What do you get when you mix the incredible talents of a British Prize-winning author, the directorial style of Stephen Wolfenden, and a veritable dream cast of British actors? “Nightmare in Silver” was penned by Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker Award-winning and best selling author Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is best known for his works American Gods and Neverwhere. Fans of Doctor Who episodes will remember his previous work in the episode, “The Doctor’s Wife,” which featured a human representative of the TARDIS. For many Doctor Who and Gaiman fans alike, “Nightmare” has been considered the most anticipated episode of the current season.
“Nightmare in Silver” opens with the Doctor bringing his companion, Clara, and her two charges, Artie and Angie, to Hedwig’s World; the Universe’s largest amusement park. They instead find a decrepit planet littered with the relics of it’s former glory. The group runs into Mr. Impresario Webley, a carnival man left behind during the Cyberwars and unable to leave the planet, as well as a group of abandoned soldiers who must defend the planet as punishment. Viewers will likely recognize Jason Watkins, the actor portraying Mr. Webley, from his previous role playing the villainous vampire Herrick on Being Human. Making a delightful appearance as Porridge, the assistant to Mr. Webley, is Warwick Davis. Davis is best known for his role in Willow and also as both Griphook and Professor Filius Flitwick in the Harry Potter series.
As the Doctor and Clara explore the planet, they discover that not everything is as simple as it seems. Small insect like robots, Cybermites, scour the planet looking to “upgrade” the unwary into a new race of Cybermen. Matt Smith has proven to be incredibly versatile this season, and this episode is no exception. After a Cybermite manages to begin the upgrade process on the Doctor, Smith makes an amazing play of firing back and forth between two characters in one body. He is able to switch from character to character with the unsettling accuracy of a man possessed, even playing a chess game against himself.
The episode (in keeping with much of the second half of this season) acts as a nostalgic dream for fans of the show. Not only are all the previous Doctor incarnations (including the often ignored number 8) represented in a quick brain scan of the Doctor, but the Doctor is able to temporarily stave off the effects of the Cybermen by using gold, the original method of destroying them in the Classic Series. Psychic Paper also makes a return this episode, as it seems to have been hiding for most of the current season. Fans of Eccleston and Tennant’s portrayals of the Doctor will also be delighted to hear “Allons-y” and “Fantastic” both play into a Cyberman torment of the current Doctor.
“Nightmare in Silver” has been an epic undertaking from the time the script was delivered to BBC until it airing. In October of last year, the original script for Nightmare in Silver was forgotten in a cab in Cardiff, Wales. Local student Hannah Durham discovered it and made sure to return it to the writers without revealing any spoilers. If you’re already afraid of the Cybermen, I’d recommend not watching this episode alone. Doctor Who takes the original concept of the Cybermen and makes them more terrifying than the previously dreaded Weeping Angels. The Cybermen move quickly, are unreasonable, and able to summon droves of themselves in moments. With a fantastically assembled cast, incredible script and a budget that finally can capture the effects the show has wanted for nearly 50 years, Nightmare in Silver makes a fantastic penultimate episode for Season 7.