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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 504 > CYBER CONVERSION!

CYBER CONVERSION!

The Cybermen have rarely looked the same from one appearance to the next. We examine the changes in Cyber-evolution, including some variants that were barely glimpsed on screen...

No creature in Doctor Who has changed their look as frequently as the Cybermen. Each costume designer sought to improve what had gone before but their good intentions were often scuppered by practicality and lack of time. In an era before teams of concept artists were employed, the costume supervisors were starved of resources, and alterations were made at the last minute as necessity dictated. Often with Sellotape.

The original look for 1966’s The Tenth Planet.

There is no greater example of the anarchic production process than The Wheel in Space (1968), which features no fewer than three designs of Cyberman. However, with publicity photos in short supply, and their appearances on screen often fleeting, the silver giants of that era have slipped into obscurity. Hard though it is to imagine in a programme so well-scrutinised, a complete and unique Cyberman costume design has been lost in the mists of time. Until now...

Given the Cybermen’s confusing timeline in the fiction of the show, it is fitting that they have sometimes shown retrograde developments from one story to the next. Both The Invasion (1968) and Revenge of the Cybermen (1975) re-introduce features that had been abandoned in the previous version. The influences behind their return in the 1970s are both strange and surprising, and the Cybermen became ‘life imitating art’ in a world before brand management.

Left and right: A rare Cyber-design, briefly seen in the final episode of 1967’s The Wheel in Space.

‘A unique Cyberman costume design has been lost in the mists of time. Until now...’

Yet, amid the indiscriminate alterations, a thread of continuity runs through each incarnation. From 1966 to 1988, every new generation of Cyberman inherited characteristics from its ancestors – not just the obvious handlebars and chest panel, but in the very manufacture of the helmets. Fibreglass heads were first created for The Moonbase (1967) and, like almost every aspect of the Cybermen, these were devised to solve a problem from the previous story. After their début in The Tenth Planet (1966), there was certainly no shortage of problems to solve…

The Cybermen were conceived out of the nightmares of medical science. Kit Pedler’s script indicated that the creatures retained a human face and hands, with just a plate on the head suggesting brain surgery. Costume designer Sandra Reid [ie Alexandra Tynan – see page 14] went further, creating a cloth face which evoked surgical bandages, perhaps hiding grotesque operations scars beneath. Her Cybermen were living prosthetics with artificial plastic skin, under which vertical veins could be seen running up and down the limbs.

On their heads, they wore a plastic skull-cap that was ridged as if to evoke their long-lost human hair, and Reid planned a large, ‘third eye’ to be mounted on the forehead. Unfortunately, as each element of the design translated from paper to reality, the problems began to mount.

Instead of appearing like a ‘third eye’, the decision was made to have a working light and so a large vehicle lamp was used. This had to be held aloft like a mini lighthouse, high above the head.

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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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