Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Chronology of the Cybermen

What better way to mark the 46th anniversary of the Cybermen (episode 4 of The Tenth Planet was broadcast on 29th October 1966), and to mark this blog reaching that self-same story in its on-going review of the classic series, than for me to proffer some thoughts on Cyber-Chronology.
Back in the earliest days of Tardis-Musings I posted on the "Continuity of the Daleks" (which I'm pleased to say has been my most popular post to date). Then, I ignored the new series as the post-Time War Daleks have a chronology all of their own. I acknowledged the complications of time travel and the discontinuities that ever-changing production teams inevitably bring. It is not that much different with the Cybermen...
As of Attack of the Cybermen, the metal monsters did not have access to time travel (they had to steal someone else's time capsule - and the Sixth Doctor blew that up). Earlier stories - and subsequent ones - certainly imply access to some kind of time travel ability - until you consider the Cybermen's assertion that they met the Doctor on Planet 14 (The Invasion). I have a theory about this, which I will come to shortly.

Our first sight of the Cybermen is in The Tenth Planet. That story is clearly set in December, 1986, as we get a view of a calendar in Snowcap Base. Their origins are stated - they are the inhabitants of Earth's long-lost sister planet, Mondas, which was thrown out of the Solar System thousands of years ago. They became the creatures they are due to the need to survive their peripatetic wanderings through space.
They are quite primitive beings - with cumbersome cybernetic additions and recognisably human parts.
How could more advanced Cybermen be around in London (and other cities) in the 1960's (or 1970's - depending on your views about the UNIT dating conundrum) and pre-Roman Colchester? Time travel - or something else?

A much more advanced - technologically - force of Cybermen attack Earth via the weather control station on the Moon in the Spring of 2070 (The Moonbase). There is no mention of why there are Cybermen around when they were all seen to be destroyed in the previous story. Hobson acknowledges that there used to be Cybermen, but they were all wiped out ages ago - reference to The Tenth Planet - or to stories as yet unmade at this point? The Cybermen are sent flying into space - so not necessarily destroyed (unless that comet-like thing Polly notices is them - in which case it looks as if they're headed for the Sun).

Sometime later - perhaps during the 22nd Century - some archaeologists visit the planet of Telos. We discover that the Cybermen are entombed here. They haven't been seen for a long time and are assumed to have died out. Of course, they are just "resting" - awaiting a fresh infusion of new bodies to augment and make like themselves. Apart from their footwear, they're pretty much the same design as those seen in the previous story. It is implied that the original Cybermen from Mondas colonised this planet - explaining where The Moonbase ones might have come from. They are refrozen in their tombs - but not destroyed.

So far, so chronological. Their next appearance is in The Wheel In Space. They are of more advanced design (more streamlined bodies) but Zoe clearly states that she comes from the period around the year 2000 - so before The Moonbase. Despite the more advanced appearance there is no indication of time travel - so might they have come from somewhere else? There is only one spaceship in evidence - and that gets blown up by the Wheel's X-Ray laser (augmented by the TARDIS Time Vector Generator).

Soon after, we get The Invasion. Irrespective of the UNIT dating issue, this story either takes place in the 60's or 70's. Mondas, with its very primitive Cybermen, doesn't show up until 1986. Time travel - or from somewhere else? The Cyber-Director states that the Doctor is known to them from Planet 14. An unseen adventure? The Sixth Doctor DWM comic strip The World Shapers posits this to be Marinus. I say it is simply Telos. Here's where you get to hear my Planet 14 theory - and I think it is an obvious one.
The Cybermen are creatures of pure logic. They're not going to give planets nice, interesting names. They would simply number them. I contend that Planet 14 is the 14th planet they have colonised. There are at least 13 other Cyber-worlds - and it's from them that some of the different Cybermen we have seen hail from - hence the different degrees of technological advancement. Different Cybermen on different worlds have evolved in their own ways. The Invasion ones are able to launch an attack on Earth whilst their more primitive forebears are still swanning around the galaxy. Cybermen from different colonies know of each other through some sort of collective memory / control function.
It is suggested that the head of one of these Cybermen found its way into Van Statten's museum in Dalek - though the design is actually from the next story - set centuries after 2011.

Similar Cybermen appear next in Revenge of the Cybermen. This is set circa 2875 (worked out by Paul Cornell, Keith Topping & Martin Day in their Dis-Continuity Guide - so don't blame me). There has been a great Cyber-War - which came to an end with the discovery of their susceptibility to gold.

The roots of that war appear to form the backdrop to events in Earthshock. An alliance against the Cybermen is being put together in the year 2526. This no doubt involves the Draconians as well as Earth.
It is Cybermen from this period who are snatched up by the Dark Tower's Time Scoop (The Five Doctors).

Around this time, the Cybermen on Telos have dispensed with lurking and have managed to get hold of someone else's time capsule - to enable them to go back to 1985, divert Halley's Comet to devastate the Earth, and so prevent Mondas from being destroyed when it turns up a year or so later. Despite a slavery to logic, the Cybermen do have an unfortunate tendency towards over-thinking problems. The Doctor prevents them using their captured time technology further and blows up their tombs, control centre - and their Controller (shooting him first for good measure).

Another group of Cybermen turn up in 1988 Windsor, intent on seizing the Nemesis statue - made of the Gallifreyan living metal, validium. These may be Telos Cybermen, who have used the time technology before the Sixth Doctor destroyed it - or they have come from another colony world.

In other news, 2007 sees an entirely parallel development of Cybermen, created by John Lumic of Cybus Industries, on another Earth. These Cybermen will escape that world, cross the Void and attack our Earth later the same year. Sucked back into the Void, where space and time have no meaning, a small group will escape - turning up in Victorian London. The Tenth Doctor throws them back into the Void - along with their Cyber-King - and this event will be one of those that doesn't survive the Eleventh Doctor's rebooting of the Universe. Nor does their attack via Torchwood Tower in 2007 - as neither Amy nor Van Statten remember Daleks. The parallel Cybus Cybermen are the ones who participate in the Pandorica Alliance, but ultimately this version is merely a Cyber-cul-de-sac. We can only assume that the fact they are around Stonehenge in the Roman era is down to time travel technology - but borrowed from other members of the Alliance, probably the Daleks.

Our Universe Cybermen finally reappear in the form of the 12th Cyberfleet in A Good Man Goes To War. They are of much more advanced appearance than anything we have seen before - implying they hail from a time long after the Earthshock to Silver Nemesis ones. The technology on show available to humans also suggests we are in the far future, beyond any of the previous Cyber-tales. (River Song chronology is all over the place, of course - thanks to her Vortex Manipulator).

And finally we get to Closing Time. These are not Cybus Cybermen. For a spaceship to be buried under a Colchester department store, it must have crashed there before the Romans founded the city - more likely in prehistoric times. There is no way that Mondas Cybermen - even those evolving on a colony world - could develop that early - so pretty much proof positive that the Cybermen from the far future do finally have some kind of time travel capability.
So here goes my Cyber-chronology:

  • 65 Million years ago (give or take a day or two) - the Cybermen, hurtling back from the 26th Century, accidentally wipe out the dinosaurs and help give rise to Mankind.
  • Prehistory - a spaceship from the far future crash-lands in primitive Essex. 
  • 102 AD - parallel world Cybermen travel back from the future with the Pandorica Alliance. At least one of them has been set as guard before this, but it has been trounced by a local Iron Age warrior.
  • 1851 - parallel Cybermen pop randomly out of the Void and build a Cyber-King. Event deleted.
  • 1960's / 70's - Cybermen from a colony world try to invade Earth thanks to Tobias Vaughn.
  • 1985 - future Cybermen from Telos try to attack the Earth using time travel - and convoluted Cyber-continuity.
  • 1986 - Mondas returns to the Solar System, only to be be destroyed.
  • 1988 - Cybermen from Telos or another colony world try to grab the Nemesis statue.
  • 2000 - Cybermen from a colony world launch an attack on Earth via the Wheel.
  • 2007 - Cybermen are created on a parallel Earth.
  • 2007 - parallel Cybermen emerge from the Void on our world. They battle Daleks. Event deleted.
  • 2070 - Cybermen from another colony (possibly Telos) attack the Earth via the weather station on the Moon.
  • The Cybermen vanish from the galaxy.
  • 22nd Century - Earth archaeologists visit Telos.
  • The Cybermen re-emerge and start terrorising the galaxy.
  • 2526 - an alliance is formed on Earth against the Cybermen. They try to wreck it - only to travel back in time and wipe out the dinosaurs - along with poor old Adric.
  • Telos is back in business and the Controller plans to avert the destruction of Mondas. The colonial Cybermen aren't doing very well - and think that the survival of their ancestors may add to their development in some way.
  • Cyber-war and creation of the "Glitter Gun". The development of a Cyberleader class - denoted by black head markings. Cybermen defeated.
  • 2875 - A lone Cyber-ship contingent determines to ignore the emotion of "revenge" and destroy all that's left of Voga.
  • Far future - the Cybermen have finally consolidated their power and have at least 12 fleets, controlling huge sectors of space. They have time travel technology, but one of their ships crashes in prehistoric Essex. Rory kicks the backside of the 12th Cyberfleet. That's love for you - not that a Cyberman would ever understand...

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