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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. BatmanAoD
    April 23, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

    This was (as always) a fascinating read, and really quite compelling. I'm sure this has already crossed your mind, and perhaps you planned it this way intentionally, but it seems quite fitting that you posted this on the eve of the premiere of the season when, as River Song says, "everything changes."


  2. Bill Reed
    April 23, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

    My, what a marvelous piece.

    I love these Cybermen– which is weird, because I have only seen a few scant seconds of them, having never actually watched the story– but these are the Cybermen I want back. The terrifying humans who are still in the process of removing their weak, fleshy parts, and their weak, unnecessary souls. The cloth faces, the chest accordions, the terrifying method of speaking in which their mouths don't move. They didn't just want to kill you, like the Daleks, they wanted to turn you into them. That's what everybody was really afraid of during the Cold War, and unlike the Daleks, which preyed on the memory of Nazis, Cybermen were analagous to the very real Communists that were still out there in the world, that everyone in the Western world pooped their pants over.

    And I guess that's why they're my favorite Doctor Who baddies, even if they eventually turned into evil robot guys who weren't very exciting or scary.


    • Eve Schmitt
      September 27, 2015 @ 5:54 pm



  3. Seeing_I
    August 10, 2011 @ 6:37 am

    Great essay! I just want to chime in with my love of these Cybermen. They are so bizarre as to be genuinely unnerving, and like Videodrome, they have a philosophy – which is what makes them so dangerous.


  4. Tallifer
    September 10, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

    This was a very interesting essay, but given that The Tenth Planet opens a new season of Doctor Who, the production team clearly never thought of this as the final death of the only Doctor, but indeed as some sort of rejuvenation of the Doctor into his second form. I am likewise dubious (albeit interested)about the connexion which you have drawn between this story and occultism.


  5. Kat42
    November 12, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

    This is the entry that got me completely hooked on your blog a few months ago. I was moving along liking random bits of it and this made me want to read it right from beginning to end.

    I don't know if this was their intention but you've made a good case for it and you've made me like the Cybermen way more than I ever did before. I already thought this story was a bit more interesting than other Cybermen stories, but this sealed it. Whether the writers meant it this way or not your explanation has become my official one and I find myself wishing that they stayed with this interpretation of the classic villain throughout their run.


  6. Al Paige
    December 9, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

    >Wood and Miles make a compelling case for this, including their observation, much ignored by the rest of fandom, that for years Doctor Who Magazine didn't even count this story as a regeneration, instead saying it was a "rejuvenation," and thus a completely different thing from what happens in, say, Planet of the Spiders.>>

    ???!! What a fatuous aside. In point of fact Doctor Who Magazine DID "count this story as a regeneration" except for the brief period in the mid 1980s when Richard Landen was employed as contributing writer/editor and was allowed to indulge his "rejuvenation" concept in its pages. This is the opinion of ONE fan writer and is hardly authoritative – a reading of issues PRECEDING and POST Landen's time with the mag clearly show that other writers on the mag (eg Jeremy Bentham, who wrote all the original copy upon its launch) regarded it as a regen same as all others. "Much ignored by the rest of fandom" eh – so "fandom" should regard the minority opinion of Landen as somehow of great significance simply because it appeared in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine??! Give me a break!!


  7. liminalD
    April 11, 2012 @ 4:34 am

    "… Otherwise, he was always simply the Doctor. And what is about to happen is not the replacement of the first version with the second. It's the replacement of the only version with something completely new.

    And we know that the moment Ben and Polly return to the TARDIS, as the Doctor, silently, desperately, flings switches around while other switches flick on and off themselves. And the TARDIS screams. That's the only way to describe it – harsh, metallic noises unlike anything we've seen the ship make. It's scary. It's scary in a way not even An Unearthly Child was scary.

    And we know why it's happened. It's happened because the Doctor came into contact with horrible, qlippothic forces. It happened because the Doctor encountered these horrible, dark parodies of humanity. And the question we have to ask is, what has happened to him? Because suddenly, he collapses. He collapses, and we can see it. In the past, we've seen some man in a silly wig fall over from behind. It's a bit of a joke, spotting the lame Hartnell duplicates. But this is unmistakably William Hartnell crumpled on the ground. The Doctor. Our Doctor. The silly old wizard with a terrible fire within.

    Dying on the ground of his magic box, which screams around him.

    He doesn't get last words. He just dies. And we know why. We know full well it is Mondas that destroyed him. That his energy was drained by that monstrous other world. And it's stark and horrific. It's the sort of cosmic, psychological horror we associate with Lovecraft – that this dark, qlippothic energy stalks the universe like a cosmological vampire and has now taken our hero away form us.

    And as the TARDIS dematerialization sounds, now harsh and mechanical and scary like it hasn't been for three years, the Doctor fades away, and some new face sits where he used to be."

    Wow. You reduced me to tears with this description… astonishingly good writing there. Thank you 🙂


  8. D. N. Tostenson
    May 20, 2012 @ 7:13 am

    One interesting connection I made while reading this was that these early Cybermen– the closest we've seen to Pedler's original concept of "space monks," seeking enlightenment through extensive body modification– remind me a bit of the original concept behind Clive Barker's Cenobites from the Hellraiser series. The term "Cenobite" refers to an order of Eastern Orthodox monk, and Barker's original Cenobites were a sort of twisted quasi-religious type, putting themselves through agony in a kind of extreme rite of mortification. Crucially, the Cenobites were not really depicted as evil– they were simply amoral, dedicated to their lifestyle, and not really understanding that lesser beings might find their life to be a kind of hell. Their "blessing" to humans was seen by us as a horrible fate, a fact that was really lost on them. This sounds in many ways like the Cybermen as described here. Perhaps we should pool our money and see if we can get Barker to write a really gritty Cyberman reboot….


  9. daibhid-c
    May 29, 2012 @ 3:51 am

    But I think Philip's point isn't what the production team intended, it's what the 1966 audience saw. And they saw the Doctor – the only Doctor there had ever been – die, and someone else stand up in his place. And while the production team obviously knew that Doctor Who was back next week and Patrick Troughton was the "new Doctor", they didn't do anything to alter that perception.


  10. Henry R. Kujawa
    August 6, 2012 @ 8:27 am

    Philip Sandifer:
    "the Doctor teaming up with Richard Nixon to fight UFO-type aliens despite the fact that this premise is completely mad"

    They should do a movie like that.

    "an entire new planet drops into existence near the Earth…..Let's be fair, mere months ago Doctor Who was in movie theaters with the Daleks wanting a planet to drive around, so as insane as this seems now, the problem might be us, not them."

    Interesting connection. Piloting a planet was a concept used in FLASH GORDON (the newspaper strip, the 1st serial, the 1979 cartoon movie, the 1980 feature film), but never really delved into in detail outside of the 1979 Filmation film. And here, DOCTOR WHO did it twice, and if you look at the 2nd movie version, that's twice nearly back-to-back. (The concept wasn't revisited again until "FRONTIOS", but JNT was always revisiting ideas… usually, badly.)

    "The Doctor is dead. The horrible plastic monsters offering a grotesque parody of spiritual enlightenment have destroyed him, and replaced him with something else, just as they wanted to replace us with them."

    WONDERFUL! A thematic unity that somehow never occured to me before –but then, I've never seen, heard or read the story, only brief sypnopses of it, and yours was much more detailed, and with much more heart than anything I've read before. I feel like I actually have watched the story now!

    The Cybermen in this do seem much closer to The Borg (or vice versa) than those warrior robots ever did.


  11. orfeo
    January 1, 2013 @ 12:23 am

    You didn't mention the part of the story which I found truly the most chilling while watching it just now: the collection of names and ages in Episode 2. The scene beautifully illustrates the Cybermen's complete lack of empathy. Not only have the Cybermen come up with a logical solution to the survival problem, they haven't got the slightest interest in convincing anyone who doesn't feel that it's a GOOD solution.

    They'd actually do rather well managing corporate restructures, don't you think?


  12. Alice Fox
    August 3, 2015 @ 4:58 am

    I don't normally comment on the Doctor Who blogs I read. I read yours, wife in space and listen to up to four podcasts including geeklectic. This post required a comment from me. In this post I think you have distilled what Doctor Who was. I almost teared up reading your description and remember feeling such a sadness while watching the show. You are right. When this happened in the 60s nobody really knew what was going to happen and it was scary. It was not unlike my 5 year old self being frightened of Colin Baker after Peter Davison died on screen. People did not know what was going to happen. They knew there was a new doctor. They possibly knew William Hartnell was sick . . But they didn't know what was going to happen or if they would like it. It was likely a very scary time to be a fan of Doctor Who. I have read most of your blog from the Dalek's master plan to this point and I just need to tell you this is absolutely brilliant. Thank you for being part of my rediscovery of Doctor Who. Despite starting with Peter Davison, being frightened of Colin Baker and not liking Sylvester McCoy My first vivid memory was with PBS's 1989 rerun of the Daleks and that scary scary dalek hand. Now I come at it all for the second time….and wonder if any 1960s 5 year olds were screaming at their moms "Who's that! What happened to the doctor? I'm Scared!


  13. Eve Schmitt
    September 27, 2015 @ 6:06 pm

    Adding to the scariness of this episode is the monochrome, which creates effects of darkness that color film has never been able to replicate.


  14. Arse Bandit
    October 1, 2016 @ 5:43 pm

    I cannot help wondering how many times the production team watched DR STRANGELOVE as Cutler goes off the deep end in away that would alarm even Jack D Ripper! There’s the same semi-anal fetishisation of launch procedures as Kubrick’s film n the bomb run of the Leper Colony. Cutler’s insanity looks very appalling compared to the dispassionate Cybermen. Hartnell’s version dies of old age and there is a sense of an old man increasingly bewildered by the changing, increasingly technical, world about him as the real life Hartnell was the the sixties – as mentioned by Anneke Wills- hence his reduced screen time.


  15. Arse Bandit
    October 1, 2016 @ 5:45 pm

    I cannot help wondering how many times the production team watched DR STRANGELOVE as Cutler goes off the deep end in away that would alarm even Jack D Ripper! There’s the same semi-anal fetishisation of launch procedures as Kubrick’s film iin the bomb run of the Leper Colony. Cutler’s insanity looks very appalling compared to the dispassionate Cybermen. Hartnell’s version dies of old age and there is a sense of an old man increasingly bewildered by the changing, increasingly technical, world about him as the real life Hartnell was bewildered the sixties – as mentioned by Anneke Wills- hence his reduced screen time.


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