Why Neil Gaiman thinks his last Doctor Who episode 'could've been better'

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Jan 13, 2015, 4:39 PM EST

Neil Gaiman’s wistful and wonderful Doctor Who episode, “The Doctor’s Wife,” may be one of the most beloved stories in the series since the show’s reboot by Russell T Davies back in 2005, but the fantasy author’s second effort, ‘Nightmare in Silver” is ... well, not so much.

If you guys will recall, the episode saw Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor and his companion Clara (Jenna Coleman) take two kids to an alien theme park, where they have a run-in with upgraded Cybermen, the Cyber-Planner of which invades the Doctor’s brain, resulting in a split personality and some great acting on Smith’s part.

Not to say that the 2013 episode was universally reviled; some fans like it fine. But it was panned by most Doctor Who critics. Gaiman himself thinks that “there are things that could’ve been better,” and he wished he'd had another week to work out some kinks. Here’s what he revealed in an interview with Radio Times:

“Nightmare in Silver is some people's favourite but everybody, including me, thinks, 'oh if we had another week, we could've changed this,' and then you're kind of stuck with it. I think there are things that could've been better, but I also think that the thing I wanted to do in Nightmare in Silver I did: to show people that Matt Smith could act.

“It was one of those things that fascinated me watching Matt, getting to know Matt a little bit: it was sensible people who should've known better assuming that the Eleventh Doctor was just Matt Smith, and I'm going, 'No, that's a part that he's playing,' and he's an incredible, fantastic actor, who is, as the Doctor, capable of this enormous range, and yet there' s a lot of stuff he's not doing. So I thought, 'wouldn't it be amazing to have him go up against himself?' Which is something that even though is a staple of sci-fi drama, is not something that's ever happened in Doctor Who. Even people who don't like bits of Nightmare in Silver love the 'Matt Smith as [Cyber-Planner alter-ego] Mr Clever' stuff.”

“Nightmare in Silver” may not have been the awesome episode everyone was hoping for, but we have to agree that it was an incredible acting feat on Matt Smith’s part. So you could say that Gaiman did, indeed, manage to achieve what he wanted to do with his second Doctor Who effort.

And what did the Sandman and American Gods author — who confirmed he won’t be penning a new Doctor Who episode for the show’s upcoming ninth season — have to say about “The Doctor’s Wife”? Well, looks like Gaiman (and Who showrunner Steven Moffat) was surprised by the positive reaction:

“I think in a lifetime of writing things that people have liked, I've never done something quite so beloved as The Doctor's Wife. It's funny now talking to Steven [Moffat] about it, because none of us knew it was going to be this beloved thing. I think Steven was dead-worried it was going to be too odd for Doctor Who in a way... There were all these mis-steps we could've done just because there hadn't been anything like it. But the only thing we were certain of was that, for it to work, it had to be the only time [the Tardis coming to life] ever happened. You couldn't repeat it. And I think there is something in that that kind of powers it.”

What do you guys think? Was Neil Gaiman's “Nightmare in Silver” a good Doctor Who episode despite its flaws, or did you think it was one of the worst?

(via Radio Times)