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Published on February 19th, 2012 | by Christian Cawley

Improving the Cybermen and Slitheen

Over 200 votes were cast in our recent poll in which we asked readers to tell us which monsters they felt had failed to reach their potential in Doctor Who.

While they weren’t runaway winners, the Cybermen came out as clear winners, with 39 votes representing 18.57% of those cast. However there was a surprising monster in second place… the Slitheen family from Raxacoricofallapatorius!

Here’s the poll, which is now closed. Hit the View Results button to see how it turned out.

Now, as we’re not market research experts, we’ve ended up with two outcomes rather than shaping a series of questions to fulfill a predetermined outcome (beware market research and government focus groups, Kasterborites!) so rather than prompt a discussion on how the Cybermen have failed to reach their potential, we also need to look into how the Slitheen could have been used to better effect.

A Slitheen creature from Doctor WhoWhile the Slitheen probably worked best on screen when used in The Sarah Jane Adventures (or certainly Boom Town) they were widely derided for being typical “man in a suit” monsters when Doctor Who returned to our screens in 2005. In fairness they were well-made suits, perhaps drawing strongly on elements associated with Ufology a little too much for some viewers. Hardcore fans were also dismayed by the creatures’ regularly flatulence, something which prompted a handful of complaints to the BBC.

But how could they have been used better? As members of an alien crime family, the Slitheen seem like little more than a footnote to the Russell T Davies era after the supreme resurrections of the Master and the Daleks – not to mention Davros.

Which brings us neatly to the Cybermen. There is a lot to be said for their initial return in Rise of the Cybermen, but this was soon impacted by their capitulation to the Daleks in Doomsday. Since then they’ve been reduced to building giant Transformer toys and skulking beneath shops, with a one-off appearance allowing the Doctor to destroy a vast number of them in a pre-credit sequence.

It’s almost as if no one takes them seriously.

Yet with their coming appearance in IDW’s Doctor Who/Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover we might get to finally see a hint of their true potential. Only the cadaverous Cyberman in The Pandorica Opens has given us a modern era opportunity to see what the steel giants from Mondas/Pete’s World are truly capable of. It might be a far cry from the body horror hinted at in novels and comic strips or the disturbing nature of their genuine genesis as hinted at in Tenth Planet, but with only a handful of stand-out stories over Doctor Who’s 49 years their is a definite feeling of fans being left wanting for something more substantial.

So: you are Steven Moffat. How are you going to improve the standing of the Cybermen? Similarly, how might the Slitheen be used to better effect?

Over to you!


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About the Author


A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

12 Responses to Improving the Cybermen and Slitheen

  1. avatar penfolduk01 says:

    Given the Ice Warriors have not yet appeared in the new series, aren’t they by definition 100% under-potential? :-)

    • Not really the issue – we’re not talking about the new series, we’re talking about Doctor Who in general.

      Plus they didn’t win the poll.

  2. avatar Douglas Slee says:

    I fail to see how anything good can be said of the Cybermen’s return in RISE OF THE CYBERMEN as it basically turned the Cybermen into total Dalek clones (complete with their own mad scientist confined to a wheelchair).

  3. avatar paul blume says:

    Giants they may well be, but still on a strictly human scale. Considering that they are cybernetic entities, however, they could be, individually, on a planetary or even microscopic level. How much scarier a Cyberfleet that travels through the bloodstream or a single, silver warrior as large as Jupiter?

  4. avatar Nathan Edwards says:

    I think that they should ditch this new ‘race’ of Cybermen as they are so far away from their original origins.

  5. avatar Mugen Pharoah says:

    Never liked the new series Cybermen.

    I hate the whole brain in suit thing going on in Rise of the Cyberman. I’m heavily biased toward the Earthshock style and as a child I remember finding the Cybermen far more scary – they were just so much more agile than the Daleks and could crawl after you down the ventilation shaft if they wanted to.

    So I strongly dislike the clunky Diet Iron Man of the modern era. They have been a bit better in Moffat era, but not much. Oh and I also don’t like their voices – it’s like Nick Briggs is filtering through all of the eighties CyberLieutenant Mr Bean tones, and as it’s always his voice alone it makes their speech even more monotonous. At least you had David “Excellent” Banks to counter against CyberBean.

    So to fix the Cybermen, change outfit, change/vary voices, make them sleeker. The freakiest are by far the Tenth Planet versions. There are some amazing concept pictures of the new series Cybermen as originally imagined as Tenth Planet style (just the head though).

    As to the Slitheen – oh dear. I’m not that keen on them at all. It also grates that often even characters such as Rose talk about the Slitheen as a race, and she was blimmin’ well there when the Doctor met them for the first time!!! I think they should be quietly retired,and along with Vervoids, Bandrils, Mandrels, the Nucleous of the Swarm filed under ‘of their time’ and forgotten. And the farting. Just WHY? WHY? Not even remotely funny. To anyone. Except maybe RTD?

  6. avatar Bryan Simcott says:

    I quite like the Cybermen and the new design is functional which still equates to what they set out to do, dont quite like the Brain in the head idea,and the Torchwood version is much better except for the cyberwoman bit. Cybertypes are non gender. I dont want some metal thing with breasts turning up one day.

    The problem with them is that like A good man goes to war: they were dispensed with, as a sort of , dismssive flick of the wrist. which then undermines them every time we see them, then they were dismissed with some thoughts of love and emotion, which was just bonkers crap.

    As to the IDW tripe. Ive bought every issue and will stop when these arrive as I cant stand Star Trek (but any corssover would have put me off even if it was casualty , but then Big Finish did that in the HARVEST , which was actualy very good to be fair)

    shame they havent been used in a story about them, rather than about of them.

  7. avatar ChrisL says:

    It’s always easier to describe a potentially invincible foe in print than it ever will be to bring them to life on the screen, our imaginations will always be superior to the efforts of even the greatest SFX team.
    Because of this I have always been reluctant to be too critical of the way The Doctor’s enemies have appeared on TV. Having said that, I must admit that part of me died when I first saw the Slitheen – even more so when the ridiculous Absorbalof put down his newspaper! They just looked so absurd that I still, to this day, feel embarrassed when watching the show with people who are not fans.

    As for the Cybermen, their low point came when they were defeated by a fat, wimp of a bloke who used ‘thoughts of love’ against them!
    They started out so well. They were so frightening in the early days that, for me at least, their menace easily eclipsed anything the Daleks had to offer. When RTD brought them back they still retained their sense of invincibility and menace – up to a point.
    However, these attributes have diminished to such a degree that they stumble around like silver clowns just waiting to be knocked to the floor like insignificant nobodies.

    I suppose the advent of Star Trek’s Borg race took the Cyberman concept to a higher and more impressive level and the only way I can see the Cybermen returning to their previous level of scariness is to follow the example set by The Borg. They need to have a back story created for them in which they have marched through the universe destroying entire civilisations and creating a mythology of being totally invincible. We have seen them being defeated too easily and too often for them to be feared as much as they used to be.

  8. avatar Brian Stultz says:

    I wish Dark Dimension came to fruition I really like the Cybermen design: http://tardis.wikia.com/wiki/The_Dark_Dimension
    I would definitely bring the original versions back in a future scenario and possibly multiple factions of the originals which would allow for a few redesigns of past styles. They could be joining together to rid our universe of the new parallel universe model. In order to do so they would be converting on a planetary scale and turning each of those planets into a Mandasion planet/ship to fight the newer inferior Cybermen and laying waste to the galaxy as they do this. I would also like to see The Cybermen converting other alien races like the Sontarans, Silurian, Ice Warriors so on and so forth, then there could be varying designs on those as well. The Doctor unable to destroy this threat on his own would have to release the Timelords to help him save the universe.

  9. avatar David Jones says:

    Cybermen: Get a writer with ideas like Robert Shearman and Mark Platt and ditch the lazy script writing of Gareth Roberts and Steve Moffat. Bring back the old cyber mythology of Telos tombs.

    Slytheen: don’t bother bringing back at all.

  10. avatar DavidF says:

    The cybermen need to stop stomping around and walk like people. The Doctor should encounter them at an earlier point in their history, before they became so mechanised. The Tenth Planet cybermen were haunting. Their weird singsong voices were unsettling, and they seemed more like tragically distorted humans than robots. They suit being ghostly, ethereal figures (and not as they were in Army of Ghosts), and I’m all for leaving them with human hands to stress the tragedy of their existence.

    And they need to be given motivation that has nothing to do with building an empire or converting humans. Oh, and put them in snow as often as possible. They always look good in snow.

  11. avatar jamie chew says:

    honestly i feel that the cybermen were well perceived in the doctor who series but now they need a regeneration like the daleks have to keep their image fresh, scary and one of dr whos no.1 monsters

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