Monday, August 25, 2014

Doctor Who--"Nightmare in Silver"

I confess to apprehension leading up to “Nightmare in silver” for two reasons.  One is Neil Gaiman wrote the script.  The other cause for alarm is the return of the Cybermen.  Was my apprehension justified.  Pretty much, yes. 

Gaiman comes from the worlds of comic books and fantasy novels.  I cannot speak much of his statis among fantasy novelists, though considering he is a New York Times best seller and many of them toil away with day jobs while churning out mass paperbacks for peanuts, I can guess he is viewed like he is in the world of comics--a cut far above the rest.  He does not have to follow any rules or conventions, because he is Neil Gaiman.

The last time Gaiman scripted Doctor Who, we got “The Doctor’s wife,” an admittedly creative effort in which he was allowed to mangle Whovian mythology any way he saw fit.  So we get the TARDIS personified as a woman in love with the Doctor,  a villain we have never heard of before who has committed mass Time Lord genocide, and--oh, look,--the return of Eccleston/Tennant era TARIS controls just for kicks.  Well written, but frankly comes across as a giddy thirteen year old’s fan fiction. 

I like the Cybermen.  In spite of their goofy looking design back in the day, they were terrifying villains.  Now their design has caught up with modern technology,  but everything has has regressed.  I will give them credit for abandoning the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy complaints about inelegance of the Russell T. Davies era, but the love conquers all method of their last defeat elt more like the Care Bears than a Doctor Who adventure. 

So how bad is it when Gaiman gets free rein over the Cybermen considering my attitude?  I am going to rate it as pointless.  I certainly expected gaiman to add his own twist his on twist to the Cybermen mythology to suit his ego, and e does not.  Kudos to him for that.  In fact, the idea of the Cybermen lying in wait in an amusement park so they can use children’s minds to rebuild their collective is a good idea.   Suddenly deciding the mind of a Time Lor would make an even better choice is plausible one, too.

Maybe it is the way the plot is executed.  Clara is deputized to lead a platoon of inept soliers in battle against the Cybermen while Matt smith hams it up in pure manic fashion as he struggles internally with the cybermytes for control of his mind while playing chess with himself.   Matt smith plays the mad professor with histrionics and flailing limbs really well.  I do not dismiss the acting talent necessary to pull it off.  But the routine is growing wearisome week after week. 

So the Cybermen are eventually defeated in a mass explosion with little excitement to show for it.  Such is often the case with arch villains.  They have to be deeated every time, yet remain formidable for a later return.  I am not so sure “Nightmare in silver” left me with any sense of foreboding we doged a bullet by their destruction, but only for a while.

One thing I have not mentioned yet is why add geek favorite warwick Davis to the mix, give him next to nothing to do the entire episode, then reveal out of the blue he is the emperor?  I suppose his subdued role trough most of the episode is to make the reveal more interesting, but it actually comes across as more absurd, as does his out of the blue marriage proposal to Clara.  He likes surprises, I suppose.

What we have with “Nightmare in Silver” is another episode with a lot of nifty special effects and impressive production design, but not much else to go with it.  There is no sense of epic adventure or impending doom.  Penultimate episodes unrelated to the finale are often small, but that is not what this kind of episode should have been. Then again, I do not want Gaiman cut loose with his ego.  See my problem?

Rating; ** (out of 5)

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