Doctor Who: 10 best Cybermen stories
Andrew counts down Doctor Who's 10 best Cyberman stories from across the TV series, audio dramas and comic strips...
Cybermen; Doctor Who's other monster. The one no-one knows quite what to do with, who show glimpses of what they can do, but don't look like dislodging the upper echelon from its perch.
They're Arsenal, basically. What is Nightmare in Silver if not Mehmet Ozil? A big name attached with lots excitement generated, and sure there are some clever ideas, but ultimately it's not what was necessary. I'd apologise to Arsenal fans but what are they going to do? Throw a trophy at me?
Like the Cybermen presumably do between their on-screen appearances, the writers will be heading back to the drawing board to discuss what they've learned. Meanwhile, here's our list of the top ten Cybermen stories across the entirety of Doctor Who.
10. The Pandorica Opens
From there, Moffat throws in spiders, robo-tentacles (I do hope he hasn't been reading any manga), shrivelled humanoid remains, electric shocks, poisoned darts, Frankenstein's monster, and a cyborg trying to chomp someone's face off. It lasts less than three minutes and it's the best depiction of the Cybermen since they returned in 2006.
The only criticism, one Moffat has acknowledged, is that Auton Rory must have been really going for it with that sword to cause that much damage.
Still, that's the power of love, a force from above. Or horizontally, in this case, but that doesn't scan.
Part Where You Realise How Brilliant It Is: The Cyberman's head scuttles away like a peeved snake.
9. Unnatural Born Killers
Kroton would later be part of a the main arc - where he comes across as a hybrid of Donatello and David Mitchell - but he was reintroduced here; narrating his back-story while fighting off a Sontaran invasion of an unnamed planet. He disappears off into the sunset at the story's end, unable to join in the celebrations because it reminds him of the life he's lost.
Part Where You Realise How Brilliant It Is: “I'm called Kroton... I can't remember my real name.”
8. Junkyard Demon
From the fantastic opening panel of the scrap ship Drifter idling through space, or the bulky, irritable Cyberman (a cross between the Tenth Planet and Moonbase costumes), this is the kind of thing that the comic strip excels at. The TV show of the time could never realise Junkyard Demon as successfully as the magazine's comic.
Part Where You Realise How Brilliant It Is: The reveal of Cybernaut Zogron, an explorer who expanded the Cyber-race, begging the question of the unexplored early years of the Cybermen, post-Spare Parts but pre-Moonbase.
7. The Invasion
As it is, The Invasion ticks over nicely without the Cybermen's presence, with the team of Tobias Vaughn and his epic sidekick Packer compensating for their absence. When they do arrive, they are still used sparingly, but there are some iconic shots of them walking around London before UNIT arrive to biff them about with explosives.
Part Where You Realise How Brilliant It Is: Tobias Vaughn chuckles in response to goading Professor Watkins into shooting him.
6. The Five Doctors
Eighties Cybermen are plausible meats. David Banks is one of the few banks you can rely on. No-one is ever going to say he's engaged in the act of verisimilitude in his replicating of the nightmarish half-life of a technological-vampire, but equally no-one is going to say 'David Banks was rubbish in Doctor Who'.
Here we get at least three Cyberleaders, all of them prime slabs of plausible Banks-meat. Ignore the fact that two get killed off quite easily because Eric Saward kept writing them into the script when Terrance Dicks didn't want to, and savour them.
Part Where You Realise How Brilliant It Is: “When the tower is in our hands-” *SLOW FIST CLENCH* “He shall be...destroyed.”
5. Legend of the Cybermen
Writer Mike Maddox uses this playset gleefully, revelling in the sheer wrongness of the two concepts meeting and so we have: epic phantasmagoria, delirious battle sequences, a discussion on the importance of the imagination, a chance for the Doctor to explain himself, and the conversion of some childhood favourites...
Part Where You Realise How Brilliant It Is: “And I was lost to her again.”
4. The Flood
The comic strip had been taking advantage of its budget, going full colour and doing things the TV show could never dream of doing, like destroying outer space and having Daleks fight Spider-Daleks from other dimensions. Here Martin Geraghty's new design of Cybermen are gaunt, vampiric figures with conversion-tools hidden in their fingertips – impossible to realise on TV. There is a lot in these strips, though, that would be echoed on television in years to come.
While the Cybermen were superseded by the Daleks in Doomsday, here they take their place as the focal point of the finale, both of an arc and of the Eighth Doctor's glorious comic book run.
Part Where You Realise How Brilliant It Is: The Cyberleader accepts humanity's supplications.
- Don't tell anyone, not even the Radio Times.
- Don't put the name of the monster in the story title.
- Have them lose only after a gargantuan effort by the good guys.
- Kill off one of the good guys.
- Give the monster a new, superlative catchphrase.
Tick. Tick, tick, tick, tick. Excellent.
Part Where You Realise How Brilliant It Is: The Doctor looks at Nyssa and Tegan crying, and doesn't know what to do next. (Davison's acting in this scene is even more impressive when you consider that Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton were trying their best not to deck themselves laughing).
2. Tomb of the Cybermen
Because of this, I have never been disappointed by Tomb of the Cybermen. Then again, I enjoy the hokum trappings of Sixties science-fiction: the excitement of rocket travel, the grand utopian programmes of explorations, the endless British character actors failing to do convincing American accents. All great fun, and that's before we get to the interactions of the new TARDIS crew of the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria.
What Tomb of the Cybermen does better than any other TV story is create a mythology for the Cybermen. Sure, The Tenth Planet has an origin story, but it doesn't have Cybermats, Cyber Controllers, or 'We must survive'. That last one is the most important, as it captures an aspect of tragedy not always present. There's something terribly sad about the Cyber Controller's desperate struggles in the last episode, and that's something that only the Russell T. Davies era Cybermen come close to achieving.
Part Where You Realise How Brilliant It Is: “You belong to us. You shall be like us.”
1. Spare Parts
Spare Parts is, essentially, for Cybermen what Genesis of the Daleks is for Daleks. Like Genesis, Spare Parts is set on a planet settled in for a long, dark night. The people of Mondas haven't done anything wrong, they've just been unfortunate enough to live on a planet that is drifting away from the sun. They do what they have to in order to survive.
Part Where You Realise How Brilliant It Is: “Am I horrible?”
One not to watch: The Wheel in Space – it's full of plot holes and padded badly. Also four episodes aren't known to exist so if you are watching it, you should probably stop and tell the BBC.
Pre-order Doctor Who: The Monster Collection - Cybermen, released on the 30th of September, at the BBC shop.
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