Dear Steven Moffat: Nightmare in Silver

Nightmare in Silver

Dear Steven,

I’ve endured a few difficult weeks in my time; having my groin pulped by Neil Gaiman, being shanghaied and marooned in the future, going to the cinema and watching Spock try to beat a man to death in Star Trek Into Darkness; but oh my, this seven days has been the worst.

I thought I’d found my sanctuary in the Doctor Who Commune but it was not to be. Following last week’s breakdown in the social order over a 330ml measure of carbonated water with sugar and vegetable extracts, all the old certainties disappeared. The Face of Bow, our wise old head from East London, made the position clear during the clean up, an unedifying process in which pieces of shredded testicle and gouged eyes flattened by stomps from heavy boots, had to be removed from our old home. ‘The dream of a utopian society built on the principles espoused by The Doctor is over,’ he told us, before adding, ‘not least because you’re a mondas of psychos’, Mondas – the Cybermen’s home world, being the collective noun we’d agreed upon at language committee.

Thus I found myself cast out and sans abode, forced ultimately to book myself into a hostel for Whovian refugees. This niche branch of the YHA accommodates those who find themselves at a loose end because their fan-based sub-culture has imploded. If you think about it, it’s a minor miracle that something so relevant to my circumstances exists. Today, finally able to sit down and share my thoughts on last night’s metal-march, I’m writing to you laid out on the lower bunk in my dorm room. I’m not sure what the woman above me is supposed to be but there’s a lot of overspill from her outfit hanging down. It looks to be made of rabbit fur and chewed gum. Your guess is as good as mine.

So last week we discovered that Mark Gatiss and Neil Gaiman had fallen out in the recent past. How do we know this? Because Gatiss did the writer’s equivalent of moving out of 10 Downing Street and leaving a dead rat stapled to the inside curtain of the PM’s office for his successor to deal with, bequeathing two irritating kids to Gaiman and ensuring he’d have to use them with a short but wholly implausible scene in which these precocious tykes, despite both sounding like imbeciles, had used the internet to uncover Clara’s time travelling experiences. It wasn’t clear why a picture of a Soviet nuclear Russian submarine crew would be readily available on the web, or how, unless the now retired Sub captain had tagged Clara on his Facebook, those kids would have found it (did they google ‘My babysitter in unusual locations’ and just get lucky?), but they did and used this evidence to blackmail Clara into taking them on her next adventure.

Incredibly, The Doctor agreed to this, instead of doing the obvious and using his sonic screwdriver to wipe their brains or time travel to frustrate their web search, retrospectively mopping up the evidence, so Gaiman’s second stab at Who began with a group, somewhat redolent of an annoying children’s TV serial, arriving at a creepy space theme park on a planet that was once derelict, then commercalised and was now run down and empty; a space allegory for London’s Greenwich Peninsula.

Though I wanted to believe that Angie and Artie were part of Gaiman’s grand design and been specially requested by the author in order to facilitate his plot, I just couldn’t buy it. He stuffed words into their mouths like, “put me down, I hate you” which suggested he loathed them as much as we did and they had next to no purpose, other than to give The Doctor and Clara something to rescue, though I’m inclined to believe they’d have put themselves out for anyone (as is their wont). Ah, you say, but the theme park’s a little juvenile, right? The kind of place you’d take a couple of kids that had been dumped on you for the afternoon? Possibly, but then Clara’s such a wide-eyed girl child, I could imagine she’d enjoy a few rides herself and The Doctor, clearly spurred on by fond memories of the place, obviously likes queues and overpriced food and drink as much as the rest of us. No, I have to conclude Gaiman was the victim of an attempt at sabotage, and was thus aggrieved that he didn’t show his displeasure by having both brats torn limb from limb by this new generation of upgraded cyberbastards.

In part the episode was a disappointment. It was a chock-a-block with all the quirkiness and mischief we’d expect from Gaiman’s quill, but there was none of the menace promised by this reboot of The Doctor’s old enemies. The Cybermites were an interesting addition, so too autonomous body parts – I can’t wait for the episode featuring the last cyber-cod piece in the universe, but in 45 oddball minutes the most terrifying innovation was a galaxy lead by Warwick Davis; a perverse idea when one considers that the real power behind the throne would be Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.

Gaiman did have one excellent idea, however; The Doctor’s half-possession by The Cyber Planner (supported by the Cyberiad); a schzoid setup that had Matt Smith playing chess with himself for both control of his own faculties and the lives of his charges. As well as giving Smith the chance to channel Steve Martin in All of Me and do the world’s worst impression of Christopher Eccleston, this funny idea enabled us to get inside the Gallifreyian Ganglinoid’s mind as he fought a rearguard action against the nosey Cyberiad who were desperate to plunder his memories and consciousness for flaws and weaknesses. What they discovered shocked both them and us; apparently The Doctor has sexual feelings for Clara. This should have been a no no for Gaiman, who as a old fan of the series, might have been sympathetic to the view that the Timelord couldn’t see a member of an inferior species, 950 years his junior, in penetrative terms, yet he ran with the conceit, going as far as to tease a confession of love (though he pulled back at the last moment by attributing the offending words to the Cyber Planner) and closing the show with a Dirty Doctor scene in which our hero’s gaze uncharacteristically focused on his companion’s rear. As a sexually retarded viewer I’m happy to objectify Clara but it feels wrong when The Doctor does it. Was this a line added by Gatiss at a later date, Steven? Are you taking sides in this destructive conflict?

The scenes in which an upgraded Doctor wrestled with himself were very effective, thought I, despite the libidinous undertones. I enjoyed the anniversary tease; the shot of all previous Doctors, though it made me sad to think I won’t be seeing most of them in November’s episode, and the kid’s “thank you for having us” raised a smile, though it hardly compensated for all the tears I’d endured because of them in the previous 40 minutes. All in all it was fine; a little off the beaten track, reminiscent of an old Who story (and no worst for that) but not in the same class as The Doctor’s Wife: a classic if you ask me, so it’s a pity you didn’t.

We’re once again at that point where we look ahead to one of your finales with both anticipation and dread. Next week’s episode could be the one that breaks not just this uneven series but the show entire. Two revelations are promised, perhaps interrelated – the true identities of both The Doctor and Clara. We’ve noted that River will also be returning, it’s not clear why, but the notion that she’s somehow involved in this sharing of information makes my blood run cold. I hope you know what you’re doing, Steven. I can vouch for the instability of a lot of ex-commune members and they all have your home address on their membership cards.

Yours in time and cyberspace,

Ed

P.S: I’ll be writing to you, ahead of the finale, on Friday, to suggest pet-theories and warn you against those grievous errors you can’t afford to make. You’ll then have a few hours to re-write and re-shoot the episode before transmission, so get the gang together in preparation and make sure the technicians’ union don’t get wind of it.

The Past:

The Distant Past:

Deep Time:

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