Television: Doctor Who, "Nightmare in Silver"

What used to be an amusement park has been shut down "by Imperial order," though the Emperor himself (of where or what exactly? doesn't much matter) is, in fact, missing. The park is now mostly in ruin, but there is a chess-playing Cyberman on exhibit (puppeted by a dwarf named Porridge). And two other Cybermen that don't do much of anything. Yet. But since we've been introduced to them, we know they will do something eventually.

Apparently the fallout of having been found out by her wards (Angie and Artie) is that Clara and The Doctor are required to take the children with them on this particular outing.

Meanwhile, weird insects (they look rather like landbound minnows) are running around. They appear to be key in "upgrading" the inactive Cybermen. Which, other than the ones on show here at the amusement park, are supposedly extinct. Except of course these three wake up and begin working on Artie, Angie, and a local bum named Empresario. (His name is supposed to make us believe he's the emperor in disguise, but we all know it's the dwarf, right? The statue even looks like Porridge, only taller.)

Really, it's all more or less a take on The Borg, as the newfangled Cybermen no longer seem to require an entire metal suit. Instead, flashing lights and a few metal implants do the trick.

Can I say, since we haven't spent much time yet with Angie and Artie, our ability to worry for them is foreshortened. Angie is kind of a priss anyway. I guess we're expected to care because they're children, for Christ's sake, and Clara and The Doctor are directly responsible for their well-being. But once again Doctor Who fails to connect the viewer with the characters, instead taking it on faith that we will care simply because we're supposed to.

The episode then spirals into a Jekyll & Hyde bit with The Doctor literally of two minds. The Cybermen are trying to "incorporate" him (as opposed to "assimilate," to use Borg lingo, as if there were a difference). The Doctor makes a deal with the Bad Cyber Doctor—yes, in his own head—to a winner-takes-all game of chess. Well, this should be engrossing. Who doesn't want to watch a bunch of chess in the middle of their favorite science fiction adventure show?

Because Cybermen are nigh impossible to kill, and because they work so quickly in reproducing (so to speak), the Imperial law now states that if you encounter a Cyberman and cannot kill it, you must destroy the planet. But Bad Cyber Doctor breaks the planet implosion trigger, so that option is off the table. Also, this is a really long game of chess. (Learning that the Time Lords invented the game perhaps explains why it's so long. Or maybe it doesn't.)

And an army of Cybermen has now turned up. From where? I'm sure I missed something there, but I don't care enough to go figure it out. They stop short of their goal when Bad Cyber Doctor, who is controlling all of them, must divert power to focus on the chess game. Which The [Good] Doctor wins.

And then they identify Porridge as the missing emperor and use his voice authorization to blow up the planet, escaping on the emperor's flagship just in time. Porridge proposes marriage to Clara, much to The Doctor's irritation, but of course she turns him down.

Once again, while the story seemed technically tight and well done, there was something missing in the execution. I was . . . mildly interested. But not completely engaged. And watching Matt Smith go spastic . . . Though I feel this was designed as an opportunity for him to showcase his talents, I failed to be wowed. Might've been the dialogue, though, which has been a regular problem. Things that are clearly meant to be clever, or funny, or clever and funny, often don't come across as such, so much as seeming to be trying too hard. And if we're supposed to be drawn into some idea that The Doctor is forming feelings for Clara (romantic feelings, that is, over his initial curiosity about her), the lack of chemistry between them speaks otherwise.

Overall, an okay episode, but also on the whole mostly disposable, having nothing to tie it to anything that has come before or after. It was a closed system, and it burned (or blew up) its bridges behind it. I suppose we could see Porridge again some day, but truly the story seems to be finished, with no compelling reason to revisit it. (The little silver minnows, on the other hand . . . Maybe?)

I guess what I'm most struggling with this season is that a show featuring a hero with two hearts hasn't managed to show or touch even one.

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