The Cybermen: Nightmare in Silver or Joke in Tinfoil?
Guest contributor Tomas Edwards examines each appearance so far.
The Cybermen are among the most well-known of all the Doctor’s enemies, having appeared on screen with all but the Eighth and Ninth Doctors. In this article I will be talking about their appearances, their design and then at the end my personal opinion on them as a monster.
They first appeared in The Tenth Planet Which aired during the October of 1966. This episode is important not only for introducing the Cybermen, but also because it is the first regeneration story. These early Cybermen share few similarities with the versions we are so used to today, instead these versions had cloth faces, instead of metal ones, and they still had exposed hands. These Cybermen were highly susceptible to radiation, and thus this was what the Doctor’s companion, Ben, used to fight them, at least until their home planet Mondas was destroyed.
The Cybermen were not gone for long, becoming one of the earliest monsters faced by Second Doctor Patrick Troughton. These Cybermen had changed significantly from their last appearance, losing the human hands and cloth faces to instead have three fingered metal claws and blank metal faces. These Cybermen, unlike their predecessors, could shoot electricity from their hands, whereas the Cybermen in The Tenth Planet had handheld weapons.
The Cybermen would go on to have two appearances in Season 5, Tomb of the Cybermen and The Wheel in Space. They had moved up to the position of number one enemy, due to the fact the Daleks had been “killed off” in Evil of the Daleks and did not return for the rest of the Troughton era. The Cybermen had changed to be even more streamlined, and then had the tear drop holes beneath their eyes which are a part of their design even now. Also, in Tomb of the Cybermen we are introduced to the leader of the Cybermen, the Cyber-Controller. This version is taller and less bulky than the other Cybermen, and has a larger head, without the usual handlebars. The Controller is thought to be destroyed in this episode, but makes a later appearance.
The Cybermen would continue to terrorise the Troughton era, appearing in the 8 part adventure The Invasion, although they did not appear until the end of Part 4. These Cybermen have gone through another redesign, having much larger helmets, a feature which they would retain for many more years. This episode saw them working with Tobias Vaughn in an attempt to take over the planet, and features the iconic scene of the Cybermen emerging from the sewers and taking London.
After their many appearances facing Patrick Troughton, they seemed to vanish, not appearing in a single one of Jon Pertwee’s episodes, while the Daleks reclaimed the title of ultimate enemy, along with newcomer the Master. But then they returned in the Tom Baker story Revenge of the Cybermen. This story saw the arrival of the black helmeted Cyber-leader, and also revealed perhaps the Cybermen’s greatest weakness: gold. This episode sees them attempting to destroy Voga, the planet of Gold, to stop the humans from being able to use the expensive element to fight them. This episode saw little change in the Cybermen’s design, except the introduction of a gun built into the Cybermen’s helmet.
After this, the Cybermen vanished again, not appearing on screen for the entirety of the Tom Baker era. But with Peter Davison’s first series came one of the biggest shocks Doctor Who has given us: the Cybermen were back. John Nathan-Turner had made the wise decision to keep their involvement a secret, with excellent results. The Cybermen here are different from the ones in Revenge of the Cybermen, in that they now have bodies which resemble tin foil, and have handheld weapons instead. These Cybermen have a great sense of power, which is emphasised by the fact this episode is one of the few to see a companion die. This episode also saw the Cybermen using Androids to guard the bomb they intended to destroy Earth with.
The Cybermen would then make an appearance in the 20th Anniversary episode The Five Doctors although not as the primary antagonist. They had the same design as in Earthshock. This episode showed how powerful the Cybermen are in a simple line of dialogue, in which the Doctor says that the Cybermen, like the Daleks, were not allowed in the Games of Rassilon because they played too well.
The Cybermen would next appear in Attack of the Cybermen in which they faced Colin Baker’s Doctor and Peri. This episode also saw the return of the Dalek’s old ally Lytton and the Cyber-controller. The Controller was updated to suit the design of the Cybermen (which remained largely the same as the ones in Earthshock and The Five Doctors), but was still said to be the one trapped in the tomb on Telos. This episode also saw the introduction of black camouflaged Cybermen. After this the Cybermen made their last appearance in the classic series in the episode Silver Nemesis. This episode saw them attempt to capture the Nemesis Statue. These Cybermen are similar to the previous versions.
And then we came to the ‘wilderness years’. Here the Cybermen continued to menace the Doctor, in books and audios and even in games, still maintaining their place as one of his most feared enemies. But when the show came back for Series 1 in 2005 the Cybermen did not appear, except briefly as a museum piece, instead being brought back in Series 2, in which they got to appear in a grand total of 4 episodes (Rise of the Cybermen, The Age of Steel, Army of Ghosts, and Doomsday). These Cybermen were not the ones from Mondas, they were from a parallel world.
They were no longer slim and streamlined. They were big and bulky, covered in steel armour plating which protected the tubes and piping underneath. They retained a similar helmet, only with light up mouths. These versions were created by John Lumic in an attempt to preserve his own life, which is ironic given the night he put his plan into action was the night he met with a fiery grave. These Cybermen could not be killed by gold, but could be defeated if their emotional inhibitors were damaged. They were believed to be defeated this way in The Age of Steel, but returned in the series finale.
Doomsday saw what many fans had been waiting for: The Cybermen against the Daleks, However, this episode showed the Cybermen to be easy prey for the Daleks, with no Daleks being killed on screen, and yet with an alarmingly high death toll of Cybermen. This made some viewers, myself included, displeased, as most had hoped for a slightly more even fight.
The Cybermen next appeared in the Christmas special The Next Doctor, where we saw them at perhaps their weakest, trapped in the wrong century with none of the technology they are used to. They still, however, managed to create a Cyberking, a giant Cyberman with cannons, lasers and a huge Cyberfactory in its chest. This monster was again defeated by emotions, and its remains disposed of in the Time Vortex.
The Cybermen have already made several appearances during the Moffat era. They were members of the Alliance which trapped the Doctor in the Pandorica, and one of them guarded it whilst they waited for him. It is subject to debate which set of Cybermen were present, but I would guess at them being from the Parallel world, given they have the Cybus logos on their chests. The Cybermen again appeared briefly during A Good Man Goes to War, and then later in Closing Time, in which they used Cybermats to drain power from the power cables of Colchester. These Cybermen are believed to be from our universe, given the slightly different design and technology they use.
Now, for my opinion. I believe that the Cybermen are good monsters. They have a very chilling and quite creepy idea behind them, that humans would become so enhanced and artificial that they are no longer humans, instead becoming creatures intent on making all other life in the Universe like them. I do however feel they have not been very well used. I feel that in the classic series they didn’t look powerful enough, which is ironic given they were more dangerous then than they are now. I also feel the new Cybermen are not sinister enough, being little more than robots which happen to have a human brain. This means although I really like them, they are not of the same level in my mind as the Daleks, the Master, the Beast, the Flood and Professor Lazarus (yes you read that right). Hopefully Neil Gaiman, a writer I hold in high regard, will improve my view on them, and truly make them a Nightmare in Sliver…