely love the new design - Iron Man comparisons be damned - and Stephen Woolfenden shoots them perfectly here. It's a brilliant contrast to the bulky, metallic clanging of the Cybusmen, much sleeker and with a face-mask incredibly evocative of the classic-era designs, especially my particular favourite, the Cybermen from The Invasion. They looked marvellous. Even with all their crazy new abilities like super-speed and (scarily Borg-like, which is a bit of an irony as the influence was the other way around initially!) auto-upgrades, the streamlined look feels closer to 'Human 2.0' than NuWho's previous Cybermen ever did, which makes them all the more chilling. Whilst I'm not entirely sold on their suite of upgraded abilities - I prefer my Cybermen slow but relentless, as they were nearer the end of the attack on the Castle, not popping bits of themselves off to go all Addam's Family on their victims - Nightmare in Silver works as a 'soft reboot' of sorts for the Cybermen. As long as there's as little 'destroyed with the power of love' nonsense as possible, I'm interested to see more Cyber-stories with these fellas in the future.
All in all, Neil Gaiman's 'troubled Second album' for Doctor Who was almost the very definition of a mixed bag - some bits worked, some didn't. But overall, despite some of the script's weaknesses it was an enjoyable revamp of one of the show's most interesting foes. All eyes are on next week though, as this run of episodes comes to a head: It's time for The Doctor to go to Trenzalore, where the first question must be answered...