Tag Archives: matt smith

Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 7: Nightmare in Silver (Spoilers)

Neek about it!
Rating:

In every series of Doctor Who, there comes a time when an old enemy must be revisited. Though the second half of Series 7 would seem to have fulfilled this requirement with “Cold War,” the episode focused on the Ice Warrior Skaldak, it was decided that Neil Gaiman‘s episode would be about the classic Cybermen. This had me worried for several reasons. In almost every episode of New Who that has featured these baddies, their stories have been near carbon copies of one another. They have been characterized by a lack of imagination in terms of plotting, and little to no evolution of the Cybermen themselves. Which is why “Nightmare in Silver was, hands down, the best Cyberman episode that we have had in a long, long time (as well as one of the best episodes of Who overall).

Doctor Who - Series 7BNeil Gaiman has said that the Cybermen had always been one of the scariest Who villains of his childhood. For this episode, he was tasked with restoring them to their former creepy glory, and succeeded admirably. These new Cybermen have lost the clanking, steampunk nature inherent in their previous iterations, and have become creatures of evolution. Reminiscent of the quickly-evolving tech industry of today, they adapt almost instantaneously to new weapons and obstacles and send out updates to every single soldier with the “patch.”

Hedgewicks-TicketThe episode takes place on a theme park planet called Hedgewick’s World of Wonders that was destroyed while humans battled Cybermen thousands of years prior. The Cybermen were vanquished, at the cost of the galaxy that they had inhabited. The entire galaxy that the Cybermen took over was obliterated. Scientific improbability aside, this is a new reaction to the Cyber threat – the futuristic version of total war. It shows ruthlessness – and a certain selflessness – present in the future human race that we have not seen often in Who.

486731_531756970193775_438965392_nThe Doctor takes Clara, as well as Angie and Artie – the two children for whom Clara is nanny – to the theme park, not expecting the devastation they find. A few soldiers remain on the planet to guard against a potential resurgence of their old foe. They also encounter a chess master with dwarfism named Porridge (played by Warwick Davis), who operates a seemingly defunct Cyberman to frighten people. The group readies to leave, but the Doctor decides last-minute to investigate the strange metal bugs infesting the place. These turn out to be Cybermites – tinier versions of the classic Cybermats – and partially convert Angie and Artie into walking coma patients, to be used to build more Cybermen later. And then the ‘mites find the Doctor.

Doctor-Who-713This is when Matt Smith shines as an actor. He is partially converted into the leader of the Cybermen, or the Cyberplanner, because of his extraordinary mind. However, the Doctor is strong, and a battle for supremacy over his body and brain ensues. The marvelous interior of the Doctor’s consciousness – where Doctor and Cyberplanner threaten and snarl at each other – is split between golden Gallifreyan lettering (on the Doctor’s side) and electric blue energy (on the Cyberplanner’s side). Finally, the two agree to play a game of chess for control over the Doctor’s body. Throughout this scene, Smith switches back and forth between Doctor and Cyberplanner (who has christened himself Mr. Clever), a seemingly endless dance of two incredibly intelligent foes. The two are simultaneously polar opposites and completely indistinguishable from one another, which was a frightening choice on Smith’s part and only emphasized his incredible acting prowess.

Mr. Clever is temporarily incapacitated when the Doctor slaps a golden ticket onto the circuitry on his face, because apparently the Cybermen still haven’t fixed that annoying weakness to gold and cleaning fluids. Meanwhile, Clara has taken charge of the soldiers – who turn out to be a nearly incompetent punishment platoon – as Cybermen reawaken from beneath the surface of the world. She and her motley army station themselves in a castle surrounded by a moat, and take stock of Clara_cyber_guntheir resources: one gigantic anti-Cyber gun; five hand pulsers which, when placed on the back of a Cyberman’s head, render them inert; and a bomb that has the capacity to blow up the planet. The Doctor joins Clara shortly with Angie and Artie in tow (still comatose yet able to walk). Clara ties him to a chair so that he can finish his chess game with Mr. Clever, then goes off to muster her troops. Continue reading

Neek about it!

Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 6: “The Crimson Horror” (Spoilers)

Neek about it!
Rating:

Doctor-Who-Madame-Vastra-Jenny-and-StraxSince both Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures left the air, there have been slots open for new Doctor Who spinoffs. “The Crimson Horror” gives us a taste of the most obvious – and potentially greatest – choice. With plenty of innuendo to go around and witty one-liners flying everywhere, as well as a certain Sontaran‘s endearing obsession with violence, the return of the JennyVastraStrax triumvirate in 19th century Yorkshire is a witty glimpse into a world that deserves its own series.

doctor-who-season-7-episode-11The beginning of the episode is curiously Doctor and Clara-free, which – although frightening at first – is a refreshing change. We are introduced to the conundrum of the week: the Crimson Horror and its ensuing trail of bright red bodies in the river. An undertaker presents to the team the belief that the last The_Crimson_Horrorimage a soon-to-be-corpse sees is forever burned across their retinas in an image known as an “optogram.” Vastra discounts this immediately as superstition. However, with the help of unexplained (but very Victorian-looking) technology, the eyes of the latest stiff are found to reflect a very familiar face – that of the Doctor himself.

Doooooo-weeeeee-doooooo… Continue reading

Neek about it!

Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 3: Cold War (Spoilers)

Neek about it!
Rating:

On Saturday, April 13th,  the newest episode of Series 7.5 of Doctor Who was aired (Sunday the 14th, for those hailing from the United States). The story takes place on a sinking Soviet submarine (alliteration FTW) during the Cold War. The quarters are cramped and tensions are running high as the vessel slowly fills with water and an Ice Warrior named Skaldak – who believes himself to be the last of his kind – runs rampant. Or perhaps slithers, as he does in fact vacate his armor and travels through tSkaldakhe sub making very Basilisk-y rasping sounds. This is the first time we have seen an Ice Warrior without a helmet, and the face is quite cool (though depressingly humanoid, as most TV aliens are). The clawed hands reaching down from the rafters (do submarines have rafters?) were exceedingly cheeseball and would have been right at home in an early episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Series 1 of Doctor Who.

MUSINGS

I enjoyed the comparison of (and contrast between) the “real” Cold War – the period of political and military tension between the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc taking place in the outside world of this episode – and the “cold war” occurring within the sub, which was in essence a game of chicken between several trigger-happy (cattle prod-happy?) naval officers, a really cranky Martian, an ages-old Gallifreyan and his 21st-century companion who were both anticipating Vegas and were instead confronted with a wet, cramped submarine and a lily-livered TARDIS…and twelve nuclear missiles.

ice-spaceship-1-1The ending was a charming example of deus ex machina – an Ice Warrior spaceship appears, looking very much like the classic interpretation of a flying saucer (except with some bitchin’ purple lights lining the edges). It then draws the submarine up to the surface of the ocean with a tractor beam and Skaldak beams out, refraining from remotely blowing up the submarine and showing everyone that yes, friendship is magic.

The Doctor-Clara dynamic is fantastic – Matt Smith and Jenna Louise-Coleman play off each other extraordinarily well. Most characters have a chance to throw out several grintacular one-liners, and the script is intelligent and smooth. (Thank you, Mark Gatiss.) The professor, played by David Warner, is an endearing refresher as a kid stuck in an adult’s body. (His one question to Clara upon discovering that she is a time traveler is “Ultravox – do they spilt up?” Love that guy.) Also, was it an accident that Clara hums “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran when she gets nervous? Bad Wolf allusions, anyone? There are rumors flying everywhere about the 50th AnniversarDoctorLaughFunnyy special/series finale, so this could be relevant or just a red herring. Also, the Doctor seems to be carrying around a doll that looks very much like Rose Tyler. In the final scene, the Doctor finally explains why the TARDIS mysteriously disappeared – he implemented a protocol called HADS, or Hostile Action Displacement System, which teleports the TARDIS out of danger – and it was brilliant. Plus the Doctor gets to do annoyed-little-kid facial expressions. Smith’s acting is fantastic as always, and he and Clara defeat an enemy without violence, which was nice. (This was also the case with “Rings of Akhaten,” and I appreciated it.) However, the fact that Clara let the Doctor tell her to stay put was just infuriating. No self-respecting companion ever heeds the Doctor’s words. Ever.

So, all in all, a very well-scripted episode that could have had more dramatic tension, but in the end was satisfying and gave us several red herrings.

Read my dissection of two trailers for “Cold Warhere, my review of Episode 2 “The Rings of Akhatenhere, and my review of Episode 1 “The Bells of Saint John” here.

Neek about it!