Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Doctor Who - Nightmare In Silver

Neil Gaiman's second Doctor Who episode is lazy, irritating and uninspiring. 

Last week's The Crimson Horror ended on an unexpected note. Clara's time travelling exploits had been uncovered by Angie and Artie, demanding a trip in the TARDIS in exchange for their silence. The biggest worry with children on TV shows is that they can be terribly annoying and are often used to initiate plot strands. In The Walking Dead, Rick and Lori's son Carl was forever wandering off and turning up at the most opportune moment, often at the expense of any character development. Sadly Neil Gaiman falls into that exact trap.

Thinking he's onto a winner, The Doctor takes Angie and Artie to the biggest theme park in the universe, Hedgewick's World Of Wonders. Well it used to be, but the planet has since been quarantined after several attacks from Cybermen. When The Doctor is partially upgraded by the mysterious Cyber Planner, he has to battle the Cyber Planner in a game of chess with the universe at stake.

Erm... no thanks. I'll stick to Free Cell. image courtesy of

Of the pair, Angie is significantly more grating. She's just travelled through time and space and her only reaction upon arrival is one of disappointment and boredom. It's the typical unimpressed-at-everything young teenager shtick that is ubiquitous on television. Artie's sweet politeness and well spoken demeanour is less problematic. After a brief interaction with a hollowed out Cyberman, Angie and Artie are sent to bed; The Doctor and Clara have the possible threat of a Cyberman invasion on their hands. Before leaving, the Doctor unequivocally tells Angie and Artie not to wander off. Do. Not. Wander. Off. Great, I thought, Neil Gaiman has addressed this most irritating of traits.

Except he didn't. Angie was unimpressed with the prospect of going to sleep, even more so than the lack of mobile phone signal (apparently she doesn't know how mobile phones work). So she decides to wander into the barracks and complain to the soldiers about her boredom. The inclusion of the Doctor's warning made the wandering off moment even more irritating. (I feel I must note that my problem lies with the characters, and not the performances from the child actors.)

The Doctor vs The Doctor. Image courtesy of
Both Angie and Artie then get kidnapped and are put into temporary standby mode. Whilst this does help the episode by eliminating the weak characters, it also suggests that their inclusion was an afterthought to the main story. In the end, it seems rather pointless to go to the effort of bringing them along and then just doing away with them for most of the episode. Anyway, moving on.

Steven Moffat's main instruction for this episode was to make the Cybermen scary again. Whilst Gaiman does update one of The Doctor's most feared enemies, he arguably takes away the threat that made them so menacing in the first place. The new Cybermen can twist and remove their heads, upgrade their abilities when it suits them, and can run in short bursts. Except this last ability seems to be forgotten by the latter stages of the episode where they resort to their familiar marching movement. They're more powerful, but less scary than before.

The internal battle between The Doctor and the Cyberplanner is an interesting concept, but it doesn't really hold together. It's never really clear what the Cyberplanner wants: to beat The Doctor or develop a new planet for the Cybermen. Matt Smith does a pretty decent job with playing the dual roles but the whole matter is resolved too easily. The episodes in this series have suffered from major pacing issues. A lot of episodes have had rushed endings whilst others (like this one) try to cram too many underdeveloped ideas into 45 minutes.

The Mighty Porridge (Warwick Davis) image courtesy of
The supporting cast don't fare much better either. Tamzin Outhwaite and Jason Watkins are wasted, whilst Jenna-Louise Coleman's Clara becomes a little too cocky and hasn't made that leap into great companion territory yet. Warwick Davis' Porridge is the most entertaining character and his story arc is well played. Unfortunately, even this enjoyable arc can't escape the grasp of the annoying children. Having been awoken from their temporary stasis, Angie and Artie display no concern or fear for their own lives. Not only that, Angie gets the overly smug moment where she reveals Porridge's true identity. Nobody likes a smart-arse, particularly one who hasn't done anything to deserve that moment.

At the end of the adventure, The Doctor hands Angie a snazzy upgraded phone. It's only in this moment that she seems to find happiness.

That's right; according to Doctor Who, kids aren't impressed by space, time travel, and the unimaginable wonders in the universe. All they care about is their f***ing mobile phone.

No comments:

Post a Comment