Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Mary Shelley Plays

Following the conclusion of the EDAs, the Eighth Doctor returned to the Main Range in 2011 with a short series of audios set much earlier in his timeline, perhaps even shortly after the events of the 1996 TV Movie. Before he met Charley, the Eighth Doctor travelled with Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. This had been a recurring joke throughout the Charley era that was finally contextualised with Mary’s Story, a short audio included in the collection The Company of Friends, which told the stories of several expanded universe Eighth Doctor companions. Following this, the Eighth Doctor has several adventures with Shelley that each feature prominent Gothic themes.

#123 – The Company of FriendsMary’s Story

This audio is the final story in the four-part audio The Company of Friends, which dedicates one part to four of the Eighth Doctor’s companions, three of which originate from comics and novels, but the fourth explains a recurring joke that has persisted across all of the Eighth Doctor audios up until this point, which is that he is a close friend of Mary Shelley. Mary’s Story explains how the Eighth Doctor and Mary Shelley met, and as such it is set before the Doctor met Charley – in fact, it is one of the earliest audios in the Eighth Doctor’s timeline, chronologically speaking. It is worth mentioning that this story, along with many of the EDAs, use a particularly bizarre variation of the Doctor Who theme that was not very well-received by fans – in fact it sounds like the original Delia Derbyshire theme has been put through a blender. This theme was only briefly attributed to the Eighth Doctor, as most of his other audios use the vastly superior theme arranged by David Arnold that is considered the main theme of the Eighth Doctor. Strangely enough, the other three Mary Shelley plays use a completely unique variation of the theme with a distinct cowboy-theme that is not used anywhere else.

As a standalone story, Mary’s Story does a good enough job of introducing Mary Shelley as a companion – we of course get the iconic setting of that fateful night at Villa Diodati in 1816, and the characters of Polidori, Clairemont, Byron and the Shelleys are realised very well here. However, one cannot help but compare this story to the more recent The Haunting of Villa Diodati from Series 12, which is arguably the better of the two interpretations of this historical event, as it chooses to place a situation before Mary Shelley from which she can draw the inspiration for Frankenstein, instead of presenting all of the ideas to her on a silver platter like this audio does. One of Mary’s Story‘s biggest faults is that, due to its short run-time, it comes across as a whirlwind tour of tried-and-tested Frankenstein tropes, and although Mary’s character is realised well, the other elements of the story come across as cartoonish and hyperinflated.

There is quite an interesting time-travel plot going on here, as a future version of the Doctor (from a time in his future, after he has travelled with Charley and Lucie) arrives in Villa Diodati in a degenerated state, having been infected with vitreous time, and he ends up sending a message to his past self who arrives to provide assistance. This eventually leads to the past version of the Doctor taking Mary as a companion, which then leads to a short series of audios that are famous for their Gothic themes. Overall, this audio is a quick listen and provides the context for the series of audios to follow, but little more than that. However, there are some excellent audios to come, as fortunately the next audio in the series is one of the best Cyberman stories in the entire franchise.

#153 – The Silver Turk

Probably one of the most unconventional Cyberman stories out there, The Silver Turk utilises the horrific elements of the Cybermen exceptionally, which is no small wonder considering it was written by Mark Platt, who also wrote the audio that is considered to be the best Cyberman story – Spare Parts – and like that story, The Silver Turk involves the Mondasian Cybermen. In constrast to other Cyberman stories, however, this audio involves only a small number of Cybermen, and they are considerably weaker as the specimens involved in this story are all damaged refugees. An interesting angle to this story is that Mary feels great sympathy for the damaged and decrepit Cybermen that are present in the story, and there are several parallels to her inspiration for Frankenstein. Unlike Mary’s Story, the inclusion of Frankenstein references are far more subtle, and although The Haunting of Villa Diodati did a much better job of handling the historical figures present in the Villa Diodati, The Silver Turk is definitely a better Cyberman story. We see the Cybermen depicted as pitiful creatures, as they are damaged and stranded far from home. The setting of Vienna in the 1870s makes for a vivid setting that is brought to life with some excellent supporting cast.

Speaking of which, The Silver Turk benefits from a small cast and a concise story that invokes several horror elements – and not just from the Cybermen. There are more than a few nefarious characters at work in Vienna who want to make use of the Cybermen for their own gains, and the Silver Turk itself is arguably a victim more than a villain – it is not hard to pity the creature as Mary does, particularly as it is of the early Mondasian variety and has more of a personality than a standard Cyberman. This is definitely a good audio to listen to around Halloween, as like all of the Mary Shelley plays there are more than a few Gothic elements at play. The thought of a vicious, legless, three-armed Cyberman scuttling around the streets murdering people and stealing their eyes, as well as a mortally wounded Cyberman being used as a performing automaton in the Vienna Exposition, is truly terrifying.

Needless to say, The Silver Turk subverts many tropes of standard Cyberman stories, and is definitely one of the most unique and creative uses of the monster in Doctor Who history. There is a constant sense of foreboding as the presence of the Cybermen, and other malevolent forces, are ever-present. This audio plays on the idea of the philosophy and physiology of Cybermen corrupting the nature of humans and inspiring them to imitate the metal monstrosities, to the extent that there are two threats – the Cybermen, and the humans who want to imitate them. In some ways, this audio is similar to a Seventh Doctor novel that was based on a script for an unmade TV story, called Illegal Alien – both involve critically damaged Cybermen hunting people in the streets, and involve Cybermen displaced out of time. The best thing about The Silver Turk is how it embraces its setting and context, and utilises the Cybermen in a very classical-science-fiction manner that really shows how versatile the Cybermen are when used by the right writer.


#154 – The Witch from the Well

Continuing with the Gothic themes of the series, The Witch from the Well contemplates the possibility of medieval witches being the responsibility of alien influence – again, another plotline that was harvested for the Thirteenth Doctor era for The Witchfinders. Unfortunately, The Witch from the Well continues the less-than-stellar precedent set by Mary’s Story, in that the Doctor just outright tells Mary Shelley that she needs to write Frankenstein, thereby taking all agency away from her and implying that the ideas were not in fact her own. This is without doubt the worst way to handle a historical figure on Doctor Who, and it is a bad start to the audio. The characterisation of the side characters in this story is interesting, as the story discusses themes of not treating people from the past too harshly due to the prevalent views at the time, yet also depicts all of the townspeople as two-dimensional, generic characters who are basically just there to fulfil a purpose and get very little development. There is one character, Beatrix, who becomes a pseudo-companion for part of this story, but she is the only townsperson with any kind of development.

Speaking of which, this story features a murderous witchfinder called John Kincaid, who is very much a villain in this audio, though that is understandable as he represents some of the most loathed figures in history. The main threat in this story primarily comes from extra-terrestrial sources, though there is a constant reminder that the horrendous atrocities of medieval witch-trials were carried out entirely by humans. There are alien villains too, however, who are operating at the same time – the Doctor and Mary are separated, and each one has to work out pieces of both puzzles on their own. There is also a significant development in Mary’s character, as she is given the chance to read up on her own future during a trip to the 21st Century, and uses the TARDIS library to read up on the alien threat and devise a way to counter them, something that is very rarely seen on Doctor Who but makes a nice touch in this story, particularly given Mary Shelley’s connection to literature.

Overall, this audio is a fun listen, though it relies heavily on some hand-waving to explain away the ‘magical’ elements of the plot. The explanation that ‘Odic energy’ causes latent psychic powers among humans is an interesting concept, and the New Series has certainly implied that some humans are capable of seemingly supernatural abilities before with the infamous ‘four knocks’ prophecy. As such, The Witch from the Well is a decent addition to the Mary Shelley plays, and it employs more Gothic elements – including themes reminiscent of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers – to great effect. The satisfying thing about this audio is that everyone gets their comeuppance, and the body count of this story is surprisingly high. The characterisation of Mary Shelley as a companion is strong, though as previously mentioned there are some issues with the idea of simply handing the ideas for Frankenstein to her. Julie Cox does an exceptional job as Mary Shelley, but unfortunately her character direction could have done with some more work.


#155 – Army of Death

The final Mary Shelley story immediately gets the plot going with the city of Stronghaven on the planet Draxine, which is not only going through political turmoil but is also seeing attacks from skeletal bonemen following a war that completely devastated their twin-city of Garrak. Although described as a place of tranquillity and safety by the Doctor, it is clear that all is not as it should be in Stronghaven, and former citizens of Garrak who live in the city are ostracised and hunted down. This makes for a very dynamic setting for an audio, and as these basic plot elements are established quickly, the actual narrative gets going right out of the gate. The President of Stronghaven, Vallan, is initially painted as a villain, though it is clear that there is more at work than the machinations of a politician, and the Gothic themes of this story start to show as Vallan is haunted by the spectre of his recently-deceased predecessor. The Bonemen make for an intimidating threat, and because the Doctor and Mary get separated, the Stormhaven security forces prove to be more of a burden than a help.

As such, this audio is very much a case of the Doctor arriving in a situation and doing his best to save everyone, whilst also figuring out the mysteries surrounding the leadership of Stormhaven, and why the army of the dead is seemingly so intent on attacking the city. Mary begins to show doubts about her travels with the Doctor early in the story, as she admits that she is beginning to have romantic feelings for him that are contrary to her feelings for her husband, Percy. Another tragic romance is present throughout this story, as President Vallan is involved in a love affair with his Vice-President, who also happens to be a former resident of Garrak who moved to Stormhaven as a child. The intrigue that is woven throughout this story is another interesting factor, and there are some great settings brought to life with a great soundtrack, excellent sound design and talented voice artists.

Overall, Mary Shelley’s time with the Eighth Doctor is fun, and these audios are each unique in their own way. The focus on Gothic elements to match the themes of Frankenstein is a great idea, though there are some issues with the implementation of Mary as a companion. As previously mentioned, there are too many instances of Shelley simply being given key ideas or themes for Frankenstein instead of coming up with them herself, and these are too prevalent throughout the series to be given a pass. Considering that this is the shortest era of the Eighth Doctor with only four stories, each story has a role and each one implements Gothic elements with varying degrees of competency – Mary’s Story is mediocre but introduces the new companion well, The Silver Turk works very well as a standalone Cyberman story, The Witch from the Well is a fun listen with some issues but some great Gothic elements, and Army of Death serves as a good finale with some bizarre imagery and great character moments – the goodbye scene between Mary and the Doctor is particularly poignant, and she finally gives the Doctor her journal, thus fulfilling the near-decade long prophecy that was first mentioned as far back as Storm Warning. Ultimately, it is a shame that Mary Shelley’s time as a companion hasn’t been revisited in subsequent Eighth Doctor audios, and it is nearly ten years since we last heard from her. The ambiguous nature of the ending of Army of Death suggests that more stories featuring Shelley could be possible in the future, only time will tell if this eventually transpires.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Dark Eyes 1

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 1

Following the resounding success of the TV revival series of Doctor Who that launched in 2005, peripheral Doctor Who mediums quickly adapted to capitalise on the huge increase in potential fans that would want to explore other mediums separate from the TV series. Big Finish were no different, and they launched the immensely successful Eighth Doctor Adventures in 2006 starring Paul McGann as the increasingly popular Eighth Doctor and Sheridan Smith as new companion Lucie Miller. These audios swap out the format of previous Eighth Doctor audios – stories divided into four 25-minute episodes in a format similar to Classic Who – in favour of the New Series story format – single 45-minute episodes, with the occasional two-part story. This means that, if the New Series is a format that you are more accustomed to, the Eighth Doctor Adventures are an excellent jumping-on point because they not only share a similar tone to the modern TV Series, they also use a familiar approach to character and story development, such as recurring story arcs that feature in every story, and a companion who originates from what was the modern day at the time.

1.1 / 1.2 – Blood of the Daleks

The first story in the Eighth Doctor Adventures is a two-part story that introduces new companion Lucie Miller as well as depicting the Eighth Doctor’s next encounter with the Daleks. It does both fairly well, though the introduction of Lucie is over very quickly before the main story begins to unfold. This is perhaps the quickest companion introduction Big Finish have attempted thus far, and this is probably due to the fact that the EDAs were designed to mimic the style and tone of the New Series, which had only recently released when this series of audios began in 2006, so things move a bit faster than in the Main Range audios. The premise is simple – the Doctor and Lucie materialise the TARDIS on the planet Red Rocket Rising, which has been recently devastated by a meteorite impact. The remaining human population is scrabbling to survive amongst the ruins of their society, and a rampaging mob is hunting down the Acting President Eileen Klint and another woman called Asha, as it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to the situation than meets the eye. Another survivor, Tom Cardwell, is considered an insane tinfoil-hat prophesier of doom by his fellow citizens, but despite his appearance Cardwell also knows more than he is telling, as he has created defences against the acid rain and frequent dust storms.

The plot revolves around Professor Martez, an insane scientist who was using human remains and living human specimens to harvest samples for genetic experiments that were intended to improve the people of Red Rocket Rising. Martez and his assistant Asha were arrested for their violations of human ethics, though Martez later died and his assistant was freed by Klint in the hopes that the two of them could try to restart the society of Red Rocket Rising. There is an incredible scene where the two of them are rummaging around in the ruins of Martez’s laboratory and they reactivate a receiver, only to hear the grating voice of the Daleks sending signals down to the planet. Although there are several twists in this story that can be seen coming from a mile off, there are some others that are very well-hidden and there are some great reveals that are very well-executed. If there is one thing that Blood of the Daleks does well, it is that it does an exceptional job of illustrating the incredible devastation that the Daleks can dish out, particularly when they find the actions of a planet or culture particularly offensive. In this case, the Daleks seek to root out and destroy Martez’s work because they see it as any attempt to imitate the Daleks as an affront that must be destroyed.

Another interesting aspect to this story is that, due to circumstance, the Doctor and the Daleks end up briefly teaming up – it is always fun when the Doctor and the Daleks work together, and this story is a great example of why. It is also worth noting that Sheridan Smith does an exceptional job voicing Lucie Miller, for her first audio the new companion is immediately likeable in much the same way as Rose was in the first episode of the New Series. Although Lucie Miller is similar to Rose in that she is a relatable young female companion, there are distinct personality differences between the two, and Lucie often feels more similar to Donna than Rose as she has a much spikier personality. It is great that Lucie’s first audio is a Dalek story, as she is put in the unique position of having a harrowing adventure the first time around and then having more light-hearted travels later on, whereas for most companions the adjustment goes the other way. It is particularly harrowing hearing the Doctor relive memories of the genesis of a Dalek species, as there are a lot of parallels between the events that happen on Red Rocket Rising in this audio and those that happen on Skaro in Genesis of the Daleks. Overall, Blood of the Daleks is a fantastic opening to the EDAs that sets the tone of the series perfectly, introduces Lucie Miller as the Eighth Doctor’s newest companion and tells a fantastic Dalek story.

1.3 – Horror of Glam Rock

The title of this audio is a humorous reference to the Fourth Doctor TV story Horror of Fang Rock, and although there is no direct relation between the two stories, this one does have a distinct 1970s feel. The Doctor and Lucie arrive in 1974, and quickly discover the body of a man described as a ‘Glam Rocker’ who had been murdered by a savage beast, before the creature starts attacking a nearby diner. This story is notable for starring both Una Stubbs and Bernard Cribbins, and needless to say the supporting cast put in an excellent performance that really brings this story to life. The sound design is also excellent, with the soundtrack taking on a bit of the Glam Rock feel. There are some tense scenes in this story, and there are some sequences that are reminiscent of Tooth and Claw from the TV series. Instead of one werewolf, however, the Doctor and Lucie are up against several bear-like creatures with scales, with just the resources and occupants of a 1970s diner for backup.

The use of the stylophone as part of the setup is great, not only because the unique instrument has its own distinctive sound but also because it is used in a really creative and creepy way in this story that really adds to the atmosphere. The creatures use the stylophone to possess the musician who plays them, and the creatures eventually use this to undermine the Doctor’s efforts to protect the people in the diner. Arnold Korns, the manager of a band called the Tomorrow Twins who is played by Bernard Cribbins, proves himself to be particularly cruel and ends up doing more harm than good by attempting to save himself, purely so that he can make his appearance on an episode of Top of the Pops. Another of the side characters, called Pat, turns out to be Lucie’s auntie in her youth, which creates a fair bit of intrigue as Lucie gives away too much to her without realising the implications.

As Lucie’s first trip to the past, Horror of Glam Rock is a great audio that takes full advantage of the shorter format to deliver a punchy story that would not have felt out of place in the Russel T. Davies era of the TV series. We get to hear more of the Doctor and Lucie interacting as their friendship strengthens, and at the conclusion of this story there is a heartwarming moment where the Doctor asks Lucie to travel with him as a full-time companion, instead of as a temporary passenger. We also get more of a development of the series arc that was hinted at in the conclusion of the previous story, as the mysterious Headhunter searches for Lucie Miller in the diner after they have left, proving that she is chasing the Doctor and Lucie through time and space.

1.4 – Immortal Beloved

This audio deals with the concepts of young love and religion, and thrusts the Doctor and Lucie into a bizarre society styled after Ancient Greece that exists on a planet in the 34th century. They meet two lovers, Sarati and Kalkin, who at first appear to be attempting suicide, though it is clear that there is more going on than it first appears when military helicopters arrive to intervene. The society is run by two individuals, called Zeus and Hera, who seem to be part-ruler and part-god, worshipped by their subjects. Other high-ranking figures in this society have names inspired by Greek mythology, such as Ares and Ganymede, and the architecture of the planet is also inspired by Ancient Greece. Though this might seem a strange choice, all becomes clear as the story of this audio unfolds. As usual the sound design is excellent, and it is interesting to note that Paul McGann’s son, Jake McGann, appears in this audio, and it won’t be his last role in the Eighth Doctor Adventures.

At this point, Lucie Miller has been firmly established as a companion, and Sheridan Smith does a fantastic job of actualising the character. Lucie is a great companion who is very different from Charley, and this audio is a great showcase of how she reacts to situations differently. Although she and the Eighth Doctor didn’t get on initially, by now they have become close friends and have learned to trust each other. They are confronted with an interesting dilemma in this story, as the society has been constructed around the concept of the members of the ruling class transferring their consciousnesses to younger clones of themselves who they raise as children. As such, there is a constant cycle of life and death as the older rulers rear their young only to steal their bodies. The original crew of the colony ship who brought the settlers to the planet continue to do this in order to preserve the society that they have created, as they believe that without their guidance the carefully-crafted civilisation would fall.

This audio is definitely an interesting listen, not least because it deals with the bizarre implications of a society built by body-hopping consciousnesses who have set themselves up as gods. They have transferred their minds so many times under their fake god names that they can barely remember who they originally were, and although all talk of the worlds outside the planet are banned, the ‘gods’ are quick to turn to drastic measures to try to find the parts for their cloning machines and mind-transference devices that, after thousands of years of use, have started to decay. Faced with the downfall of their civilisation, it is clear that the former humans masquerading as gods will go to any lengths to ensure their own survival.

1.5 – Phobos

This audio starts with one of the best cold opens in the series so far, set in a ski resort that has been constructed in a bio-dome on the surface of Phobos, the innermost moon of Mars. As the blurb on the back of the CD points out, ‘Phobos’ is the Ancient Greek word for ‘fear’, and it quickly becomes apparent that some kind of creature is stalking skiers on the resort, despite the extreme nature of the setting. Rumours are abound amongst the staff of the resort and the adrenaline-junkies that bizarre monsters stalk them in the night, and this audio does a great job of using the setting to create some really tense scenes set amongst the howling winds of the icy environment and some very creepy imagery. The Doctor and Lucie find a woman shivering from fear, not cold, and next to her lies a mutilated body that kicks off the mystery.

Phobos is another monster run-around, though it is distinctly different from Horror of Glam Rock in both setting and tone. The soundtrack is excellent, as is the sound design, and Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith put in excellent performances as always. Unfortunately, the supporting cast are not very memorable, and apart from a few exceptions they are mostly interchangeable. There are a few surprising twists in this story that make it an interesting listen, though it does seem to resemble Scooby-Doo at times, with Lucie even dropping a reference that confirms this. That is a suitable analogy for this story -if you enjoy classic monster run-arounds with overblown sci-fi concepts then this is the ideal story for you, so from that point of view it somewhat resembles a Third Doctor story.

Arguably the only downside to this story is that Lucie Miller is not given much to do as a companion, as the quick pacing means that the vast majority of the plot advancement is spearheaded by the Doctor, with Lucie seemingly just tagging along for the ride. As such, the Headhunter appears but is played more for laughs than an actual serious threat, though it seems certain that the next story will feature the long-awaited encounter between her and Lucie Miller.

1.6 – No More Lies

This audio has an interesting opening, as we see an adventure already in progress with the Doctor and Lucie pursuing a man called ‘Zimmerman’ who is attempting to collect rare time-travel technology and has attracted the attention of several time scavengers in the area. One thing that is notable is that it appears that some time has passed, as Lucie is now confident and capable enough to chase down a villain through a time ship while the Doctor waits in the TARDIS, and then helps fly the ship by typing in co-ordinates, proving that her and the Doctor have been travelling together for some time and have come to rely on each other greatly, and Lucie is more willing to discuss ‘sciencey’ and technobabble-orientated dialogue, whereas in previous stories she has often shrugged it off.

The setting of this story is interesting – a seemingly unintentional time-loop has trapped Zimmerman, aged 30 years older than he was when the Doctor and Lucie met him, in an endless dinner party along with all the guests – this provides some great opportunities for interesting narrative elements involving such a bizarre temporal anomaly, and despite everything it soon becomes clear that Zimmerman has changed somewhat in the 30 years since he last met the Doctor – he has a human wife, for a start – and as the Vortisaurs and Tar Modowk close in, the Doctor has to figure out if he believes Zimmerman’s stories of redemption and forgiveness, and indeed if the time loop is the result of any insidious action at all.

As always, the sound design of this audio is incredible, and No More Lies is particularly memorable because it features guest stars Nigel Havers and Julia McKenzie as Nick and Rachel Zimmerman. This audio keeps you guessing throughout and delivers a satisfying conclusion, making good use of its runtime to present a well-paced story. The Headhunter also makes her triumphant return in this audio, having literally fallen off her bike in Phobos she has a much more effective presence here, arriving at the last second to snatch Lucie just before she enters the TARDIS.

1.7 / 1.8 – Human Resources

Having been abducted by the Headhunter at the end of the previous story, Lucie is transported to what initially appears to be a boring office – the same one that she was supposed to be started her first day at in the prologue of Blood of the Daleks. The Doctor is sent after her by a Time Lord called Strax, who makes his first appearance in this story but will become more important later, via a Time Ring that is given to the Doctor by the Time Lords. It soon becomes clear that there is more at work in this office than meets the eye, as the office workers and phone operators discuss co-ordinated battle tactics in the same manner as a standard company staff would discuss ordinary day-to-day activities – the Doctor infiltrates the company and soon discovers that they have been commissioned to attack targets on a planet, and the office is in fact a huge mobile structure – the entire staff have been brainwashed to think that they are still on Earth but they are in fact aboard a walking weapons platform. This is a great setting for the first part, and the office environment is really brought to life, complete with overbearing sexist bosses and mundane PA announcements. Lucie soon finds out the hard way that staff who are fired get ejected from the building and have to join the war going on outside, or scavenge among the ruins in order to survive. The Doctor, in the meantime, pretends to be a client looking to instigate a planetary invasion – there is an amusing scene in which the Doctor bluffs his way into the bosses’ confidence by arranging a military coup on Gallifrey, and although he certainly isn’t serious it gives the impression that he has given the matter some thought in the past.

Naturally, the Doctor heads into the situation with the intent of taking down this company, as the thought of reducing the process of planetary invasion to a business arrangement doesn’t sit right with him or Lucie. However, as events unfold and part one draws to a close it becomes clear that there is something that has not been accounted for – the Doctor steps in to defend the inhabitants of the planet under attack, without thinking to investigate who they are and why they are being attacked in the first place. As it happens, the race under attack is the Cybermen, and part one ends with a fantastic cliff-hangar that, due to the two discs being released separately, came as a complete surprise to the listeners at the time. The Cybermen in this story are a variant of the late-Second Doctor era Cybermen who have settled on the planet Lonsis, though they also seem to share many elements with the Cybus Cybermen including stompy feet and a very similar voice, making these Cybermen an interesting hybrid of Classic and New Series Cyberman traits.

The Headhunter is also utilised excellently in this audio, as her motives and character become clear almost immediately. Hired by the company to recover Lucie Miller when she was abducted by the Time Lords, the Headhunter has no real affiliation with them, and so when the Cybermen invade one of the weapons platforms, she agrees to help Lucie to save herself, which makes perfect sense for the character as she is not inherently evil, just motivated by monetary gain. We also learn a bit more about how the Time Lords are beginning to take an interest in interfering with the interstellar wars scattered throughout time, but their willingness to intervene in order to combat the Cybermen foreshadows more serious conflicts to come. Establishing the Celestial Intervention Agency as an even-present threat that has been influencing events leading up to this point is important for later audio stories in the Eighth Doctor’s life, and it is particularly interesting that Straxus is introduced alongside this concept, which is some brilliant foreshadowing for events later in the series. Overall, Human Resources is a great finale to the first series that answers many questions about the ongoing story arc of the EDAs but leaves enough plot threads hanging that, although it provides a satisfying conclusion to the series, it also establishes many of the plot elements for the next series.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 2, Part 1

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Late Charley Era Part 2

The Late Charley era continues with the next set of audios that seem more of a deviation from the Divergent Universe in terms of setting, but are still somewhat reminiscent of the audios of the previous era in terms of tone. Although one could argue that the overall tone of the audios is dictated by the presence of C’rizz, as he was a native of the Divergent Universe, it is unfortunate that because almost every audio featuring the character is a bizarre dreamscape-like world that leaves the listener constantly second-guessing everything, we never get the opportunity to fully get to know the character in a regular setting before he departs.

#83 – Something Inside

From the get-go Something Inside seems completely derivative, featuring the fractured-narrative presentation that has become a regular trope in this series of audios at this point as well as the time-honoured tradition of having the Eighth Doctor suffer from memory loss. As with all Big Finish audios, the sound design is excellent, but unfortunately there is little substance to back up the great sound effects, voice acting and musical score. The plot follows a base-under-siege format that is common enough for Doctor Who but at this point there is expected to be a spin on the concept, yet here there is a particularly bland aspect to the delivery that makes this audio somewhat forgettable.

As a general rule the post-Divergent Universe audios do tend to blend into one, and Something Inside only adds to the fatigue of a sequence of particularly bizarre and dreamscape-like audios that really should have just been included in the Divergent Universe arc. At this point it probably sounds like a stuck record as these reviews keep swinging back to the old ‘Divergent Universe’ point, but at this point it’s important to emphasise that the decision to prematurely end the Divergent Universe arc and hastily rewrite the remaining audios to accommodate this fact was a decision that seems very questionable in hindsight. The reasoning that newer listeners would feel alienated by the Divergent Universe arc seems somewhat flimsy, considering the fact that Big Finish had three other ranges running with the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors at the same time, and that their entire back-catalogue was still available online.

If you’re a fan of stories that use the base-under-siege format, then it is recommended that you listen to this one in isolation – there is nothing wrong with the story when taken as a single entity, it just isn’t particularly stunning – what really brings this audio down is that it sits at the end of a long line of generic non-linear stories. Clearly the audios in the post-Divergent Universe run of stories are meant for a very particular kind of fan, and nothing showcases this more than Something Inside. The best thing about the audio is its frightening horror-elements, which is does fairly well, but it is definitely not the best scary story in the Eighth Doctor’s pantheon.


#88 – Memory Lane

A bizarre audio that delves into the nature of memory and childhood, this one benefits from a small cast, a concise story and a beautiful soundtrack – in fact, the soundtrack to this one is reminiscent of the ambient music from the Kashyyyk level on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. The premise is simple – the Doctor, Charley and C’rizz arrive in an area that is seemingly constructed around the memories of a single person, a man who has regressed to a child-like state and spends his time building Lego spaceships whilst a seemingly benevolent yet inhuman construct resembling his long-dead grandmother continuously supplies him with fish fingers, chips, peas and other refreshments, whilst the street a hundreds of identical houses outside is patrolled by a deranged ice-cream man wearing an astronaut suit.

Of all the dreamscape-like audios in the post-Divergent Universe arc, this is the most memorable. Memory Lane stands out as a breath of fresh air – there’s some funny moments that lighten the mood, the imagery is stark and impactful, and there is perhaps the best use of C’rizz in his era. Paul McGann, India Fisher and Conrad Westmaas are exceptional as always, and this audio delivers a lot of great scenes that illustrate how close the trio have become during their travels together. Another thing worth mentioning is how interesting the villains of this story are, there is an element of mystery surrounding their intentions – as the events unfold, it quickly becomes clear that all is not as it seems.

We also get to learn more about Charley, who has received little in the way of character development since her and the Doctor confessed their feelings for each other in Scherzo. As she is slowly drawn into the bizarre dreamland that surrounds them, the Doctor learns more about her childhood as false representations of her mother, as well as a version of Charley as a child, give us an insight into her upbringing. We also get a brief insight into the Doctor’s ‘perfect moment’, the ideal that he strives for, and we discover that it is the moment after defeating a menacing foe when his companions are safely back in the TARDIS. A small detail perhaps, but a heart-warming notion nonetheless.

#101 – Absolution

This audio kicks off to a great start with some bizarre imagery and horrific concepts, as the TARDIS is wrenched apart in a forbidden sector of space that the Doctor theorises is the Hell that so many species across the Galaxy believe in. The sound design is exceptional, with a nightmarish score that emphasises the horrendous nature of the setting. The heart of the TARDIS scene is truly horrifying, with the central column filling with blood easily being one of the most disturbing and visceral images in the series so far. As usual Paul McGann, India Fisher and Conrad Westmaas are excellent, and they are given some great scenes as this audio deals with some interesting concepts.

Unfortunately, there are some pacing issues with this one, and there are stretches that are quite boring, with the hellish setting becoming dull and repetitive after a while. Naturally, the most notable thing about this audio is that it is the final story for C’rizz, and his departure is perhaps one of the most decisive in Doctor Who history, as his fate has been foreshadowed from as far back as Terror Firma. We finally learn what the various pieces of the puzzle mean and how they fit together, with a few last-minute pieces being conjured up to fill in the gaps.

C’rizz’s departure scene is particularly heartfelt, and although the sequence has been criticised in the past, there are some genuine moments and India Fisher in particular is exceptional. In the end, C’rizz’s fate was predetermined, and although some have said that the Doctor’s reaction is out of character, the idea of the Doctor being emotionally detached has been explored a lot in New Who, and Charley’s reaction to this is understandable – in many ways the scene between the Doctor and Charley is similar to the Doctor and Clara in Kill the Moon, the only redeemable thing about that atrocious episode.


#103 – The Girl Who Never Was

Still reeling from the loss of C’rizz in the previous audio, Charley decides to leave the TARDIS. The writers handled the Eighth Doctor’s first companion departure story well, and we see a hint of the New Series angle of throwing a crisis at the Doctor that forces his companion to separate from him. The Cyberman on the cover spoils that they appear here, though it is clear before they even show up that the Doctor and Charley’s relationship has been irreparably damaged. Ironically, Charley would later go on to travel with the Sixth Doctor in a later series of audios, which will probably be reviewed here once the Eighth Doctor audios are finished. Charley gets some great character development in this story, and we get a sense of how she could hold her own as the main character in her own spinoff, which she would eventually get in the Charlotte Pollard: Edwardian Adventuress spinoff series. As a conclusion to the Charley Era as a whole, The Girl Who Never Was is a great send-off for the Eighth Doctor and Charley as a pair and their departure scene is truly heart-breaking. Charley is probably the closest that Big Finish got to creating a character like Clara from the New Series, in that she eventually gained the ability to adapt the Doctor’s mannerisms and character traits to the point that they are just as capable of problem-solving as the Doctor themselves – and Charley is easily one of the most independent and capable of the Doctor’s companions, from any medium, and there is no better showcase of this than The Girl Who Never Was.

As far as the Cybermen go in this story, they aren’t actually introduced until the third part – but their presence is still menacing, and the idea of a gang of rusty Cybermen with rotting brains skulking around a Ghost Ship is a horrifying concept, and this audio brings it to life with a fantastic story involving two separate Cyberman invasions taking place at two points in time. This is one of the instances in which the use of a fractured narrative is warranted, as we see both the Doctor and Charley reach the same conclusions as they repel their subsequent Cyberman invasions as they are separated, though there is a bizarre twist or two in here that make it a memorable story to say the least. Another factor that needs to be taken into account is the sound design, as the Cyberman voices are exceptional in this story and it is clear that Nicholas Briggs has nailed a wide variety of different Cyber-voices, from the bizarre sing-song voice of the Mondasian Cybermen, to the robotic-sounding voices used here that are similar (but not identical) to the voices used for the Cybus Cybermen in the New Series.

Overall, The Girl Who Never Was is a great conclusion to the Charley Era. As companion send-offs go it is definitely one of the best, there are some great scenes with the Cybermen, and Charley gets some incredible character growth before her departure from the Eighth Doctor is concluded. Despite a run of lacklustre stories in the run-up to this one, The Girl Who Never Was feels like a return to form and it is a great conclusion to the first era of the Eighth Doctor. Following this audio, the Eighth Doctor received a few more audios in the Main Range, set before he met Charley, in which he briefly travels with Mary Shelley, and after that he received his own series in the Eighth Doctor Adventures starring Sheridan Smith as new companion Lucie Miller. Having listened to the entirety of Charley’s run with the Eighth Doctor, it is easy to pick out the best of the run. There were some great Dalek and Cyberman stories, some surprising reappearances of classic villains, and more than a few fantastic original audios. It is difficult saying goodbye to Charley, even after half a dozen listens of these stories, though her further travels with the Sixth Doctor are definitely worth a listen, and eventually we will get round to reviewing them. But before then, we must continue with the Eighth Doctor odyssey.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – EDAs Series 1

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Early Charley Era Part 1

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts in which I will be reviewing all of the Eighth Doctor audio dramas produced by Big Finish from beginning to end. This series will serve as part-review, part-guide for those who want to get into the Eighth Doctor audios but aren’t sure where to begin. The Eighth Doctor audios started in 2001 when Paul McGann starred in his first audio for Big Finish’s Main Range, titled Storm Warning. Until then, McGann’s only performance as the Eighth Doctor was in the 1996 TV Movie, and although he has gone on to become a cult fan-favourite due to the huge number of audio stories he has since starred in, back in 2001 the Eighth Doctor audios were seen as experimental, allowing the writers free reign to write about more expansive concepts as they were not tied to writing stories for the ‘Classic Era’.

#16 – Storm Warning

The first Big Finish audio starring Paul McGann as the Doctor does a fantastic job of reintroducing us to the character of the Eighth Doctor (who listeners at the time had only seen in the 1996 TV movie up until this point) as well as introducing us to the new companion, Charley Pollard, and the series arc that continues throughout her time in the TARDIS. Charley, played by India Fisher, receives a strong introduction in this story, as her character as an Edwardian adventuress is well-established as she boards the doomed English airship R101 and subsequently encounters the Doctor. Charley is a wonderful companion original to the Big Finish audios who plays an important role in the early phase of the Eighth Doctor’s tenure, and she immediately proves her worth in her debut story.

Through Charley we are introduced to Paul McGann’s Doctor, who keeps many of the character traits present in the TV Movie but is given much more time to develop the characterisation and add many subtle nuances to his performance. The Eighth Doctor emerges in this story fully-formed, and although he goes on to experience several character shifts throughout the vast range of Big Finish Eighth Doctor stories, his character for the duration of the Charley era is firmly established in this story. This Doctor has the air of having gleaned a huge amount of knowledge and experience from their seven previous lifetimes, and yet is also very scatterbrained and is among the most human and relatable Doctors of the Classic era.

Storm Warning tells a wonderful story within its source material, as the era is brought to life in this story through a range of interesting characters who really help set the scene to flesh out the era of 1930, and there are great cliffhangers throughout that are punctuated by the new arrangement of the theme composed by none other than James Bond composer David Arnold. Although Storm Warning is not technically the Eighth Doctor’s first story, as he debuted in the TV Movie, those who have never seen that film will have lost nothing as Storm Warning does a brilliant job of establishing the new Doctor, new companion and new era for Big Finish.


#17 – Sword of Orion

The Eighth Doctor’s first outing with the Cybermen is written by none other than Nicholas Briggs, who takes inspiration from the Alien series for this audio to deliver a story that is both spooky and thrilling. Sword of Orion is essentially a space opera, with a variety of locations and characters to illustrate the diversity of the Galaxy in 2503, and also references several Classic TV Cyberman stories such as The Tomb of the Cybermen. The Cybermen themselves are depicted well in this story, which is a considerable feat as this was the first audio story to feature them. The voices are reminiscent of the more human-sounding voices of the earlier Cybermen, though there is also a hint of the 80s-era voice in some specific scenes, particularly involving rogue Cybermen. This story is suitably creepy, as its primary setting is a derelict Cyberman Star Destroyer which is excellently depicted by the fantastic sound design present in this story. Everything from ominous creaking bulkheads to distant shrieks of insane Cybermen makes this audio an unnerving one to listen to with headphones on at night.

There is a particularly creepy scene in which the Doctor finds an abandoned Cyber-conversion facility that still contains the remains of its last victims, which gives a chilling insight into the horrific nature of cyber-conversion. The supporting characters give this story a significant degree of depth, particularly as we spend a fair amount of time with the side cast before they encounter the Cybermen – we also get a fair amount of worldbuilding that explains the current situation of not only the Cybermen but also the Humans and their current conflict with a race of androids who rebelled against Human control and eventually conquered their own system – Orion. The introduction of the android race as a third party separate from the Humans and the Cybermen is an interesting dynamic that presents interesting questions about the nature of the Cybermen compared to humanity and a race of synthetics.

Overall this story is a great first outing in the TARIS for Charley, who demonstrates her impressive ability to absorb information and quickly adapts to the nature of space travel despite being from the 1930s. One of Charley’s most endearing characteristics which is prominent in this story is her investigative mind and curious personality, which combined helps her to keep up to speed with the intrigue developing between other characters in a story at the same rate as the Doctor – although she does fill the companion role of asking questions, Charley quickly establishes herself as among the most resourceful and adventurous companions.


#18 – The Stones of Venice

The first audio that Paul McGann recorded for Big Finish, The Stones of Venice is interesting because although it is set in the future of 2294, it often comes across as a historical story because of the manner in which a lot of the supporting characters behave. This story depicts a very stylised view of 23rd century Venice at the point in which the city is doomed to sink into the sea, and the population of the city has essentially resigned themselves to that fate. There is certainly a melancholy atmosphere to this story, though there are enough lighthearted moments to keep it from being too bleak. Although this audio is set in Venice it is a very different story from the more famous Doctor Who story set in the same place, the Eleventh Doctor TV story Vampires of Venice, though there are some unusual similarities.

This audio develops the relationship between the Doctor and Charley and firmly establishes the pair as a time-travelling duo – the best companions are usually established by their second or third story, and Charley Pollard is no exception. There is an amusing scene early on in which Charley criticises the interior design of the TARDIS (which retains the design from the TV Movie), arguing that the Victorian aesthetic seems very out-of-date from her perspective as a native of the 1930s – moments like these continue to reinforce Charley’s role as a companion viewing events through the lens of the past, and yet Charley’s character is as forward-thinking as any modern companion. The bleak nature of this story is counteracted by the dynamic interaction between the Doctor and Charley that keeps this one interesting, though the side characters have a tendency to hop between theatrically melancholy to dramatically over-the-top.

This is essentially an audio that reinforces the pre-existing characterisation of the Eighth Doctor and Charley – whilst it is by no means essential listening to understand the wider story of the series, those who skip this audio will miss out on some great scenes between Paul McGann and India Fisher that helps to firmly establish their characters as a unique Doctor-companion duo – in the unlikely event that you were unsure about the Eighth Doctor and Charley during Storm Warning and Sword of Orion, The Stones of Venice completes the set and rounds off the first three Eighth Doctor audios with a strong audio that builds a rich world and offers some great moments for the Eighth Doctor and Charley.


#19 – Minuet in Hell

This story is intensely controversial among the fanbase for a number of reasons – the two most prominent are that the story uses several tropes that would become tired staples of the Eighth Doctor era, particularly the ‘amnesiac Doctor’ trope, and that it also sexualises Charley in a way that would be wholly inappropriate on the televised version of the show. In many ways Big Finish’s ability to write stories that do not conform to the family-friendly nature of the TV series is an asset, but this audio is a perfect example of how letting that become the driving force behind a story can detract from the narrative – at times it seems as though this audio is deliberately trying to be provocative or even borderline offensive, and to make matters worse the setting is so inconceivable and bizarre that the ‘adult’ nature of this audio seems utterly unearned.

For those who want to complete the set of Eighth Doctor and Charley audios then Minuet in Hell is interesting on its own merits – but for those who want to experience the wider story arc of the Eighth Doctor and Charley, then this audio is completely skippable. It is rare to encounter a Big Finish audio that has a negative reputation among the fanbase, so Minuet in Hell presents a certain fascination based on that fact alone, but it is quickly apparent why this audio has the reputation that it does among the fanbase. Arguably the only significant aspect of this audio is that it features Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, though he meets the Doctor only briefly.

This concludes the first series of the first era of Eighth Doctor stories, and although it ended on a bit of a misstep, overall the audios are promising. Paul McGann fits into the role of the Eighth Doctor perfectly, despite it being five years since his TV appearance. India Fisher is excellent as Charley, who is brought to life as a fully-formed companion out of the gate, and is without doubt one of the most iconic and memorable companions who are original to audio.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Early Charley Era Part 2

Daleks vs Cybermen Rematch – Who Would Win?

The 8th of July 2006 saw a defining Doctor Who moment play out on TV for the first time – the Daleks and the Cybermen, two long-time villains of the show who have both been appearing regularly since the 1960s, finally got a chance to go head-to-head in Doomsday, the Series 2 finale that saw a climactic battle between the Doctor Who universe’s two most powerful races. This battle saw a resounding victory for the Daleks, and although the Doctor managed to intervene to prevent both races from conquering Earth, it was clear even before then that the Daleks had the upper hand, despite their radically fewer numbers. By the time the Genesis Ark opened above London and the Daleks began slaughtering Humans and Cybermen alike in the streets, it was far too late for the Cybermen to even retreat.

However, fans have pointed out several reasons why the idea of a conflict between the Daleks and the Cybermen should return at some point in the show’s future, either on television or in a Big Finish audio. Though it is likely always on a writer’s mind when constructing a finale to a series of audios, TV stories or comics to have a Dalek vs Cybermen rematch, they are likely put off by the idea due to the fact that they either believe that Doomsday has used that idea already and so it cannot be touched or that they feel not enough time has passed for fans to simply say “You ripped that idea off Doomsday“. This post will argue why this is not the case.

Doom of the Cybermen

Though it seems obvious from the outcome of the episode, the Cybermen were doomed from the start in Doomsday, though this is more to do with the fact that these Cybermen aren’t actually the Cybermen that the Daleks are familiar with – these Cybermen originate from a parallel Earth, and had only recently jumped over from that universe to our own. These Cybermen lack the centuries of development and expansion that the actual Cybermen from our universe experienced – after all, entire planets fell to the Mondasian and Telosian Cybermen whilst the Cybus Cybermen had no knowledge of life on other planets. The only factor that plays in their favour is that their version of Earth runs on a faster timeline, so their technology is more advanced than that of modern-day Earth – but this still puts them leagues behind the Daleks.

Many fans have wondered how this battle would have played out if different versions of the Cybermen were present. Some say that the Classic Cybermen seen in Earthshock, Attack of the Cybermen and Silver Nemesis would have fared better than the Cybus Cybermen in this fight, though that is up for debate. The Cybermen’s biggest weakness in this battle was their lack of an effective defence against the Dalek blasters. Though the Classic Cybermen had more powerful weapons, they were still susceptible to Dalek firepower. One version of Cybermen that would have definitely fared a lot better, however, is the modern, updated Mondasian Cybermen seen in Nightmare in Silver, The Time of the Doctor, Dark Water, Death in Heaven and The Doctor Falls. These Cybermen are greatly upgraded versions of both the Mondasian Cybermen and the Cybus Cybermen, as the two races merged after Cybus Cybermen escaped from the void.

The Upgrade

Modern Cybermen appear to have advanced greatly in technology since their appearances in the Russel T. Davies era, as the newer incarnation is capable of adapting to weapons fire used against it – even if a weapon is capable of completely destroying a Cyberman, other Cybermen will adapt to be resistant to it. This could possibly present a problem for the Daleks, though they may be capable of adapting their weapons themselves as Starfleet does to counter the adaptive Borg shields in Star Trek. However, the modern Cybermen also feature far more advanced weapons, and although it is uncertain whether they would be capable of destroying Daleks in one shot, it is likely that concentrated fire of these weapons would yield better results than that of the wrist blaster in Doomsday. Had these Cybermen been featured against the Daleks, it is possible that the Cult of Skaro could have suffered casualties and the battle would certainly have been less one-sided.

The Cybermen featured in Series 12 also seem to have a more updated design that even the modern Cybermen, so it is possible that the Cybermen have upgraded themselves even further. It would be interesting to see how these new Cybermen fare against the Daleks, particularly as the Daleks themselves have had a few upgrades themselves.

The Supreme Beings

Since 2006, the Daleks have been shown to be capable of a lot more than they were during their battle with the Cybermen. For one, we know that the standard Dalek is capable of enhancing its firepower to create a devastating explosion, and that flying Daleks can use this technique to function as small, nimble bombers that can decimate a battlefield in just a few flybys. Three Daleks combining their firepower is enough to level a house, and the combined firepower of two Daleks was enough to take out an entire wave of flying attack vessels with pinpoint accuracy. Not to mention the fact that the Daleks have since been shown to have more powerful Paradigm weaponry, capable of disintegrating a fellow Dalek in a single shot, and several Special Weapons Daleks, who are known to be capable of mass-extermination with a single shot.

Without a doubt, a lot has changed for both of these races since 2006. The question remains – has enough time passed for another Dalek vs Cybermen battle to be viable as a finale, or even as an episode concept at all?

Daleks vs Cybus

As many older fans probably pointed out at the time, the Cybermen we see fight the Daleks in Doomsday are not technically ‘real’ Cybermen. The show has established that, due to parallel evolution, all the different Cybermen we have seen so far have slightly different origins, but they all fall under the Cyberman name. In the Classic series, the Cybermen that had regularly plagued both the Doctor and the Universe at large were the Mondasian and Telosian varieties, and (as previously mentioned) the Cybus Cybermen seen in the series in 2006 are severely underpowered compared to their non-parrallel brethren. As such, many fans believe that there is now more justification for a rematch between the two races, particularly since the Mondasian Cybermen have returned with a far more powerful upgrade.

Not only that, but Doomsday aired in 2006, nearly 15 years ago – for perspective, Doomsday was in Series 2, and at the time of writing this, Doctor Who is currently midway through airing Series 12. Even when you look at it from an in-universe perspective, the size and location of the two interstellar Empires of the Daleks and the Cybermen means that they would probably come into conflict all the time. As such, it is not only possible to depict a Daleks vs Cybermen rematch on-screen in the 2020s, it actually makes a lot of sense.

Doctor Who – Series 6 Cybermen Designs Explained

One of the many unexplained things about Moffat’s era of Doctor Who is what happened to the Cybermen. Due to an apparent mishandling of the metal men early in Moffat’s run, some strange continuity errors have cropped up which baffle fans to this day, and it is all to do with the specific design of the Cybermen that was used in each episode that featured them in the 2010s.

The continuity error surrounds the use of the Cybus Cybermen, a subspecies of Cyberman that originated in a parallel universe during Russell T. Davies’ era as showrunner. These Cybermen, unlike their prime universe counterparts, were more robotic and heavily armoured, and were easily recognisable by their characteristic stomping feet.

Despite originating in a parallel universe, these Cybermen were first seen crossing over into the Doctor’s universe in Doomsday, and were later seen stranded in our universe having fallen back through time to the 1800s in The Next Doctor. These Cybermen used Victorian steam technology to build a rudimentary CyberKing dreadnought, but were stopped by the Tenth Doctor and seemingly destroyed. These Cybermen were seemingly the last surviving Cybus Cybermen, and as far as this Christmas Special is concerned, they were all destroyed when the CyberKing was sucked into the Time Vortex.

That would be it for the Cybus Cybermen, were it not for the fact that they also started inexplicably appearing in early Moffat stories. Series 5’s The Pandorica Opens featured a damaged Cyberman guarding the Underhenge, which was recognisable as a Cybus Cyberman by the distinctive ‘C’ on its chest. Later, other Cybus Cybermen were seen forming part of The Alliance alongside the Daleks, Sontarans and other creatures. How and why these Cybermen were present in Roman times is still unknown.

From Series 6 onward, Steven Moffat and the production team clearly realised that they needed to change the Cybermen in order to distinguish them from the Cybus Cybermen of Russell’s era. Though they would later completely redesign the Cybermen in Series 7, in the meantime the production team simply removed the ‘C’ logo on the chest of the Cybermen and replaced it with a more generic circle-like design. This was allegedly done to establish that these Cybermen were indeed native to our universe, and according to non-narrative sources, the idea was that the Cybus Cybermen had encountered the Cybermen of the Doctor’s universe and the two had merged into one species, explaining the fact that the Cybus design was now used by Cybermen of our universe.

Whatever the reasons, Series 6 saw two appearances of the Cybus-style Cybermen with circular logos. The first was the Twelfth Cyber Legion, the fleet of Cybermen that was terrorised by Rory and the Doctor during their search for Amy Pond. These Cybermen sported the circular logos but the leader featured the distinctive black head and exposed yellow brain of the Cyber-Lord seen in The Next Doctor. The second appearance of the Cybus-style Cybermen was near the end of Series 6 in the episode Closing Time. This episode featured a small group of Cybus-style Cybermen stranded on a crashed spaceship in modern-day London. The Doctor mentions that the ship itself was likely empty for ‘centuries’ until the construction of a nearby power grid restarted the conversion chambers.

These seemingly unconnected Cyberman appearances could, in fact, be connected in more ways than simply featuring the Cybus-style Cybermen. The fact that this specific design is present in all of these appearances suggests that these events are interlinked. Could it be that the Cybermen featured in The Next Doctor are in fact the same as the ones in Closing Time? Or could the prescence of Cybus Cybermen in Roman times eventually lead to a Twelfth Cyber-Legion in the distant future that sported the same design? Perhaps survivors from other Cyber-incursions eventually culminated in the Mondasian Cybermen adopting the Cybus design.

Whatever the reasons, the Cybus model eventually overtook the Mondasian Cybermen, Telosian Cybermen and other disparate Cybermen models to become the definitive Cyberman design, as by the events of Nightmare in Silver both the ‘C’ variant and ‘circle’ variant of Cybus Cybermen are featured as remnants of a recent Cyber-War. This episode also reveals that the Cybermen have evolved beyond the Cybus design, adopting the new look that has endured to this day. Having taken on this new design, the Cybermen of the New Series have been more prominently associated with Mondas as their homeworld, rather than originating from a parallel universe.

However, there are also other examples of Cybermen from parallel universes invading our universe, that may not necessarily be from the same parallel universe as the Cybus Cybermen. These include the Blood of the Cybermen model, sporting a Cyber-face logo instead of the usual ‘C’ but otherwise appearing as Cybus Cybermen, and the ‘Cyber-Reality’ Cybermen that face off against UNIT and the Master in the Big Finish box set UNIT: Cyber-Reality. These Cybermen look and sound like the Cybermen seen from series 7 onwards.

As if that were not complex enough, the final Cyberman story of Moffat’s run further solidifies the idea that the Cybus Cybermen are a natural evolution of the Mondasian Cybermen. During their thousands of years of development during the events of The Doctor Falls, the Cybermen adapt from primitive Mondasian variants to Cybus Cybermen, and later the newer Cyberiad Cybermen. The short story Alit in Underland reveals that an interim stage exists in which the Cybermen appeared as they did in the 1980s, from Earthshock to Silver Nemesis.

Doctor Who – Who Created the Cybermen?

The Cybermen are one of the Doctor’s oldest and deadliest enemies, and since their introduction in The Tenth Planet, Doctor Who’s first regeneration story, the Cybermen have menaced almost every incarnation of the Doctor. As they are due to appear in Series 12 in 2020, fan interest in the Cybermen has peaked recently. However, a question that often comes up when discussing them is, how were they first created?

Unlike the Daleks, who get their own origin story in Genesis of the Daleks, the Cybermen were strangely neglected when it came to their origins in the Classic Series. The closest we came to an getting an explanation of their origins is the brief summary of how they came to be that we get in their first episode, as the Cybermen explain that their world, Mondas, was dying and that they needed to adapt in order to survive.

The Many Cyber-Origin Stories

Interestingly, although Classic Who didn’t divulge much about the origins of the Cybermen, the 21st century incarnations of Doctor Who have attempted to explain more about their origins.

Spare Parts, Big Finish Main Range, 2002

Spare Parts, a Fifth Doctor Big Finish Audio from the Main Range, depicts the Doctor and Nyssa arriving on Mondas just as the Cybermen are starting to take over, and although Nyssa is determined to try and save the planet, the Doctor is torn between helping the innocent and keeping history on track. Things are further complicated by the fact that this story is set not long after the death of Adric at the hands of the Cybermen.

This story shows that the Cybermen were created on Mondas as a means of allowing the citizens to survive in the increasingly hostile environment of a frozen, dead world. The Mondasian surgeons believe that they are saving the population, but the monstrous Committee, a unification of minds that acts as a precursor to the Cyber-Planner, sees the population as little more than resources to be harvested.

Rise of the Cybermen, Series 2, 2006

Another alternate race of Cybermen were created on a parallel version of Earth, as seen in 2005’s Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel. Like Spare Parts, this story depicts a scientist attempting to prolong human life by inventing the Cybermen. In this case, Doctor John Lumic created the Cybermen as a means of achieving immortality, due to the fact that he was suffering from a debilitating, incurable disease. Ultimately, he manages to convert a sizeable population of parallel London into Cybermen, and is eventually converted into a Cyber-Controller.

Although the Doctor eventually stops Lumic and destroys his Cybermen, the parallel Earth would continue to see Cyber-incursions for many years afterwards, and some Cybermen from that universe would eventually find their way into our universe and assimilate into the ranks of the Mondasian Cybermen, according to some sources.

World Enough and Time, Series 10, 2017

Another origin story for a race of Cybermen is seen in 2017’s World Enough and Time. This episode shows that, at some point, a colony ship had departed from Mondas with a crew of 50, only to be trapped in the event horizon of a black hole. Due to the time dilation effect of the black hole, the crew lived out their entire lives on the ship and bred, eventually leading to a sprawling city being built on one of the habitation decks. Eventually, however, this city would be corrupted by the interference of the Master.

As the city became more polluted, eventually the Mondasians on board began to convert themselves into primitive Cybermen that would slowly evolve over time into the modern Cybermen. After infesting most of the ship, many of these Cybermen were destroyed by the Doctor, though it is likely that many more survived.

Other Potential Cyber-Origins

These are not the only potential origin stories for the Cybermen. We know that they have sprung up on many planets due to parallel evolution, including Telos, Marinus and Planet 14 as well as Mondas and Earth. Over time the many Cyber-races would coalesce into one, known as the Cyberiad, which would fight many centuries-long wars, known collectively as the Cyber-Wars, against Humanity and their allies. These included, among others, the Orion War and the Tiberian Galaxy War.

So, unlike the Daleks, the Cybermen were not created by one specific person, nor indeed do they have one comprehensive backstory. Although the finer details of how the Cybermen as a ‘race’ came to be are hazy in Doctor Who lore, we can assume that many different versions of Cybermen came together and combined technology as a form of adapting, which explains why in the show there are some Cybermen that look very primitive and others that are highly advanced, and also why some seem to possess physiological differences.

The Real-World Origin of the Cybermen

Interestingly, the real-world Cyberman origin story shares several distinct similarities to their fictional origins. The idea for the Cybermen first came about in the 1960s when Dr. Christopher ‘Kit’ Pedler, the unofficial scientific advisor for Doctor Who, became fascinated with the idea of ‘spare part’ surgery that was becoming increasingly more sophisticated in the 1960s.

Dr. Pedler foresaw a time in which all human beings incorporated cybernetic implants and adaptations into their bodies, and this inspired him to create the ‘Cyber-Men’. Working alongside writer Gerry Davis, Dr. Pedler contributed to the writing of The Tenth Planet, the 1966 debut of the Cybermen, and this explains why in that story the Cybermen look a lot more recognisably humanoid than they would in later stories.

Whilst Dr. Pedler’s predictions about the future have (so far) proved to be incorrect, his vision of the future has lost none of its potency. In fact, with the leaps and bounds that medical science has undertaken since the 1960s, we are closer than ever to having real-life Cybermen, though it will be a long time before we have the capability to create them.

However, the essence of Dr. Pedler’s prediction endures to this day – Humankind must always be wary of the potential for excessive cybernetic enhancements, as whilst so far they are used for purely medical purposes, there is always potential for the good nature of these technologies to be corrupted. Human vanity, greed and lust for power mean that the Cybermen will always endure as villains – as a constant reminder of what we, the human race, could so easily become.

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Doctor Who – Speculation About the Return of the Cybermen in Series 12

If recent information from the Daily Mirror is to be believed, there will be Cybermen in Series 12 of Doctor Who. This doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise, after all, the Cybermen are among the show’s most popular villains, and fans are always happy to see them back – but given that rumours and ‘leaked’ information about upcoming series has often been misleading or downright incorrect in the past, many fans are wisely taking this news with a pinch of salt.

Similarly, there is another issue that has some fans worried – according to the same story that declared the Cybermen’s return, Mary Shelley will also be featured in this story, with her encounter with the Cybermen allegedly becoming the basis for her novel Frankenstein. If that sounds familiar to you, then chances are you’ve listened to (or at the very least heard of) the Big Finish Audio The Silver Turk, as this story has almost the exact same storyline.

So what does this mean for Big Finish? Hopefully, if these rumours are true, the writers will acknowledge the discrepency, as the worlds of New Who and Big Finish have been gradually drawing closer of late, coming to a head with the huge crossover The Legacy of Time that was released to celebrate Big Finish’s 20th anniversary of producing Doctor Who audios. However, many fans have already accepted that this will not be the case.

Where Doctor Who is concerned, it is always better to live in hope – even if it means accepting certain compromises. On the bright side, the premise to this story sounds delightfully spooky and borderling horror-inspired, so Chris Chibnall and the other writers of Series 12 might attempt to steer the Cybermen closer towards their original status as horrifying nightmare-fuel rather than heavily-armoured soldiers. The fact that The Silver Turk featured the Mondasian Cybermen made it a particularly effective horror story, but if the same idea was attempted with the modern Cybus or Cyberiad Cybermen then the end result would be far weaker.

However, what if the rumours of Mary Shelley are false, but the rumours about the Cybermen are true? What other ways could Chibnall and the writers use to bring the Cybermen into this new era of the show? Given how they took a back-to-basics approach with the Dalek in Resolution, could this same logic apply to a potential Cyberman story? Will the Mondasian Cybermen return, or will it be the modern incarnation? Perhaps, like World Enough and Time, we will get an alternate origin for a new sub-race of Cybermen. Or maybe Chibnall will throw in an unexpected curveball, and bring back the 1980s Cybermen that have been tragically neglected in New Who?

Endless speculation is fun, but ultimately unproductive. One thing that is clear, however, is that the Cybermen may be seen in a new light during Whittaker’s era. After all, the Cybermen were responsible for the Twelfth Doctor’s regeneration, and although the Doctor isn’t known to hold grudges, it would make for an interesting dynamic that could elevate the Cybermen to a new threat level, perhaps even surpassing the Daleks. One of the things we have been promised from this new series is a darker storyline for the Doctor, Graham, Yaz and Ryan – could the Cybermen end up responsible for the death – or worse – conversion of one of the Thirteenth Doctor’s beloved companions? Time will tell…

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Doctor Who – The Best of Big Finish, Part Seven

Kingdom of Silver

This Seventh Doctor story serves as a fitting thematic sequel to the TV story Silver Nemesis, as not only is it a three-part story featuring the Cybermen, but it also mirrors that stories’ focus on war and peace. Kingdom of Silver is an interesting story that plays on several recurring motifs in Big Finish Cyberman stories, and is unapologetic in its presentation of the Cybermen as ruthless and manipulative. The Seventh Doctor, companionless in this story, meets a mercenary on a primitive planet, both of them having detected a strange signal emanating from the planet’s capital. During a peace conference between the planet’s main ruling parties, the Cybermen make a resurgence. This is a great audio that is a rare example of Terry Molloy playing a role that isn’t Davros, and he gets a chance to play a very different role in this story. Sylvester McCoy is enigmatic and devious as always, and there are some great twists and turns in this story that keep you guessing.

The Wrong Doctors

A Sixth Doctor audio steeped in lore, The Wrong Doctors is a rare example of a multi-Doctor story featuring two versions of the same incarnation of the Doctor from completely different points in their timeline. This story features a version of the Sixth Doctor from fairly early in his timeline, and another that is far more mature and level-headed, meaning it is essentially a clash of the TV and Audio depictions of the Sixth Doctor. Colin Baker does a fantastic job in this story, and Mel actually works really well as a companion, as this story serves as the first chronological story for Mel after the somewhat odd way in which she was inserted into the TV series during Trial of a Time Lord. At least, that’s the idea, although as the story progresses we see that things are more complicated than they first appear – hence the two versions of the Doctor. To sum up this story, it is a treat for Colin Baker fans.

Terror of the Sontarans

A unique and interesting Seventh Doctor audio, Terror of the Sontarans delves into the psychology of the Sontaran race, something that is not often done on Doctor Who. Whilst Sontarans are known for their discipline and reluctance to show fear, this audio shows what happens when Sontarans are confronted with something that makes them go truly insane. What is fascinating to consider with this audio is that Sontarans are all clones, so when one Sontaran berates another it is essentially just shouting at another version of itself. The idea of a group of Sontarans breaking the norm for their race and deciding to show creativity or fear has some interesting consequences, both for them and all others who get caught in the crossfire

Time in Office

This audio is one of a kind. Each part is an individual story that feeds into the overarching plotline that the Fifth Doctor has finally been recruited by the Time Lords to serve his time in office as Lord President of Gallifrey, hence the title. As one might imagine, the meek and affable Fifth Doctor goes on to cause chaos on Gallifrey, not least due to Tegan’s antics as Human-Time Lord ‘Ambassador’. Speaking of which, there is a fair amount of comedy in this story, and it isn’t supposed to be taken all too seriously. The audio plays heavily on the blustering and stagnant representation of Time Lord society that we got in the Fourth Doctor episode The Deadly Assassin, and it is clear why the Doctor was so eager to leave the planet. This audio also pays excellent homage to stories such as The Invasion of Time and The Five Doctors from the Classic Series that were set on or heavily related to Gallifrey, so its a real treat for fans of Time Lord lore.

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Doctor Who – Top Ten New Who Cyberman Stories

Following on from the Top Ten Classic Who Cyberman Stories, this list presents the appearances of the Cybermen in the Doctor Who, ordered by the quality of their depiction of the Cybermen themselves – originally designed to be fearsome former humans stripped of all emotions, the Cybermen had experienced significant ‘villain decay’ during their tenure on Classic Who. That being said, did NuWho do any better a job of realising Kit Pedler’s original vision of the Cybermen as a sinister cautionary tale against the advancements of medical technology, or are the NuWho Cybermen merely robotic tin soldiers as they were depicted towards the end of Classic Who?

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10 – The Time of the Doctor

For those who recall the appearance of the Cybermen in The Time of the Doctor, you should be commended – this episode is mend-bending in its complex awfulness and there are many who have burnt this special from their minds completely to avoid flashbacks of some of the more cringe-inducing aspects to this story – a naked Matt Smith accosting Jenna Coleman, Tasha Lem implying that her alter is a sex-bed she used with the Doctor once, and all manner of Moffat-isms that will undoubtedly be looked back on by future generations as one of the lowest points in the show’s history. Nonetheless, the Cybermen do feature, in two significant capacities – first in the decapitated Cyber-head which the Doctor christens ‘Handles’, arguably one of the best things about this episode, and a Wooden Cyberman which invades Trenzalore with a flamethrower only for it to burn itself to death. From this we can draw two important conclusions – first, Moffat most think the Cybermen are absolute imbeciles that would arm a wooden soldier with a device that creates fire, and second, the fact that a decapitated Cyberman’s head is the best thing about this episode really tells how bad this episode actually is.

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9 – Closing Time

Whilst James Cordon did a surprisingly good job as a one-off central character in Series 5’s The Lodger, Series 6’s Closing Time proves that the law of diminishing return is still going strong as Cordon turns what was already a mediocre script into a genuinely bad episode. What makes this all the worse is the fact that, at this point, the Cybermen hadn’t had their own episode since The Next Doctor, meaning this was essentially a chance to redeem the Cybermen that fell completely flat for numerous reasons. Firstly, the Cybermen themselves barely appear, and whilst there are some creepy scenes in which the Cybermen sneak around the department store at night abducting workers, this seems to completely ignore one of the Cybus Cybermen’s key traits – their loud intimidating stomp. Secondly, far too much attention is placed on the Doctor essentially bumming around (although this criticism could stand against many episodes in the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure) and, in a similar fashion to The Lodger, the villain’s entire plan has to be summed up in about 3 lines of dialogue right at the end since so much time was spent with scenes of James Cordon and Matt Smith doing ‘ordinary bloke stuff’ like playing in a toy shop and snogging in a lift. Lastly, the Cybermen are defeated by ‘the power of love’, the laziest and stupidest plot device ever after ‘and they woke up and it was all a dream’.

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8 – A Good Man Goes To War

Despite only appearing in one scene, the Cybermen do make somewhat of an impression in this episode – though they are essentially used as fodder for Rory to destroy to make him seem like more of a badass by comparison. This episode does contribute somewhat to the villain decay that the Cybermen experienced throughout the Eleventh Doctor’s era, although this episode is notable in that it features the reappearance of the Cyberman warships, which were briefly seen in The Pandorica Opens although it is not until this episode that we see them as part of a fleet. Other than that, there really isn’t much more to say about this episode as far as the Cybermen are concerned – apart from the fact that their brief cameo in this is far better than the entirety of Closing Time.

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7 – Nightmare in Silver

Neil Gaiman’s attempt to reboot the Cybermen in Series 7 was met with mixed reception, and it is certainly nowhere near as good as his previous episode, The Doctor’s Wife. Despite this, Nightmare in Silver is probably one of the best episodes of Series 7, alongside Cold War and A Town Called Mercy, and it does do a decent job of presenting the Cybermen as a serious threat, unlike several previous Matt Smith episodes had. The setting used here is particularly creepy, the thought of an entire planet dedicated to an abandoned theme park is an interesting idea, but the focus in this story is all over the place – for a start we have the ludicrous idea to include schoolchildren under Clara’s care in this story, a plot device that goes nowhere and was essentially included to fill time, then we have Porridge and his strange subplot involving Clara, and on top of that we have the soldiers and their conflict with the Doctor over blowing up the planet, all running at the same time. Overall, the best aspect of this episode is the Doctor’s conflict with the Cyber-Planner that is attempting to take over his mind, and Matt Smith has to be given credit for some fantastic acting in these scenes, but the impact of the Cybermen themselves in this episode is mediocre thanks to the inclusion of cartoonish special effects to depict their new abilities.

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6 – The Next Doctor

As a Christmas Special, it is no surprise that The Next Doctor does not focus primarily on the Cybermen themselves, despite being marketed at the end of Journey’s End as ‘The Return of the Cybermen’, this episode seems to feature them as a token villain – there are some great scenes with them, particularly the scenes between the Cyberlord and Mercy Hartigan, but ultimately this episode contributes little to their story aside from introducing the Cybershades, which never appear again. By far the best scene in the episode, as far as the Cybermen are concerned, is the scene in which Mercy Hartigan unleashes them onto unsuspecting Victorian Noblemen in the graveyard, and this is probably the last good scene that the Cybus Cybermen get in Doctor Who – even if it does only last about a minute and a half. The Cybershades are a nice addition to this scene too, their guttural cries and bestial stature make them scarier than the standard Cybermen but over the course of the episode they gradually devolve from a fearsome threat to a simple footsoldier for the Cybermen, until they are all inexplicably destroyed at the end in a puff of smoke.

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5 – The Pandorica Opens

The Cybermen are essentially the primary villain of The Pandorica Opens, which is fitting considering the next part, The Big Bang, primarily features a Dalek. However, The Pandorica Opens does not feature the Cybermen to an extent anywhere near the usual for the villain of a Doctor Who episode – a Cyberman’s head stalks Amy before attacking her and re-attaching itself to its old body in an attempt to assimilate her, which is a great scene in itself, but is basically the Cybermen’s only appearance in this episode aside from the brief scene of the Cyberleader arriving with the other Alliance members. Still, it is probably the strongest Cyberman cameo in the revived series, definitely beating Hell Bent and Face the Raven in terms of action-factor, as well as also being the final appearance of the ‘Cybus’ Cybermen, with all future NuWho Cyberman episodes featuring either Mondasian Cybermen or the strange ‘non-Cybus’ Cybermen who use their basic form but without the trademark Cybus logo. The design of the ‘zombie’ Cyberman is to be commended – arguably the best scene in the episode is Amy’s battle with the spider-like Cyber-head, and the skull popping out as it tries to essentially eat her alive is a gruesome reminder that each Cyberman was once a person, whilst also emphasising the more robotic elements of the Cybus design – the suit can operate even without any organic parts, and it yearns to assimilate a new brain and nervous system.

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4 – Army of Ghosts/Doomsday

The finale of Series 2 starts out as a Cyberman story before the Daleks show up at the end of Army of Ghosts to wipe the floor with them – thus prematurely beginning the inevitable villain decay that the Cybermen would experience in NuWho, just as they had done in Classic Who. Although the scenes in Army of Ghosts and Doomsday with the Cybermen are good, and their plan definitely devious, the Daleks steal the show in this episode and the Cybermen are reduced to merely fodder for the Cult of Skaro to mow down in their dozens. The only really interesting aspect to the Cybermen in this story is that they eventually end up siding with the Doctor and the Human forces, fighting alongside the Preachers and even marching out into the streets to divert fire away from the Humans (intentionally or not). This is in keeping with the fact that the Cybus Cybermen were programmed to believe that upgrading is for the Human’s own good, so it makes sense that they would seek to protect what they regard as good stock. Aside from being verbally demolished by Dalek Sec, the Cyberleader is physically destroyed when Jake and his parallel soldiers storm the Torchwood control room, and we get an idea as to how the Cybermen promote individuals within their ranks – apparently, the choice is made at random, and as soon as one Cyberleader is killed the information from its brain is downloaded into another Cyberman, effectively making the Cyberleader almost like a body-hopping consciousness that can possess any soldier in the Cyber-army. What is a shame is that, with everything that is going on in this episode, absolutely nothing is done with this idea.

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3 – Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel

The debut of the Cybermen in NuWho also introduced a ‘subspecies’ in the Cybus Cybermen – i.e. Cybermen that had been created on Earth in a parallel universe by the Cybus Corporation, the brainchild of John Lumic. This episode is a spiritual remake of the Big Finish Audio Spare Parts, in that they both depict the origin of their respective species of Cybermen, although the stories themselves are quite different. The parallel universe setting allows for some great character moments, particularly when Rose finds out that in this timeline her father is still alive, and also Mickey’s similar realisation with his Nan. What makes this all the more tragic is that, in this parallel world, the Cybermen essentially control the population through their earpods, leading thousands of Londoners to the slaughter including the parallel version of Rose’s mother. Though this is exceptionally bleak, Russell doesn’t quite go as far as Spare Parts did in terms of bleakness, since ultimately the Cyber-revolution is prevented and the main factory destroyed. Of all the factors in this episode, however, by far the best is the character of John Lumic. Essentially the Cyberman’s equivalent to Davros, Lumic is insane and fits the part of merciless businessman perfectly. Following his conversion into the Cyber-Controller, Lumic retains an aspect of his megalomaniac personality and the scenes with him and the Doctor are all excellent.

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2 – Dark Water/Death in Heaven

Arguably the first true Cyberman story since The Next Doctor, the Series 8 two-part finale Dark Water and Death in Heaven finally reintroduce the element of body horror to the Cybermen that has, in many ways, been lost since Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel. Through Danny Pink’s death and subsequent conversion by a highly advanced race of Cybermen created by Missy, the audience finally gains an insight into the horrors of Cyber-conversion in a way that is not often seen in televised Doctor Who. The plot is primarily driven by Clara and her grief and desperation after losing Danny, and the horror when she learns of his true fate makes us more sympathetic towards her than perhaps ever before in her tenure on the show – for once she isn’t marching around acting like she owns the show, and that frees up plenty of time for this episode to spend on great scenes with the Doctor, Missy and the Cybermen. There are some nice nods to The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Invasion with the Cyber-Tombs being located inside St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the inside of these new Cybermen have been fantastically designed, as Danny’s partially decayed corpse staring blankly out of the face of a Cyberman has got to be one of the most enduring images of the Series. This episode was controversial at the time of airing as the dark themes of death and the afterlife, coupled with the three words ‘Don’t Cremate Me’ being a driving force behind the episode,  was reportedly more scary for kids than the Cybermen themselves, but in hindsight this merely adds a much-needed boost to the fear factor of both the Master and the Cybermen as the plot involving Cybermen rising from the graves of the recently deceased in a fashion similar to a zombie apocalypse is perhaps one of the most fearsome plot outlines in NuWho’s history, making this one of the Cybermen’s scariest episodes.

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Honorable Mention – Cyberwoman

For all its faults, the Torchwood episode Cyberwoman has some really gruesome depictions of Cyber-conversion that would never have been seen on the main show – for once blood and gore go hand in hand with the process of Cyber-conversion thanks to the more mature and adult-orientated nature of the spinoff. This is just about the only positive that can be said about this episode, however – its reputation as being an overblown nonsensical waste of potential is deserved – but for its part it does try to bring an element of body horror back to the Cybermen, the likes of which so far had not been seen in NuWho before this episode’s release.

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1 – World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls

The last thing anyone expected to get in NuWho was the Genesis of the Cybermen story involving the classic Mondasian Cybermen as previously seen in The Tenth Planet, but that’s what we got with the Series 10 finale World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls. As icing on the cake, this episode goes out of its way to ensure that the Big Finish audio Spare Parts – the Fifth Doctor story which shows the origin of the Cybermen on Mondas – is still canon, by establishing the idea of parallel evolution of the Cybermen, accounting for the Mondasian, Telosian, Cybus and Cyberiad versions all existing at once. This allows Steven Moffat to essentially tell his own version of the Cyberman origin story without interfering with the canon, and his version is far darker and bleaker than Russell’s version from Rise of the Cybermen. The inclusion of the Master as a major contributing factor to the creation of this particular faction of Cybermen is an interesting twist, and the scenes with John Simm and Michelle Gomez show how truly great both performers are at capturing certain aspects of the Master’s personality. What steals the show however is Pearl Mackie as Bill, and her tragic subplot involving Cyber-conversion is perhaps the most harrowing depiction of the process in the history of the show. The editing and direction in this episode is excellent, with Bill switching between her human and Cyberman body depending on the perspective of the scene, which showcases the most fundamental horror of the Cybermen – under the metal and plastic exterior they are, or rather were, simply ordinary people.

Ultimately, it appears as though NuWho’s depiction of the Cybermen is as varied both in content and quality as in Classic Who – there are some great episodes, that portray the Cybermen as horrifically ruined human beings either tragically seduced by the advancements of technology or forced into conversion against their will, and some terrible episodes that present the Cybermen as little more than robots who stomp around as a generic enemy for the Doctor to defeat. Both showrunners so far in NuWho have had a mixed bag of handling the Cybermen, and hopefully Chris Chibnall finds something more interesting to do with them that doesn’t resemble Cyberwoman.

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