On July 31st, 2012, it was quite a pleasure to finally meet the openly bisexual Amanda Palmer. I had known of her for quite some time since my younger brother, Jeffrey, would play her music all the time, as part of the Dresden Dolls alongside Brian Viglione. These include from their self-titled album, The Dresden Dolls:
And more personal favorites from Yes, Virginia…:
Because I couldn’t enter the nightclub and see her perform (I have never seen her perform ever), I waited outside the Middle East for a couple hours in the rain just so I could get a picture with her. I’m actually not just familiar with her, but also her husband, author and novelist Neil Gaiman. This includes his work on the film, Princess Mononoke, Babylon 5, and of course, Doctor Who.
He is the writer of “The Doctor’s Wife” during the first half of Series 6. This episode to me is not just brilliant, it’s utterly fantastic. Out of all the episodes during the first half of Series 6, this episode handily is considered my favorite of them.
We wonder if, having got to the end of Nightmare In Silver, that there’s a core of Doctor Who fans who categorise the episode as ‘not the one we expected’. We’d probably put ourselves in that camp too to an extent. We’re not quite sure what we thought we were going to get when it was revealed that Neil Gaiman was reinventing the Cybermen. But Nightmare In Silver feels a little different, which is mainly a positive thing here.
The whole episode, after all, was bathed in sci-fi. The setting of a futuristic theme park – Hedgewick’s World Of Wonders here (which, by the map, looked like it would be an ace day out) – with exhibits going wrong certainly helped the late Michael Crichton on more than one occasion. Meanwhile, the legacy of Doctor Who, and the Cybermen in particular, is a clear reference point for the latest take on the silver soldiers (with even a drop of Willy Wonka added in). In reworking the Cybermen that John Lumic (okay, Trigger) put his own spin on in 2006, Gaiman has dipped right back to their earlier days. Back to the last point, arguably, when the Cybermen were still able to get under your skin (hello, Tomb Of The Cybermen!).
So let’s deal with the Cybermen first. For such an iconic Doctor Who monster, they’ve always struck us as one of the least scary in recent times, if nonetheless good fun to watch (nobody hid behind the sofa at the end of The Next Doctor, after all). In fact, the most creepy we can recall them being, without digging right back into the deep throes of Who, was in the form of a single cyber arm back in The Pandorica Opens.
Gaiman doesn’t really increase the fright factor per se – although there are some nice creepy moments with a single Cyberman, which means we’re inevitably reaching for a slight Dalek comparison – but he does make the Cybermen a more effective threat. They’re faster, a bit more brutal, and not averse to a good software patch. At one stage, impressive director Stephen Woolfenden puts together an excellent sequence demonstrating this, really effectively weaving in speed and slow motion.
As well as a visual spruce up, Gaiman’s script is keen to upgrade the Cybermen in other ways. You can’t help but feel the influence of the Borg from Star Trek in here, too (although some have long argued that the Borg were derived to some degree from Cybermen anyway). A Cyberman who adapts and upgrades to specific threats might feel familiar, but it certainly works in terms of making them feel less beatable. And, more to the point, like a desperate act is needed to ultimately defeat them.
The cybermites help here too, which, nostalgia aside, seem a lot more useful than the cybermats of old. The highlight, though, might just be a Cyberman taking off his head to gain a tactical advantage. A brilliant touch, albeit one not likely to be to the liking of Who traditionalists. The head swivel might just come in useful on the dance floor, mind.
But Nightmare In Silver has a lot more in the tank than just Cybermen, and for all the light touches, it’s bookended by darkness. It picks up from last week’s cliffhanger, with Clara’s two young charges jumping aboard the TARDIS for a grand day out. If you were fearing young companions here, then said worries were soon smoothed over. Artie and Angie proved to be a component of the story (not least harking back to the Daleks’ realisation that children have untapped ingenuity, as seen in Remembrance Of The Daleks), rather than the driving force of it.