The original Mondasian Cybermen from The Tenth Planet are returning in the Series 10 finale and oh my god you have no idea how freaking excited I am about this. I’ve wanted this for so long but I never thought Moffat would be bold or visionary enough to actually do it. I take back everything I said about Moffat phoning it in in Series 10, because this is some seriously meaty and ambitious and fan-pleasing stuff.
It was Peter Capaldi who once said he’d love to see the Mondasian Cybermen back on the show, but that Moffat has agreed that it would be a good idea to bring them back—in his last finale no less—shows that he’s interested in what the fans want to see (in this case the more nerdy and opinionated section of the fandom) and is engaging with the conversations we’ve been having, since the Mondasian Cybermen have been pretty high on so many hardcore Whovians’ wish lists. If Moffat brings back the Valeyard in the Christmas special he’ll have absolutely made my year (although I’m not expecting that).
For those who haven’t seen much of Classic Who and don’t get why it’s so exciting that the Mondasian Cybermen are being brought back, let me enlighten you. You could do worse than to read my paean to the Mondasian Cybermen in my review of the Big Finish audio Spare Parts. What The Tenth Planet gets right and what pretty much all subsequent Cybermen stories (especially in the revived series) have got wrong, and what Spare Parts tried to rehabilitate, was a conception of the Cybermen as a chilling reflection of ourselves. Look past the primitive costume work on the Mondasian Cybermen and see the compelling concept they’re supposed to embody: the Cybermen are us if we’re not careful about how far we take artificial augmentation of our bodies. The Cybermen are what we could become. They’re supposed to be tragic, not frightening, or frightening only in the sense that they should be a warning to us about what we could become. The Cybermen are not Daleks with legs—they’re not killer robots—as they’re regrettably portrayed in the modern series. They’re us. They’re literally the human race. That’s the reason why they’re supposed to be scary.
Even though the costuming and voices and movements of the Cybermen from The Tenth Planet are quite primitive and probably seem quite comical to us, I think those original models actually embody this concept of the Cybermen as humanity’s “dark mirror” really well. The zombie-like movements, the weird half-human, half-machine sing-songy voices, their chillingly human dialogue (actual rational argument, not “DELETE”), the creepy fleshy faces and hands. It all makes for a version of the Cybermen that I find so much freakier and creepier than the stomping killer robots in their Iron Man suits screaming “DELETE” that the show is afflicted with today. The Cybermen, true to their original concept, should really, as the Mondasian Cybermen did, evoke zombies, which are another human-but-not-human creature, rather than robots, which are human in no way at all. I really just hope Moffat gets them right.
If you haven’t already, I’d definitely recommend watching The Tenth Planet (which is also the First Doctor’s regeneration story!) to see the original Mondasian Cybermen at their freaky, zombie-ish, ‘Sixties best. After The Tenth Planet, listen to the Spare Parts Big Finish audio play, which sees the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa return to Mondas to witness the genesis of the Cybermen—which is an amazing Doctor Who story in itself, but also, in my opinion, the best Cyberman story ever precisely because it’s such a faithful portrayal of the iconic villain.