After the Daleks, it’s pretty clear that the Cybermen are some of the Doctor’s greatest foes; first seen in 1966 in The Tenth Planet, the Cybermen were technically the first menace in the universe that caught the Doctor to regenerate (kind of). Fifty years later then, they’re still seen in the TV show, but recently it seems that they’ve lost their menace; what could be done to make the Cybermen scary again?
If we use the Daleks as an example of how a monster can still be relevant and then compare them to the Cybermen, the first thing you’d notice is the lack of consistent mythology for the Cybermen. Originally in the Classic Series, the Cybermen were from Mondas, the Earth’s recently discovered twin planet; the Cybermen are the result of humans upgrading and replacing parts of their anatomy to make them more efficient. We then got an alternate version of the Cybermen during the revival in 2006 when we met the parallel universes Cybus Industries version of the Cybermen which first appeared in Rise of The Cybermen and The Age of Steel. These Cybus Cybermen were used until 2013 when we were introduced to the newest form of Cybermen in Nightmare In Silver, with these constantly upgrading Cybermen. This means that loose in this universe we have at least three different strains of Cybermen, making their origins and mythology confusing and erratic.
To solve this problem, it would be great if there was an explanation such as a grand CyberPuppetMaster that is outside the realms of universes pulling all of the Cybermen’s Cyberstrings as it were.
The next problem with the Cybermen is the fact that the latest incarnations of the Cybermen, last seen in Dark Water and Death In Heaven is the fact that they’re essentially Iron Man from the Marvel comics and Marvel Cinematic Universe. For some reason these Cybermen seemingly have an Arc Reactor in their chest, fly almost identically to Iron Man and prides themselves on constant upgrading, much like Tony Stark with his creation.
To remedy this problem, I’d recommend that we go back to basics, get rid of the latest Cybermen and go back, like Peter Capaldi wants to, to the Mondasian Cybermen. They weren’t bothered about upgrading themselves to be the best creatures in the universe, leave that to the Daleks, the Cybermen originally just wanted everyone to be like them; a very different goal to their Skaroian(?) neighbours.
Personally, if I were to attempt to make the Cybermen scary again, especially for a modern audience; I would have a much less polished Cyberman. The problem with the Cybermen in this day and age is the fact that the majority of the public are constantly upgrading parts of their lives, whether it be their smartphones, their tablets, their TV’s, their games consoles, their clothes, their friends, their Facebook statuses. In the 21st century we’re constantly upgrading aspects of our lives, meaning the threat of the ultimate upgrade would probably be a great way to save money over the years.
In that case, if we had a more unpolished, unfinished Cyberman; a cyberframe more than a Cyberman, drilling into the flesh, keeping the human form but being torn apart. I know that people don’t like body horror but it would be suitably efficient for a Cyberman to be truly scary.
Next, I would bring back some of their emotions, making Cybermen more tortured souls than they currently are, some of the most emotional and distressing moments from the Cybermen are when their Emotional Inhibitors are faulty, meaning they know that they’re essentially a monster. but being powerless to do anything about it.
If the Cybermen were less perfect they would certainly be more menacing; couple that with a great true origin story and take the Doctor back to Mondas and I think that there’s a chance for these metal men to be truly terrifying once more. The people of the 60s and 70s were petrified of computers, robots and an unnerving perfection, but in todays society that is what’s expected. Maybe its time for the Cybermen to be much more rustic, ragged and imperfect…