Chapter 41. Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen (1978)

Synopsis: On the planet Telos, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria join an expedition party as they uncover the doors to the legendary tombs of the Cybermen. Long believed to be dead, the silver giants are very much still active – and, as the explorers soon learn, they are keen to convert the intruders into Cybermen. 

Chapter Titles

  • Introduction
  • 1. Victoria and Jamie
  • 2. An Expedition in Space
  • 3. The Entrance to the Tombs
  • 4. Cyberman Control Room
  • 5. The Recharging Room
  • 6. The Target Room
  • 7. The Finding of the Cybermat
  • 8. The Secret of the Hatch
  • 9. The Cyberman Controller
  • 10. Release the Cybermats
  • 11. The Controller is Revitalised
  • 12. Toberman Returns
  • 13. Closing the Tombs

Background: Adapted by Gerry Davis from the 1967 scripts he co-wrote with Kit Pedler.

Notes: Here’s that ‘Creation of the Cybermen’ introduction agan, pushing its ‘Telos-origin’ agenda – maybe we should just believe the guy who created them? Actually, it’s not just a straight reprint of that chapter from the previous books; it’s slightly more involved, outlining the progress of the Cybermen since their first two appearances, chronologically. Davis restates that the arrival of Mondas came in 2000 [see Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet] and the attack on the Moonbase was in 2070 [see Doctor Who and the Cybermen], after which, the Cybermen disappeared, believed to be long dead. There’s an effective comparison to the pyramids of Egypt, while Davis describes the Cybermen as the Doctor’s ‘most dreaded adversaries’. Hmmm…

The Doctor and Jamie watch their approach to Telos on the scanner; it’s ‘a small, moon-like planet pitted and scarred by light-centuries of astral bombardment’ (yes, ‘light centuries – it’s been scarred by a unit of distance). The time travellers use ‘space-torches’ (or as we might call them… ‘torches’) to explore the tomb. Victoria receives a potted biography (dead dad, Daleks, orphan), as does Jamie (1746, Culloden, English Redcoat soldiers). When Victoria changes out of her huge dress, she selects a short skirt left behind by Polly, ‘the girl from the 1970s, now safely returned to England’. Victoria is very distressed by the choice of available fashions, complaining that they’ve made her look like ‘Alice In Wonderland’, a book published a year before she first meets the Doctor (and a role Deborah Watling had played in 1965 for a Dennis Potter play about Lewis Carroll). The comparison is more accurate than we might think as, according to Davis, Victoria has ‘long, fair hair’. The Doctor has ‘cat-like’ eyes that are green (!) and he is called ‘Doctor Who’ four times (and ‘Dr Who’ once, at the end).

Victoria recalls that her father used to discuss electricity with ‘Dr Faraday’ (presumably pioneering electrochemist Michael Faraday), who was a frequent dinner guest (Victoria remembers that he didn’t like carrots). In Evil of the Daleks, her father’s partner, Maxtible, mentions Faraday’s research into static electricity and those of James Clerk Maxwell twelve years earlier – so it’s likely Victoria was a child when these dinners took place. Later, she recalls her father reading a book by the fireside and affectionately calling her ‘Toria’, though this might just be a trick to help herself to cope with his still-recent death.

Haydon is Professor Parry’s assistant, a junior archaeologist who Parry knew as a ‘promising young student’ who had approached him with an interest in studying the Cybermen. The tombs have bas-relief sculptures on the walls, showing the history of the Cybermen, including their evolution from humans to plastic-and-metal giants, up to the final destruction of Mondas, their first planet. 

‘That was the last time we had the pleasure of their company,’ said the Doctor. ‘They lived on the “Tenth Planet”, Mondas, then.’

Except that wasn’t the last time, was it? The Cybermat that Jamie finds has ‘two red bulbs for eyes’. It can crawl like a centipede and curl ‘like a scorpion’ before it attacks. The Controller of the Cybermen is larger than the others – about seven feet – with a black helmet. The Controller recognises the Doctor and Jamie from the Moonbase. Toberman doesn’t just hit the converter machine, he throws it against a wall, smashing it.

Cover: Jeff Cummins gives us a lovely Invasion-style Cyberman (but with those ridged tubes across the body like in Revenge of the Cybermen) with small beams of light cast across it. The 1992 reprint used Alister Pearson’s cover for the VHS with the Doctor looking pensive in front of the vast Cyber-tomb.

Final Analysis: At school, I had an English teacher who would mark essays in red ink with a note to the side – ‘repetition!’ I’m reminded of this as I read this novelfor the first time in many years. There are a few sections that I found very distracting due to either sloppy editing or an author resistant to correction:

‘The grey uniform of his space Orbiter Engineer Class uniform…’

‘… he took out of the baggy pockets of his coat a small pocket instrument…’

‘… a riot of colour, glittering with crimson, rose colour…’

Repetition!

It’s especially surprising considering this book is partly the reason the story was considered a classic for 20 years, before younger fans who missed it on transmission could see it (and why some were disappointed on its eventual home video release). In many ways, it’s a solid translation from script to novel, with Davis once again making the effort to tie the story into what’s gone before in the Target universe, but he gets confused between that well-worn introduction and later sections that state that Mondas was the first Cyberman planet. No wonder the debate raged on well into the 1980s. It’s this lack of attention to detail that makes this a distracting read for this older fan and I can’t help wishing that this had been held back for Ian Marter to write instead.

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