Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned Cybermen episode of “Doctor Who?” The trouble with old foes is that it is often difficult to keep their menacing creepiness alive through the decades. The solution? Hand them over to Neil Gaiman. The infamous genre storyteller returns for a second stab at the fantastical series following his first and much loved episode, “The Doctor’s Wife” (2011).
Right from the start, Gaiman whisks us away to the greatest amusement park in the universe along with the Doctor (Matt Smith), Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman), and Clara’s young charges, Angie (Eve De Leon Allen) and Artie (Kassius Carey Johnson). Seems like the most awesome babysitting adventure imaginable, except for one small problem. The once great park has been abandoned for quite some time on account of people always disappearing.
For the older “Doctor Who” fans, all we needed was that first shot of a robotic insect to alert us that there were Cybermen inhabiting this planet. Luckily, it seems that the only one left after the Cyber Wars is completely hollow and plays chess for a parlor trick at the park. But, honestly, is it ever really that simple? “Nightmare in Silver” comes to life in a literal and metaphorical game of chess as the Doctor, Clara, and the children fight to overcome being “upgraded.” We are given a front row seat to the process of the Cyber-planners and their methods for acquiring “spare parts” off of children.
Director Stephen Woolfenden comes fresh from the epic “Harry Potter” franchise and brings along a special treat: Warwick Davis (The Return of the Jedi, Willow). Davis delivers a subtly powerful, heartfelt performance as Porridge, an Emperor in disguise. His now iconic presence has only improved with age and adds an element of grace to this small, yet regal character. If that isn’t enough, we can fill in the acting cracks with Matt Smith’s one man show as the Doctor battles a Cyber-planner for control of his own brain. Clara solidifies her strength and confidence as she leads a band of troubled soldiers against an army (literally, an army) of Cybermen.
Thanks to Neil Gaiman, the old school villains in this episode are a tad more menacing than big silver robots. While “Nightmare in Silver” doesn’t quite possess the bleeding heart of “The Doctor’s Wife,” it certainly does not disappoint for fans of both the writer and the series. Gaiman will always be welcome in “Who-ville.”