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.

Chapter 22. Doctor Who – The Revenge of the Cybermen (1976)

aka Doctor Who and the Revenge of the Cybermen (1976)

Synopsis: A new asteroid has arrived in the solar system and the Nerva Station has been positioned in its orbit to warn spacefarers and examine its geological makeup. The majority of the beacon’s crew has been struck down with a lethal plague, clues to the cause of which appear to focus on one man. He knows that the nearby asteroid is really the remains of the lost planet of Voga, one of the casualties of the last Cyber-War. He also knows that the Cybermen have come to hunt down and destroy the Vogans and anyone who stands in their way. Including three new arrivals to the beacon called the Doctor, Sarah and Harry. 

Chapter Titles

  • The Creation of the Cybermen
  • 1. Return to Peril
  • 2. The Cybermat Strikes
  • 3. A Hot Spot for the Doctor
  • 4. A Visit to Voga
  • 5. Rebellion!
  • 6. Attack of the Cybermen
  • 7. The Living Bombs
  • 8. Journey into Peril
  • 9. Countdown on Voga
  • 10. Explosion!
  • 11. Skystriker!
  • 12. ‘The Biggest Bang in History’

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Gerry Davis’s scripts for the 1975 serial. The first edition cover was just titled ‘The Revenge of the Cybermen’, switching to the familiar ‘Doctor Who and the…’ formula for the reprint.

Notes: The opening chapter is a word-for-word repeat of the Creation of the Cybermen passage, minus the bit about them settling on Mondas. As the Doctor and his chums arrive on the beacon, Harry reflects on his adventures since meeting the Doctor, from their first meeting [in The Giant Robot] to their most recent destination [in Genesis of the Daleks, which is, strangely, scheduled to be published next]. The cybermat’s description is closer to a Tomb or Wheel in Space version than the killer slipper from Revenge. The Vogans are described as having ‘dark-furred faces’ with’ large and luminous’ eyes, as if someone slipped Dicks a photo of Vega Nexos by mistake. Vorus is apparently tall and physically imposing in comparison to other Vogans (unlike the sleight David Collings who played him on TV). The Vogan radio operator works in a communications room, rather than in a cavern. Lester and Stevenson carry sci-fi-sounding ‘blasters’ instead of standard-issue machine guns. When Harry triggers the rockfall, the Doctor calls him an ‘idiot’, not an ‘imbecile’.

The Cybermen are apparently over seven feet tall. The description matches the look of the Cybermen in The Invasion; mounted in their helmets they have a lamp, which glows when receiving instructions, rather than a gun, and they carry rod-shaped weapons [as in The Tenth Planet novel]. A ‘second-in command’ refers to one of their number as a ‘Cyberwarrior’ (is this where that class comes from in Ascension of the Cybermen?). Magrik survives to the end. Finally, there’s an extra scene on board the TARDIS where the Doctor, Sarah and Harry see the exact point on Earth where the Brigadier’s summons is coming from – Loch Ness!

Cover: Nice, simple cover here for the first edition as Achilleos combines a photo reference of Tom Baker from The Sontaran Experiment with a quite passive-looking Cyberman and Vogan and a familiar Achilleos blobby nebula. The 1991 reprint cover by Alister Pearson is more simple, reusing a Nerva Beacon wireframe motif he used on his cover for The Ark in Space, with portraits of the Cyberleader and Vorus.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks falls into the trap that so many writers do when describing the thought processes of ’emotionless’ creatures, in forgetting they, er, don’t have emotions; ‘The Cyberleader paused to savour the horror on Sarah’s face’, he writes, and later ‘The Cyberleader looked with satisfaction on his scanner’ and ‘Confidently the Cyberleader intoned…’ which seem to capture Christopher Robbie’s performance more than the concept of emotionless cybernetic beings. Despite this (and it’s an easy temptation), Dicks gives us a fairly unembellished adaptation, capturing Sarah and Harry very well.

Chapter 20. Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet (1976)

Synopsis: A new planet appears in Earth’s solar system. The Doctor seems to know what it is and what will happen next. The planet, which bears a striking similarity to Earth, is home to a race of plastic and metal beings called ‘Cybermen’. As Ben and Polly help the staff of an Antarctic tracking station to fight off the invaders, the Doctor prepares for his final adventure. 

Chapter Titles

  • The Creation of the Cybermen
  • 1 The Space Tracking Station
  • 2 Disaster in Space
  • 3 The New Planet
  • 4 Mondas!
  • 5 The Cyberman Invasion
  • 6 Ben into Action
  • 7 Battle in the Projection Room
  • 8 Two Hundred and Fifty Spaceships
  • 9 Z-Bomb Alert!
  • 10 Prepare to Blast Off
  • 11 Cybermen in Control
  • 12 Resistance in the Radiation Room
  • 13 The Destruction of Mondas!

Background: Gerry Davis adapts the 1966 scripts he co-wrote with Kit Pedler.

Notes: The book begins with a summary of the creation of the Cybermen, claiming they originated on the planet Telos before taking refuge on the ‘lost sister planet of Earth – Mondas’. An American called Tito is reading a Captain Marvel comic (presumably a vintage edition as the character didn’t have a comic of his / her own in either 1986 or 2000). Although this is only the third TV adventure for Ben and Polly, it’s suggested that they’ve been on many uneventful journeys since they joined the Doctor. Continuity from The Moonbase is preserved, as Ben and Polly are from the early 1970s, not the mid-60s, so Ben can recognise a Roger Moore Bond film that he saw for the first time a few weeks before he joined the Doctor’s travels (very possibly The Man with the Golden Gun, which would mean the Doctor’s young friends are from 1974). And yes, Polly discovers they’re in the more futuristic year 2000 (not 1986 as in the original. At the time of writing, the year 2000 is 20 years in my past!). The Cybermen use a ‘short silver baton-like object’ for a weapon, rather than the cumbersome lamps hooked onto their chest units as on screen. The Cyberleader from the second wave has a ‘black impassive mask’ (similar to Revenge of the Cybermen and Davis’s adaptation of The Moonbase [see Doctor Who and the Cybermen]), The regeneration scene is so different that it upset some fan reviewers at the time.

Cover: Chris Achilleos makes up for the monochrome Cybermen and snowy setting by placing them in front of a vivid aurora background that’s really thrilling. There’s also an illustration on the rear cover of a Cyberman firing a blast from its headlamp (something that doesn’t actually happen in the TV series for 51 years) and a defiant first Doctor inset. The 1993 reprint cover by Alister Pearson is almost symmetrical, with a saggy-looking Cyberman on each side, the first full-face shot of a Cyberman from the cliffhanger of episode 1 and a mid-length portrait of Hartnell from The Celestial Toymaker. It’s very tidy but not that dramatic, sadly.

Final Analysis: Davis handles the Doctor’s departure much better than circumstances allowed in the TV production (where Hartnell’s illness led to him missing episode 3 with just a few days’ notice). He seeds the Doctor’s illness and frailty beautifully. 

Was it Ben’s imagination, or had the Doctor’s hair gone a shade whiter and finer during the last few hours? His skin, which looked as transparent as old parchment, was stretched tightly over his prominent cheek bones.

I have to note the use of outdated terms to describe a couple of black characters (Williams is described as ‘a tall, handsome American negro of about thirty’), while also commending that the characters were there in the first place at a time where multicultural casting was still rare. Whether this was originally scripted or down to the casting by director Derek Martinus is another matter.

The slow, steady breakdown of Cutler as he struggles with the pressure of his son’s peril helps to elevate the later chapters from the absence of the Cybermen. But having built up the Doctor’s demise so subtly throughout the book, it’s surprising that the actual change happens out of sight of Ben and Polly. Emerging from a sarcophagus in the control room, the old Doctor has disappeared and in his place is a much younger man:

The stranger looked at him in slight surprise. ‘You ask me that, Ben? Don’t you recognise me?’
The Doctor’s two companions shook their heads.
‘I thought it was quite obvious,’ Again, he smiled his gently mocking smile and winked at them with his bluegreen eyes. ‘Allow me to introduce myself then. I am the new Doctor!’

Chapter 12. Doctor Who and the Cybermen (1975)

Synopsis: The Cybermen tried to invade the Earth once but were ‘humiliatingly defeated’. Their second attempt comes via the Moon, where they are already lying in wait for the perfect moment to attack. As the personnel of the Moonbase fall ill one by one, the Doctor and his friends scramble to find the cause.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Prologue: The Creation of the Cybermen
  • 2. The Landing on the Moon
  • 3. The Moon Base
  • 4. Attack in the Medical Unit
  • 5. The Space-plague
  • 6. The Doctor Investigates
  • 7. The Cybermen’s Plot
  • 8. The Battle with the Cybermen
  • 9. Victory, perhaps…
  • 10. The March of the Cybermen
  • 11. Into Battle with the Gravitron!

Background: Gerry Davis adapts the scripts he co-wrote with Kit Pedlar for the 1967 serial The Moonbase.

Notes: We begin with a prologue that’s a potted history of the Cybermen that (in line with later stories but contradicting The Tenth Planet) states that the Cybermen come from Telos. Later on, when discussing Mondas, the Cybermen say they come from ‘the other Cyberman planet, TELOS’. Ben and Polly are from the 1970s now, so they’re familiar with the Apollo Moon landings, although Davis seems to think Ben is still wearing his sailor’s uniform and Polly is in a mini-skirt and tee-shirt. Oh and Jamie is tagged as ‘a little thick, even by 1745 standards’, which seems hugely unfair. There’s a Cyberman with a red line down the front of his chest unit, which Davis draws attention to but doesn’t elaborate on, and a couple of others with black helmets similar to those seen in Revenge of the Cybermen, who have names (as in The Tenth Planet).

Cover & Illustrations: Chris Achilleos painted the original cover using a Troughton pic from The Three Doctors and a Cybermen from The Invasion. I had the 1981 reprint with the cover by Bill Donohoe that appears to depict the Cyber-space walk from the end of The Wheel in Space. Illustrations by Alan Willow show the correct Moonbase Cybermen, and the best pic is of Ralph, the Moonbase crewman, staring in horror as (the caption explains) ‘the shadow of a large figure’ looms over him.

Final Analysis: It’s nice when the originators of a story get to give us their version. Davis largely sticks to the story as televised, but he really goes to town with a nautical theme with chapter two’s description of the TARDIS’s dramatic journey to the Moon (‘Like a ship in a heavy sea,’)  including a reference to the TARDIS ‘cabin’, ‘bulkheads’ and ‘deck’. In the prologue there’s a line that ‘although revenge was not a part of their mental makeup any more than the other emotions,’ which I suspect was pushing against Davis’s recent experience with Robert Holmes changing his title (and most of the script) for Tom Baker’s Cyberman adventure.