Thursday, 9 April 2015

Know Your Cybermen No.4

The Wheel In Space (1968).
We last saw the Cybermen at the start of Season 5, and they are back again to close it. We have the second significant design change, though this specific variation will only make this one appearance.
The faces are different - the eyes and mouth no longer having the silvered flashing around them. Added to the eyes are "tear-drops" - presumably oil-ducts. There is a similar notch added to the lower lip. The mouth no longer has the opening / closing hatch when they speak. The actual bodies are now more steam-lined. The previous version had a rather baggy appearance, whereas now it is like a silvered wetsuit. The chest unit is now inverted, and the piping which runs along the limbs is thinner, with less prominent joints. Their finger tips have thimble-like covers.
These Cybermen hail from the early part of the 21st Century - so before the ones who attacked the Moonbase. The design variations may be due to them coming from a different colony world - not necessarily Telos. However, one of the Cybermen seen trying to space-walk to the Wheel does have elements of the Telos design.
The Cybermen's plan is convoluted, to say the least. They first of all ionise a star in the Messier 13 cluster, causing meteoroids to head towards the Wheel which orbits the Earth. They then take over a space cargo vessel named the Silver Carrier and hide two Cybermen aboard along with a number of Cybermats. This ship is then sent to drift towards the Wheel. The Cybermats travel through space and break into the Wheel, seeking out and destroying the bernalium fuel rods which power the station's defences - needed to knock out those meteoroids. This forces the crew of the Wheel to send a couple of men over to the Silver Carrier to obtain the bernalium stocks held there. The men are put under the mental control of the Cybermen and are used to smuggle them onto the Wheel. Once there, the Cybermen will kill all the crew and use the station in their attack on Earth. A large Cybership is approaching, which contains their invasion forces.
The Cybermen take their orders from a small unit - a metal framework with a heart-shaped object at its centre. It allows the Cybermen to read people's minds. The Cybermen do not carry any hand-held weapons. Their guns are built into the top of their chest units.
Of the two Cybermen on board the Wheel, one is destroyed with a powerful electrical charge, whilst the other is despatched with a quick-setting plastic spray applied to the chest unit. A group of Cybermen attempting to space-walk to the Wheel are deflected off into space by the activation of its forcefield. The Cybership is destroyed by the Wheel's laser weapon, boosted in power by a TARDIS component.

Story Notes:

  • Whilst the story is based on ideas from Cyberman creator Kit Pedler, the script this time comes from David Whitaker. Gerry Davis is not involved.
  • The Cyber-plan is quite ludicrously complicated. Most of it is simply a means to get two Cybermen onto the Wheel. They could have simply shot it full of holes and let the crew asphyxiate, or just smuggle themselves on board directly. Why take the Wheel at all, when they could just destroy it and park their Cybership in the same orbit and launch the invasion from there?
  • And if they really did ionise a star in Messier 13 to send the meteoroids this way, they must have started this plan tens of thousands of years ago. Presumably the meteoroids originate from a region of space much closer to Earth but in the direction of Messier 13, as seen from the Wheel. Early Doctor Who writers often exhibit a rather quaint understanding of cosmology - mixing up galaxies with universes and one person even placing Skaro in the Solar System.
  • It had been hoped that this story slot would have been filled with a Cyberman / Dalek get-together, but this was vetoed by Terry Nation. He had already withdrawn the Daleks in an attempt to get their own series off the ground by this point but, even if this hadn't happened, he just did not ever want a Dalek / Cyberman story.
  • One reason for the use of wetsuits for the Cyberman bodies was that the previous design tore easily. If you watch Tomb, you will see that one of the Cybermen has a noticeable tear under the arm pit.
  • Only two new costumes were made, but a third was cobbled together from older costumes for the space-walking sequence.
  • And the tear-drops were added to give the poor actors a bit more ventilation inside the helmets.
  • Wendy Padbury makes her d├ębut as Zoe in this story. She isn't introduced until episode two. Padbury turned down a role in the Oscar-winning film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie to take the part.
  • Jamie, forced to make up a name for the Doctor, calls him John Smith - after reading the label on a piece of medical equipment. This alias will be adopted by the Doctor himself from now on.
  • And yes, some fans to this day are still convinced that the Wheel has a sexual air supply...


  1. I replied to you directly, Frogoat, but for the benefit of other readers, the base has a sectional air supply - but that isn't what it sounds like. No doubt Troughton had some fun in the rehearsals over this line.

    1. I'm highly amused! I'm going to have re-watch/listen to this one.