Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

VerityEpisode38-300You had to know we’d get here sooner or later. How could one of the most iconic villain races in Doctor Who not rate their own episode? Join Deb, Erika, Liz, and Lynne as we talk about the troublesome tin men. From their humble origins to their totally-different new-series origins, we touch on all the bits that make the Cyber race so fascinating to us. We may not all be “TeamCybermen” like Deb is, but they definitely have a place in each of our hearts. We even (surprise, surprise) mention Big Finish a few times, and Lynne’s husband Michael makes an accidental surprise appearance talking about a subject that’s very important to…well…some of us.


Also covered:

Bonus links:
Erika’s blog about “Nerdsplaining” and Gallifrey One
Spare Parts
Simon Guerrier’s Doctor Who Magazine interview with Neil Gaiman about Nightmare in Silver
The Silver Turk

Download or listen now (runtime 1:20:15) 

Comments on: "Verity! Episode 38 – Cybermental" (24)

  1. Oh dear! The download link gives us episode 37 again! 😦

  2. First of all, I just want to mention that I LOVE your theme music. 🙂

    My takeaway from all this is that I’ve got some catching up to do! I’ve seen only two classic Cybermen stories – Revenge and Earthshock – and I have read but not seen Tenth Planet and Moonbase. I keep thinking I’ve seen a fair amount of classic DW but in truth I’ve barely scratched the surface.

    I’m also very much looking forward to that Neil Gaiman interview. I worship Neil Gaiman, and I liked enough about his Nightmare to enjoy the episode overall, in spite of the kids and the plotholes (endemic to Moffat imo) and that horrible line at the end about the tight skirt which just made me want to punch everyone involved – except Neil of course who I can’t help thinking was just as horrified as I was. So I can’t wait to read more of his thoughts on the story.

    Thanks for all this!

  3. Henrik said:

    Have the Cybermen ever really been all that good? There was a certain creepiness to them in their first outing and they were quite menacing in ‘The Invasion’ but hardly since then. Beside those two stories I can only recall ever really liking them when they’ve returned for glorified cameos in the Moffat era, like ‘The Pandorica Opens’ and ‘The Time of the Doctor’.

    There are usually interesting and sometimes spooky parts in the Cybermen stories but they just never quite add up to a substantial whole. Maybe it’s because their motivations are usually entirely vague if not nonexistent. Are they a militaristic force bent on universal domination? Not really, they’re far to cold and logical to care about such fancy ideas as empire building and crap. They’re too smart to be mindless monsters, at the same time they’re far too dumb for the clever plots of the Daleks.

    I guess if we could get to see the Cybermen actually trying to improve themselves by invading and absorbing a technologically more advanced civilisation that could be interesting. We haven’t though. They’re pretty much always the advanced alien force invading something like a lame contemporary Earth for seemingly no conceivable benefit to the Cyberman race.
    Or maybe the show could play up the idea that these are practically walking corpses being kept alive by these walking metal husks, clinging desperately to some sort of half life but then the lack of emotion doesn’t quite fit with the idea of desperation.
    Perhaps explore them as metal zombies in the sense that they’ve already died and are just going on autopilot, kept “alive” by the life support systems of the suits, slowly but surely crashing against the still living civilisations of the universe like a vast unrelenting ocean of Cybermen. One isn’t that scary, they’re sort of pathetic, but they’ll just keep going because they’ve got all the time in the world because they’re already dead. Sort of a take on the people who insist on keeping brain dead relatives on life support even though they’re just keeping the body sort of living while the mind was lost a long time ago.

    I haven’t really seen that though. Usually they’re just robots with bits of human brains thrown in acting like weaker Daleks minus the personality. They’re utterly generic but hyped up beyond belief because they have brand recognition.

    Who knows. I’m not an expert. I do think the way to fix the Cybermen isn’t what they tried in ‘Nightmare in Silver’ in which they figured that everything would be better and scarier if the Cybermen were just ridiculously more powerful. After that first bit when the new, brilliantly redesigned, Cyberman sped through a room faster than the laser blasts (did the Cyberman move faster than light?) my suspension of disbelief was entirely shattered. At that point everyone would surely have been dead given the speed of the Cybermen. It was Dalek “Reality-bomb” territory.

  4. Err…wasn’t it *the Doctor*, not Adric, who used Adric’s gold star on the Cyberman in Earthshock?

    • I was going to say that, too! Still, the point remains, in my opinion, that it makes much more sense that a piece of gold ground into a cyber chest unit would kill them whereas a gold coin shot with a slingshot probably wouldn’t. However, I love the bits of Silver Nemesis where Ace does that, so I’m not going to complain. 🙂

  5. Excellent podcast! 🙂

    I think the only two Cyberman stories that have really deserved the “classic” tag are The Invasion and Earthshock. Both big epic stories, well written, well produced, and showing the Cybermen off to their best advantage. I have a big soft spot for Revenge of the Cybermen because that’s the first time I saw them on the telly. But I was 5 then and the story, while still being a lot of fun, doesn’t stand up all that well.

    And I’ve never really bought the Cybermen’s claim that they’ve completely eliminated emotion. I think they’re protesting too much. All too often (certainly in the classic series) their motivations and plots seem very illogical to me! I think they’d like to believe that they are above petty human concerns but they often seem very petulant and smug to me.

    I’ve never really taken to the new series Cybermen. They’re too clunky and robotic and could really use a Cyber Leader with a bit of style and personality. I think their origins are a bit confused now too, and I’m never very sure if we’re seeing Lumic Cybermen or the proper Mondas ones in the Moffat era. Maybe we should see a story where the two kinds face off? That could be interesting!

  6. I’m totally unqualified to give my ratings of Best/Favourite/Worst Cybermen stories, since I either haven’t seen or can’t remember most of the classic era stories…

    … But I would still like to vote for Tomb of the Cybermen as the Worst story! I had SO many problems with everything about that story (mostly poorly acted, and poorly written, with a level of implicit racism that made me feel really uncomfortable) and like Liz with the Tenth Planet, I couldn’t understand a word the Cybermen said! I truly can’t understand why it is such a fan favourite.

    I have seen (most of) Earthshock recently and I think that is a good story, so of the ones I remember it’s probably the best. And I think the starship captain is terrific, I won’t hear a word against her! 🙂

    In the modern era I think my favourite is the first appearance of the alternate universe Cybermen. Although I do agree that any appearance of the Cybermen after Doomsday always has me wondering which Cybermen they are (although I’m quite happy for that to be left as a grey area, it’s not like it has me awake at nights).

    P.S. Thanks Erika for the Storified version of the Shelf Wars. It gave me the biggest laugh I had all day.

    P.P.S. Doctor Who AND Lego? The more I hear about Steven, the more I applaud Erika’s choice of spouse 🙂

  7. Rodney said:

    Thank you for another wonderful and thought-provoking episode. I do however feel you need to an episode in which Liz is NOT fighting fatigue……

    Also, Lost In Time CLEARLY needs to be between “War Games” and “Spearhead” as it is an appendix to the black and white era of the show.

    To the matter at hand. The Cybermen have, in my mind, only really had three decent outings- none of them since 2005. They would be 1) Earthshock 2) Tomb of the CYbermen and 3) The Invasion.

    The new series seems to really struggle with what to do with them and I don’t believe they have ever reached the menace that they did in the classic series (Silver Nemesis and Revenge notwithstanding). “Nightmare in Silver” was an absolute mess in my opinion and just shows that they seem to almost be tack-ons to a story to ramp up tension somehow. To be honest, I’ve never rated them anywhere near as good a villain as either the Daleks or Sontarans. Although I do agree that “Spare Parts” is probably one of the greatest acheivements in Big Finish history (and it has Sally Knyvette in it doncha know!).

  8. AbsolomDaak said:

    I have to say that the new series Cybermen are the most disappointing of the lot. as for the original series Moonbase is quite fun to watch. 80’s cybermen are disco and I would love to see a fan film where you have a bunch of cybermen doing the Hustle.

  9. Mr Axon said:

    The Cyberman are my least favourite recurring monsters. I don’t really like the idea of recurring monsters in any case, because I get the feeling that some creativity within the stories is being sacrificed for the purposes of bringing a popular monster back. A positive thing about Doctor Who stories is often learning about a new, strange monster (its motivations, MO, etc….)! But in my opinion the Cyberman stories seem to come off even worse than those featuring other recurring monsters.

    My favourite Cyberman story is actually Nightmare in Silver, despite all of its problems, many of which were mentioned in the podcast. The best of the pre-1989 series is, in my opinion, The Invasion, which is generally well-acted, well-directed and has some key Doctor Who images (particularly the scene with the steps by St Pauls). The Tenth Planet also gets bonus points for its direction. I was sorry to hear that Derek Martinus has recently passed away.

    Least favourite: Silver Nemesis. I like the 7th Doctor’s three years and I’m not sure that the problem is with the script. The programme seems to be ovrerreaching its limited resources by quite some amount with this story.

  10. rycliffe said:

    Was “The Next Doctor” so utterly forgettable that it simply never came up in the conversation? Or was there a consensus decision not to mention it even once? 🙂

    For my part, I find the Cyber-King so ridiculous that it deserves to be overlooked, although the first half of the story — devoted to Jackson Lake’s potential future Doctor — is quite interesting. And then the Cybusmen show up. Boo.

    • pfh64 said:

      I too enjoyed “The Next Doctor” maybe it is not exactly a Cyberman story, but short the giant one at the end, which I agree was a bit much, it was a gripping story.

      And all hail Stormagedden! Once again maybe not a “true Cyberman” story, it is also a story with Cybermen we in my house, watch over and over again.

  11. Mandy said:

    I’ve always found the Cybermen far scarier than the Daleks, though for different reasons in different eras. It’s the inhuman relentlessness of modern Cybermen; it doesn’t matter how far or how fast you run, they will get you in the end. Whereas the original Cybermen are terrifying in their near-human-ness; the Tenth Planet Cybermen in particular are very obviously that awful misstep in technological development.

    Perhaps most worrying for me now, as someone whose body largely failed her twenty-odd years ago, is the temptation that the Cybermen represent. The notion of being able to rid yourself of constant pain and fatigue, to simply transplant your rational self into a body that will not betray you with all that pesky flesh-and-blood business can start to look disturbingly inviting.

    As long as you avoid nail varnish, gold mines and boy geniuses, obviously 🙂

  12. Ok, I just want to add something about Dalek’s vs Cybermen and why Cybermen are cooler. I came to Doctor Who from Torchwood and the episode Cyberwoman scared the BEEJEESUS out of me. It’s the way Cyberpeople move. Like coming out of the underground in The Invasion. Daleks just glide (except when they’re flying over stairs). But that clunky movement (or eerily slow mo in Moonbase–which also scared beejeejuice out of me) along with the sound design which is always excellent create an unworldly character. Yeah, they win hands down. Also, I’m glad you guys talked about Attack of the Cybermen because I haven’t seen it and clearly NEED to.

  13. Philip said:

    The Next Doctor is actually my favorite Cybermen story, and one of my favorite Tenth Doctor episodes. In a show with more than it’s fair share of camp, I find it interesting that the Cyber-King is fixated upon as being too silly. It’s all good to me, and I like me a giant robot. David Morrissey was quite good as well.

  14. For me, the concept of the Cybermen is far more horrifying than the Daleks. Emotionless, relentless, and built using human parts. I don’t know that anyone can deny the Daleks are the Doctor’s ultimate foe, but given the choice between Dalek and Cyberman story sign me up for a Cyberman story every time.

    The Tenth Planet – 5 of 10 – could have been shorter
    The Moonbase – 7 of 10
    The Tomb of the Cybermen – 7 of 10 – I just pretend Toberman is treated respectfully
    The Wheel in Space – N/A – embarrassed to say this is on my list of unseen serials
    The Invasion – 8 of 10 – one of the best, I think
    Revenge of the Cybermen – 8 of 10
    Earthshock – 9 of 10
    The Five Doctors – barely counts and like Lynne, I think this counts as a special
    Attack of the Cybermen – 6 of 10 – perhaps my favorite from season 22
    Silver Nemesis – 6 of 10 – not a good story, not a good Cybermen story, even so I liked it

    Full disclosure: My all-time favorite Cybermen story is the one that I have in my memory. Having seen Revenge, and then thinking back on it, my mind embellished it. The one in my head is the one I want to see. The closest I’ve come to finding that out in the world have been some of the Big Finish audios.

    Spare Parts – 10 of 10 – Davison and the origin of the Cybermen – SUPERB
    The Silver Turk – 9 of 10 – McGann with Mary Shelley!
    Sword of Orion – 8 of 10 – McGann with Charley Pollard
    The Harvest – 10 of 10 – McCoy with Ace and introducing the wonderful Hex!
    The Reaping – 10 of 10 – Colin Baker with Peri, we meet her family in Baltimore
    The Gathering – 10 of 10 – Davison with an older Tegan
    Human Resources – 10 of 10 – McGann with Lucie Bleedin’ Miller,
    The Girl Who Never Was – 10 of 10 – McGann with Charley Pollard – No spoilers
    The Blue Tooth – 8 of 10 – Companion Chronicle with Dr. Liz Shaw!
    Cyberman – 10 of 10 – four episode serial
    Cyberman 2 – N/A – four episode serial I am saving this one for later
    Bernice Summerfield : The Crystal of Cantus – 8 of 10

    I don’t have nearly as much to say about New Who Cybermen. I have enjoyed the stories very much, for the most part, but as was referenced on the podcast, it’s almost like they are a different villain from the Cybermen of old—and by way of the alternative universe they literally are different. The thing I regret most about Cybermen on TV since 2005 sort of puts the Cybermen vs. Dalek debate into an interesting perspective: the most unpleasant parts of cyber-conversion take place off screen—because what Cybermen do and how Cybermen are made is so horrific and appalling.

    At their core, Cybermen are human beings but with their actions motivated by pure logic, without emotion and with the removal of all biological imperatives (no sex, and apparently no food, drink or bathrooms). The Cybermen point out that perhaps logic and rational thought is far from the most important part of being human. Without emotions, and without visceral sensation, we lose our humanity in a cold and lonely way. Makes me shiver just to think about.

    I am definitely a banner carrier for team Cyberman. They are one of my favorite creations in all of Doctor Who. I would really like Steven Moffat to bring the Cybermen back to face Peter Capaldi, but please that he do so only *after* listening to the Big Finish audio Spare Parts. Maybe he even invites Marc Platt back to write an episode?

  15. Leonard Daniels said:

    From my early childhood I was always a member of Team Cyberman. I grew up in the Wilderness Years, so my viewing of Doctor Who was not exactly chronological, but I remember seeing either all or parts of various Troughton stories and being terrified of the Cybermen, whereas I never found the Daleks to be at all scary or interesting.

    So it was with some surprise that I listened to the latest episode of Verity and realised that I have never seen a Cybermen story all the way through and enjoyed it. In fact, apart from the Five Doctors (which doesn’t count) I don’t think I’ve seen a classic series Cybermen story all the way through. (This does mean, to my horror, that the first Cybermen story I ever saw all the way through was either The Five Doctors or Rise of the Cybermen, depending on what you count. I hang my head.)

    This got me wondering why I’ve always liked them even before I’d seen them properly in a story. I think it goes back to early childhood memories, when I wasn’t that concerned with the baddies’ history or motivations, so I just saw the Daleks and the Cybermen as essentially interchangeable in plot terms. As a result, I judged it purely on who was the most terrifying, and the Cybermen win hands down – the empty eyes, the emotionless voices, the lurking (oh, the lurking), whereas the Daleks just seemed to be big lumbering lumps of metal that I couldn’t identify with and therefore couldn’t fear.

    Now that I look back, I can see that there is a hell of a lot more that is interesting about the Cybermen than the Daleks, even if that wasn’t what I was latching onto back then. Nonetheless, despite having always identified myself as a Cyberman fan and a Dalek hater, looking back I can identify several Dalek stories that I enjoyed (specifically Genesis of the Daleks, Dalek, Asylum of the Daleks and Time of the Doctor) and no Cybermen stories that I liked.

    I am forced to conclude that the Cybermen are a fascinating villain that the writers could never find anything interesting to do with, whereas the Daleks are a boring villain that the writers somehow managed to write some interesting stories about. I don’t know why that is, but there it is.

    As an addendum (SPOILERY), I recently started listening to the Big Finish Eighth Doctor Adventures (and yes, I know, you’re right, they are) and started, naturally enough, with Blood of the Daleks. I thought this was an excellent story, possibly my favourite Dalek story, but there was that line near the end that didn’t quite mention Telos that finally disabused me of the idea that the Daleks and the Cybermen are interchangeable. Because if the Cybermen had received a signal from a human planet saying “We’ve decided to turn ourselves into Cybermen, could you come and pick us up please?”, the Cybermen would have turned up and basically said “You have made the right choice, welcome aboard.” There’s none of that “purity” stuff with Cybermen – they just want to survive, and are willing to make any compromises they have to in order to do so.

    Anyway, sorry this post was so long. Hi! Love your podcast!

  16. Just caught up with the amusing Shelf Wars conversation. 😀

    Fandom at large would want to lynch me because I don’t even OWN the Lost in Time set, and while my individual DVDs are arranged in chronological order on my shelves, the box sets are all piled on top of each other next to the shelf unit in completely random order, with the Eccleston Tardis box at the bottom, because it provides a pretty solid foundation for the Tower of Who. 🙂

  17. I hope Liz hasn’t missed the recent Big Finish serials on BBC Radio 4 Extra. Both featured the 5th Doctor with Nyssa, Tegan, and Turlough, the same TARDIS team she liked so much. Episode 3 of ‘Cobwebs’ is still up on iPlayer, and episode 4 airs next Sunday:

    And I especially appreciate the sound quality of Verity! after struggling to understand Russell T. Davies on Who’s Round. #54 is the second half of the interview, if you are looking for it:

  18. Laurissy said:

    Ok then I’m firmly on team dalek. Exterminate. I also have made the not entirely original observation that the cybermen were better when they were called the borg. I know star trek has always had more money and Doctor who I suppose should get the benefit for coming up with the idea first. But I’m sorry star trek wins hands down on this one. So I’m not the biggest fan of the cybermen and to be honest I don’t get why they have the number two in the doctor’s rogue gallery. I think they’re overated and I don’t think their episodes are that good. Sorry Deb. However my favourite cyberman story is probably assimilation 2 because doctor who and star trek equals awesome and I think it does present the cybermen really well. It probably doesn’t count because it’s a comic and it’s complete fanservice. But to quote Erica I’m a fan and it serviced me well. Looking at television I suppose Invasion is the best great action, great villiians and Doctor Who predicting phoning a computer and becoming increasingly frustrated as it gets less and less done. I suppose my favourite would be tomb mainly because of the one scene with Victoria and the Doctor. Runner up is silver nemesis it’s very slly and I was warned when I bought it but I like Ace taking Cybermen down with a slingshot, I like the idea that the doctor and Ace go to jazz concerts, I also like the nazis as villians stupid as hell yeah I’d agree but worth the ride.

    PS. Not to continue the shelf wars but I put Lost in time between the web planet and the space museum because the crusade is the first complete story on the set and I place it in order of air date. It does annoy me slightly there is a part of me that wants to just put all the orphan episodes on to a dvd with reconstruction of the missing episodes and then buy new cases, find fan covers on deviant art and then put all the episodes in the right place. But I don’t have the time/money/patience to do that.

  19. What a good discussion! Thinking through all of their stories, here’s how they break down for me:

    *Favorite – Earthshock (though it must be said I do enjoy Attack as well – love the tinkering with the chameleon circuit!)
    *Most Representative – The Invasion (long, but shows the machinations of them as a race)
    *Worst – Nightmare in Silver (GET RID OF THOSE DAMN KIDS! Also, provide us with a story that makes some kind of sense. Thanks. 🙂 )

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