Defeated by Love: Why it was time for a Cybermen Revamp

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Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull on why the Cybermen were due a revamp.

The Cybermen were once the most terrifying of beings throughout the Doctor Who universe. Their gelid stares and affrighting monotonous voices have chilled audiences since their debut in William Hartnell’s closing tale, The Tenth Planet. The Tomb of the Cybermen, one of their most memorable and consequential stories, has been the foundation for countless Cybermen outings thereafter. However in recent years, their appearances have been met with much condemnation by fans. Stories like The Next Doctor and Closing Time are paragons of this substandard. Through this article, I wish to express my opinions on the current mindset of audiences towards the Cybermen, the aforementioned episodes and the metal menace’s future.

Trite Defeats.

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“No, that’s impossible. And also grossly sentimental and over-simplistic. You destroyed them because of the deeply-ingrained hereditary human trait to protect one’s own genes. Which in turn triggered aah… ah… um. Yeah. Love. You blew them up with love.”

Neil Gaiman recently said, “I definitely felt like the last few times we’ve seen them they are incredibly easy to defeat”. This is undoubtedly true; the Cybermen have been unchallenging nemeses for the Doctor, and have been foiled effortlessly. Their most recent jaunt depicted them as scavengers in a crashed Cyber-ship, lying quiescent for the future when they can rise up and overwhelm the globe. It’s a moth-eaten concept, and the threat of the Cybermen in this incident was based solely on unimaginative wording by the writer.

Gareth Roberts’ writing was just lazy, particularly with regards to their defeat. I am all for good-hearted endings, but the conceit that the Cybermen were destroyed with “love” was just a step too far for me. The Cybermen stand alongside the Daleks as the most formidable monsters in Doctor Who, and stories like Army of Ghosts/Doomsday truly exhibit their greatness but Steven Moffat (or would it be Gareth Roberts?) has turned them into a joke. They shouldn’t be brought down so simply. Where has the majesty of these magnificent creatures gone?

Feeble Stories.

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“The Cyber King will rise. Indeed. How like a man.”

It is second-rate stories that are letting the Cybermen down, really. Russell T Davies’ The Next Doctor dabbled in creatures of ‘Cyber’ ilk, viz. the Cybershades and the Cyber King. The Cybershades were analogous to the Pig Slaves of Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks; simple cannon-fodder, and the Cyber King was essentially, a giant bipedal ‘steampunk’ robot. The Next Doctor was weak, and the Cybermen’s only sinister moment was the graveyard scene. Its stories like this that have let our favourite monster down. I want them to reach their true capability and terrify us like they did in Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel, and Attack of the Cybermen. To think that Russell T Davies scripted Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, the acme of the Cybermen, and The Next Doctor, one of the inferior outings, is beyond me.

Noble Future.

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“So lets make the Cybermen faster and slicker, and better.”

Neil Gaiman is an decidedly safe choice to revamp the Cybermen. His fantastical masterpiece, The Doctor’s Wife proved that a couple of years ago and viewers eagerly await his next episode. Steven Moffat must have been cognizant of the failure that was Closing Time and so you can see why he’d be keen for Gaiman to tackle the metallic meanies. Even he knew that Closing Time was a step too far.

So with that debacle behind us, what can we expect from Nightmare in Silver? For starters, a new design (this encompasses bodywork, voice and weaponry) as seen in the trailers. Secondly we anticipate them to be conquered less facilely. And thirdly, we need them to frighten audiences like they did in their heyday. The Cybermen deserve so much more than the likes of The Next Doctor and Closing Time; they should be back up there with the Daleks as the terrorizing, and prevailing monsters of Doctor Who.

Step back in time...