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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 504 > THE CYBERMUM

THE CYBERMUM

50 years ago, the Cybermen first marched onto our screens. We asked the costume designer who gave them life about their enduring appeal.

“My Cybermen are fantastic... They’re much more exciting than the stupid Daleks.”

Peter Capaldi, bless him – I think he’s gorgeous – says he’d like my Cybermen to return. I’m very flattered,” admits Belfast-born Alexandra Tynan – who, back in the 60s, called herself Sandra, went by her maiden name Reid, and birthed a new race of foe for the Doctor: those cyborgs from the planet Mondas. All hail the Cyber-Queen!

The Cybermen, designed by Alexandra, débuted in 1966’s The Tenth Planet, lurching out of the South Pole snow and into Doctor Who lore. “I’m a great fan of the Mondasian Cybermen,” Capaldi told BBC Worldwide’s The Fan Show last year. “They have real, human hands. When I was a child, that was really, really spooky. I’d like to see them come back… It’d be good if we found the Doctor on Mondas itself, in an adventure where he discovered the Cybermen actually being created.”

“I would love to design, for Peter’s Doctor, new versions of my Mark I Cybermen,” enthuses Alexandra. “That would be the greatest thing to do, so I keep saying it to people – ‘I would love to do that!’ – hoping that somehow the message will seep through.”

The legendary Cybermen make their début in The Tenth Planet (1966).

“I used to think, ‘Thank God I’m not working on Doctor Who. I couldn’t bear it!’ Then I had a nasty surprise!”

Alexandra is chatting to DWM over the phone, from her home in Victoria, Australia. “I’m sitting here surrounded by books all about Cybermen and Doctor Who, to jog my memory,” she tells me. “People often come up to me and say, ‘I think your Cybermen were the most frightening.’ I looked at them yesterday, when I rewatched The Tenth Planet, and I thought, ‘I suppose they are a bit scary.’ At the time, they got a lot of press, some of it very negative. Angry parents said that we were scaring the bejesus out of their kids. Am I personally responsible, with my Cybermen, for a whole generation of disturbed people? The number of adults who have come up to me and said, ‘Your Cybermen terrified me when I was a child,’ and I have apologised a thousand times – not only to those people who I frightened, but also to the ones who had to wear the costumes…”

Alexandra (left) and a colleague get the Cybermen ready for action!

In 2013, Alexandra watched BBC Two’s An Adventure in Space and Time, the Mark Gatisspenned drama telling the story of Doctor Who’s first three years. “They had this actor dressed as a Tenth Planet Cyberman, sitting there smoking a cigarette, saying, ‘For God’s sake, can I take my head off ? I’m boiling in here!’ I was watching this go out, and I happened to be sat by myself, and I said out loud to the screen, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it’s all my fault!’ I felt so terrible, even after all these years,” she chuckles. “Every time I’ve met an actor who’s been a Cyberman, I’ve got down on my knees and said, ‘Please forgive me! I gave you such hell.’” Those original Cyberman costumes weren’t so comfortable?

The original Cyber-design returns in 2013 origins drama An Adventure in Space and Time.

“No – and when an actor is insecure or unhappy about something, everybody gets unsettled; everybody pays. I’ve discovered later in life that it’s a good idea to actually talk to the actors – very few costume designers ask an actor how they feel about the character – and that’s opened doors for me. From then on, we had a rapport. Actors trusted me. You really have to be a psychologist when you’re a costume designer, and it took me a long time to wake up to that fact. The costume is part of the character. When the actor puts it on, he or she has to feel that it’s right [for their character] and it’s not going to interfere with their performance. Unlike my Cybermen, who suffered appalling things in the costumes I did for them.”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

This issue, DWM celebrates 50 years of the one of the Doctor's greatest enemies: the Cybermen! Contents include: an interview with the woman who designed the original Cybermen, Alexandra Tynan; a look at every single Cyber-plan through the ages, as told by the Cybermen themselves; a new Cyberman comic strip by Alan Barnes with art by Adrian Salmon; a detailed look at how the Cybermen have evolved from their first appearance; Steven Moffat answers readers' questions; The Fact of Fiction puts the 1988 25th anniversary story Silver Nemesis under the spotlight; the Time Team watch 2010's Vincent and the Doctor; actor Jami Reid-Quarrell is interviewed about his monstrous roles (including Colony Sarff) in Doctor Who's 2015 series; a new comic strip adventure for the Twelfth Doctor – 'Moving In' by Mark Wright with art by John Ross; the Watcher praises Galaxy 4; plus reviews, previews, official news, competitions and much more!
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