The echoes are unmistakable for those who know very early Doctor Who but many will have only picked up the overly obvious links in the first of the two parts of the finale of the tenth series of the revived series. However there were nods to so much more. Please note that the rest of this article contains spoilers for “The World Enough And Time”, as well as other past Cybermen related stories from both the classic and revived series of Doctor Who (as much as a spoiler of a story from 1966 can be…)
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Now I am not really a Doctor Who fan. Transformers… Star Trek… yeah, but I am not well enough versed with Doctor Who to consider myself a fan or an expert (to the point where reviewing Doctor Who episodes would be meaningless coming from me)… but the Cybermen (and the Daleks) – those I know. My fascination with cyborgs be they the encased mutants in the form of the children of Skaro, or the “upgraded” humans in the form of the Cybermen, Borg or even RoboCop have always grabbed my attention. The fact that I, myself have had a minor “upgrade” after an accident really hit home the horror of body part replacement.
The tenth series episode of the revived Doctor Who, going by the name of “World Enough and Time” (a title used by Star Trek: New Voyages, by the way) has met almost universal acclaim, with the return of the original CyberMondassian sub species (to reference David Banks’ Cybermen book) of Cyberman being a key part. One of the key points of praise for the episode aired on Saturday 24th if June, here in the UK, was the fact that the partially converted Cybermen (or prototypes thereof… pain pain pain) and completed CyberMondassian were really really creepy and threw the human replacement angle right in your face. limbs and even torsos being made of metal is one thing – but these earlier Cybermen has cloth covered faces
that allowed the ghostly outline of the human face underneath. This was something lost almost immediately with the hardfaced Cybermen of “The Moonbase” in 1967. Many fans felt that the Cyebrmen in the revived Doctor Who were too robotic, but in truth apart form the Cybermen in The Tenth Planet all of the classic Cybermen were similarly hard faced and robotic (though some would move in rather an unrobotic fashion.) One noteable echo of humanity, however, was the glimpse of a flesh like chin and mouth moving behind a perspex helmet chin in the CyberNeomorph type Cybermen in the first footage of the antagonists recorded for “Earthshock.” However as filming went on these transparent sections misted up to stop the movement being visible and in future uses of the props the shin area was painted silver to match the rest of the helmet.
Although the “new” CyberMondassian costume has had minor changes from the original 1966 realisation of the design for the fourth series of the original series serial, “The Tenth Planet”, it is undoubtedly a design routed in the same design aesthetic, and those minor changes can be explained away. After all the storyline Steven Moffat has come up with neatly sidesteps continuity issues with The Tenth Planet as the Mondassians in “The World Enough And Time” have been seperated from their planet for an indetermined amount of time on a 400 mile long ship trying to escape a black hole singularity (also avoiding any slip-ups in contracting the brilliant Big Finish story, Spare Parts, which by the way you *MUST* listen to at some point – put it on your bucket list immediately! Yes mow! I… will… wait… for… you…)
Due to that black hole, the relativity of time is even more screwed up, so let’s face it a 400 mile long (or rather, tall in this case) ship will allow a potted history/evolution of the Cybermen – the enhanced humans evolving as they ascend the ship, as I expect to happen in the following episode “The Doctor Falls.”
The CyberMondassian reveal was unfortunately spoiled, but the in your face call back to the Cybermen of the Tenth Planet is hardly the only reference to the classic version of Doctor Who.
Case in point: Venusian Aikido, as mentioned in the first third of the episode, was a reference back to the Third Doctor, after whom the early press shots of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor were clearly styled. Also did we really see Nardole running around with the Fourth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver?
Then there is that opening sequence. The Doctor emerges from the TARDIS, in obvious distress, only to fall to his knees and start to regenerate. Except it’s in the snow. It may even be at the South Pole. Could it even be 1986?
You see in “The Tenth Planet” Mondas arrived back at Earth’s side after being lost in space for thousands of years (if not longer) and the Cybermen intended to suck the Earth dry of energy and convert it’s human population into even more of their kind. The story was set in the very futuristic 1986 (the story being broadcast originally in 1966) and there were even two further Doctor Who stories where other Cybermen of different subspecies tried to alter the fate of Mondas as seen in the first Cybermen Story (the Second Doctor story, “Invasion” featuring the early CyberFaction type Cybermen, and the Sixth Doctor story, “Attack Of The Cybermen” featuring the early CyberNeomorphs who were suggested to be a result of the combination of technologies of the CyberTelosians from “Tomb Of The Cybermen” and the CyberNomads from “Revenge Of The Cybermen.”)
We have already seen in the trailer for “The Doctor Falls” that the de-Cybused Eleventh Doctor type Cybermen as first seen in “When A Good Man Goes To War” will make an appearance. Maybe older classic Cybermen found a few Cybus Cybermen and restocked their CyberBoutiques? Also appearing are the Cyberiad Cybermen as seen in “Nightmare in Silver” onwards which included Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart amongst their number (so poor Bill maybe the first Cyberman on that ship, and maybe the first Cyberman in existence… but she’s not the first converted companion, even if the Brig did have the ignomy of conversion post-demise, just as Danny did.)
As a Cyberfan I hope we will see appearances of the other Cyberman subspecies such as the CyberFaction, CyberTelosian, CyberNeomorph and so on in the condensed history/evolution of the Cybermen we will see in “The Doctor Falls.”
It wasn’t all about the Cybermen though – John Simm reprising his role as The Master to stand beside his future self in the form of Missy was something many were looking forward to and the Roger Delgado style goatee beard (as also sported by Anthony Ainley’s Master) simply made the reveal all the better.
That snowscape though… Now as far as we know, William Hartnell’s Doctor was the first, and thus the first body of his first regeneration cycle. Fans of the newer form of Doctor Who may not be aware that the first regeneration took place at the end of the Doctor’s first encounter with the Cybermen. The last episode of The Tenth Planet ended with the Doctor makign it back into the TARDIS with his companions, Ben and Polly, banging on the TARDIS doors in the snowfall, to gain entry to the time capsule… the Doctor found enough energy to get the doors open only to collapse and regenerate, bringing forth the second doctor in the form of Patrick Troughton.
Now in “The Time Of The Doctor”, the Doctor had run out of regenerations – the thirteen lives being used up by the 11 Doctors we knew of, plus John Hurt’s “War Doctor” and David Tennant’s Doctor’s ego (and hence the handy MetaDoctor.) The Time Lords fortunately showed up through that crack in time and space and granted the Doctor a second regeneration cycle, as originally promised to the Master in “The Five Doctors”, and clearly granted to the despot during the last great time war, to allow the existence of Derek Jacobi’s Master and thus John Simm’s Master and Michelle Gomez’s Missy.
Thus Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is the first life of his second regeneration cycle, making his regeneration into the “thirteenth” Doctor the first of this second regeneration cycle. How fitting would that be if it took place at the south pole in 1986 where and when Hartnell’s Doctor regenerated?
It may be pure fan service that CyberMondassians may be around for both “first” regenerations…. but I’ll let them off.
Now I expect that Peter Capaldi’s Doctor to repeat that fall to his knees in the Christmas Special allowing him to hand over to whoever the next Doctor will be. Unless, you know…. Timey Wimey stuff gets involved and The Doctor’s timestream gets disrupted again. As it stands it looks like the Doctor will start regenerating at the end of the Tenth series of the revived series, in a story involving the inhabitants of the tenth planet, with the thirteenth Doctor debuting in the 13th Christmas Special of the revived series.
Recommended further viewing, reading & listening: