Neil Gaiman writes and Warwick Davis stars in this week’s episode of Doctor Who! Two great tastes that taste great together!
This week’s episode picks up just about where we left off last week. Angie and Artie have figured out Clara’s time-travelling secret, so the Doctor agrees to take them on a trip. They arrive at a planetary theme park, only to find that it was shut down by order of the Emperor, who has since disappeared. A flash of the psychic paper gets the local platoon to leave the travelers alone for a bit while a vagabond-ish showman named Wembley (think Professor Marvel from The Wizard of Oz) takes them to see his World of Wonders.
Among his Wonders is the Doctor Who variation of The Turk with an empty Cyberman in place of the famous “robot.” The chess master is the charismatic Porridge, who takes the kids to explore one of the old rides that’s still working. Afterwards, Clara’s ready to take the kids home, but the Doctor doesn’t want to leave just yet. He’s noticed the tiny blinking insects that have been following them since the Cyberman’s big reveal, and he wants to dig a little deeper. They tuck the kids in for a nap with the admonition not to wander off, so of course, the sullen teen girl wanders off.
It looks like the Cyberman wasn’t quite as dead and hollow as Wembley thought. Wembley is quickly upgraded, and Artie is fitted with a neural device while Angie’s out talking to the platoon at the barracks. The new and improved Cyberman arrives to attack the barracks and take Angie. The new Cyberman is wicked fast and now has the ability to upgrade instantly. Very Borg.
The Cybermen had been kidnapping kids from the theme park planet so that they could incorporate their imaginations into the collective, but the closing of the planet meant no more kids. Not a problem, though. Now the Doctor is in their reach, and no one’s mind is as fast as his. They use the Cybermites (aforementioned tiny blinking insects) to start upgrading the Doctor to be used as their Cyber Planner. This creates as second Planner personality within the Doctor’s consciousness. After the initial mental battle, the Doctor and the Planner personality are at a stalemate within the Doctor’s brain. The Doctor proposes a chess game for
the planet control of the Doctor’s mind.
Meanwhile, Clara is learning a little more about the Empire and the platoon that the Doctor placed her in control of. Usually when a Cyberman is found, the military just implodes the planet and has done with it. The platoon has one such imploder, but it needs a trigger, the voice command of the Captain, or the voice command of the missing Emperor himself to activate. Clara takes control of the trigger, but it’s soon destroyed by the Cyber Planner. The Captain is all about blowing the planet sky high, but before she gets the opportunity, she’s gunned down by a Cyberman. Cue the epic battle between the platoon and the newly awakened Cybermen army.
The Doctor sacrifices his queen to get the kids’ minds back, but it means that the Planner will checkmate in five moves. The Doctor says that he will win in three moves unless the Planner avoids his terribly clever trap. The Planner pulls the processing power from the entire army to solve the puzzle, neatly immobilizing said army just before Clara and her compatriots are “upgraded.”
It turns out that the Doctor’s three moves have nothing to do with the chess board and everything to do with using the equivalent of a military-grade joy buzzer to slap himself in the facial cybernetic implants, thereby destroying the Planner personality. There’s still the matter of three million Cybermen to deal with, though, and a bomb that can now only be activated by the long-lost Emperor, who just happens to be our own beloved Porridge. Porridge activates the bomb, which automatically transmats everyone up to the Imperial flagship (with just enough time left to snag the TARDIS before the world goes boom). The Emperor thinks that Clara would make a charming Empress, but she declines and the merry band head home to have different adventures on different Wednesdays.
As much as I adore Neil Gaiman’s writing in general, my biggest props for this episode have to go to Matt Smith and his brilliant evil side as the Cyber Planner. It took some serious acting chops to pull off the dual personality as well as he did. Well done, sir!
I didn’t love this episode quite as much as I loved “The Doctor’s Wife,” or as I call it, “The Episode Which All Other Episodes Should Aspire To Be.” Regardless, Neil Gaiman has a flair for showing us parts of the Doctor we’ve never seen before. First with Idris and the Doctor’s relationship with his beloved ship, and now the inner workings of the Doctor’s mindscape. Also, a hat tip to Gaiman for making the Cybermen scary once more. Making them fast and upgradable was an amazing choice. Loved it hard!
Next week is the season finale (already?? Curse you, short British seasons!), “The Name of the Doctor.” Please, Moffat. Please please PLEASE don’t actually tell us the Doctor’s name. Leave us that bit of mystery!
Angie: “When someone asks you if you want to be Queen of the Universe, you say ‘Yes!'”
Doctor: “Impossible girl. A mystery wrapped into an enigma squeezed into a skirt that’s just a little bit too tight.”
Thoughts to Ponder:
- A throne with no back on the bridge. That ship has to have the best inertial dampeners ever!
- So Clara only hangs out with the Doctor on Wednesdays, then?