Cybermen, Emotions and Nightmare in Silver
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.
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.
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.