The Cybermen have been causing trouble for the Doctor ever since their arrival in 1966. Here’s a rundown of some of the metal giants’ most important stories.
The Doctor first encountered the Cybermen in the 1966 story ‘The Tenth Planet.’ It was here that we learned that the creatures did, in fact, used to be human – or humanoid, at least, living on Earth’s twin planet Mondas. This was the tenth planet in Earth’s solar system that had been hidden from view for centuries before making a spectacular return in 1986.
In ‘The Tenth Planet,’ the Cybermen are draining energy from planet Earth in order to restore Mondas and, once the entire planet is drained, they plan to convert all of Earth’s survivors into Cybermen. The Doctor, of course, manages to defeat the invaders, but his ageing body pays the price. In the final moments of ‘The Tenth Planet’ episode four, the Doctor collapses on the floor of the TARDIS and begins his first regeneration.
Alas, the first Cybermen story no longer exists in the BBC archives in its entirety, as the fourth episode is still missing. That being said, the adventure is still essential watching for anyone interested in the history of the Cybermen, as it explains their origins.
And interestingly, there are a number of other Cybermen stories that tie into this one, and it’s worth watching these at the same time. The first is 1985’s ‘Attack of the Cybermen’ – a Sixth Doctor adventure that acts as something of a prequel to ‘The Tenth Planet,’ and sees the Cybermen desperately trying to prevent the destruction of Mondas by using their timeship to divert the trajectory of Halley’s Comet and crash it into planet Earth. This will mean that the humans are unable to defend themselves against the Cyber invasion of 1986, and will ensure the creatures’ survival.
‘World Enough and Time’ also connects to ‘The Tenth Planet,’ as does its following episode ‘The Doctor Falls.’ This adventure features the return of the ‘original’ Cybermen from Mondas who are desperately trying to escape a colony ship which is pulling away from a black hole. And as if that weren’t frightening enough, the Doctor also has to contend with two versions of his oldest enemy, the Master, both of whom are plotting his destruction.
‘The Doctor Falls’ then flows into the Twelfth Doctor’s final adventure ‘Twice Upon a Time,’ which partly takes place during the events of ‘The Tenth Planet’ (although it’s not strictly a Cybermen story.) In the episode, certain scenes from ‘The Tenth Planet’ are recreated, with the actor David Bradley taking on the mantle of the First Doctor, who is resisting the need to regenerate.
And if you have lots of time to spare, the 1967 serial ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ also connects to this little cluster of stories. In the adventure, we encounter the Cybermen’s frozen tombs on the planet Telos, which are defrosted by a group of reckless archaeologists, and the Doctor is forced to put things right. These tombs (and Telos itself) are the setting for the second episode of ‘Attack of the Cybermen,’ where we learn more about the tombs’ origins. Apparently, the metal giants stole the cryogenic chambers from Telos’ original inhabitants, the Cryons.
Of course, with this being Doctor Who, the origins of the Cybermen are not exactly straightforward. When the series was revived in 2005, it was decided to re-introduce the Doctor’s metallic foes – but this time, they would come from a parallel universe, and have a different origin story. Thus, 2006’s two part adventure ‘Rise of the Cybermen’ and ‘The Age of Steel’ offers a different take on the iconic monsters, showing how they were the brainchild of a deranged scientist known as John Lumic, who created the creatures as a means of ‘upgrading’ humanity.
And they make an explosive return in Series Two’s finale ‘Army of Ghosts’ and ‘Doomsday,’ where they find themselves in a battle against the Daleks, with the Doctor and his friends caught in the crossfire. This was a historic moment in the history of Doctor Who, as it was the first time (on screen, at least) that these iconic baddies had crossed paths.
Bringing things up to date, the Cybermen’s most recent appearance was in Doctor Who Series 12. In ‘The Haunting of Villa Diodati,’ the Doctor encounters a lone Cyberman known as Ashad, who is seeking an object known as the Cyberium, which comprises all the collected knowledge of the cyber race. This flows into the following episode ‘Ascension of the Cybermen’ and the Series 12 finale ‘The Timeless Children,’ in which the metal giants and Ashad are wreaking havoc throughout the cosmos of the far future.
And, once again, the Doctor’s old enemy the Master is caught up in the skirmish, this time trying to use Time Lord DNA to create a new army of invulnerable Cybermen that possess the ability to regenerate. It’s worth watching this story to bring your cyber knowledge up to date, but at the same time you might want to tune into 2021’s Doctor Who: Flux, as the Cybermen are set to appear in that story too.
And finally, for another great example of the Master trying to build a cyber army for himself, check out 2014’s ‘Dark Water’ and ‘Death in Heaven.’ In this adventure, we discover that the Master has regenerated into female form and now goes by the name Missy, and has put together a cybernetic army for the purposes of – well, you’ll have to watch the story to find out. But the answer may surprise you.
Which is your favourite out of these ‘key’ Cybermen stories? And can you think of any others that should be added to the list? Let me know in the comments below.
Cybermen Doctor Who scarf – order now from the Lovarzi shop!