Saturday, May 18, 2013

Nightmare in Silver [7.12]

Obviously, to say that a story scores 100% on the Ril/Moff scale is not saying a great deal. It's only saying that what we have just watched was a competently assembled piece of drama in which I could suspend disbelief from beginning to end. "Okay, you have just told me a story: now we can talk about whether or not it was a story worth hearing."

That said I am awarding Nightmare in Silver, charitably, a perfect score of 100%. I say charitably because, if I were feeling uncharitable I would say that the two kids were such caricatures of knowing drama school brats that one could hardly take seriously a single scene they were in.

Neil Gaiman's last outing felt very much like a Neil Gaiman story into which Doctor Who had accidentally materialized. Nothing wrong with that: we have established that  Gaiman is the Second Greatest Living Writer. But I was more interested in finding out what  a Doctor Who story written by Neil Gaiman would be like and that is what this piece essentialily was. It had a lot of recognisable Gaiman themes -- fairgrounds, whimsy, victoriana, grotesques, silly costumes -- a sort of gypsy steampunk vibe. But it was recognisably a Doctor Who story in which the Cybermen get defrosted, try to take over the universe, and get defeated.

I am not sure why it is was set in a themepark, but I can't think of any particular reason why it shouldn't have been. I am pleased that the parallell worlds theory has been abandonned and we just kind of accept that there are Cybermen and they are baddies. I liked the fact that, given that this was the best theme park in the universe and the Doctor is (as has been established) somewhere between Father Christmas and WIlly Wonker, he would naturally have a golden ticket, and therefore forgot that "gold" is one of the things Cybermen are vulnerable to. I thought the idea of the Doctor playing chess against himself was clever and funny, although it went on for rather too long. Warwick Davis is always good value, and no, I didn't see that coming, although probably I should have done. 

So. To keep old Doctor Who fans happy -- to keep this old Doctor Who fan happy, at any rate -- you don't need to do a pastiche of Old Who. (I expect Neil Gaiman could have written a pastiche of Old Who if he had wanted to, and I expect that might have been fun.) There were a few odd references to the Old Days: Cybermen waking up from their tombs, and a million cyberboots stomping across the landscape -- but arguably those have stopped being references to old stories and are now just part of the vocabulary from which cyberstories are constructed. All you have to do to keep an old Doctor Who fan happy is to drop the soap opera and the post-modern bullshit and the foisted-on story arc and just tell us a bloody story.

100%, Neil. You have Made. Good. Art.


Which leaves us with the extended prologue for next week. Clara and the Doctor do a monologue to camera, in which they both say that they didn't know very much about the other before the season finale, but then they found out, and were quite surprised. (Rather well done.)

It doesn't tell us the answers, but it drops some pretty broad hints about the ball park in which the answers will be found. Clara is not mysterious merely because she keeps dying and coming back: she is mysterious because she is exactly the sort of companion that the Doctor wants and needs. Since Wonderful-Rose, every companion has been exactly the kind of companion the Doctor most needs; but granted that what the Doctor wants is a facility with wisecracks and that quality which, if possessed byba female, is always called "fiestyness" -- a sort of heroic joy -- I'm happy to accept that Rose was special and Donna was special and Amy was special and Clara is a special replacement for Amy that he acquired "on the rebound." So, fairly clearly, it is going to turn out that Clara, being The Perfect Companion, is actually part of a trap that someone has set for him. Not a person at all, but a Plot Device disguised as a person, like Buffy The Vampire Slayer's Sister. It is also pretty clear that Clara's Thing is related to the TARDIS because we keep being told that Clara and the TARDIS don't get on; and I think it will be something to do with the kids, because I can't see any reason for their being in the One With The Cybermen except as a set-up for the metaplot.

As to the Doctors thing, we ae being led down a fairly tranparent garden path. The title of tomorrow's story is The Name of the Doctor and Moffat has repeatedly said that the story will reveal the Doctors greatest secret. What he has pointedly not said is that the Doctor's greatest secret is his name. The expression "Doctor who?" has been very heavily lampshaded all through this "season": the One With The Daleks ended with Him jumping up and down in the TARDIS saying "Doctor who?" over and over again, and when Wonderful Clara asks his name, he says "I love hearing her say that." At the end of last season, the Doctor removed all references to himself from history. That idea has not really been followed up on on. I liked the Cyberplanner's remark that he was still visible in the universe by the shape of the gap.

So. Predictions.

The Doctor's name used to be reasonably well known. When he turned up on planets and said "I'm Doctor Fooblenurdle" people said "Fooblenurdle -- not Fooblenurdle who has a Terrible Secret associated with something he did in before, during or after the Time War?" "Yes, that Fooblenurdle" replies the Doctor. When he removed himself from history, he also removed all knowledge of his name. As part of the season finale, we will learn what the terrible thing he did before, during or after the Time War was (which will, of course, have another even deeper and darker secret hidden inside it); but it will turn out that his name is literally unknowable. This is why he likes it when people ask him what he is called: it reminds him that he's covered his tracks successfully.

Clara is a construct, created by the TARDIS, based on the Doctor's memory of souffle girl, in order to prevent him going to the only place in the entire universe and world where his most deepest and darkest secret can be revealed. That's why she can't die: the TARDIS keeps rebooting her and reinserting her history at a different point.

Also: River Song is Amy Pond's daughter.