The Cybermen are one of the Doctor’s most fearsome, persistent, and iconic enemies. Debuting 55 years ago, the emotionless metallic monstrosities have repeatedly clashed with the Doctor. Their appearance has changed over the years, as have their tactics, and even their weaknesses - but every time they appeared, they’ve had the same goal: the total conversion of all organic life into Cybermen!
Despite being their first appearance,The Tenth Planet doesn’t show the origins of the Cybermen. That comes much later (sort of), but also - obviously - before. The joys of a show about time travel! In their debut, the Cybermen’s home-world of Mondas – Earth’s twin – had returned to our solar system, after aeons spent drifting in space. During their time away, Mondasian lifespans had grown shorter, so they devised spare parts for their bodies, until they could be almost completely replaced – and so the Cybermen were born.
Their first story was also the First Doctor’s last, as this was the adventure that introduced regeneration… as well as the Second Doctor.
When the Doctor next encountered the Cybermen, they’d opted for a more covert form of invasion. Targeting the weather control station on the Moon, they infected the station’s crew with a virus, softening up the base to make it easier to conquer. Their target was the Gravitron, the device that controlled the Earth’s weather. With it, they intended to destroy the surface of the Earth – and everyone on it. Unfortunately for the Cybermen, the Doctor was on hand to put a stop to their scheme.
In the Doctor’s third encounter with the Cybermen, he wasn’t fending off an invasion, but walking directly into a trap! On the planet Telos, the Doctor was horrified to find an archaeological expedition that wanted to excavate a ‘tomb’ of the Cybermen. He insisted on joining them – and it’s just as well that he did. It was all a lure, designed to ensnare the most intelligent humans and convert them into Cybermen to kickstart the revival of the Cyber race!
Another space station, another invasion attempt. This time, the Cybermen planned to hi-jack the Wheel, in order to use its communications equipment to guide a Cyber-Fleet to invade Earth. Teaming up with scientist Zoe Heriot, the Doctor and Jamie were able to turn the communication equipment into a laser. They destroyed the Cyber-Fleet and once again, the Cybermen had failed.
Deciding to forgo attacking from space, the Cybermen had a sneakier approach when they teamed up with International Electronics in the appropriately named, The Invasion. Having smuggled Cybermen to Earth, they used a signal to send the world to sleep, leaving the planet defenceless – or so they thought.
This epic story is also the first time that UNIT appeared, and Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart became the Brigadier!
You’d think being driven by logic, the Cybermen would have worked out that plots from space stations don’t end well for them, but no. The target: the “planet of gold”, Voga. The space station: Nerva. In this story, it was revealed the Cybermen were fatally vulnerable to gold, so they planned to destroy Voga. This key weakness would be vital in several of the Doctor’s following encounters with the Cybermen.
When an alliance of military powers to fight the Cybermen was being discussed on Earth, there was only one obvious course of action open to the Cyborgs from Mondas - blow it up. And when that didn’t work, hijack a space freighter and crash it into the conference! Despite the fact the Doctor defeated the Cybermen, this wasn’t a clean victory. There was a devastating cost exacted upon the TARDIS crew…
This anniversary story not only featured multiple Doctors, but also a number of their foes, including the Cybermen! Unfortunately, they didn’t last for long. One squad was massacred by a Raston Warrior Robot, and the other by a Gallifreyan trap that they were lured into by the Master.
A recently regenerated Doctor found himself up against another legion of Cybermen from Telos. Having suffered defeat once too often, the Cybermen planned to use a captured time-ship to go back in time and prevent Mondas from being destroyed by Earth. To achieve this, they intended to obliterate our planet before that event by smashing Halley’s Comet into it. Earth’s fate, as well as the web of time, was once again in the Doctor’s hands…
When it came to the story to mark the silver anniversary of the show, there couldn’t be a more appropriate enemy than the silver titans of terror. The Cybermen were caught in a race for control of the Nemesis statue, which returned to Earth every 25 years. Standing in their way were a group of Nazis, a time-travelling aristocrat from the 17th Century, as well as the Doctor and Ace. The race was on…
The Doctor finally witnessed the creation of the mechanical monstrosities, but not the ones he’d been fighting for all these years (don’t worry, it’s still coming!). Instead, he became embroiled in the, well, rise of the Cybermen in a parallel universe. You could tell it was an alternative Earth as they had airships! The creation of John Lumic, head of Cybus Industries, these Cybermen began stomping their way across London. Luckily, the Doctor had a plan!
Crossing the void between universes, the Cybus Cybermen appeared all over our Earth as ghostly figures. When they revealed themselves, it seemed as though the Cybermen had conquered the world in a single stroke. However, they had followed an unknown object through the void; a sphere that they didn’t build. The Doctor was horrified to learn who really created it. For the first time in the show’s history, the Cybermen faced off against another iconic enemy, the Daleks!
Not all of the Cybermen were destroyed in the battle against the Daleks. Those that survived were sent back into the Void and some then fell through time to the middle of the 19th Century. With limited resources, they were forced to create Cyber-shades, semi-converted simian like monsters to serve them. However, the Cybermen couldn’t catch a lucky break, as they found themselves facing off against two incarnations of the Doctor... Well, sort of!
When the Cybermen next reared their handle barred heads, they weren’t working alone – in fact, they formed part of an alliance. The plan was to trap the Doctor in the Pandorica, the perfect prison, so that he wouldn’t destroy the universe when his TARDIS exploded. A single Cyberman was left to guard the Pandorica but was destroyed by a resurrected Rory. The alliance succeeded and the Doctor was indeed imprisoned. But their victory proved to be short-lived… because that was when things started to go really, really wrong!
This wasn’t the Cybermen’s finest hour, but in their defence, they were all that stood between the Doctor and Rory, and finding out where a kidnapped Amy was being held. Rory had a message from the Doctor and a question from himself. He asked where Amy was, and the Doctor’s message came in the form of the entire Twelfth Cyber Legion being blown up. Rory didn’t need to ask twice.
Reduced to scavengers once again, the Cybermen resorted to stealth tactics. Their ship, having crashed on Earth centuries ago, had been revived by accident. Using a department store as their hunting ground, the Cybermen picked off unsuspecting humans and converted them into Cybermen. Even though they overcame the Doctor’s efforts to stop them, the Cybermen still couldn’t win the day. They were defeated by a force that they couldn’t even begin to comprehend...
For a species obsessed with upgrading everything they meet, the Cybermen had given themselves a serious overhaul when they next encountered the Doctor on Hedgewick’s World. These new models could remove their head and hands, move at incredible speeds, and adapt to being shot with laser weapons. In the face of such advanced Cybermen, the Doctor and Clara only had two options: destroy the planet, or die.
A mysterious message, broadcast out into the universe, brought many different species to wait in orbit around the planet Trenzalore, all wanting to know what it actually meant. Among them were the Cybermen, and when they learnt it was a message from Gallifrey – and that Gallifrey wasn’t destroyed – they attacked the planet. Unable to send down advanced technology, the Cybermen had to fashion a trooper out of wood and arm it with a flamethrower!
The Twelfth Doctor’s first battle with the Cybermen saw them taking another technological leap. They now had the ability to harvest the dead and turn them into Cybermen! To make matters worse, Missy, the new incarnation of the Master, was apparently in league with them. However, her reasons for teaming up with the Cybermen were a complete surprise to the Doctor. She wanted to make him an offer…
A mere 51 years after they first appeared, we finally got to see the genesis of the Cybermen. Well, one of them. The Doctor hinted at multiple points of origin for the cybernetic terrors, but this is the only one from our universe that we’ve seen on-screen. Onboard a Mondasian Colony Ship, trapped in the pull of a black hole, the Doctor and Bill were separated. By the time they were reunited, Bill had been converted into a Cybermen. To compound the problem, the Doctor was up against not one, but two incarnations of the Master!
After being warned about the Lone Cyberman, the Doctor and her friends came face-to-face with it at the Villa Diodati. The pure nightmare fuel that is the Lone Cyberman - real name Ashad - had only been partly converted, with his human face still partially exposed. Despite being part human, Ashad hated all organic life and wanted to restore the Cybermen to their former glory. All he needed to make that happen? For the Doctor to surrender the Cyberium, an AI that contained every scrap of data about the Cybermen!
Travelling to the aftermath of the Cyber Wars, Ashad engaged his plan to restore the full might of the Cybermen. As Team TARDIS set out to stop him, little did Ashad know that there was another force at work. The Master had returned, and he had his own ideas about the future of the Cyber race. He offered them the chance to convert the Time Lords – and acquire their ability to regenerate. The CyberMasters were born!
You can watch more Cyber-moments on the Doctor Who YouTube channel.