Doctor Who: Nightmare In Silver spoiler-free review

Review Simon Brew 8 May 2013 - 10:00

Don't expect The Doctor's Wife 2 from Neil Gaiman's latest Who episode, Nightmare In Silver. Here's Simon's spoiler-free review...

There's a bit in the film The People Vs George Lucas, where Neil Gaiman, and we're badly paraphrasing here, basically summises that fans generally tend to want more of the same, rather than anything particularly new. It's in specific relation to the Star Wars franchise that he's talking, but when it was announced and confirmed that he'd be tackling a second Doctor Who adventure, something along the lines of The Doctor's Wife again sounded really rather tasty. 

That's not Gaiman's style, though, and he clearly isn't looking to do that. And while there's an element about Nightmare In Silver of taking something of a Doctor Who icon - the Cybermen, rather than the TARDIS, in this instance - and digging deeper into it, it's a very different tale we get here. 

At first, when Nightmare In Silver kicks off, it all looks a bit Westworld/Jurassic Park-y. That's because we're at a futuristic theme park, where the Doctor, Clara and their companions are soon exploring. But come home time? Well, it pretty much goes without saying that all doesn't go to plan. And by the time the episode has ended, we've had touches of Dalek (for the second time this series), Remembrance Of The Daleks and The Curse Of Fenric, crossed with a bit of Star Trek: The Next Generation. That's if you like drawing Venn diagrams as much as we do. 

Gaiman certainly has fun with the Cybermen here, and does some work to try and inject the fear factor a little more into them (they're not the same creatures of 2006 onwards, certainly). It's not entirely successful in that regard (spookiness has never been the forte of the Cybermen), but he does introduce upgrades that make them more formidable foes for the Doctor to face. Never have the cybermen felt more dangerous and lethal. And you'll have little doubt that Neil Gaiman is a full-on Doctor Who geek too. No doubt at all. 

As for the episode itself? It really depends what you're expecting. Whereas The Doctor's Wife was the standout episode of the series six run, we wouldn't say that Nightmare In Silver is the highlight of series seven. That's no slight against it: it's still a good episode, it just has, ultimately, different goals and a less nerd-gold story to tell. Plus, The Doctor's Wife, if we're being frank, set a bar so high that it's hard to imagine too many episodes reaching that level for some time yet. 

Nightmare In Silver certainly doesn't lack ambition either, and it's crammed to the rafters with ideas and little touches. It also hinges, arguably more than ever, on Matt Smith's central performance. An awful lot is asked of Smith in this episode, some may argue a little too much. That's not a dig at Matt Smith there, either, to be clear, and it's something we'll explore more in the spoiler-filled review on Saturday night. 

Of particular highlight is an excellent guest turn from Warwick Davis, and some strong direction from Stephen Woolfenden. Furthermore, it feels as if any nips and tucks around the budget for this years' run have been re-invested in the visual work of Nightmare In Silver

It's a good episode, this. Don't go into it expecting The Doctor's Wife 2, and instead look for an entertaining reinvention of a foe that desperately needed a retune, and you'll likely get a lot more out of it. By the end, even though it's a bit of a bumpy ride at times, the campaign for Neil Gaiman to do a third Who episode will surely be underway.

Read our spoiler-filled review of the previous episode, The Crimson Horror, here.

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This is the episode I'm looking most to. Great writer, great looking production and Warwick Davis.

Is it wrong that the first thing I thought when I saw that Warwick Davis was in this episode was "I can't wait, this leaves them open to a myriad of sly, winking nods to other projects"?

Hmm.. I have to say, I thought The Doctors Wife was a solid episode but not definitely didn't stand out from the crowd. The Impossible Astronaut, The Day of the Moon, and The Wedding of River Song were easily the most impressive to me. Though I suppose everyone will have different favorites. Season six was great, but ultimately it's a part of the past now. Especially after Scarlet, I'm very excited for the new who!

Well, as The Doctor's Wife was 'only' my second favourite episode of Series 6 (that's The Girl Who Waited, with The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon almost on a par) my bar is different from the reviewers! ;) Hopefully I'll enjoy this as much as the rest of 7b (yes, I'm in the minority if Internet fandom is anything to go by....which it isn't). My excitement is definitely building for The Name of The Doctor...

Wouldn't Nerd-gold be fatal to a cyberman?

You have lowered my expectations successfully.

It's Stephen Woolfenden.

I wasn't that impressed by the Doctor's Wife tbh. We'll see how this goes!

love the cybermen, love gaiman. I think that I will love this episode.

This episode's had a bit of a kicking from several reviewers (SFX, Radio Times). Slightly perversely, I can't help thinking I might enjoy it even more as a consequence...

Yeah, wasn't a huge fan of The Doctor's Wife either...it was a solid and fun episode, but a stand out episode...not so much...that said, Gaiman is still a top writer and am very excited about anything he's doing within the Whoniverse. Roll on Saturday!

The Doctor's Wife is perhaps my favorite hour of television ever, having seized that crown from The Girl in the Fireplace. So I don't really expect a repeat. For one thing, when was the last great Cybermen script? The Invasion was great, that was 44 years ago. As an American fan who watched the show on PBS as a child and is catching up now, I must confess my knowledge of the show after Tom Baker left is spotty, and I haven't seen Earthshock. The only post-Traughton Cyberman I've really found scary was the guard in The Pandorica Opens. Closing Time was awesome, but not because of the Cybermen.

This appears to be the purpose of DoG spoiler-free reviews for bad episodes. They're always described as lightly enjoyable, with a few caveats. I'm convinced these reviews are just a tool to slightly lower expectations

All three episodes you mention suffered from the big problem of the Moffat era. They were too concerned with telling a twisty, complex storyline to just relax and have fun. Remember the RTD era finales? They were still great fun, even with tying up all of the story threads.

I thought Doctor's Wife was pretty good, but it resolved too quickly for me! A nice, quiet episode with the TARDIS going human would have sufficed. Still, excited for this episode

well since the doctor's wife was the most self indulgent sh** i've even seen on television, sureley that's a good thing

Or maybe you're just determined to hate Moffat. Honestly, I found RTD to be a fan of cheesy, predictable and unimaginative stuff. At least Moffat really goes for the complex stuff.
Seriously, if you don't like it, stop watching. And stop posting your crap on here. You're entitled to your opinion but why bother spreading your hate fueled nonsense on here?
The only problem I have with Doctor Who atm is that they keep blasting out rather cheesy soundtracks out at the end or whenever The Doctor mentions Clara.

I enjoyed every single one of them immensely, including TWORS. I definitely agree The Doctors Wife is one of the best episodes in series 6, but so is (to me) the IA/TDODM/TWORS trilogy (which I liked even more).

Not my fault.... I scrolled down and saw two messages by him slating it.... that and the alcohol in my system allows me this.... let me rant goddammit!
Much love, tiddlywinks. :)

Whats the big hipe about The Doctors Wife? I thought it had quite a weak story.

How can you be critical of how fair a review is before you've seen the episode it's reviewing?It just looks like the whole point of your comment is either to discourage interest in articles about new Doctor Who stories or suggesting it's going to be terrible before anybody has actually watched it.

Only to Cybermen from the planet Nerdandria 4 in the Lesser Calculatorial Cascade.

I remember the RTD finales, they were AWFUL. I've enjoyed both Moffat finales so far, especially the Big Bang

I really liked The Doctor's Wife, great writing!

.... but to geekily nitpick Mr Gaiman in one small way : The Doctor's wife teased The Doctor for having a sign on the front of the Tardis that read's "pull to open". She pointed out that it was silly because the Tardis's doors push inwards....

Silly unobservant Mr Gaiman.

The Tardis is disguised as an old fashioned police-box, as we all know.

The sign is on the small, unlocked, outer door that holds the telephone that the public could use to contact the police for free. The door for the telephone does indeed open outwards, it even has a handle : You *would* have to pull to open, as stated on the sign.

Mr Gaiman : Nil points on 1 tiny detail. Many many points on the rest of it though.

Looking forwards to his Cyberman episode allot.

I wouldn't classify that as a problem, really. I enjoy twisty storylines, and there's plenty of fun to be had along the way. True, RTD's were storywise simpler, and full of awesome and bombastic saving of the universe, but that doesn't make them necessarily more fun.

I guess it all depends on what kind of fun you're looking for. Some people have tremendous fun following all the twisty-turny-timey-wimeyness of Moffat stories - I once tried to draw the timeline to The Big Bang, just to see if I could chart the Doctors time travels. Yes, I am a nerd. XD

No, I don't remember the RTD era finales. Someone removed them from my memory for my birthday. Best present I've ever had!

This post will be deleted.

So that you can enjoy watching them for the first time all over again right? ;)

My problem is not with the twisty storylines themselves. It's how they have become the primary focus of the show. I'd rather that they were a tool used to generate interest rather than being the be-all and end-all of the show. In fact, it's the main reason I have enjoyed the Clara run of episodes so much.

I love Moffat as a writer. I just think his showrunning is far too concerned with planning out a complex, twisty storyline.

And, for the record, I still LOVE Doctor Who. That doesn't mean I can't criticise it every now and then.

I'm noticing a trend based on the reviews of previous episodes. I happen to think that Den of Geek writes the best Doctor Who reviews on the internet, but the spoiler-free ones all seem exactly the same to me.

Doctor Who online gave it 10/10, that along with the author, the trailer, pics and clips make me very eager to see it!

agreed, The End of Time is certainly in the bottom 5 new Who stories.

How do these guys watch the episode earlier than it's release? Imo The Doctor's Wife wasn't all that you guys are hyping it up too much, Impossible Astronaut, Day of the Moon, wedding of River Song, Pandorica opens, The big bang and the weeping angels episodes were way better.

I loved the RTD finales but imo Doctor Who benefits from having complex stories and twists, even RTD did it but not as complex as Moffat who makes the better twists.

I'd agree that, of the two, Moffat's twists are better. I just think that they often come at the expense of a coherent, fun story.

"spookiness has never been the forte of the Cybermen"

I call nonsense on that! Spookiness was a big part of their success in the 1960's, it's just that (other than briefly in 'The Pandorica Opens') the series has consistently got them wrong since.

"I haven't seen Earthshock."
eek that might be why there a gap.
I think it was the best cyberman story I can recall though I was also quite fond of Tomb of the Cybermen.
I have yet to see The Invasion mostly because of the missing footage issue.

I'm not overly fond of The Wedding of River Song (it's pretty good), but the series six two-part opener is an absolute blast. And of RTD's two regular series finales, Last of the Time Lords is terrible and Journey's End isn't particularly good.

Moffat could write fifteen awful finales and it still wouldn't take away from how splendid The Big Bang was.

You're right about the door for the phone opening outwards, and THAT having the sign on it, BUT the main door of a police box also opens outwards, not inwards as the doctor has always done so.

The Doctor's Wife, was great and awesome, but some likes it a bit more than me. I never thought of comparing this to The Doctor's Wife, I compare it more with Asylum of the Daleks, which is my third-favorite story of Series 7. I hope it will be better than The Crimson Horror (my fourth favorite,) but I won't mind if it's worse than Asylum of the Daleks.

Sites and reviewers get to watch the episodes before so they can prepare a good review, and so they can think about it more.

I adore the Utopia/Sound of Drums/LotTL finale. It gets so much hate, but it's probably my favourite series climax.

Wow, this was a really bad episode.

Asylum was actually better. So fare there's only three episodes I like this season, Cold War, Hide, and Journey to the Center of the TARDIS. Well, the next episode looks promising.

Got to agree , regrettably that was a totally shite episode.

At the time, EVERYONE HATED the RTD stuff. The internet hated everything, all the finales. Now, everyone loves it, and miss it. Ok.

Ah wish I could see it early >.<

Episode felt heavily rushed.
Twist was disappointing.
Cybermen were turned into Borg - upgrading whenever attacked.
Cybermen are no longer scary - simply exploiting the stupidities of humans.
Cybermen have too many additions such as;
- Can rotate head and body 360%
- Can function without body parts
- Their hand can function on its own
- They can slow down time to move as fast as Superman (Only used twice, WTF?)

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