Whovember: Tomb of the Cybermen


I’m not all that familiar with the Second Doctor (probably because most of his episodes got binned by the Beeb), but having seen this story recently, I have to say he looks a lot of fun. I can also see where Matt Smith got some of his characterisation for Eleven from… and speaking of Matt Smith, Tomb of the Cybermen is, apparently, among his favourite episodes. So, shall we take a look?

Fresh from rescuing Victoria from the Daleks, the Doctor and Jamie bring her to the planter Telos – coincidentally just as an archaeological expedition is about to open the tomb of the Cybermen, ostensibly to establish why the Cybermen died out. However, human nature being what it is, some members of the dig refuse to let sleeping cyborgs lie and attempt to subvert the whole expedition and use the secrets of the Cybermen for their own purposes.

It struck me that for a scientifically enhanced race, the Cybermen left a lot of pseudo-religious stuff behind them. The Cyberman icons liberally scattered through the tomb seem similar to the sort of religious imagery you might expect in, say, an Egyptian pyramid, or even the crosses you still find in graveyards. And the ritual that surrounds the resurrection of the Cybercontroller… well, to me it was an interesting combination of science and religion.


The expedition is funded by a woman named Kaftan, and her partner in crime business Eric Klieg, who we discover are members of the Brotherhood of Logicians, possessors of great intelligence but limited physical power (and apparently no common sense). Klieg has come up with the ingenious idea of resurrecting the Cybermen, who will then be so overwhelmed with gratitude that they will do anything for their saviour.

The power cable generated an electrical field and confused their tiny metal minds. You might almost say they’ve had a complete metal breakdown.

It seems there was a flaw in his logic somewhere though, because the Cybermen, far from being grateful, reveal that they had in fact orchestrated this very situation before sealing themselves inside their tomb. (Although, if you could do that, and power the electric gates for centuries, why lock yourselves in a tomb anyway? Why not just hide in a massive plothole until the TARDIS drops by and catch a lift?)

Um, anyway, plotholes aside, this is a fun story with plenty of humour – usually from the Doctor himself:

The Doctor: Don’t you see what this is going to mean to all the people who come to serve Klieg the all powerful? Why, no country, no person would dare to have a single thought that was not your own. Eric Klieg’s own conception of the, of the way of life!
Eric Klieg: Brilliant! Yes, yes, you’re right. Master of the world.
The Doctor: Well now I know you’re mad, I just wanted to make sure.

twoand the cybermen talk like robots from a 1960s TV… oh, right. Well that’s fun too. A slightly less fun sign of this serial’s age is the fact that the expedition’s wealthy benefactress has a black manservant; Steven Moffat would only get away with this by hanging a lamp on it, but that’s already been done for Diggle.

So, watch it for the glimpse of Cyberman ‘religion’, and how they react to the promise of resurrection, salvation, or whatever you want to call Klieg’s intention towards them; and of course their complete refusal to worship him as a result. I guess the moral of the story, as far as its religious themes are concerned, is don’t try and set yourself up as a god unless you can actually demonstrate that you have the powers of a god.

Klieg, for instance, when killed by his would-be subjects, stayed dead.

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