“It’s hard to fight an enemy that uses your armies as spare parts.”
SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.
Continuing the colour theme (from The Crimson Horror) apparently being displayed on Doctor Who comes Nightmare in Silver, an episode written by the Omnipresent Neil Gaiman* which is only slightly less silly than The Matrix: Reloaded. For one thing, it features what appears to be a Cyberman crossed with Flash.
Oh, wait. Before I start criticising I suppose I’d better do the Plot Synopsis. Artie and Angie, the children Clara looks after when she’s not gallivanting about space and time, somehow manage to persuade the Doctor to take them on a trip in the TARDIS. (I’m guessing here; we don’t actually see that part, which seems like an odd gap in the storyline.) Accordingly, they all end up at what was once the greatest theme park in the universe, but which, in accordance with the Doctor’s usual unerring judgement, is now shut. However, they do meet Ripley, owner of a collection of curios, who challenges Artie to a game of chess against a dead Cyberman – and that is only the beginning…
There were many, many things I found unconvincing about this episode, including some wooden acting from Jenna-Louise Coleman, the aforementioned superhero-Cyberman, and, most of all, the denouement, which literally took the form of a deus ex machina (if an emperor counts as a deus). If all Flitwick/Porridge had to do was say some magic words, why on earth didn’t he do that earlier? You know, before all those people died? And it was all so easy. Get teleported off planet, blow planet up, end of problem. Nothing to it.
But I did enjoy the chess game. Oh yes, the chess game. Basically, the Doctor’s brain is invaded by a Cybercontroller and they play a game of chess in order to decide who will take control of his memories. Very fairy-tale-y, that. Very mythic. Very Neil Gaiman. And Matt Smith did a fantastic job switching between Doctor and Cybercontroller. And there was a clever-stupid-timey-wimey-plan! (“In three moves I can reach checkmate.”) If that had been the main focus of the episode, instead of the trivial little power struggles over at the Comedy Castle, Nightmare in Silver would have been terrific. As it is, it’s a little disappointing for a penultimate episode.
On Saturday: The Name of the Doctor (I’m still going with “Fred”. Or “Bob”.), complete with a rather odd prequel involving a couple of drama-school monologues ending with the sentence “but I found out the day we went to Trenzalore!” Oh, good. That’s all right, then.
*Seriously. He turns up everywhere.