When it comes to persistent villains in Doctor Who—itself pretty darn persistent, heading in to its tenth series of jump-started television and 53 years overall—you’ve essentially got three camps: you’ve got the mutated hate-tanks, the Daleks; you’ve got the dastardly mustache-twirling Master; and you’ve got the cold, emotionless universe-assimilators, the Cybermen. That last group is pretty under-served in the new series, but was perhaps the scariest and most fearsome of the bunch in the classic series. Thankfully, that changes with Titan Comics‘ miniseries “Supremacy of the Cybermen,” which is returning this week with issue #2. We spoke to co-writer Cavan Scott all about the metallic menaces.
“They’re always there because, you know, they’re a believable villain,” Scott explains of the venerable, marching terrors. “Daleks, yeah a lot of work has to be done to turn someone into a green blob in armor. Cybermen can go down that route, replacing parts of your body, replacing parts of your brain to become ‘better’ to ‘improve yourself,’ to upgrade. You can sort of see that happening [nowadays] so that’s why it can get a bit scary at times when you think about the Cybermen.”
The Cybermen debuted in the First Doctor’s final story—”The Tenth Planet” from 1966—and were a constant adversary of the Second Doctor in the late ’60s before disappearing for a decade, save a single Fourth Doctor tangle in 1975. But when they returned in 1982’s “Earthshock,” as Scott remembers, it was the biggest, scariest surprise on TV. “I remember growing up watching the show in the ’80s;” he muses, “they brought them back and it was a complete shock. They didn’t tell anyone they were going to be there and it was the [serial’s first episode] cliffhanger with no big talk or mention of it. The reveal went up and we hadn’t seen them since the early 70s.”
For the comic series, Scott and his writing partner George Mann have brought in the Cybermen from all different eras, which—unlike the Daleks—have been truly different and distinct from each other, growing and changing with each new incarnation. “We tried to get every Cybermen into this story, even the ones that you haven’t necessarily seen,” Scott reveals. “We looked at some of the designs for Cybermen that never made it to the screens because we have things like the Ninth Doctor meeting the Cybermen and you never saw that on screen. We wondered what his Cybermen would be like so we went back to some of the designs for the Tennant Cybermen. We also made sure we got the first Cybermen in with the cloth faces. But obviously, the main thrust of this story is the 21st Century Doctor.”
Even though he grew up with the ’80s version of the Cybermen, Scott explains that their uncharacteristic emotions weren’t really what they were looking for in the comic. “We tried to make sure that every Cybermen in some way is covered. Probably the ones we don’t have so many of is the 1980s Cybermen because they’re the most emotional Cybermen you’ve ever seen. They get very excited about just about everything.”
“I think the Cybermen change a lot throughout their history,” he continues, “not just physically. That’s one of the great things; they were crying out for atrophy so, you know, you’ve got all your different Cybermen from the different eras. But they do largely remain the same. I think the modern Cybermen are very much like the Cybermen in the ’60s, especially the Patrick Troughton era and getting back to the original concept-core of them which is just upgrading as many people as possible. ‘You will be like us.’ Which was always the catchphrase from the ’80s. So, you think back to that. The ’80s were a bit of a blip. I think there might have been a virus going on there. There was a little bit of a software patch that needed repairing.”
But fear not, people scared of being upgraded by the silver nemeses, Scott explains that Cybermen will ignore you if they can–which actually makes them much harder to write for. “Because they’re so monotone, they’re so much harder… actually the Daleks make better conversationalists than Cybermen, because if a Cyberman doesn’t have to exert the energy to talk, they won’t. And that’s what makes them so terrifying. You know, it’s like the Borg in Star Trek, it’s the same deal. If you don’t bother with them, they won’t bother with you because they won’t exert the energy.”
Until they need to attack, of course.
The second issue of Titan Comics’ Doctor Who – “Supremacy of the Cybermen,” written by Cavan Scott and George Mann with art by Alessandro Vitti, will be on comic shop shelves Wednesday, August 17.
Let us know your favorite version of the Cybermen in the comments below!
Images: BBC/Titan Comics
Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor and the resident Whovian for Nerdist. Follow him on Twitter!