“You belong to us. You shall be like us!” The Cyber Controller – Tomb Of The Cybermen
The Upgradable Cyborg Terror
The Cybermen are perhaps the most relevant Doctor Who monster, in terms of their origins.
Inspired by technological advances in medical science – to improve the human body, followed through to a natural nightmarish conclusion : where the technology had taken over the appearance and the very free-will of the being.
Even today, the very normal everyday use of bionic hip replacements or artificial heart valves, means the Cybermen’s appeal is no less diminished, nearly 50 years on.
In the 1960’s though, it was pioneering research done by people like Dr Christopher Magnus Howard “Kit” Pedler, which pointed to a future where the body could be ‘upgraded’ with robotic replacements parts.
It was this notion that Dr Pedler brought to the Doctor Who production team, having been hired as a consultant. In 1966, he put forward a suggestion for a race of part human part robotic cyborg’s; which came to be known as – ‘The Cybermen’.
The Cybermen were originally humanoid but over the eons had replaced their body – with robotic parts, until very little organic presence was left.
Thrown into the mix, was the eradication of feelings, specifically the ones which get in the way of a warlike race : compassion, trust, loyalty, honesty – etc.
It was this which set the Cybermen on a path to conquer and ‘upgrade’ all those races to match their own; which they now seen as inferior to themselves, especially those goverened by “unnecessary” emotions.
It was in the First Doctor’s episode The Tenth Planet – 1966 that the Cybermen made their first appearance, as residents of the “10th” planet of our solar system; Mondas – an Earth twin.
Mondas had been knocked out of a much closer orbit to the sun – by the Earth and flung to the edges of the solar system. The Mondasians had took drastic measures to survive this catastrophe, by using technology to redesign themselves to survive the cold extreme’s and lack of natural light.
From the start, the Cybermen were hellbent on seeking revenge on the populace of Earth for this planetary occurence, intent on destroying Earth with their powerful and deadly cyber-bombs.
“Yes! We [Cybermen] were exactly like you once, but our cybernetic scientists realised that our race was getting weak. Our life span was getting shorter, so our scientists and doctors devised spare parts for our bodies until we could be almost completely replaced. Our brains are just like yours, except that certain weaknesses have been removed…..” Cyberman
The First Doctor managed to foil the Cybermen and the planet Mondas was destroyed, in the ensuing fight. The First Doctor paid a heavy price for this, though – and had to regenerate.
The Cybermen made their next appearance in the eerily effective Moonbase – 1967, in which another invasion of Earth was to be launched – via capture of an Earth Moonbase.
The Cybermen had poisoned the Moonbase’s inhabitants and were infiltrating the base – a few at a time. Their appearance had radically changed since the Doctor’s last encounter, they were less bulky looking and more streamlined.
Many of the Cybermen had left Mondas prior to its destruction and various splinter factions developed. Some ended up hiding on Earth and others travelled off in space freighters, to await the optimum moment for invasion.
One group of Cybermen travelled to the planet Telos, after subjugating the local populace, dug themselves a Tomb and went into hibernation. Their plan, to await discovery by an intelligent race – who themselves could be forcibly converted into more Cybermen.
It was unlucky then, perhaps, that the Second Doctor was one of the Archaeology party which happened across the Cybermen in The Tomb of the Cybermen – 1967 and again aboard a spacestation in The Wheel In Space – 1968 . He had to thwart the Cyberfleet, in an Earth invasion in Invasion – 1969 with nuclear missiles.
As a race of beings, they were constantly upgrading and improving themselves. They began with huge headlamp appliances and bulky weapons which were fixed to their chests.
Over time, their chest weapons moved onto their forehead. Finally, their weapon became a separate device carried but still attached to the Cyberman by means of a wire.
The Cybermen made use of various technologies including powerful Cyber bombs to use against their enemies and Cybermat’s, small silver metal rodents which could be used for surveillance or subterfuge.
The Cybermen have gone through many changes over the years, especially their leaders. Including, when the leader appeared as a stationery computer-relay device known as the “Cyberplanner”. The warriors and leaders, still retain certain characteristics which make them instantly identifiable – as Cybermen.
They retained their signature handle like attachments – over the top of their head, wide gaping mouth slots and round emotionless eyes.
The Cybermen were individually intelligent but were controlled by means of a central hive intelligence. The Cyber Leader (or Controller) usually distinguished themselves by means of a large cranium or a differently coloured helmet.
The Cybermen’s only real weakness was gold, it blocked their respirators and suffocated them. In Revenge Of The Cybermen – 1974, the Cybermen attempted to destroy an asteroid made out of pure gold, which was heading their way.
In Earthshock – 1982 the Doctor killed the Cyber Controller by means of jamming Adric’s gold sheriff badge in the Controller’s chest respirator and in Silver Nemesis – 1988 gold tipped arrows were used to devastating effect, to shoot the Cybermen’s with from distance.
A squad of Cybermen were abducted by the timescoop device and forced to take part in the Timelord’s dastardly death games – on Gallifrey, in The Five Doctors – 1983, against all five incarnations of the Doctor.
The Cybermen were battered from all sides, tricked by the Master into crossing an electrified trap floor and frying themselves and attacked by a Rastan Warrior robot, which decimated an entire Cyberpatrol.
“Wasn’t that a little ruthless? Even for you!” Tegan [after the Master has killed a Cyberpatrol]
“In one of the many miserable wars on your planet, they [Cybermen] used to drive sheep across minefields!” The Master
Attack of the Cybermen – 1985 saw the Sixth Doctor run into the Cybermen again, hiding in a London sewer, plotting to divert Halley’s Comet into hitting the Earth. Their last original series appearance was in the Seventh Doctor’s Silver Nemesis – 1988.
The Cybermen have proved to be a popular monster throughout Doctor Who and many fans still hark back nostalgically to the original Cybermen – as their favourite, over the stompy, brainless, Robocop-like Cyber’s in the new series.
The first appearance, although a little silly now, still feels offputting – with the jerky mouth opening and electronic disco voice, which didn’t betray a hint of emotion.
Later incarnations of the Cybermen got more streamlined and more robotic, with each appearance. The Cybermen’s aim was similar to the Dalek’s, conquer and oppress and “upgrade” their enemies into fresh Cyber units but the Cybermen’s appeal were due to their fact they were still vaguely humanoid – unlike the Dalek’s.
The final horror has to be, what the Mondasian’s had done to themselves – just to survive.
Season Three – 1966
The Tenth Planet (part 4 missing)⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Season Four – 1966-67
Season Five – 1968
Season Six – 1969
Season Twelve – 1975
Season Nineteen – 1982
Season Twenty – 1983
The Five Doctors⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Season Twenty Two – 1985
Season Twenty Five – 1988