Sunday, May 12, 2013

Nightmare in Silver

Neil Gaiman last wrote for show back in season 6 with The Doctor's Wife, a clever and interesting story where the Doctor finally gets to talk to his beloved TARDIS. However, his return to Doctor Who was rather underwhelming.

Nightmare in Silver sees the Doctor, Clara and the children she babysits (Angie and Artie) on what should have been a crazy fun adventure for the kids. However, disappointment and annoying children soon ensue when the promise of the biggest theme park in the universe basically turns out to be a pile of scrap metal - rides abandoned and in a complete state of disrepair.

They first meet Mr Webley who used to run the World of Wonders. Among his wax figures and statues is a 'magical' chess-playing Cyberman - who turns out to be controlled by Porridge (Warwick Davis). After the slow start, things start to get interesting when we first glimpse the little cybermites, the upgraded version of the cybermat. Cyber technology upgrades are the basis of this episode. When some 3 million Cybermen attack the poorly defended planet, even their most advanced weapons (which totalled an entire six) quickly became obsolete. Apparently their technology has advanced so much since we last saw them that they can be upgraded instantly. Their intelligence seems to have been upgraded too. Once they were the ultimate soldier, advancing on their enemy with no fear of death. Now they're laying traps and looking for more creative, intelligent people to further their advancement.

This doesn't go down too well for the Doctor. His Timelord intelligence was of course an attraction for the Cybermen, who began the upgrading process on the Doctor. He wasn't going to give up that easily, however, and the long, internal battle for the control of the Doctor's mind begins. Matt Smith really seems to get better and better each week. He switched between the two character's with such perfection and ease, making it by far the best and most captivating part of the episode.

Clara also had quite a good role this week, though I still don't find her all that amazing. She took control of the punishment platoon quite well and I think we finally got to see what she can do. To be honest, though, I think she is still quite one-dimensional. And seriously, can we not start a whole other love story for the Doctor PLEASE? With Rose, it was great. Even Martha's unrequited love was interesting and I think she was all the more strong for it. River has annoyed the crap out of me since forever and there was always some flirting with the Doctor and Amy. So can the Doctor and Clara just be friends, is it really that hard? /endrant

Oh wait, I forgot to mention how annoying and pointless Angie and Artie were. Thank god they were kinda just left to the side for most of the episode. /actualendrant

The episode also raised some good future plots, most notably the Doctor-sized hole in history. Not such a subtle way of erasing yourself was it, Doctor? I hope that is actually explored though. Not just casually mentioned later on as being 'fixed' or just completely solved with a push of a button, which seems to be the trend lately. Even Nightmare in Silver was solved with a quick teleportation away from the exploding planet. Oh how I want a suspenseful two-part episode with a complex/exciting ending. 

Rating: 7.5/10

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments :D

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Crimson Horror

Mark Gatiss latest contribution to the season, The Crimson Horror, is one of those fantastic action adventures. Jenny, Madame Vastra and Strax are back this week, continuing their escapades in Victorian England. (These three really need their own show) Terrifying people by preaching about the apocalypse, the episode's villain Mrs Gillyflower invites those who want to survive to live in 'Sweetville', a new town which looked remarkably similar to Willy Wonka's factory. Those who Mrs Gillyflower deems acceptable are paralysed and set up as a display in one of the town's houses. Everyone else is subjected to the crimson horror, a red poison which paralyses, colours them bright red and then ultimately kills them.

I think The Crimson Horror may actually be the best episode of the second half of this season. Like Hide, Gatiss' episode mixes sci-fi and 'horror' quite well. With the Doctor and Clara mysteriously absent for a relatively large portion of the episode, Vastra, Jenny and Strax are left to find out what has caused the deaths of so many. When the Doctor finally appears, it is not in a way you would expect. As the only one to survive (just barely) the crimson horror, Mrs Gillyflower's daughter, Ada decides to rescue him, keeping him chained up as her 'monster'. Jenny, sent undercover into Sweetville, finds the Doctor bright red and half-paralysed in a cell. Armed with the sonic screwdriver and what I'm assuming is the antidote to the poison, the Doctor is quickly back to normal and desperate to find Clara.

Of course, this is an issue for Jenny. Clara is dead, isn't she? The Ice-Lady pushed her off a cloud! Poor Jenny, despite vigorous questioning at every chance, never finds out how she is still alive. And here we go into the season's story arc - the mystery that is Clara Oswald. At the end of the episode, the kids she nannies have uncovered pictures of her from all across time. One of which is the Victorian-era Clara from The Snowmen. Though Clara knows that it is not her, it may have sparked something of the information the Doctor told her in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS before he erased that timeline.

I really liked Ada, the blind and mutilated daughter of Mrs Gillyflower. As the imperfection in her mother's perfect world, Ada cannot help but save the Doctor, who at that point was an equally disfigured "monster". Caught crying when she finds him missing, her mother tells her she has no place in her "Eden" and asks her to stop "clawing and slobbering" at her feet. However, Ada still remains loyal to her. But, some encouragement from the Doctor, her monster who returned to her, she leads them to her mother. When she finds out Mrs Gillyflower had experimented with the crimson horror on her, she quickly turns against her. 

It is here we find out about the crimson horror. In an odd reveal of Mrs Gillyflower's partner in crime 'Mr Sweet', she  rips off part of her dress to show a red leech attached to her chest. Apparently, in return for a home(?), the leech, aka Mr Sweet, excreted the 'crimson horror' which Mrs Gillyflower planned to use to basically destroy humanity. 

Strax was definitely a highlight. The out-of-place soldier has not lost his comedic value, always muttering about far simpler but much more violent ways to solve any problem. Strax seemed to be the centre of the jokes in this episode. The best one by far being Thomas Thomas. Strax, lost on his way to Sweetville and about to shoot his (fourth) horse for not knowing the way, was interrupted by a young Thomas, who did knew exactly where to go. The hilarious instructions were as follows:

Thomas: "Sweetville, sir?"
Strax: "Do you know it?"
Thomas: "Turn around when possible. Then, at the end of the road, turn right."
Strax: "What.."
Thomas: "Bear left for a quarter of a mile and you have reached your destination."
*Thomas sits on the cart next to Strax.*
Strax: "Thank you. What is your name?"
Thomas: "Thomas, sir. Thomas Thomas."
I think I'm going to be laughing at that for days.

One of the best parts of the episode was the retelling of how the Doctor and Clara ended up in Sweetville. It was done so brilliantly. A flashback, in the form of an old film - sepia, grainy and a bit bumpy, broke up the episode in such an awesome way. It looked fantastic, adding to the feel of Victorian England and quickly let us know what had gone on beforehand.

Overall, I really liked this episode. Though I don't know how much it adds to the overall story arc, it was still a great mix of action and comedy. 

Rating: 8.5/10