Evolution of the Cybermen
John Hussey looks over the history of the Cybermen so far.
The Cybermen; one of Doctor Who’s most famous monsters and one of the Doctor’s greatest opponents. They have stalked our screens for over forty-six years and changed their appearance on several occasions, but still fundamentally remaining the same cybernetic creatures on a quest to conquer and upgrade the universe. I dedicate this article to their legacy and will talk about their long history on the show just in time for their latest installment ‘Nightmare in Silver’.
The Cybermen are essentially humanoids, at least originally. They came from Earth’s twin planet Mondas which drifted out of our solar system and into the depths of space. The cold alone was enough to leave their world devastated and left it ravaged. The people of the world had little choice but to find a new solution for survival. Ultimately their scientists began experiments which had them craft machinery upon their subjects and eventually found a means to mix cybernetics with their own organic matter. The Cybermen were born. They removed all of their emotions in order to spare them from the pain of their new existence and with their new cold and logical way of thinking, went on to become cybernetic killers. Believing themselves to be superior creatures to organic life-forms, they sort it their duty to upgrade others and make them like them, a superior creature. Many Cyber-Wars broke out over the years and the Cybermen made it their duty to seize control of the galaxy and spread their empire across the stars. But they didn’t count on meeting another superior being that could rival them. This person is none other than the Doctor. Throughout his journey’s in time and space he has faced and battled against these cybernetic monsters. Allow me to showcase their many battles with the Doctor from their first outing, all the way up to present day.
The Tenth Planet
The Cybermen made their first appearance on the show way back in 1966 in the First Doctor’s final outing ‘The Tenth Planet’. This was not only their first outing onscreen, but their first adventure in the chronological timeline of the Whoniverse. Their home-world of Mondas finally made its way back into Earth’s solar system and returned to its original orbit. The Cybermen landed on Earth and prepared their plans to convert humanity into their kind, deeming themselves superior beings and that organic matter and emotions were a weakness. Also they planned on draining the Earth’s energy in order to give Mondas more power but in the process of doing this they absorbed too much energy and ended up destroying not only themselves, but their home-world as well.
After their first outing on the show, the Cybermen became just as popular as the Daleks and soon became their replacement within the Second Doctor’s era. The Cybermen quickly returned for their sequel story a mere three stories after their first outing ‘The Tenth Planet’ within the same season and would continue to have a regular appearance on the show for the rest of the Second Doctor’s era.
The Second Doctor landed on the Moonbase which possessed a weather control station that had been plagued by a deadly disease, leaving the base in chaos. The Second Doctor eventually uncovered this was the handy work of the Cybermen, cybernetic creatures who according to the human crew had been dead for centuries. They attempted to gain control of the station but were prevented when Polly discovered they could be killed by certain chemicals, which she and Ben Jackson mixed together to make a cocktail that was lethal to their chest pieces. The remaining Cybermen that marched across the Moons service were thrown off into the vacuum of space after the Second Doctor urged Hobson to use the Gravitron.
The Tomb of the Cybermen
The Cybermen’s power supply started to run low and so they decided to go into hibernation on their adopted new home-world Telos. They remained within the sealed frozen catacombs for thousands of years, secretly waiting for their trap to unfold. Naturally their lore eventually worked and they attracted a team of intelligent humanoids who wished to find and study them. In this party were rogue members Eric Klieg, Kaftan and their servant Toberman who intended to release them for their own sinister devices. The Second Doctor became involved within the expedition and slowly uncovered their plans. They released the dreaded creatures who soon took control of the situation.
This was the first appearance of the Cyber-Controller, the Cybermen’s leader. It’s also the first appearance of the Cybermats, small cybernetic rodents who drain the brainwaves of their victims. Toberman was captured and half converted with Eric and Kaftan trying desperately to fight for control but to no avail. They were both killed by the Cybermen. Toberman ended up aiding the Second Doctor, due to his last piece of humanity awakening after seeing Kaftan dying, in order to refreeze the Cybermen. Toberman finally sacrificed himself to keep the Cyber-Controller at bay, preventing it from escaping the City, apparently killing it in the process.
The Wheel in Space
The Second Doctor landed onboard a spaceship called the Silver Carrier where he was attacked by a Servo-Robot. Jamie McCrimmon managed to send for help and the Wheel came to the rescue. Unknown to them all, Cybermats entered the Wheel and managed to penetrate the station in order to allow an army of hibernating Cybermen onboard. The Cybermen planned to use the Wheel’s direct radio link with Earth as a beacon for their Cyber-Fleet. The Doctor managed to defeat the Cybermen and destroy their fleet by amplifying the ships x-ray laser.
When the Second Doctor landed in present-day Earth, he tried getting the assistance of old friend Professor Travers but ended up stumbling upon young Isobel Watkins whose uncle, Professor Watkins, had been abducted by the company International Electromatics. The managing director Tobias Vaughn held dark ambitions that reached above the stars and as the Second Doctor uncovered, it turned out he was in league with the Cybermen. Tobias was allowing them to land and kept them hidden within the sewers of London, waiting for their invasion plot. In return for the Cybermen invading the Earth, taking control of humanity and gaining rare minerals for fuel, Tobias would be granted control of Earth. The Cybermen began to take control of Earth after releasing a hypnotic signal which paralysed all of humanity except for the Second Doctor and his friends. They then marched across London while the Second Doctor and U.N.I.T., led by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, worked out a way to prevent their invasion attempts. The Brigadier managed to launch a missile strike at the incoming Cyber-Fleet, with the aid of Zoe’s mathematical genius, while the Second Doctor tried reasoning with Tobias. This attack led to the Cybermen betraying Tobias and so he decided to aid the Second Doctor in order to get his revenge. In the process of stopping the Cybermen landing their Cyber-Bomb on Earth, Tobias was killed. To finish off the Cybermen’s threat, U.N.I.T. helped out the Russians launch their massive missile which destroyed the final Cyber-Ship.
Revenge of the Cybermen
The cybernetic creatures were completely absent from the Third Doctor’s era, so it seemed fitting that producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script-editor Robert Holmes brought them back for the new Doctor. Unfortunately this would be their only appearance alongside the Fourth Doctor and would endure another long break before their next appearance on the show.
The Cybermen were deemed extinct in the universe after the last great Cyber-War but myths and legends can sometimes be wrong. One last Cyber-Ship remained, containing the last remnants of the Cyber-Empire led by the Cyber-Leader. The reason for their defeat in the Cyber-Wars was due to their weakness of gold, a substance that clogs up their mechanical breathing apparatus and causes them to suffocate. This time however the Cybermen planned to prevent this by destroying their enemy’s source of gold, Voga – the planet of Gold. After completing a secret mission for the Time Lords the Fourth Doctor used the Time Ring to be reunited with the TARDIS on Space Station Nerva but ultimately landed in the wrong time period. While waiting for the TARDIS to catch up with them, they slowly uncovered the Cybermen’s plots, firstly by examining the deadly plague they had unleashed upon the crew via the use of a Cyber-Mat. After putting a stop to it, the Fourth Doctor prepared for the arrival of the Cybermen but ultimately became their prisoner along with the remaining crew members. Double-agent Professor Kellman was helping the Cybermen infiltrate the station while secretly working for Vorus on Voga in an attempt to destroy the Cybermen once and for all with a specially built rocket. The Cybermen planned to use the Fourth Doctor and the crew as human bombs to destroy Voga but ultimately the Fourth Doctor managed to avoid this fate. As a contingency plan, the Cybermen prepared to use the station to destroy Voga instead but once again the Fourth Doctor managed to prevent their plans. The Cybermen were then destroyed by Vorus’s rocket.
After being off-screen for six years, producer John Nathan-Turner decided it was time for them to make a comeback and so engineered a story for them, written by new script-editor Eric Saward, which brought them back in secret. Needless to say, the story wasn’t called ‘Earthshock’ for nothing, for its many shocks and twists probably left its first time viewers in absolute shock especially when it came to the surprise resolution.
The Fifth Doctor uncovered a deadly plot to destroy the Earth during a massive conference between multiple species. The bomb that was going to do this damage was protected by two deadly androids. To the Fifth Doctor’s distress, the creatures behind this attack was none other than the Cybermen. Following their signal to a cargo freighter on route to Earth, the Fifth Doctor discovered an army hidden within the cargo led by the Cyber-Leader. Their contingency plans were to use the freighter as the new bomb and due to its clearance to Earth; nothing would prevent its final destination. If the plan succeeded, then the Cybermen would’ve been able to engineer another Cyber-War which would lead to their victory as their enemies would be unable to form an alliance against them. The Cyber-Leader and its Lieutenant took control of the TARDIS and held the Fifth Doctor prisoner, leaving very little chance at stopping the Cybermen’s deadly plans. However, Adric managed to use his mathematical genius to hack into the Cybermen’s controls and avert impact upon the conference by pushing the ship back in time, ultimately causing the extinction of the Dinosaurs instead. At the cost of saving Earth, Adric was sadly killed. The Fifth Doctor managed to kill the Cyber-Leader and its Lieutenant, later becoming saddened at the loss of his young friend.
The Five Doctors
The Cybermen were given a major part within the 20th Anniversary Special ‘The Five Doctors’ by being obstacles for the First, Second, Third and Fifth Doctor during their battle in the Death Zone. President Borusa placed them within the zone as part of the Game of Rassilon, allowing the Doctor to prove his worth during his journey to the Dark Tower. Unfortunately for the Cybermen, they were not only used by Borusa for his own devices but also suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Raston Robot and the Master. They also didn’t get their wish of blowing up the TARDIS.
Attack of the Cybermen
The Cyber-Controller returned and prepared its plans of time meddling by preventing the destruction of their home-world of Mondas. The Sixth Doctor uncovered this plan when he landed on Earth in 1985 and discovered Cybermen hiding within the sewers of London. The Cybermen then, led by the Cyber-Leader, took the Sixth Doctor prisoner and hijacked the TARDIS so that they could gain control of two time capsules. Returning to their adopted home Telos, the Cybermen prepared preparations to use Halley’s Comet to destroy the Earth, nearby preventing Mondas’ destruction during the events of ‘The Tenth Planet’. This was averted with the help of ex-Dalek agent Lytton and the Cryons. The Sixth Doctor ultimately finished off the Cyber-Controller and their base was destroyed.
The Silver Nemesis was a piece of Gallifreyan weaponry which the Doctor held protection over but now the device was returning to Earth, which led to a battle to the death over its position and power. The Cybermen were one of the enemies trying to claim its power, once again led by the Cyber-Leader. They fought against Neo-Nazis and the evil Lady Peinforte. In the end, the Seventh Doctor manipulated the Cyber-Leader, who was the last Cyberman left in its platoon, and used the Silver Nemesis against it to destroy the Cyber-Fleet in deep space.
This was of course the last appearance the Cybermen made within the Classic Series. It was also, up until ‘The Pandorica Opens’ the last appearance of the Mondas Cybermen.
Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel
The Cybermen were off-screen for a further seventeen years before being brought back for Series 2 of the revival by lead writer Russell T Davies. This was done with a twist by having a reintroduction via parallel version of our own cybernetic killers. It gave a new audience a full-on information wave of what the Cybermen are and what they can do. These parallel versions certainly caused a big shock to the Tenth Doctor as he watched one of his greatest foes being born again.
In a parallel universe, businessman John Lumic attempted to cheat his death by any means necessary, even to the point of upgrading to human-point 2. This entailed the brain being encased within a body of steel with all emotions removed. The Tenth Doctor became trapped within this parallel universe and to his horror discovered not only was Rose Tyler’s dad still alive but also John was recreating one of his greatest foes. John’s ambitions and insanity grew out of control as he went over the President’s head and used the homeless people he kidnapped to forge the first Cybermen which began killing those who refused to be upgraded. John then used the ear-pieces he created to control everyone’s brain in London in order to lure them to his factory to become part of his new species. Even John in the end became a Cyberman, ultimately being upgraded to Cyber-Controller. Mickey Smith managed to turn off the ear-pieces hypnotic signal, allowing those who hadn’t yet been converted to escape. The Tenth Doctor discovered that these Cybermen’s weakness was the removal of their emotional-inhibitor which blocked out their emotions. The Tenth Doctor gave this information to Mickey and was then able to shut off every single emotional-inhibitor, causing all of the Cybermen to have emotional breakdowns upon realising what they had become. The Cyber-Controller was killed due to falling off the rope ladder of a zeppelin after trying to chase after the Tenth Doctor.
Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
The Cybermen within the parallel Earth weren’t completely destroyed. Many humans had already been converted across the planet and were stored away in John Lumic’s factories. While the people of the Earth debated over their existence, the Cybermen used a crack within the void to cross over into our universe. At first they appeared as ghosts as the transfer wasn’t complete. The Torchwood Institute aided in their plans, unknowingly, and made their existence in our universe more stable. The advance-guard, led by the Cyber-Leader, finally took control of the Torchwood Tower and made their transfer complete which allowed the Cybermen to fully cross into our universe across the Earth. Victory seemed at hand but then the Cybermen discovered they had another enemy to deal with; the Cult of Skaro. A war broke out between the Cybermen and the Daleks but was both ultimately defeated after the Tenth Doctor sent them falling back into the void, trapping them for all eternity.
The Next Doctor
After another tiny break, the Cybermen were brought back for one of the Tenth Doctor’s final outings. ‘The Next Doctor’ was the last story to feature the Cybermen from the parallel universe.
After the Daleks attempted to collapse all of existence with their reality bomb, the Cybermen who was trapped in the Void managed to escape due to its weakened walls and landed in Victorian London. Led by the Cyber-Lord, the Cybermen and their minions the Cyber-Shades attempted to build a Cyber-King, a massive Cyber-Warship in order to take over the Earth and convert humanity. They created the gigantic machine by stealing children as a workforce and then converted their human servant Miss Hartigan into the brain of the creature. Miss Hartigan ultimately grew too strong for the Cyber-Lord to control, which was killed upon trying to shut her down, and she then attempted to create a new Cyber-Race with emotion. The Tenth Doctor prevented this plan after he freed Miss Hartigan’s mind, making her realise what she had become. Her distress caused the Cybermen to die, due to their mind link, and then the Tenth Doctor sent the Cyber-King into the Time Vortex.
The Pandorica Opens
When every single one of the Doctor’s enemies arrived at the Pandorica, the Mondas Cybermen finally made a return to the show after being off-screen for twenty-one years.
The Cybermen merely appeared as a cameo, along with the rest of the Doctor’s enemies, with one of them attacking the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond. The battered creature knocked the Eleventh Doctor out and nearly killed Amy, but it was ultimately destroyed by Rory Williams. They later appeared alongside the rest of the Doctor’s enemies, including the Daleks and the Sontarans, and declared the Eleventh Doctor will destroy the universe and to prevent this they seal him inside the Pandorica. After the universe collapsed due to the Silence causing the TARDIS to explode, the Cybermen became dust before being revived after the Eleventh Doctor rebooted the universe.
A Good Man Goes to War
The Mondas Cybermen appeared as another cameo which showcased the wrath and anger of the Doctor. In order to discover Amy Pond’s location, the Eleventh Doctor threatened the Twelfth Cyber-Legion by blowing the majority of it up in order to gain information from them.
The Mondas Cybermen made their first full on appearance within the New Series in ‘Closing Time’. It also had the long awaited return of the Cybermats.
The survivors of a crashed Cyber-Ship were awakened by the power source of a shopping centre. The Cybermen then began to rebuild themselves via spare parts they could find and even began converting members of the staff. The Eleventh Doctor uncovered their existence after detecting power surges in the area and noticing the missing people. After being attacked by a Cyber-mat, the Eleventh Doctor managed to dissemble it and then used the creature to find the Cybermen’s location. He followed the signal to their crashed ship underneath the shopping centre and was eventually captured by the battered creatures. Craig Owens attempted to aid him but too became their prisoner and was prepared for conversion into their leader. For a split second, it seemed like the Cybermen had achieved victory over the Doctor. Craig’s son Elfie however started to cry and upon hearing this, Craig broke free from the Cybermen’s control and his surge in emotional impulse caused the Cybermen to die.
Nightmare in Silver
The Mondas Cybermen return once again this Saturday in ‘Nightmare in Silver’ written by Neil Gaiman. From what we can tell, this story will give the Cybermen a well earned reimagining as well as a redesign that honours their heritage. They will no longer be stomping robots but instead return to silent stalkers who have dark ambitions for conquest and conversion. Like with the rest of Series 7, we can expect a lot of nods to the past and an episode filled with nostalgia about the Cybermen’s legacy. It’s fair to say a lot of people, including myself, are looking forward to this penultimate episode and can’t wait to see what Gaiman does with the cybernetic creatures.
It’s fair to say the Cybermen are very much loved among the fandom and are just as popular as the mighty Daleks and the psychotic Master. They have been around for nearly all of Doctor Who’s legacy and it’s nice to see that they are still as popular as ever. I reckon they will still be popular in years to come. Like the Daleks, they are a monster that can be brought back in new ways and still be as threatening and scary. I doubt they will be going anywhere any time soon and will return to stalk the Doctor within the next few years, especially if their new design is popular and proves successful.