Tag Archives: Cybermen

After a Break in Transmission Service has Resumed

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peter-capaldi-will-be-keeping-his-scottish-accent-for-doctor-who

Regular readers of the Doctor Who Mind Robber would be aware of the paltry output from this esteemed blog in recent months. Whilst roughly correlating with the eight month absence of the Doctor from our television screens, the cause of this tardiness is much deeper and sinister than that. In Australia our community has been confronted by an evil arguably greater than that ever encountered by our hero and his companions. More malignant than the Cybermen and with less empathy than the Daleks, Tony Abbott’s Coalition Government is seeking to restructure the very fabric of Australian society by the decimation of our Social Welfare System and the redistribution of collective wealth to their Master, Big Business.

Here is a meme the author created not long after the September 2013 Federal election.The text quoted are the words of Davros, the creator of the Daleks,  in Part 5 of The Genesis of the Daleks (1975) (with slight amendment) to Tony Abbott. The similarities between Davros and Abbott are most striking.  Enjoy!

Here is a meme the author created not long after the September 2013 Federal election.The text quoted are the words of Davros, the creator of the Daleks, in Part 5 of The Genesis of the Daleks (1975) (with slight amendment) and now attributed to our “Esteemed Leader” Tony Abbott. The similarities between Davros and Abbott are most striking. Enjoy!

The author of the Doctor Who Mind Robber has been caught in an abyss of political activism against this creeping fascism and has been known to surface occasionally to blog on this terror at The Abbott Proof Fence. The return of Doctor Who with the magnificent Peter Capaldi at the helm is a most welcome respite from the terrors that confront Australian society daily. Whilst it is unlikely that much progress will be made on our Ultimate Doctor Who marathon in the short term (we are ready to meet the Third Doctor in Season 7), the Doctor Who Mind Robber will nevertheless provide weekly reflections on Series 8 from the perspective of an old series fan with a fetish for history and continuity.

Sit back, adjust your sets and await the recommencement of transmission. Enjoy the ride!

 

Vivien Fleming

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Day 39 of 50th Anniversary Countdown – The 5 Greatest Monsters of the Sixties

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Doctor Who’s long history of non-human villains has its genesis in the show’s second ever serial, The Daleks. Choosing the Top 5 is relatively easy given the extraordinarily high attrition rate of monsters considered to be “the next big thing”. Starting with Terry Nation’s The Sensorites, and ending with Robert Homes’ The Krotons, the Sixties were littered with the carcases of monsters that never quite made the grade.  The Dominator’s Quarks, The Underwater Menace’s benevolent Fish People, The Macra Terror’s Macra, The War Machines’ WOTAN and War Machines, Galaxy 4’s Rill, The Chase’s Mechonoids, and The Web Planet’s Zarbi and Menoptra are but a few  examples.

One of the less successful monsters of the Sixties, the Fish People from The Underwater Menace

One of the less successful monsters of the Sixties, the Fish People from The Underwater Menace

In essence, any 1960s monster that scored a repeat story in that decade has made The Doctor Who Mind Robber’s list of the Greatest Monsters of the Sixties. All have been revived in New Series Doctor Who, with the exception of the Yeti. Please see Day 49 of our countdown for the Ten Least Remembered Monsters of the Sixties.

5. The Great IntelligenceThe Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear

When Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart asked the Doctor in The Web of Fear what the Great Intelligence was he responded by saying, “Well, I wish I could give you a precise answer.  Perhaps the best way to describe it is a sort of formless, shapeless thing floating around in space like a cloud of mist, only with a mind and will”.

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria first encountered the Great Intelligence at the Det-Sen monastery in 1935 Tibet (The Abominable Snowmen).  Having possessed the body of the monastery’s Master, Padmasambhava, this otherwise disembodied sentient being permitted its host to live up to 300 years.  The Intelligence forced Padmasambhava to build him an army of robot Yeti, the construction of which took over 200 years.  The Yeti were controlled by small hand-made pyramids. The Intelligence’s plans to take over the mountain on which the monastery stood were thwarted when the Doctor, Edward Travers and the companions destroyed the pyramids. Padmasambhava finally found the peace he so desired when his body passed away and the Intelligence again became a sentient being without a parasitic body.

The Abominable Snowmen's Padmasambhava was possessed by the Great Intelligence

The Abominable Snowmen’s Padmasambhava was possessed by the Great Intelligence

The Doctor and his companions again met the Intelligence when they found themselves in the London Underground 40 years later. In The Web of Fear their old friend Professor Travis had inadvertently facilitated the reactivation of the Yeti. The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria teamed up with members of the British Army to thwart the Intelligence’s plans for domination. The Intelligence used the body of the deceased Staff Sergeant Arnold and even Professor Travers for a short time.  The Intelligence sought to possess the Doctor’s body and to drain his mind with a conversion headset.  Unbeknownst to his companions, the Doctor had already reversed the settings so that it was the Intelligence’s mind, rather than his own, that would be drained.  Jamie, however, smashed the control spheres prior to the Doctor sapping the Intelligence’s mind.  Although still alive, the Intelligence vanished and was never again seen by the Second Doctor.

Staff Sergeant Arnold was possessed by the Great Intelligence in The Web of Fear

Staff Sergeant Arnold was possessed by the Great Intelligence in The Web of Fear

4. The YetiThe Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear

Although briefly seen in the 20th Anniversary Special, The Five Doctors, the Yeti have only been the central players of two serials, The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. Robotic servants of the Great Intelligence, the first Yeti were manufactured by Padmasambhava at the Intelligence’s command.  Rather pear shaped and cuddly, the Mark 1 Yeti were not as threatening in appearance as their Mark 2 counterparts which had claws capable of holding web-guns and were more streamlined. Exactly who assisted the Intelligence in the production of the Mark 2 Yeti of The Web of Fear has never revealed.

The Doctor and a Yeti in The Web of Fear

The Doctor and a Yeti in The Web of Fear

3. The Ice WarriorsThe Ice Warriors and  The Seeds of Death

The Ice Warriors are natives of the planet Mars. Large reptilian humanoids, the Ice Warriors can stand up to 7 feet in height. The Doctor and his companions first came upon the Ice Warriors at the Brittanicus Base where they had been frozen in ice for over 5,000 years. Defeated when their space craft exploded the Ice Warriors were next encountered on the Moon in The Seeds of Death. Their attempts at obtaining control of the Earth were foiled when the Doctor discovered that their seed pods were ruined by water.  The Doctor then sent their space craft into an orbit around the sun.

The Doctor used his genius in an attempt to thwart death in The Seeds of Death

The Doctor used his genius in an attempt to thwart death in The Seeds of Death

When the Ice Warriors were next met by the Doctor in 1972’s The Curse of Peladon they were members of the Galactic Foundation and had renounced violence. They became allies with the Doctor and remained so in a subsequent Third Doctor adventure, The Monster of Peladon (1974). In 2013’s Cold War the Ice Warriors’ pacifism was a long forgotten.  

Pertwee era Ice Warriors

Pertwee era Ice Warriors

2. The CybermenThe Tenth Planet, The Moonbase, The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Wheel in Space and The Invasion.

The Cybermen made their Doctor Who debut in William Hartnell’s last serial, The Tenth Planet. Very much humanoid in appearance, the Mark 1 Cybermen were possessed of a sing-song voice.  Their faces were covered only with a stocking and they still retained their human hands. Unlike their successors, the first Cybermen initially did not seek to destroy the human race but rather hoped to convince them to join their “utopian” existence.

A Mark 1 Cyberman in The Tenth Planet

A Mark 1 Cyberman in The Tenth Planet

With the success of their first television appearance the Cybermen were quickly co-opted as rivals to the Dalek’s mantle of favourite Doctor Who monster. Each story in which they appeared saw their costumes modified, with the most substantial change occurring to the Mark 2 model.  Gone were the stockinged faces and in their place were robotic heads.  The five digits of their human hands were replaced by three fingered gloved hands.

The Cybermen emerge from their icy tombs in this iconic image from The Tomb of the Cybermen

The Cybermen emerge from their icy tombs in this iconic image from The Tomb of the Cybermen

The Cybermen were the subject of two particularly iconic images of Sixties Who.  Even the tackiness of breaking through new-fangled cling wrap was insufficient to dampen the effectiveness of the Cybermen’s emergence from their icy tombs in The Tomb of the Cybermen.  Their appearance on, and march down, the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in The Invasion was arguably the greatest cliff hanger of the era. Still images of the event have become part of popular culture.

Perhaps the most iconic cliff hanger in classic series Doctor Who.  The Cybermen on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral

Perhaps the most iconic cliff hanger in classic series Doctor Who. The Cybermen on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in The Invasion

1.   The DaleksThe Daleks, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Space Museum (cameo), The Chase, Mission to the Unknown, The Daleks’ Master Plan, The Power of the Daleks and The Evil of the Daleks

Only a brave person would nominate anything other than the Daleks as their favourite 1960s monsters. Appearing in just the second Doctor Who serial, it was arguably the Daleks that saved the show from a mere 13 week run. In a stroke of genius the Terry Nation created and Ray Cusick designed mutants immediately captured the imagination of the British public. Dalekmania was in full swing and within 18 months the Daleks would appear in the first of two colour, theatrically released movies.

Barbara is pinned against the wall in fear during the Daleks' first appearance in Doctor Who on 21st December 1963

Barbara is pinned against the wall in fear during the Daleks’ first appearance in Doctor Who on 21st December 1963

The Daleks featured in seven Sixties serials and appeared as a cameo in another. The 12 piece extravaganza The Daleks’ Master Plan is one of the most sought after missing serials. Only 3 episodes are held in the BBC Archives.  Among other missing episodes is Mission to the Unknown, the only one part 1960s serial which also has the distinction of featuring none of the regular cast.  Arguably the most missed of all Dalek serials is the Second Doctor’s first story, The Power of the Daleks.  It, together with another missing story, The Evil of the Daleks, is highly revered in fandom.  It can only be hoped that at least some of these missing episodes are some day recovered.

The 12 part Dalek's Master Plan is one of the most sought after missing Doctor Who serials

The 12 part The Dalek’s Master Plan is one of the most sought after missing Doctor Who serials

HONOURABLE MENTION

The Chumblies – Galaxy 4

Although the Chumblies were never reprised they were the most adorable Doctor Who monsters ever.  Despite the Doctor, Steven and Vicki being initially frightened by them it soon became apparent that they were benign and worked for the good and just with the Rill. The Chumblies are top of my list of Sixties monsters that I’d most like to see revived.

A Chumbley with the Drahvins in Galaxy 4

A Chumbley with the Drahvins in Galaxy 4

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Tenth Planet

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Known to most as the first Doctor Who regeneration and the premiere appearance of the Cybermen, it has been persuasively argued by Phil Sandifer in Tardis Eruditorum  that The Tenth Planet  represents neither.  Rather than signalling the First Doctor’s end, Sandifer states that it is rather the demise of the Doctor, per se.  Save for his appearance in The Three Doctors, William Hartnell never played the role of the First Doctor.  He was always merely “the Doctor” – the original, and some may say, the best.   Killed by the energy draining force of the planet Mondas, the Doctor collapses to the floor in his terrifying end. Not only is it the death of the Doctor, but also the death of Doctor Who.  Sandifer explains it thus:

The Tardis Crew are ready to brave the cold.  Polly chooses a highly impractical mini skirt

The Tardis Crew are ready to brave the cold. Polly chooses a highly impractical mini skirt

“And this is part of being a Doctor Who fan.  You are absolutely guaranteed to see the show die in front of you, and then get replaced with a strange, different show using the same name.  Eventually, everything that Doctor Who is comes to a crashing halt and something new happens instead”.

The Doctor dies

The Doctor dies

The sense of the television series named Doctor Who dying would have been very real to viewers on 29 October 1966. Doctor Who was William Hartnell and William Hartnell was the Doctor. There was no precedent for the change of the lead character in such a radical fashion.  Certainly the actor playing a role in a show, whether it be on television or stage, may have changed, but the character remained roughly similar in respect of personality type and more often than not, physical appearance. The most frequently cited similarity, that of the film version of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, was still being played by the first actor to do so, Sean Connery. It would not be until 1969 that George Lazenby would have his one and only outing as 007. Incidentally, it was that very same year that the American series Bewitched saw the character of Darrin Stephens played by a different actor, also with the unfortunate name of Dick. Dick Sargent replaced Dick York, but as in the case of James Bond, Darrin remained ostensibly the same character.

The face of a stranger replaces the familiar form of The Doctor

The face of a stranger replaces the familiar form of The Doctor

Doctor Who was different, however. This wasn’t the case of a quick change of lead actor, with the series continuing unchanged.  This was actually the death of the lead.  Although the new lead actor played the role of a character bearing the same name, the Doctor, his personality was remarkably different. There was very much a sense of re-birth and complete renewal.  This was particularly evident in The Tenth Planet’s setting.  This was the first “base under siege” story, a genre which would come to dominate Patrick Troughton’s tenure as the Doctor.  A “base under siege” involves circumstances where the Doctor and his companions find themselves caught in a confined space or remote geographic location and are confronted by monsters that threaten everyone’s lives, the “base’s” existence, or both.  The Series Seven story Cold War, in which the Doctor and Clara find themselves on a Soviet era submarine confronted by an Ice Warrior, is a classic example of the “base under siege” genre.

The Series 7 episode Cold War is a classic example of a "Base under Siege" story

The Series 7 episode Cold War is a classic example of a “Base under Siege” story

From its very opening sequence, where a rocket is launched, it is apparent that The Tenth Planet is a very different story. The Doctor and his companions are not seen until more than three and a half minutes after episode one’s commencement.  Prior to that an array of international characters, not seen before in Doctor Who, are shown. Staffing the South Pole base are Americans, Italians and British, and manning the space shuttle are an Australian and a West Indian (or a resident of another Caribbean country).  There’s a sense of confinement and it’s twenty years in the future – 1986. Once inside the base the Doctor is quick to be able identify a hitherto unknown planet hurtling towards the earth as Mondas, the Earth’s upside down twin.  For the first time the Doctor shows that he knows not only the past’s history, but also its future. Five minutes before the episode’s conclusion we catch our first glimpse of a Mark 1 Cyberman and it’s on its harrowing features that the episode ends on a classic cliff hanger.

The Doctor and his companions find themselves in a base under siege

The Doctor and his companions find themselves in a base under siege

These are not the metal villains that the Cybermen are later portrayed as, but rather a far more frightening creation.  A race of humanoids whose body parts have been replaced as they wear out, they still retain the vestiges of a human form.  Their hands are human  and ungloved, and their faces almost mummified in a cloth stocking.  Instead of moving their lips as they speak, their featureless mouths open and their sing-song voices spew forth.  There is no hint of the monotone voices of the later Cybermen, nor is there a predilection to shout one word threats such as “delete”.  The Cybermen in The Tenth Planet are almost gentlemanly in their manners and until the fourth episode not intent on causing havoc to the Earth.  Devoid of all emotions, they are entirely logical and see their transformation to Cybermen as a great advance.  They are free from illness, heat and cold and wish the humans to travel to their home planet, Mondas,  where “You will become like us”.  The Cybermen are concerned only for survival, and a race for survival it is as Mondas careers towards the Earth.  Only one planet can survive, but which will it be?

The Tenth Planet – A Cyberman extols the virtues of their form

Created by Kit Pedler, an unofficial scientific adviser to Doctor Who, the Cybermen arose from Pedler’s fear of humans being artificially transformed.  A medical scientist by profession, Pedler wrote The Tenth Planet  more than a year prior to the first heart transplant in December 1967.  As displayed in the clip above, the Cybermen have their hearts removed.  When Polly questions whether they have a heart at all, the response is entirely literal. That humans may one day become like the Cybermen was a genuine fear held by Pedler.

The Cybermen are at their frightening best as their humanoid antecedents are still evident

The Cybermen are at their frightening best as their humanoid antecedents are still evident

Cybermen through the ages

Cybermen through the ages

The selfish concern of American General Cutler for the well being of his astronaut son, Terry, is a particularly frightening aspect of The Tenth Planet. Cutler is prepared to detonate the Z Bomb and destroy Mondas merely to save his son’s life. Terry has been sent on a rescue mission by Geneva for the space shuttle which unbeknownst to the United Nations, has already disintegrated.  The deaths of all on Mondas, and the possibility of immense radioactive damage to Earth, is of absolutely no concern to Cutler.  The loud and bullying American makes the Cybermen and their quiet extolling of Mondas’  virtues  appear almost palatable.

The American, General Cutler

The American, General Cutler

Unfortunately illness caused William Hartnell to be absent for episode three.  A stand-in faked his collapse to the floor and for the whole of the episode the Doctor is confined, unconscious, to quarters.  Given his death in episode four, the Doctor’s absence in episode three  provided a sense of continuity to the serial’s conclusion.   Quite shocking and unexpected, the Doctor’s collapse upon his return to the Tardis otherwise bears very little reference to the rest of the story.  In retrospect fans have read the events of previous serials into the Doctor’s weakening, although given the nature of Hartnell’s departure it’s just as likely that these “signs” were unintentional.

Polly tries unsuccessfully to reason with a Cyberman.  The Doctor looks on

Polly tries unsuccessfully to reason with a Cyberman. The Doctor looks on

You may recall that the Doctor was subjected to the Daleks’ Time Destructor in episode 12 of The Daleks’ Master Plan.   Although Sarah Kingdom aged quickly and died, the effects on the Doctor were not so great.  He nonetheless suffered the Time Destructor’s effects to some degree, although these were reversed when Steven accidently discovered the means of reversing the Destructor.   In The Celestial Toymaker the Doctor was rendered incorporeal by the Toymaker and in The Gunfighters he had a tooth removed by Doc Holliday. Finally in The War Machines an unsuccessful attempt was made to hypnotise him.  Did these events precipitate the Doctor’s decline?  It’s a question that is unlikely to be answered, although Phil Sandifer, whom we opened with, is adamant that the cause is without doubt the energy draining forces of the planet Mondas.  When Polly asked the Doctor at the opening of episode four what had happened to him he responded by saying, “Oh, I’m not sure, my dear.  Comes from an outside influence.  Unless this old body of mine is wearing a bit thin”.  It’s usually only the latter part of this answer that is remembered, rather than the “outside influence”.

The planet Mondas is the Earth's twin

The planet Mondas is the Earth’s twin

I will really miss the irascible old Doctor as Who continues Season four with Patrick Troughton at the helm.  Join me for my next review as Doctor Who enters a new era with The Power of the Daleks.

The Doctor collapsed on the floor of the Tardis

The Doctor collapsed on the floor of the Tardis

The Tenth Planet was originally broadcast in the UK between 8 October and 29 October 1966.  The DVD of the three episodes held in the BBC Archives, together with an animation of missing episode four, is to released by the BBC in November 2013

The Tenth Planet was originally broadcast in the UK between 8 October and 29 October 1966. The DVD of the three episodes held in the BBC Archives, together with an animation of missing episode four, is to released by the BBC in November 2013

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

 

REFERENCE:

Phil Sandifer, Tardis Eruditorum Volume 1: William Hartnell. Self published, 2011.