Cybermen, Emotions and Nightmare in Silver

by

SIDRAT: Some Idiosyncratic Diverse Ramblings About TARDIStimes

Right back in the very beginning, Tenth Planet, the Cybermen explained how they evolved on Mondas in this way:

BARCLAY: Mondas? But isn’t that one of the ancient names of Earth?
KRAIL: Yes. Aeons ago the planets were twins, then we drifted away from you on a journey to the edge of space. Now we have returned.
BEN: You were right, Doctor.
BARCLAY: But who or what are you?
KRAIL: We are called Cybermen.
BARCLAY: Cybermen?
KRAIL: Yes, Cybermen. We were exactly like you once but our cybernetic scientists realised that our race was getting weak.
BARCLAY: Weak? How?
KRAIL: Our life span was getting shorter, so our scientists and doctors devised spare parts for our bodies until we could be almost completely replaced.
POLLY: But that means you’re not like us. You’re robots!
KRAIL: Our brains are just like yours except that certain weaknesses have been removed.
BARCLAY: Weaknesses? What weaknesses?
KRAIL: You call them emotions, do you not?
POLLY: But that’s terrible. You, you mean you wouldn’t care about someone in pain?
KRAIL: There would be no need. We do not feel pain.
POLLY: But we do.

And later:

POLLY: But we cannot live with you. You’re, you’re different. You’ve got no feelings.
KRAIL: Feelings? I do not understand that word.
DOCTOR: Emotions. Love, pride, hate, fear. Have you no emotions, sir?
KRAIL: Come to Mondas and you will have no need of emotions. You will become like us.
POLLY: Like you?
KRAIL: We have freedom from disease, protection against heat and cold, true mastery. Do you prefer to die in misery?

I have always taken them at their word. They are not robots. They have robotic parts but their minds are humanoid, with modifications. They do not have artificial intelligence, they have augmented intelligence devoid of emotion.

It is consistent too with Troughton’s last encounter with them in Invasion:

PACKER: You can’t fight them.
VAUGHN: Packer. Why do you think I kept that old fool Watkins alive.
PACKER: Well, to work on his machine of course.
VAUGHN: And why did you think I wanted him to do that?
PACKER: Well, you. I don’t know.
VAUGHN: Our allies appear to find the Professor’s machine somewhat disturbing, so much so in fact that when they saw the prototype they ordered us to destroy it and all similar machines.
PACKER: You mean they’re frightened of it?
VAUGHN: The teaching power of the machine didn’t worry them, but when I generated some emotion pulses. I’m convinced, Packer, that emotion could be used to destroy them.
PACKER: That’s only a guess.
VAUGHN: A gamble, Packer, a reasonable gamble, and after all we are playing this game for very high stakes, are we not?
PACKER: Well, I think you’re taking too big a chance.
VAUGHN: Do you wish to be totally converted? Would you prefer to be one of them? Completely inhuman?
PACKER: Oh, no! But
VAUGHN: That’s what’ll happen if they take over. We will cease to be human. So, we must use their force and their might and then discard them.

Using the Cerebration Mentor drove one Cyberman made and killed at least two others. Emotions are fatal to Cybermen.

Now, none of this might chime in with real world science, but so what?

I have never thought that Mondasian science depended on human science – I just assumed that the Mondasians had discovered something about the brain which mere humans did not know. So, they removed all emotions from the brain, the one organic component of the Mondasian body which remained.

Of course, all the Mondas Cybermen died with Mondas.

And there was never any explanation for why there were Cybermen anywhere else.

But you can easily excuse that – the Mondasian scientists sent spaceships into the Universe with the express purpose of finding compatible worlds to establish new bases. This necessitated them creating non-Mondasian Cybermen and the whole notion of “upgrading” and becoming more warlike starts there.

I have a lot of sympathy with the views expressed by @Phaseshift.

My own take is that the destruction of Mondas meant that the guiding minds to the whole conversion process were lost and that those who were left with the techniques, the ability to upgrade just got on with finding the best way to be a survival unit and a battle-ready unstoppable foe. That way led to perpetuity and survival.

So that whatever the original aims, those that settled on Telos and elsewhere did what they did to survive.

Every appearance of the Cybermen prior to Earthshock saw a redesign – an upgrade. Five Doctors and Attack of the Cybermen saw versions way too easy to kill.

Whatever metal Mondasians used, it need not be metal as we know it. It is some other unknown-on-Earth material, which is why acetone and gold might be inimical to it – perhaps Mondas did not have gold? Perhaps they never invented acetone? It’s perfectly possible.

Gold might turn out to be something Cybermen can’t upgrade away from?

The Cybermen that Tennant fought were alternative universe versions, so they don’t count in this discussion. Seems clear enough that version are all gone.

The Moffat Cybermen have, it seemed to me anyway, been old school or Mondasian/Telosian Cybermen, even if they looked like Alternative Universe Cybermen.

It is always when Cybermen have too much dialogue that they start to lose credibility, become emotive – seek revenge rather than just proceed with their plan.

Thus, I found the emotive Cyberiad in Smith’s head or speaking through his mouth entirely unconvincing and facile – I cannot see how a true Cybermind would ever express emotion, unless to do so was part of a logical plan (and, admittedly, there were moments of that in Silver ).

No, I think it would have been better for the Cyberaid to be represented by Webley – cold, ruthless and chilling. And the actor, Jason Watkins, can do an excellent take on cold menace.

And the greatest flaw in the story ( apart from the ones I have already touched on in my post  in the Silver thread) was that the Cyberiad did not kidnap Clara and bring her to the Doctor and threaten her life. That was the ace card – the first thing commented on in the Doctor’s mind was Clara so there was no doubt that her capacity to be his weakness was known –  but the Cyberiad did not play it – preferring instead the inane Chess game which the Doctor knew all along would be one he would win by cheating. He also knew that the Cyberiad would not keep his word. It was pointless.

Why would the Cyberiad call itself Mr Clever? It makes no sense given how logical and emotionless they are meant to be.

And forgive me – but I found Smith entirely unconvincing in most of those “possession” moments. I found his acting choices predictable and they lessened the drama for me; it became about watching him rather seeing the Doctor try to outwit the Cyberiad. I said in my original post he handled these scenes “well enough” and that is what I meant – I don’t see any brilliance in that part of his performance.

Gaiman’s new twist, his invention, the Cyberiad, was actually the notion which did not impress as executed here. A pity – because executed differently – it could have been spine-tingling.

But I thought Gaiman did the right thing by the Cybermen themselves. Mostly, these were silent silver killers, ready to preserve their base and ruthlessly protect their turf. The taking out of Alice just before she detonated the planet was, well, gold!

I saw no issue either with the Tomb homage, or the three million Cybermen in their Zulu moment. You plan to conquer a Universe, 3 million seems a bit light actually.

Nor did I see anything odd in different Cybermen having different abilities – move super-fast, turn head around, detach head or hand – why should every Cyberman be the same? It’s not necessary and if its not necessary why, if you were a creature of logic, would you do it? Most situations can be overcome with sheer force of numbers – that is the Cyber way.

That reads like I didn’t enjoy it – but I did. I think it went a long way to restoring the Cybermen to the genuine menace they brought to all of their Troughton encounters. And it was fun and surprising.

A far far distance from Power of Three. And one of Smith’s better episodes ever.

In my view.


14 comments

  1. Much of Gaiman’s dialogue for the Cyberiad was laced with emotive language. Phrases like:
    “Ho, ho. Amazing.”
    “Just you try and stop me.”
    “Relax, relax. If you just relax, you will find this a perfectly pleasant experience.”
    And
    “wakey, wakey, boys and girls”

    Those lines could be delivered with cool precision, but is that what the lines call for? The first choice is deciding Why the Cyberiad would say those words, what is the motivation?

    It seems the emotion centre was reversed. The Cyberiad may have been written with all the emotion, and the Doctor was the ‘cold as ice’ character. Now, whether Smith made that explicit choice, or the text supports it, I would need to re-watch with a different eye to see (and read the transcript).

    Is there a history to support the Cyber Planner possessing personality?

  2. @Ardaraith Yes, you are right, the dialogue does make it hard, but not all of those lines you mention are necessarily emotive. “Just you try and stop me” for instance could be a classic no emotion delivery.

    We have never seen a Cyber-Planner before – if you assume that is the over-reaching Cybermind. We have seen Cyber-Controllers but this is something different.

    I guess my point is, though, that the trick should always be to make the Cybermen as logical and cold as possible – and anything else just undermines them.

    Thanks for reading the ramblings though.

  3. Cyberchat — now you’re talking!!

    Great post, @HTPBDET and I hope you’ll forgive me chipping in my tuppence worth. But can’t resist.

    I understand that you’re still ambivalent about Smith but I thought he was excellent as the Cyberplanner. I didn’t have a problem with the over-emotional aspect of his performance, largely because I didn’t consider the Cyberplanner to be a regular conversion as much as a ‘hijacking’ of the Doctor for the aims of the Cyberiad (which, the more I hear it, is a fantastic name.)

    And this brings me to…

    Cybermen and emotion. I’ll be repeating my original post on NiS here slightly but here goes anyway. I don’t think the Cybermen have ever been unemotional. Not really. They think they are, but they’re not. And the more appearances they made, the more emotional they got, until we had them clenching their fists and purring ‘exceeelleentt’, like they were the feckin’ Master or something.

    First of all, the desire for conquest or invasion is an emotive one. You can dress it up as a logical need for resources (spare parts in this case) but I think you can still argue that there’s a strong element of emotion — envy, greed — going on there too.

    As I said before, I tend to think of the Cybermen as struggling with living in bad faith (in the Existential sense of the word). I prefer the Tenth Planet version where they identified themselves more as a race of scientists rather than warriors and I think that while they say they’ve improved themselves that deep down in their collective psyche they know they’ve actually made a terrible mistake. The only way to reconcile this mistake is by ignoring it, constantly telling themselves it is a virtue and that therefore the only way to validate their lifestyle is by insisting that it is the only viable one. Conversion, therefore, is not just conversion in the mechanical/technical meaning of the word, but also in the religious sense. I think of the Cybermen as a scientific cult, an idea, rather than as a race per se. They’re not a race, let’s face it, they come from all over the place.

    This means that there can be lots of different versions of them and lots of different designs without there being any apparent contradiction. Cyberisation can pop up on lots of different planets and at different times because it is an idea, a concept of ‘living’, as much as anything else.

    Which brings me to one of my bugbears about the depiction of an emotionless enemy in SF in general. Whether you’re talking about the Cybermen, or the Borg or some other enemy, there has never been a successful depiction of an emotionless enemy ever, I think. This is largely because (TV SF anyway, although I’m aware that much of is written by scientists, such as Kit Pedler) is largely written by artists, or graduates of the Humanities, and that is by its very nature an emotional activity. I think it’s very hard for most writers, even ones with a scientific understanding of logic, to write a character completely devoid of emotion. We just don’t know how it would work. We don’t know how to do it. And that, ultimately, is to our credit as a species.

    And the reason for this, largely, is because it wouldn’t work. The physicist Michio Kaku has written a few excellent pop science books and his most recent one Physics of the Future posits that a completely emotionless artificial (or enhanced) intelligence is quite simply impossible. Every decision, from crossing the road to assimilating an entire planet, involves a degree of emotional engagement. If such an intelligence really was without any emotion whatsoever, it would be paralysed, unable to make a single decision.

    I agree with @HTPBDET that the Cybermen should be as silent as possible. I believe that Gaiman didn’t want them to be clanking or audible when they moved but that he was overruled by the production team. That was a mistake, I think. But I’ve often thought that they talked way too much. I’ve never understood the whole idea of them giving each other orders or telling each other their plans. First of all, wouldn’t they be networked together, so why can’t they just communicate their instructions over the network without resorting to speech. And secondly if they were truly logical creatures then they would inevitably understand what they were all doing by reason and internal logical deduction alone. No orders necessary.

    I also didn’t have a problem with the force of numbers at the end of the episode. It is the most logical way, after all. And we definitely needed the homage to Tomb in there. I also tended to think that the upgrades, including the speed one, could be localised, like hyper natural selection, and only apply to the one Cyberman in that particular situation. (Although surely it would make sense to communicate this ‘upgrade’ back to the mainframe and share the info with the rest).

    Phew. Sorry that was so long. Congrats if you actually read it. And if all this sounds too negative, it shouldn’t. I really liked what Gaiman did with the Cybermen. And I would count Nightmare in Silver as the best Cyber-story the series has produced since The Invasion.

    And talking of which, one final point. I could be wrong, but wasn’t the big brain in Vaughan’s office in The Invasion known as the Cyber-Planner? Maybe ultimately what they do with the information gleaned from their near conversion of the Doctor is to upload it into an artificial brain in the future/past.

  4. @HTPBDET – reading it was my pleasure! I always enjoy your posts! Thank you for sharing in this public forum, for those less knowledgeable, like myself, to glean from your experience.

  5. @JimTheFish Cyberchat is good! I thought that was the idea with these blog entries? Or have I got that wrong?

    I don’t think the Big Brain in Vaughn’s office was actually called the Cyber-Planner in the show – although that may be how it is dealt with in the novel. Not sure. You might be right. But, I do know that entity was not the supreme mind in the Cyber-hive. Towards the end of ep 3, Vaughn threatens to pull out of the plan and explicitly says “Tell that to your leader”.

    I agree with you about Cyberiad – it’s a great notion.

    I just posted this on the Guardian, but it sort of responds to your analysis as well:

    All good points – but looking at it from the only way we can, the way of human experience.
    I guess I think that Cybermen know something we don’t.
    But I have always thought there was a lot to be said for emotions being the way to defeat Cybermen – the Doctor making a choice which they would never make because it was illogical, for instance. They should plan logically, coldly, ruthlessly – not take chances unless the probability has been calculated
    I guess I just want them to play by Kit Pedler’s rules (which, to be fair, he did not always obey himself).
    I have never seen their desire to conquer as emotive – they believe they have attained perfection and they want to mirror that perfection everywhere. It’s a kind of logical equation: Cyber tech plus humanoid or flesh = conformity and eliminates chaos.

    It’s a tricky line to walk – but I think the true menace in the Cybermen lies in walking it better than was occasionally achieved here.

    “And the more appearances they made, the more emotional they got, until we had them clenching their fists and purring ‘exceeelleentt’, like they were the feckin’ Master or something.”

    Quite. Ainley’s Master anyway…I hated all that. But that was, I think, down to bad writing and directing – and David Banks have a singular take on how he wanted the Cybermen to be.

    It’s that period which did more damage to the Cybermen than anything in Troughton’s time, including the space pod notion in Wheel.

    “I prefer the Tenth Planet version where they identified themselves more as a race of scientists rather than warriors and I think that while they say they’ve improved themselves that deep down in their collective psyche they know they’ve actually made a terrible mistake. The only way to reconcile this mistake is by ignoring it, constantly telling themselves it is a virtue and that therefore the only way to validate their lifestyle is by insisting that it is the only viable one. Conversion, therefore, is not just conversion in the mechanical/technical meaning of the word, but also in the religious sense. I think of the Cybermen as a scientific cult, an idea, rather than as a race per se. They’re not a race, let’s face it, they come from all over the place.
    This means that there can be lots of different versions of them and lots of different designs without there being any apparent contradiction. Cyberisation can pop up on lots of different planets and at different times because it is an idea, a concept of ‘living’, as much as anything else.”

    I like this way of looking at it too. I am not sure there is any textual support for it, but that matters not – it is a cohesive way of explaining them.

    Part of my trouble is that I don’t want the Cybermen to just be Daleks in silver. They are very difference beasts it has always seemed to me – Daleks have emotions, Cybermen don’t. And I just wish the writers would get that distinction firmly embedded in all they do.

    But, yes, despite all that – all of the issues we jointly share, I still do not know how anyone who is even remotely interested in Doctor Who could not have found Silver Nightmare mostly damn fine fun.

    As to Smith, well…honestly, if his first story had been Snowmen and he had gone on from there as we have, I suspect I would be adding an S. He seems to me, with or perhaps because of Clara, to have decided upon a characterisation and is sticking to it. He genuinely seems to know what he is doing with the role now and in this Impossible Girl run he seems to me to be more “a Doctor” than “a spinning box with many faces”.

    As I say, I think he overplayed the possession stuff but that’s just a personal taste issue wrapped up in what I want the Cybermen to be.

    That aside, I have had a real sense of connection with him and Clara, in a way I have not had since Donna left the TARDIS.

    It mystifies me why people don’t like – actively hate – Clara. It really does.

    It does seem like Smith will go in the Christmas Special though…it is just so odd that his presence has not been confirmed while JLC has and now so has Moffat’s.

    BTW – Hilarious Bonkers Theory #5467 – Clara is Jim the Fish’s daughter…. 🙂

  6. @HTPBDET

    Yes, Clara is my kin. I can’t say she takes after her dad much though. I still think Clara is going to turn out to be a cunningly disguised Chumblie….:)

    I don’t hate Clara but I do feel that I’ve been actively prevented from really taking to her character because of the ‘mystery girl’ arc. I still don’t think she really behaves in a way that’s consistent with someone seeing these things for the first time. She doesn’t seem to have that much of a sense of wonder. She doesn’t really get scared, or overawed. She’s just largely quirky and unfazed by them. If she turns out to be some kind of construct and we start to see a ‘real’ girl next year then I’ll be more than happy. I think JLC is very personable and could be a great companion but I’m just not feeling it 100% yet.

    Of course, it is highly subjective. I felt very much the same way about the Doctor and the Ponds as you seem to about the Doc and Clara. I felt there was a real connection between the TARDIS crew during that period that I’m not feeling at the moment. It could well be that I’m subconsciously resisting Clara for that very reason. She’s just not Scottish, mouthy, leggy and redhead-ey enough…;)

  7. Interesting thoughts about this episode; and thanks @HTPBDET for the great blog post. This is slightly upgraded version of my post on the NiS thread.

    I actually thought at 1 point that emotions were going to do it again – when the cyberplanner remarks on the amount of emotion the Dr is feeling for 2 earth kids he hardly knows, I thought “aha! he’s going to flood his brain with emotions, think about the Time War, about companions lost etc etc”

    Why not? The cyberplanner is obviously affected by the little rush of emotion for the kids. It occured to me that the Dr knows at that point that he can win. But he chooses not to give too much of himself away/distract the cp with just enough emotions till he can zap it (an excuse for a physical manifestation of the Dr defeating it rather than the invisible “in your head” scenario?) Or he wants to keep the cp in his mind for a little longer so he can study it.

    The reason for the chess game, and the “sacrifice your queen” scenario is because the Dr knows that the cp will renege on his promises. BUT, if the Dr sets up a bargain part way through – my queen for the kids – he has the best chance of getting the kids uncyberised. If he just ejects the cp with aforementioned emotional flood, he still has the problem of freeing the kids. That’s his prime objective. His best chance of releasing them is by engaging with the cp in his head. The cp didn’t know he was planning the gold attack, or the zapper for example so the Dr can definitely hide some things. He chose to show the cp his regenerations so it would understand he could regenerate as a last resort (unless Dr was bluffing cf self destruct on the Tardis). It also has the side effect of keeping the cp distracted while Clara does what she can to deal with what they think is still a limited no of cyber forces.

    The cyberplanner is different from the rest – it seems to have a sense of self, and as people have remarked, it does seem to experience some emotions – which are not communicated to rest of the cybermen – excitement at finding itself in the giant superstore of the Dr’s brain. This is similar to the cybercontrollers of the past – the nerve centre, or hub – and they’ve always tended towards a bit of megalomania. The idea of a cybercontroller – a masterbrain – suggests that the cybermen have always had a notion that while they are all equal (like clones), some are more equal than others. (Those pesky megalomaniac 60s scientists again).

    I really really liked Matt’s playing of it (and am happy to sacrifice a little bit of unemotion in the cp for that!); I thought he did the creepy, sleazy, dark thing really well, beautifully lit too. However, I also wondered if the emotion in the cp could be down to the fact that he/it was in the Dr’s brain… the influence can go both ways? Being in the Dr’s brain is what unstabilises the cp. The cp says it is in control of 49.881% of the Dr’s brain – that’s a lot of brain still under Dr’s control, possibly the most specific time-lord bits, as opposed to basic motor control eg the left arm. There’s a solid block in his brain re Clara, although we don’t know why it’s there or who put it there. But it does at least raise the possibility that the Dr can fence off the most useful bits against the cp. And the timelord brain is a completely new thing for the cp – he/it may not be aware of how powerful the other 50% can be.

    We are definitely supposed to be confused occasionally as to which is which (Dr/cp) – the cp IMITATES being the Dr to Clara – that doesn’t mean he/it feels these emotions. And the fact we are confused reminds us of the “ice sliver” in his heart (thanks for the reminder @Bluesqueakpip)

    Having said all that, I agree with @JimtheFish and others – the cybermen’s origins lie in that 60s fear/hope of what science can/should do. Interesting, that while the original cybermen could only convert humans, these have now become scavengers. They may regret that. While I loved the instant upgrading – the writers will need to watch that in the future, or it will become annoying; maybe some things can’t be adapted to. And yes, genuinely non-emotional is VERY hard for a human being to write. Or maybe cybermen haven’t actually had emotions removed – only very deeply suppressed, which is why they react so badly when they are forced to confront them. I seem to remember Tennant suggested that if the converted ever realised where and what they were (ie self awareness) they would go mad.

    The other thing to remember is that this is many many years after their origin – they may very well have forgotten their imperative and body-horror origin. As I’ve suggested elsewhere, Gaiman’s version is more Dracula than Frankenstein, and while I love both, I personally find Dracula creepier. This upgrade version needs a few tweaks but the cybermen have definitely got their mojo back. 🙂

    Am with @whoHar – we demand a cyberman origins story.

  8. @ScaryB As to this:

    I actually thought at 1 point that emotions were going to do it again – when the cyberplanner remarks on the amount of emotion the Dr is feeling for 2 earth kids he hardly knows, I thought “aha! he’s going to flood his brain with emotions, think about the Time War, about companions lost etc etc”

    Why not? The cyberplanner is obviously affected by the little rush of emotion for the kids. It occured to me that the Dr knows at that point that he can win. But he chooses not to give too much of himself away/distract the cp with just enough emotions till he can zap it (an excuse for a physical manifestation of the Dr defeating it rather than the invisible “in your head” scenario?) Or he wants to keep the cp in his mind for a little longer so he can study it.

    Honestly, I thought that too at first…and how I wish it had resolved that way…

    Sending the Cyberiad mad with a flood of the Doctor’s memories (pause to note, exactly what the Doctor proposed to the Sun Vampire thing in Rings but which Clara averted) for a while, unstable at least, so that they had to deal with essentially insane unfocussed Zulu-like millions….now THAT would have been scary…

    🙂

  9. Some interesting thoughts and a big area to cover. My take on the story was that the cyberiad was invading the Doctors body and mirroring his personality. “Drawing on the local resources” in the language of the episode, for who better to defeat the Doctor than the Doctor himself?

    I agree with @JimTheFish that most representations of “emotionless” entities lack a real truth behind them. Removing emotional response from the brain would remove most drives that make humans bother to get on with life. Perhaps these could be replicated as programming and you could read “conversion” as a replacement for the drive to propagate the species?

    Strict conversion to increase numbers is also an issue. In a universe that has cloning as a potential source of spare parts, why bother to convert? That aspect is surely a recognition of the potential for new knowledge in the brain that could be added to the overall mind while reducing the body to little more than a puppet?

    The most fascinating question I find is when you compare what the Cybermen are to the real world search for Artificial Intelligence. If you had the ability to sit a Cyberman down and take the Turing Test with it remotely, I doubt if it would pass. Naturally, because the test itself is designed to evaluate if an artificial intelligence can “mirror” humans. Yet the Cyberman or guiding planner is intelligent, but with those traits that a human may recognise as human removed. A dichotomy that makes you ask if, when we ask what intelligence and consciousness is, would we ever spot it if it thought in a very different way to humans?

  10. @Phaseshift — great point about cloning. That never occurred to me before. I wonder if a good idea for a story would be the TARDIS arriving at a Cyber-farm where clones are grown for ultimate conversion — and with all the attendant questions of do the clones have the right to freedom in their own right, do they in fact belong to the Cybermen anyway, or even are they in fact already Cybermen before they’ve even been near a conversion chamber…

  11. @Phaseshift @JimTheFish

    I rather think Phaseshift’s own reasoning demonstrates why the Cybermen prefer spare parts – they want the brains because they use the brains as an integral part of each Cybermen. If a Cybermen loses an arm, another can be created from a, say, Draconian or Peladonian or Human spare part.

    But because of the way the Cybermen were created, each one requires a brain – and a clone, I have always assumed, and I don’t know why, would never be enough.

    Because there has to be a reason why they don’t just clone themselves. Otherwise, logically, they would. No?

    I agree with @PhaseShift about the Turing Test – and that is a more eloquent way of putting my long-winded thoughts. Whatever the Cybermind is, we don’t recognise it – it is beyond our comprehension, utterly foreign to our science and experience. Its what always scared me about them – they once were like us.

    The Tennant Cybermen were entirely different – I am only talking about the Mondas/Telos Cybermen.

    As to drawing on the local resources, fine, but surely it would have been more effective for the image of the Doctor the Cyberiad was using to be more cyber, more chilly, more ruthless than shouty, maniacal superpower Dr? It was the quiet cold moments, the odd few, where I thought Smith showed the possession in a very distrubing way.

    I think you both are more clever, have more scientific oriented minds than mine – so the human science of AI provides a more interesting texture for you both.

    For simple old me, though, I find the most frightening thing the Doctor has ever encountered to be the Cybermen – utterly emotionless, ruthless, single-minded inhuman killers who once were just like me. They don’t kill for the pleasure of it, they kill to get spare parts and to increase their ranks.

    I can’t explain them in any human science sense – I react to their lack of emotion in an emotional way.

    That is the paradox – and in that simple way, I love it. I love fearing them while worrying that humans are becoming them.

    All that said, I agree with @JimTheFish that a story set in a conversion farm would be a terrifying notion – and if the purpose of the story was to demonstrate why clones are no good because they will rebel from the Cyberpurpose then yes, fabulous idea! Indeed…what a genesis story that could be. The Doctor rescuing the clones from their Cyberfate only thereby to ensure that the Mondasians turn on their own kind to make the Cybermen they need…

  12. @HTPBDET – excellent piece, as always. I was always under the impression with the original series that while the Cyberman concept came from fear/fascination with cybernetics, prosthetics etc, the later character development was primarily influenced by fear of communism. Based on that, I took the removal of emotion as metaphor for the Soviet Unions crackdown on religion, the arts, on anything that didn’t advance the needs of the state. Now, I can’t find any reference to suggest that that was what the writers were actually intending, and I think that as you say, the enduring appeal of the Cybermen is simply that the concept of humans being converted into something else is horrific. Probably why the idea has been revisited with other creatures – the toclafane for example. But like the Soviets only suppressed religious expression (and at the higher echelons in fact replaced it with almost religious pursuit of expanding the communist state) – perhaps it’s not truely possible for the Cybers to completely remove emotion, and that’s why we get hints of it with the Cyberiad.

    I agree with your assumption that Telosian Cybers were likely created off the back of Mondasian expansion, but I’m not sure that as @JimTheFish suggests, a lack of emotion would render this expansion unlikely. I would imagine that the instinct to survive as a species – certainly as far as propagating the species is concerned – is not necessarily an emotional act, while conquest could be viewed as a logical necessity (for example, European exploration and incursion – at least initially – was driven as much by the need for resource as any emotional desire to rule or to push belief systems.)

    The discussion above about their failure to clone is curious – it had never occurred to me, but it would be a logical solution to a lack of parts. It would be good to see it explored (particularly as part of a genesis story!) Love the Cybers, and would love to see them elevated with a decent run of stories (really enjoyed NiS and hope its the start of an upturn in fortunes for them.)

  13. @HTPBDET, @OsakaHatter, @JimTheFish

    I thought about the cloning issue a few years ago. I always imagined it as one of those “moral” issues the Doctor was confronted with. Imagine an isolated human colony that had reached some kind of agreement with the Cybermen. To leave them in peace for exchanged clones that had the memories of their brightest and most experienced dowloaded to them.

    An equitable arrangement until a “Madman in a Blue Box” bursts in. Would he permit a status quo, or condemn those who condemned their clones and possibly see them reingage with a conflict they could not win?

    A fascinating quandry to explore.

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