Recap: Doctor Who S33 E12 "Nightmare in Silver"

"Hail to you, the Doctor — SAVIOUR of the Cybermen!"

Written by Neil Gaiman.
Hedgewick's World of Wonders is known as the greatest theme park in the galaxy. The Doctor takes new temporary companions Angie and Artie Maitland to the park for a fun day out (he's got a golden ticket and everything), but the TARDIS parks them there a few decades too late and the whole place has been shut down. Instead of the Spacey Zoomer and free ice cream, team TARDIS finds an army platoon that has been sent there (mostly to keep them out of everyone else's way) and a caretaker named Webley. The Doctor runs a Bavarian Fire Drill and pretends to be a high-up envoy of the emperor, who's been missing for a number of years. He decides to hang out with Webley for a bit just to show the kids a good time.

Webley has an empty Cyber-suit in his home, which he uses as a parlor trick when he gets people to play chess with it. Inside is actually a little person nicknamed "Porridge" (Warwick Davis!) who quickly befriends Clara. Just as the whole gang is about to head back home, the Doctor realises that things are very wrong on this planet, and goes off to investigate, telling the kids to stay put. They don't, of course, and while Angie, Artie and Webley get kidnapped and put into a "walking coma" by the quickly revived Cyberman, the Doctor is infected by Cybermites (like Cybermats, only quite tiny) and turned into a magnificently Large Ham in the process. The Cybermen were only looking for clever young children, like Angie and Artie, but a Time Lord is infinitely more useful. And they really didn't expect to find one here... after all, the Doctor has been deleting himself from history across the universe.

The Doctor tells the Cyberplanner, who's taking over the Doctor's mind, that he could simply commit Heroic Suicide and regenerate on the spot to destroy the Cyberplanner's implants — and, via the Cyberiad network, every Cyberman it controls. Instead, they battle it out both in the Doctor's subconscious and over a game of chess. The Doctor's fully aware that the Cyberplanner will betray him no matter who wins, but does what he can to protect the children. Meanwhile, Clara takes full advantage of the Doctor's Bavarian Fire Drill and takes charge of the platoon. She spends most of it trying to prevent the soldiers from blowing up the planet, since that's been their modus operandi ever since the last war with the Cybermen. They even blew up the Cybermen's entire galaxy. Porridge tells Clara that he feels tremendously guilty over that — because no matter how much he tries to think about all the lives that were lost that day, all he can really bring himself to care about is the poor man who had to push the button.

The Doctor temporarily manages to short-circuit his cyber parts using his golden ticket and tries to avoid Clara's difficult questions about the things the Cyberplanner has been telling her — about her being "impossible", for one. When he finally manages to use the platoon's gadgets and his own screwdriver to remove his cyber parts and gets the kids out of their comas, Angie points out what's been glaringly obvious to her all along: Porridge is the missing galactic emperor. Porridge explains that his off-planet army can transmat them all out within seconds, so blowing up the planet was actually a pretty viable idea all along. And he's so impressed by Clara's leadership skills that he asks for her hand in marriage. She declines, to Angie's great annoyance.

The Doctor drops the kids off back home, and Clara joins them, telling the Doctor he can pick her up again next Wednesday.


  • Adaptive Ability: The Cybermen adapt very quickly to whatever is thrown at any one of them, since they are all linked in the Cyberiad. It's hard not to be impressed by software patches that are able to fix hardware problems.
  • Absence of Evidence: Mr Clever notes the Doctor's efforts to remove data on himself from history. He then points out that the Cyberaid can reconstruct who he is from the gaps he's left. The Doctor concedes he'd better do something about that.
  • Alien Sky: Even Angie is impressed for a moment, when it's shown they're not actually on Earth's moon.
  • All There in the Manual: Neil Gaiman has explained various parts of the plot which were rendered obscure by timing cuts: [1] [2] [3] [4]
  • Almost Kiss: The Held Gaze, the Puppy-Dog Eyes, the Interrupted Declaration of Love when Clara slaps the Doctor across the face because it's Something They Would Never Say...
  • Amusement Park of Doom: Hedgewick's World of Wonders is an abandoned amusement park full of Cybermen who want to use you for spare parts.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Used twice to revert the Doctor to full control of himself.
  • The Assimilator: This is the main strength of the Cybermen. A particularly ghastly aspect is that people seem to keep their personality for some time as they get upgraded.
    Porridge: It's hard to fight an enemy that uses your armies as spare parts.
  • Author Appeal: If you hadn't seen Neil Gaiman's name in the opening credits, you'd still know that this episode was his work. That, or a huge homage to him.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Cyber-Planner, in contrast to the regular emotionless footsoldiers, is insane and about thrice as hammy as the Doctor.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Played with throughout the episode; while the Doctor and Mr Clever are fighting for the Doctor's mind much of the actual battle is done in the real world through a game of chess.
  • Big Little Man: The Emperor's statue.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Cybermen are defeated, but Webley and several of the soldiers are dead, the planet was blown up, a Cybermite remains, and Porridge is forced back onto the throne he hates.
  • Blessed with Suck: Porridge is Emperor of the Universe, a job which no-one wants, including him.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: The Cyber-Planner mockingly borrows "Fantastic" and "Allons-y!"
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Angie is rather insufferable, though this is never commented on by the other characters. To the Cyberman who's abducted her: "Put me down! I hate you!"
  • Brick Joke: Clara is forced to sign a requisition form just to get the Earth-Shattering Kaboom controller out of the soldiers' hands. Then Mr Clever manages to snatch it and destroy it, and how do the soldiers handle the news?
  • Brief Accent Imitation: After rummaging through the Doctor's memories, the Cyber-Planner says a few lines in what is presumably meant to be the Ninth Doctor's accent.
  • Bullet Time: Used when the Cyberman flawlessly dodges all the shots being fired at it and grabs Angie.
  • The Bus Came Back: The proper return of the Mondasian Cybermen since 1988. note  Previous appearances going back to the "The Pandorica Opens" have been confirmed to be Mondasian Cybermen by Word of God, but the costumes weren't updated (or just had the Cybus logo removed). These ones have updated costumes.
  • Call Back:
    • The Cyberiad can now convert non-humans — in fact, any living being — something the Cybus variants were experimenting with seasons ago.
    • During the Battle in the Center of the Mind, the Doctor skims through the images of all his previous incarnations, while in the background, there appears to be the same Old High Gallifreyan lettering inscribed on his crib, depicting his true name.
    • The Doctor says the new Cyberleader, Mr. Clever, is still running on old Cyberiad data, so he still has the Weaksauce Weakness to gold and cleaning fluids. He uses gold to temporarily disable him.
    • The Doctor is still erasing himself from history.
  • The Cavalry: The imperial flagship that appears at the end and beams everyone safely aboard.
  • The Chains of Commanding: The reason the emperor has been in hiding for such a long time is because he doesn't like the heavy responsibility of the emperor. At the end he casually offers the role to an underling who turns it down, which he concedes is the right choice.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The golden ticket turns out to be quite literally gold — enough to temporarily fry the Cyber-Planner.
    • The galactic penny that Webley gives to Angie is what allows her to identify Porridge as the missing Emperor.
  • Chewing the Scenery: If you thought Matt Smith's usual performance was over the top, wait until you see Mr.Clever! He's delighted at the processing power of this new body and uses it for dramatic speeches and dancing around the room.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: For a while, one Cyberman does better than three million of them. Justified as (1) he's taken over about half the Doctor's brain, and (2) this version of the Cybermen use processing power from one hive mind; the less that are operating at once, the more competent and intelligent they can be as individuals.
  • Continuity Cavalcade:
  • Continuity Nod: This being a Neil Gaiman episode, there are quite a lot of references to old stories:
  • Cranial Processing Unit: Zig-zagged. The stun gloves work by application to the back of a Cyberman head, but a Cyberman is shown to be able to purposefully detach its head without loss of function.
  • Creepy Monotone: The kids lose all inflection after they've been upgraded.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy:
    • The first active Cyberman, upon kidnapping the kids for the Cyber-Planner, takes steps to make sure the planet-imploding bomb isn't activated.
    • Another of the Cybermen leaves their head out wide open knowing some soldiers wouldn't be able to resist such an obvious target.
  • Declaration of Protection: Another one from Eleven, this time regarding Angie and Artie.
    The Doctor: If anyone is listening to this, those children are under my protection.
  • Detachment Combat: A Cyberman uses its hand to attack a soldier in hiding.
  • Did Not Think This Through: The Doctor's plan to fake his death and remove all evidence of himself from history. As the Cyberplanner notes, it's pretty clear to figure out he's still alive and he exists, due to the "giant Doctor-shaped hole" left behind with nothing to fill it. The Doctor acknowledges the point.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The Doctor refers to Clara as "a mystery wrapped in an enigma squeezed into a skirt that's just a little bit too... tight." He then catches himself thinking aloud and snaps out of it.
  • The Dreaded: The Cybermen are deemed enough of a threat to justify using a planet-imploding bomb to destroy just one of them.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The standard-issue Planet Imploder is used at the end.
  • Easily Detachable Robot Parts: A Cyberman uses its detached head to fool a soldier.
  • The Emperor: Emperor Ludens Nimrod Kendrick Cord Longstaff the 41st, Defender of Humanity, Imperator of Known Space. Porridge, to his mates.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The Cybermen are destroyed! Wait, is that an active Cybermite floating through space?
  • Enemy Within: Mr. Clever, a Cyberman leader stuck in the Doctor's head.
  • Epic Fail: Artie loses a chess match to Porridge via the Fool's Mate, despite claiming to be in the chess club.
  • Exact Words: The Doctor said that he would beat Mr Clever in three moves, but didn't say it was through chess.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Implied to be the reason why only Angie and the Captain realised that Porridge is the Emperor. His wax figure in the museum actually is quite a bit taller.
  • Evil Counterpart: Mr Clever is basically an evil version of the Doctor. Same mental prowess, same mannerisms, etc. but he's focused on upgrading.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Mr Clever, The Cyber-Planer is amazingly over-the-top, as he's melded with the Doctor.
    Mr Clever: Good news boys and girls! They're HEEEEREEEE!
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • In the opening scene, Angie and Artie are convinced they're on the moon, even though the obvious signs that they aren't are literally on the walls off-camera. They also didn't seem to find anything odd about being able to breathe on the moon.
    • At a critical moment, the Cyber-Planner is too busy with the Doctor's mind games to notice an armed man enter the room. It hesitates to make the Doctor suffer and gives the newcomer time to act.
  • Flip Personality: Mr Clever and the Doctor are repeatedly taking control of their shared body from each other.
  • Foreshadowing: The Captain definitely twigs onto Angie's mention of Porridge, and takes her aside saying they need to talk. On first watch, it seems that the Captain wants to know about squatters living on the planet, but after The Reveal that A) She previously was part of The Emperor's guard detail and B) that Porridge is the Emperor, the reason for her reaction becomes far more clear.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The Adaptive Ability of the Cybermen has made them so dangerous that standing orders demand the immediate destruction of the entire planet should the first engagement with a Cyberman fail to kill it. In the backstory, this happened to an entire galaxy because they couldn't beat the Cybermen any other way.
  • Good News, Bad News: When the Doctor is relocating his chess match and runs into Clara.
    The Doctor: Er, a bit of a good news, bad news, good news again thing going on. (Clara brandishes her BFG at him) So, good news, I've kidnapped the Cyberplanner and right now I'm sort of in control of this Cyberman.
    Clara: Bad news?
    The Doctor: Bad news, the Cyberplanner's in my head. And, different bad news, the kids are, well, it's complicated. (starts to back off from Clara)
    Clara: Complicated how?
    The Doctor: Complicated as in...walking coma. (hides behind his chessboard)
    Clara: (gasps in horror, then points BFG) Please tell me you can wake them up!
    The Doctor: Hope so.
    Clara: Other good news?
    The Doctor: Well, in other good news, there are a few more repaired and reactivated Cybermen on the way, and the Cyberplanner's installing a patch for the gold thing. No, wait, that isn't good news, is it. Er, so, good news, I have a very good chance of winning my chess match!
  • Great Offscreen War: The Cyber-Wars, which ended in a Time War-level Godzilla Threshold — the total obliteration of an entire galaxy and the trillions of non-Cybermen inhabiting it.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: The Doctor and Mr Clever engage in high energy trash talk between their chess turns. Matt Smith had a lot of fun with this episode.
  • Helpless Good Side: Averted. The Doctor manages to beat Mr Clever on his own.
  • Hes Not My Boyfriend: Averted. When Artie refers to the Doctor as "Clara's Boyfriend", neither of them deny it.
  • Hit Me, Dammit!: The Doctor writes a note to Clara to hit him so he can break Mr Clever's control.
  • Hive Mind: The Cyberiad is the collective intelligence and processing power of all cybermen everywhere.
  • Hope Spot: The characters electrify the moat to make sure the Cybermen can't get to the Doctor, and it works... until the first one adapts to it.
  • Hyde Plays Jekyll: Mr Clever pretends to be the Doctor to trick Clara at one point. She catches on fairly quickly.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Clara laughs when Porridge says the power glove might come in handy. The Captain doesn't.
  • Indy Ploy: Clara absolutely trusts the Doctor, though she won't go as far as to say he knows what he's doing.
  • Insufferable Genius: The Doctor, but Mr Clever even more so. He names himself "Mr.Clever" after all.
  • Internal Homage:
    • The Big Finish Eighth Doctor audio episode "The Silver Turk" also features Cybermen playing board games. Both episodes reference the original mechanical turk (a supposed chess machine which was actually operated by a person inside). That makes the second direct reference in this season to an Eighth Doctor audio from that specific storyline, after "Hide" name-checked the story "The Witch from the Well" (which comes directly after "The Silver Turk").
    • It continues the running references in season 7 to Big Finish Doctor Who, such as the Eighth Doctor's adventures.
  • Ironic Echo: "That's cheating!" "Just taking advantage of the local resources."
  • I Shall Taunt You: At the end of his chess game, the Doctor claims he can win in three moves. This is such a bare-faced lie that the Cyber-Planner borrows the computing power of his entire army to definitively prove the Doctor's full of it. This allows Clara and the soldiers to escape an otherwise-imminent demise and the Doctor to modify a pulse glove to free himself. For the record, the Doctor was indeed lying. He did not have mate in three moves. He had it in six. After all,he didn't say he "had mate" in three moves, he said he would win in three moves.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: The Cyberplanner is essentially an Evil Counterpart of the Doctor who shares a body with him, taking over periodically before the Doctor is able to regain control.
  • Kind Restraints: The Doctor insists on being tied to a chair in front of the chess board (they're to leave his hands free to play chess).
  • King Incognito: Porridge, the guy operating a cyberman shell in an amusement part that no one visits, is actually the ruler of a thousand galaxies. As with the best examples, he even serves food to his soldiers.
  • Large Ham: Mr Clever could feed the entire third world for months with the amount of ham he's exporting, and he would declare it "Incorporated, yes!" while dancing around.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Warwick Davis's is called attention to. It's one of the features that reveals his true identity.
  • Literal Surveillance Bug: The Cybermites, scaled-down Cybermats which have the ability to assimilate technology and slowly convert other lifeforms into Cybermen.
  • Metaphorgotten:
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Playing with a trope; Porridge admits that he feels worse for the person who had to press the button to destroy a galaxy than the billions of trillions who lived in it, because they had to live with that kind of guilt.
  • Moral Myopia: Mr. Clever, despite all his general ruthlessness, complains that the Doctor's plan to get rid of him is cheating because he wasn't beating him at a fair game of chess.
  • Mythology Gag:
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Cybermen are able to wake up because the Doctor brought children to the planet, and they alone make suitable processors. Then it turns out the Doctor has even more capacity...
  • No Sell:
    • The Doctor used to be immune to the cyber conversion on account of being alien... up until this episode, where they're improved the process to work on any lifeform.
    • The Cybermen take this trope up a notch with their Adaptive Ability by being able to shrug off methods that would have killed them left and right. In particular, the electrified moat only briefly stops one until it adapts, and the gun that vaporized one Cyberman only gets off two more shots before they're completely immune.
  • Oh Crap!:
    • The Doctor finding out he is no longer immune to their conversion.
    • Clara and the soldiers cheer when their electrified moat starts working... until the one that sacrificed itself quickly upgrades itself to counter the effect.
    • If you hear the words "Upgrade in progress", you've found an example.
  • Offered the Crown: Clara turns down Porridge's offer of marriage, even though it would mean ruling a thousand galaxies. Porridge offers his crown to Gloria too. She wisely refuses.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: This is shown in the mindscape of the Doctor while he is fighting off the Cyber-planner with orange background for the former and a cold blue for the latter.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Slapping the Doctor provides a jolt that allows his consciousness to dominate the Cyber-Planner, though only briefly.
  • Plot Hole: Some bits were removed from Gaiman's script, leaving it unexplained why the kids aren't left safely in the TARDIS, and why the Cybermites go right for Angie's phone.
  • Putting a Hand over His Mouth: Artie being abducted by a cyberman, who later detaches his own hand to send after his next victim.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The local military contingent is the "Punishment Brigade", a group of failures and insubordinate soldiers sent there so they won't cause any harm.
  • A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma: The Doctor describes Clara as "A mystery wrapped in an enigma squeezed into a skirt that's just a little bit too... tight."
  • Running Gag:
    • As he did with Rory, Eleven takes a cheap shot at Clara's nose. It also counts as Hypocritical Humor, since Eleven's nose isn't petite (it's possible he's lashing out about all the chin jokes).
    • The Doctor and Clara reminding the soldiers that they are not going to blow up the planet.
    • "Don't wander off!"
  • Scary Flashlight Face: The Doctor does it with his screwdriver.
  • Scooby Stack: The Doctor, Clara, and the kids peek out of the TARDIS in this fashion when they arrive.
  • Ship Sinking: Clara doesn't believe the Doctor would ever fall in love with her, and even if he did, he would rather die than admit it. One should take this with a grain of salt, given her earlier comments on the subject.
    Clara: Do you think I'm pretty?
    The Doctor: No. You're too short and bossy and your nose is all funny.
    Clara (grins): Good enough.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sighted Guns Are Low Tech: Averted with the anti-cyber gun, with its very prominent gun sights.
  • Silent Antagonist: Barring Mr Clever, the Cybermen don't say anything other than "Upgrade in Progress" when a) converting others into their own or b) altering themselves so that a previously fatal weakness becomes much less so.
  • Smart People Play Chess: The Doctor, Artie, Porridge, and Mr Clever play chess and all of them are very clever. Artie falls for a Fool's Mate so he's not as smart as the others but he's also much younger so cut him some slack.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Clara does this with the Doctor. When he offers Ship Tease as a response, she slaps him to get the real Doctor back. Even if he actually felt that way, he'd never admit it.
  • So Much for Stealth: A female Red Shirt gives a sigh of relief when a Cyberman stomps past her hiding place. He hears it.
  • Split Personality Takeover: Attempted by Mr. Clever but he is a couple percentage points short of full control. It's successful with all the other Cybermen.
  • Stompy Mooks: The new models are a little more streamlined, but still pull off the ominous march.
  • Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: When the Cyber-Planner speaks with the Doctor in his mind, the Doctor half-threatens to regenerate to stop him; not only ending his eleventh life, but frying any Cyber-related component in his head. The Cyber-Planner announces stalemate.
  • Super Speed: The Cyberman who snags Angie moves so fast the Doctor and the soldiers appear standing still.
  • Tagalong Kid: Clara has to bring Artie and Angie along for an adventure... or they tell their father their nanny's a time traveler.
  • Talking to Themself: The Doctor and Mr.Clever share lips.
  • Teleporters and Transporters:
    • The series' Transmat system shows up again, popping the Doctor from the museum to the Cyber-Planner's headquarters.
    • An automatic system saves the day from the Earth-Shattering Kaboom, provided that the emperor is nearby.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • The Cybermen took many. They went from being somewhat slow-moving cyborgs that had several methods of taking them down to graduating into Lightning Bruisers by means of Super Speed, require special guns to even damage them, can now convert races other than human (Time Lords included), and a very quick Adaptive Ability. They've also stopped saying "Delete!" It seems these Cyberman don't bother with giving advanced warnings, preferring to simply grab people and convert them as quickly as possible, since it's far more efficient. The upgrade is so severe, the Cybermen, a planetful of which were getting mowed down by only four Daleks once upon a time, appear capable of curbstomping them now. Most frightening of all, they stopped talking in those high-pitched electronic voices and have gone to a Deep Baritone!
    • Clara takes command of the Punishment Platoon and enforces her authority over both the scared and the insubordinate. That's quite a step up from babysister or governess.
  • Too Spicy for Yog Sothoth: The Doctor proves impossible for the Cyber-Planner to control completely, and he eventually works out a way to remove the Cyber-Planner.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Webley will become a cyborg working for the Cybermen.
  • Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: Emperor Ludens Nimrod Kendrick, called Longstaff the 41st, Defender of Humanity, Imperator of Known Space. Initially, he just said "etc. etc." because it was too long.
  • Virtue Is Weakness: The Cyber-Planner scoffs at the Doctor's emotions, and his willingness to make sacrifices to protect the children.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The infamous gold allergy. Most of the Cybermen have evolved beyond it, but the cyber-mites' operating system still contains this glitch buried deep within the source code. This causes the tech to be temporarily scrambled by gold until the Cyber-Planner manages to install a software patch.
    • Averted when we a Cyberman is seen walking into water, a common example of this trope for robots, but all it does is slow it down before it No Sells it.
  • What Have We Ear?: Webley does this when presenting Angie with the penny she won.
  • Wham Line: "Incorporating..."
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The Doctor is initially confident that he has little to fear from the Cybermen, since they assimilate humans, not aliens. Cyber!Webley confidently informs him that they've since adapted to use any form of life.
  • You Are in Command Now: A non-fatal version. The Doctor, having used the psychic paper to con his way into authority over the local military contingent, makes Clara their commander so they won't immediately destroy the planet. It becomes the fatal version pretty quickly.
  • You're Not My Father: Angie uses "You're not my mother!" on Clara.