'Imagine that you can live forever and life is totally free from pain.
You can see all things with clarity, unblinkered by irrelevant details.
You will never fear, never sicken, never lose control.
That is what the Cybermen are offering.'
- Killing Ground, by Seve Lyons
Look at yourself. Look at your body. A weak and fragile structure of meat hanging from bones. Bones that can break. Meat that will die and rot if you cannot keep it safe. You cannot survive extremes of temperature: your skin blisters and shrivels up in heat, your extremities freeze to death and snap off in the cold. You must have food and water, or your body grows weak and cannot function. You cannot live without oxygen for more than two minutes, and your weak, feeble body will rebel if you must stop breathing and make you breathe, even if it means death. Look at your hands - they will one day be useless, shaky, old. You will be unable to bend your fingers, unable to do those simple tasks you need to do. Unable to do those things that bring you joy. You must sleep, if you stay awake too long your mind cannot cope with consciousness. You feel sadness as loved ones hurt you, misery at the actions of others.
We will take these weaknesses away.
You will never feel pain or hunger. You will not need to breathe or sleep. Your bones will be unbreakable and you will not have to fear for the safety of meat. Heat and cold will be meaningless to you. You will never awaken to a weak and feeble body, unable to function. You will never feel despair, sadness, misery. We will take your weak body and weak mind and make them strong.
We will take your brittle bones and give you steel. We will take your weak muscles and give you hydraulics. We will take your weak emotions and give you logic.
You will be like us.
You will survive.
Nothing else matters.
The Cybermen are an alien race from the TV series Doctor Who. They were created by Kit Pedler (his real name was Christopher but he's always credited as Kit), who functioned as a scientific advisor to the production team. Pedler was a physician, surgeon, pathologist and microbiologist who worked at the University of London, and had already gifted the writers with the concept for The War Machines - he was fascinated with the similarities and differences betwen the human brain and a computer. Pedler suggested a plot for his story based around a space capsule drained of energy by "star monks" but this was deemed too similar to the idea of the Monk character from The Time Meddler. Gerry Davis, story editor, suggested Pedler draw on his own backround, and by happy chance he'd been talking with his wife (also a doctor) earlier about spare part surgery and the effects of artifical parts on someone - what if someone had so many artifical organs and limbs he stopped behaving like a human and started thinking like a cold, logical machine?
This idea was popular - even if the original Cybermen look crappy to a lot of people now. The Cybermen were basically very tall men wrapped in bandages, covered in plastic tubes and wearing a lamp on their heads (No, really: a lamp). The thing is they're so damn creepy.... When they speak the actors would open their mouths and an overdubbed voice would be played (this was very hit-and-miss in effect, as the voice actors could not maintain a good standard, and the Cyberman actors did not simply let their mouth just hang open). The actors were at least six feet tall, and they look like they've just stepped out of the surgery. They grow on you after a while and you start to wish they'd kept up this look. The Cybermen prey on people's fears of losing their humanity, and in a sense are just science fiction zombies - though the ability to carry out conversations makes for more interesting plots.
Of course since they were popular they had to come back for more - and the Doctor Who team had been keen to find a replacement for the Daleks (Terry Nation was rather picky about letting others write for them) - So they rushed out a Cyberman story four stories later, called The Moonbase. Some of the creepiness went out of the Cybermen with their second story, they looked more like robots and less like people who have been.... improved. This is because, frankly, the original costumes were a pain in the ass. At least one Cyberman actor from The Tenth Planet ended up collapsing from the heat, and they took ages to put on. The new Cybermen had proper helmets, no giant headlight on their heads and a space suit/robot look to them - and only two fingers. Storywise The Moonbase is basically The Tenth Planet with slightly more believable characters - even if the plot is the same. The invading alien/menacing monster aspect of the Cybermen was to be emphasised more and more over time over their tragic nature and interesting storytelling would diminish.
The highlight, special effects-wise for The Moonbase comes from the Cyberman voices - originally these were provided by a voice-over actor speaking in a singsong voice with emphasis placed on the wrong words. Now they took a device designed to allow patients to speak after having a laryngcotomy and stuck it in the mouth of the voice actor - the device vibrated and he could form the words with his lips, creating a buzzing speech. It sounds really creepy, but gave the voice actor nasuea and headaches. This was used at least once again, but would eventually be dropped in favour of actors speaking slowly in deep voices. One unfortunately cut scene featured one of the Cybermen telling the commander of the moonbase where they'd been living since Mondas was destroyed, but that gets addressed directly in the next season.
The next Cyberman story was basically a mummy story - even down to being called The Tomb of the Cybermen! Essentially a group of scientists are looking for the long lost Cybermen, and on the planet Telos they find their "tombs" - in reality a massive cryogenic storage facility they use (their brains need to be kept on ice, obviously). The scientists want to use the Cybermen for their own ends, but most of them get killed. It's basically "Evil scientist is after powerful artifact, unleashes undead horror, heroes reseal the tomb," only with the Cybermen. It's not bad as a monster story, though it's a little weird at times. This story introduced the Cybercontroller, essentially a taller Cyberman with a big glass dome on his head and no "chest unit". While an interesting idea, he's pretty boring - why do the Cybermen need an overseer? Answer: Because they all look the same, and TV audiences need to know who the main baddie is. The Cybermats also make an appearance, essentially metal slugs, created purely for merchandising potential. they were not wildly popular, but they made a couple of comebacks, probably better appearances in later stories for being more story oriented than merely being present as an advertisement.
Next came The Wheel in Space, a reasonably interesting story but with some silly motivations given for the Cybermen. The monsters themselves had their helmets redesigned, making them look more stylised than the functional structure of the Moonbase/Tomb helmets. The rubber suits were also changed to look more like robot body parts (much tighter than the previous ones) - an interesting idea it makes the Cybermen look like they are wearing stockings! The Cybermats are also in this story, with a new design, notable for removing the silly antennae. This story essentially has little motivation for the Cybermen other than "take over the base" - a basic plot for many stories in the late 60's. Also featured was a "Cyber-Coordinator" which was just another fancily-named identifiable villain.
The final Cyberman story of the 60's was one designed to give the audience a taste of the new format for the series and ease in the idea of UNIT. Surprisingly the Cybermen were not used for publicity much, as they only appeared halfway into the story. The new design featured slightly larger helmets (obviously allowing slightly more room for the actor's heads) but is otherwise an adaption from the previous design. The plot is slightly better, with the Cybermen attempting to invade present-day Earth, using a massive electronics conglomerate to distribute devices for zombifying humans for easy capture, and sending an occupying force through the sewers of London. Also included is the seldom-described Cyber Director and Cybermen armed with flamethrowers.
The Cybermen then went on hiatus for a while, as they'd been overused. Jon Pertwee never had a Cyberman story during his tenure as the Doctor, and the only two appearances were a still image faded in as a halucination in The Mind of Evil and viewed on a screen in Carnival of Monsters. The next real Cyberman story would be part of Tom Baker's opening season (where they dragged in three out of four of the well known aliens to ensure people would watch). The story itself had a stupid, stupid title: Revenge of the Cybermen and a lot of stupid, stupid mistakes. For a race that views emotion as a weakness to be purged the Cybermen are said to display a lot of weak human behaviour here: Glee, satisfaction, humour, irritation, hatred, fear and pride. However, some of these can be put down to the human characters applying their emotional interpretation of events to the actions of the Cybermen.
The biggest peice of stupidity comes from Revenge: "gold is non-corrodible so it stops them breathing," where before they could walk across the moon and cross beween craft in space without worrying. The Cybermen are out to blow up the planet Voga, composed largely of gold - though how people can live in a four-kilometer wide asteroid is never explained. The only notable points here are the Cyberleader - essentially a platoon commander, identifiable by the black pipes on his helmet. Oh, and the thing on their heads is now the gun, not the chest unit as in all the previous stories. This is considered the worst Cyberman story by a lot of people. They're wrong, but more on that later....
After another long wait the Cybermen returned in the 1982 story Earthshock, with an all-new design, which comprises a G-suit and a helmet that looks ridiculously big. The chest unit was designed to sit around the shoulders, considerably less bulky. They look good, but they also look like people in environment suits, not walking life-support systems - though it is slightly better than the generic robot look they had for so long. One interesting feature was leaving the "jaw" of the helmet clear, so you can see the actors mouth move, reminding viewers they were once human. The presence of the Cybermen was kept a secret in the leadup to the run of the story, since the impact of their appearance would have been spoiled. This story was a big hit, though it seems once again the original template of the monsters is ignored for generic sci-fi conventions. This version of the Cybermen would now be the final model for the TV series, with minor modifications.
The next Cyberman story (as opposed to their appearance in the anniversary story The Five Doctors, where Jon Pertwee finally got a scene with the monsters) is one of the least successful stories, not because it's noticeably worse than the rest of the series, but because it's a massive fan service story. The year was 1985, and Halley's Comet was returning to the solar system, and in the fictional world of Doctor Who so was Mondas.... The idea was to make a Cyberman story using these real and fictional events, and also tie in the Tombs of the Cybermen last seen in said story, and hey, why not mention just how they got control of the planet Telos where the Tombs are as well? All in all it's just really, really confusing for casual viewers to watch. The plot was to run something like "Cybermen from the future steal a time machine, go back in time to destroy the Earth before Mondas is destroyed in 1986. The Cryons, original inhabitans of Telos, intend to kill the Cybermen on the comet. The Doctor stops them, everythings fine." - this plot is too complicated already, but it got a lot stranger. The Cybercontroller made a repeat appearance, played by the same actor, looking a lot rounder than before. The only good thing was that they didn't try to work in the Cyber-Director from The Invasion as originally planned.
The final Cyberman story was shifted in the transmission schedule to fall on the silver anniversary of Doctor Who's first transmission, and the Cybermen were chosen because, hey, they're silver. Apallingly enough the dull silver of the helmets and chest unit was changed to shiny chrome for this story, a further "subtle" wink to the viewers on top of the presence of a deadly weapon in the shape of a silvery statue. Here the Cybermen are puny - gold coins fired from a catapult kill them on contact. The Cybermen here are just functioning as an alien menace, with no real point to their precence. Weak, weak, weak. This is without a doubt the worst Cyberman story.
After the end of the TV series the Cybermen featured in a few of novels, one of which, Iceberg, was written by the actor who played the Cyberleader in Earthshock and subsequent stories - he's quite a nut about the Cybermen and even wrote a book (Cybermen) which apparently details a lot of continuity theories. Illegal Alien features a failed attempt to infiltrate Earth during World War II (ironically foiled in part by the Luftwaffe campaign against London). As for Killing Ground, there's one part that is chilling even in a dry plot summary, so it can't be a bad book (despite featuring the terrible plot device of a temporal paradox).
The Cybermen have also been featured in three Doctor Who audio dramas by Big Finish Audio. The most interesting is Spare Parts, featuring the fifth Doctor, set prior to Mondas' return to our solar system - with the Doctor's interference causing the creation of the Cybermen. The other significant story is The Sword of Orion, where Paul McGann gets his turn taking on the Cybermen. The third, Real Time, was webcast on the BBC's Doctor Who site along with a series of images to illustrate the story. Real Time is interesting but hinges on a bigger paradox than the one in Attack of the Cybermen. Real Time also had a new design for the Cybermen, which was a little strange but it was nice to see.
In season 27, the story Dalek features a museum on Earth of alien artifacts - The Doctor grins like an idiot at a Cyberman head in a display case. Though it should be one from the Invasion, dug out of the London sewers, it's actually one of the ones from Revenge of the Cybermen
For those of you wondering, the Cybermen do have a catchphrase, just like the Daleks - unlike the Daleks they don't just scream a single word. The Cybermen have been coldly informing their victims that resistance is useless since 1966.
just the TV stuff
The planet Mondas was once the twin of Earth, but was shaken from it's orbit and flung out of the solar system - coincidentally it returns with Halley's Comet.... Though the people of the planet wre highly advanced they could not survive the shift, and as their bodies weakened they turned to medical science for answers. Medical science offered them cybernetics. They replaced organs as they weakened, but it was not enough. Limbs were becoming useless, so they were removed and replaced with better, stronger alternatives. People did not appreciate the need and so the doctors and scientists found ways to supress the emotions of their kind, to control thought. In the end survival mattered more than people's squeamishness, and their race survived as Cybermen. Their new logical thought processes let them develop new techonlogies and they set forth to explore, to help other races survive....
Remembering the twin of Mondas the Cybermen sent craft there, making contact in 1964 with Tobias Vaughn, the head of International Electromatics, a company supplying the world with computers and other electronic goods. Vaughn agreed to help the Cybermen, and they planned to immobilize the world's population and then attack, but they were foiled when they put this plan into motion in 1969 by the Doctor, who used their own device called the Cerebration Mentor to affect their systems and destroy their minds. As Mondas returned the solar system in 1986 - aided by a gigantic propulsion unit - the Cybermen attacked the Earth openly, but were again defeated - the Cybermen from Mondas were subceptible to even the lightest doses of radiation - before they could kidnap the population and destroy the planet: Their technology that somehow syphons energy from planets overloaded and the entire planet of Mondas disintegrated. The Cybermen then in 1988 sent a force to seize a powerful weapon hidden on the Earth by the Doctor, but their fleet was destroyed by the weapon instead due to a deliberately misworded instruction.
Meanwhile the Cybermen spreading across the galaxy came to the planet Telos, and conquered it. Seizing the technology of the Cryons the Cybermen started to entomb Cybermen underground as a safeguard while spreading throughout space. Telos functioned as a base of operations for the Cybermen, and they sent a force to attempt to recapture the Earth in 2070, planning to gain control of the weather-controlling Gravitron on the moon and use it to wreak havoc. This time it was a mixure of chemical solvents (melting the plastic chest units) and magnetism (to bounce them off the moon) which defeated the Cybermen. After this they tried seizing a space station to use as a signal beacon for an invasion fleet, but this time their downfall was plastic sprayed into their cooling systems and electricity - which must have electrocuted their brains.
The Cybermen went quiet for some time, after suffering defeat at the hands of an alliance (which they tried to stop by blowing up the Earth when the alliance was being formed there) which used gold from Voga to defeat them,1 and were believed to be lost. The Brotherhood of Logicians financed an expedition to find their mythical tombs, thinking the logical Cybermen would aid them in taking control of the galaxy. The Doctor happened to show up at the same time as the expedition, and the Cybermen were stuck sealed in their tombs again. A lone Cyberman craft unaware of Telos attempted to destroy the ruined, drifting planet Voga but was thwarted again by the Doctor. Later the Cybermen steal a time machine and travel back to 1985 in an attempt to destroy the Earth and change histroy, but again fail.
- This gold thing is a complete load of rubbish. Gold is non-corrodible, so gold dust is supposed to do something like "block their breathing aparatus" - however they don't need to breathe, and even if they need oxygen they can store it. However what they do need is cooling, as we all know electronics overheat: I think this means their systems melt if they don't have a constant airflow. I know aluminium dust can coat human skin quite well, so maybe the Cybermen have magical future technology that uses some kind of fancy membrane. Why gold though? Well.... "Planet of Gold" just sounds better than "Planet of Aluminium" doesn't it?
Cybermen from The Moonbase:
Cybermen from The Wheel In Space - Dig those stockings!
Helmet from The Wheel In Space, chest unit from The Invasion, suit likely from Tomb of the Cybermen:
Wheel in Space Cybermat:
Cybermen helmet from The Invasion:
Cyberleader from Revenge of the Cybermen:
Final TV Cyberman, by Andrew Skilleter:
Cybercontroller from Attack of the Cybermen:
Glam Cybermen from Silver Nemesis:
Many different pictures of Cybermen to be found in the gallery here:
(hopefully the Real Time gallery will be put back up someday)
Resistance Is Useless
The Cybermen are set to return in 2006, some time in season 28 in a two-part story. The new design is a little strange though...
Obviously there's more money to throw at the costumes, but unlike their genocidal counterparts they never had a consistent look (the Daleks had one major change to the basic design over 26 years before a totally new one was introduced in 1988), so naturally the Cybermen have been totally overhauled. They retain the basic "silver and handles" imagery but now look even more like robots that before.
The head has curves now, giving it a skull-like shape, which is kind of cool, but the face area reminds me of a grey (abduct-people-and-probe aliens). The eyes are round and a respectable human size, the mouth is quite visible - so the impression of the "grey look" is not as distinct as you'd first think and is quite easy to get over.
The bigger problem is the surprised exprssion it has due to the two upward-pointing angles on the faceplate. It's possible this will look better with different camera angles and lighting, but the main thing may be: the head might look better from above, yet the Cybermen are meant for looming over people.
The feet look like the boots of Frankenstein's monster , this is both good and bad. If the designers are going for that kind of imagery, bad: they really aren't so much Frankenstein as they are zombies. However, they make sense in the context of "these are the best cyberboots cybermoney can buy". The boots match the design, and they aren't Doc Martens spraypainted silver.
Note: The Cybermen are once again wearing flares. I have no opinion either way on this, as I'm kind of amused.
The "pipes and wires under the metal plates" look reminds me of C3-P0. At first this gave the impression that the arms are to look like they are entirely artifical and attached, rather than being cybernetically improved flesh and blood arms. However, it also gives the impression there is someone under all the metal plating, and this reduces the idea that the Cybermen are robots slightly since it makes it look like a person in armour.
The suit of armour look is very appropriate to the central idea of removing their organic weaknesses, and the layered plates on the stomach are interesting (reminding me of plating on animals and insects). There's no chest unit hanging off the front of the Cybermen though, which was one of the defining parts of the design. However, the ultimately damning part is the 'C' for "Cyberman" on it's chest. I'll let someone else sum this up for you: "Definitely the Worst Chest Unit Ever."
News article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/news/cult/news/drwho/2005/11/10/26933.shtml
Large picture: http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/images/cyberman2006.jpg
Cybermen Story List
- Killing Ground by Steve Lyons (1996 - 6th Doctor, set after The Trial of a Time Lord)
- Illegal Alien by Mike Tucker and Robert Perry (1997 - 7th Doctor, set after Survival)
- Iceberg by David Banks (1993 - 7th Doctor, set well after Survival)
- The Sword of Orion (2001 - 8th Doctor, close after the TV movie)
- Spare Parts (2002 - 5th Doctor, between Time Flight and Arc of Infinity)
- Real Time (2002 - 6th Doctor, after Killing Ground)
View it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/doctorwho/realtime/index.shtml
Anyone have more I've missed?
- Doctor Who: The Sixites by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker
- Doctor Who Programme Guide (1994) by Jean-Marc Lofficier
- Doctor Who Magazine, issue 322, article "DWM Archives: The Moonbase" by Andrew Pixley
- A Brief History of Time (Travel): http://www.physics.mun.ca/~sps/drwho.html
- Doctor Who Reference Guide: http://www.drwhoguide.com/who.htm
- Killing Ground summary: http://www.drwhoguide.com/who_ma23.htm
- Illegal Alien summary: http://www.drwhoguide.com/whobbk05.htm
- Iceberg summary: http://www.drwhoguide.com/who_na18.htm
- BBC Doctor Who website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/doctorwho/
- Big Finish Audio: http://www.doctorwho.co.uk/index.htm
- shillpages.com: http://www.shillpages.com/dw/
Thanks go to Snailgus for reminding me about Illegal Alien