Attack of the Cybermen

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137[1]Attack of the Cybermen
Doctor Who serial
Attack of the Cybermen.jpg
The Doctor battling against Cybermen
Directed by Matthew Robinson
Written by "Paula Moore" (Paula Woolsey)
Script editor Eric Saward
Produced by John Nathan-Turner
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Malcolm Clarke
Production code 6T
Series Season 22
Length 2 episodes, 45 minutes each
Originally broadcast 5–12 January 1985
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Twin Dilemma Vengeance on Varos
List of Doctor Who serials

Attack of the Cybermen is the first serial of the 22nd season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in two weekly parts from 5 January to 12 January 1985. Beginning with this serial and continuing for the remainder of Season 22, episodes were 45 minutes in length (as opposed to previous episodes which were 25 minutes long); for syndication, in some markets, this serial is re-edited into four 25-minute segments.

Attack of the Cybermen is a sequel to the previous season's Resurrection of the Daleks. Like the previous serial, it features an action-oriented script by Eric Saward (written this time under the pseudonym of Paula Moore), a London setting, the return of director Matthew Robinson and the second appearance of the mercenary Commander Lytton, played by Maurice Colbourne.


Part One[edit]

In the sewers of London, two workers are attacked by an unseen force. The Doctor's attempts to repair the TARDIS's systems, in particular the chameleon circuit, which enables the ship to alter its external form to something more suitable than the police box, cause the ship to behave chaotically in-flight. The Doctor eventually manages to pilot the TARDIS to Earth in the year 1985, where he shows Peri Halley's Comet, although she is more worried about the prospect of crashing into it.

On Earth, the former Dalek mercenary Lytton (from Resurrection of the Daleks) has apparently taken up a new life as a London gangster, and is plotting a £10 million diamond raid with his cohorts Griffiths, Payne and Russell (the latter is played by Terry Molloy, normally seen in the role of Davros). The four intend to enter the bank through the same sewers where the two workmen were ambushed, but Lytton activates a strange transmitter before they enter the sewer. This emits a distress signal that the Doctor picks up, and he lands the TARDIS in a scrapyard in Totter's Lane to investigate. The TARDIS changes shape, to a rather conspicuous ornamental stove. After searching the area, he determines that the transmitter is a dummy, and returns to the TARDIS to find the real source. They arrive at the sewer entrance (where the TARDIS reshapes itself into an organ) and find the transmitter, but are held up by two policemen who are under Lytton's control.

In the sewers, Payne falls behind the other three, and is beaten to death by the force that attacked the workers. Lytton and the others come to a dead end, and find a Cyberman approaching them. Griffiths shoots it, but Lytton disarms him and surrenders to the Cybermen, who have a base in the sewers. Russell flees, encounters the Doctor and Peri, and reveals himself to be an undercover police officer who is investigating Lytton.

On the Cybermen's adopted homeworld of Telos, two slaves, Bates and Stratton, escape from their work party and decapitate a Cyberman. They use its helmet to disguise Stratton as a Cyberman and enter Cyber Control. The Cybermen have captured a time-travelling vessel from Bates and Stratton, who intend to reclaim it and escape from Telos.

The Doctor, Peri and Russell return to the TARDIS, where they are ambushed by the Cybermen, who have brought Lytton and Griffiths with them. Russell manages to kill two of them, but is then killed himself, and the Cyber Leader orders the other Cybermen to kill Peri.

Part Two[edit]

The Doctor threatens to self-destruct the TARDIS if the Cybermen do not release Peri. The Leader agrees to spare their lives, and reveals that the Cyber Controller (whom the Doctor had previously thought destroyed) is still alive on Telos. The Doctor is forced to set a course for Telos, and is imprisoned in one of the TARDIS's rooms along with Peri, Lytton and Griffiths. During the journey to Telos, he tells Peri and Griffiths the history of Telos and its former inhabitants, the Cryons, whom the Cybermen wiped out in order to use their refrigerated cities to keep themselves in cryogenic stasis. The Doctor notes that Lytton seems oddly familiar with the history of the Cybermen, Telos and the Cryons.

On Telos, most of the hibernating Cybermen have become damaged, and go on a rampage destroying anything in their path when revived. The TARDIS arrives (now looking like an ornamental gate), but in the depths of the Cybermen's cryogenic tombs rather than in Cyber Control. Just as the Cybermen prepare to take the four there, a damaged Cyberman breaks out of its tomb and destroys one of the other Cybermen, before the leader disposes of it. Lytton, Griffiths and Peri escape in the confusion, but the Doctor does not. Peri is nearly killed by another rampaging Cyberman before two Cryons - who it turns out are not extinct, and have been sabotaging the tombs, resulting in the damaged Cybermen - deal with it and take Peri to safety. Lytton and Griffiths meet another Cryon, and it transpires that Lytton has been working for them all along. Griffiths is offered £2 million in diamonds (which are very common on Telos) if he will help Lytton to capture the time vessel. The two track down Bates and Stratton, who are failed attempts of Cyber-conversion who have had their arms and legs replaced by mechanical equivalents. The four agree to work together in order to escape Telos.

The Cyber Controller, on display at a Doctor Who exhibition

The Doctor is imprisoned in a cold storage room with Flast, former leader of the Cryons. She reveals that the Cybermen intend to prevent their original homeworld of Mondas from being destroyed, by using their timeship to divert Halley's Comet into the Earth, which will then be incapable of protecting itself from an attack by Mondas the following year. The Doctor is shocked to realise that he has been sent by the Time Lords to avert this situation. The cold storage room contains a supply of vastial, a mineral that becomes a powerful explosive when raised significantly above freezing point. The Doctor uses some to dispose of a guarding Cyberman, then gives Flast a sonic lance to heat up the vastial to detonation point before he escapes. Flast puts the sonic lance in a box of vastial which she then hides away, and shortly afterwards the Cybermen arrive and, suspecting that she helped the Doctor escape, throw her out into the much warmer corridor, where her blood quickly boils away and she dies.

Lytton, Griffiths, Bates and Stratton get through Cyber Control, but Lytton is captured near the landing pad. The Cyber Controller demands that Lytton tell him his plans, and when he refuses to do so, has two other Cybermen torture him by crushing his hands. Lytton still refuses to talk, and the Controller orders that he be converted into a Cyberman. The other three make it to the landing pad, but a Cyberman emerges from the time ship and kills them. In the meantime the Doctor reclaims the TARDIS and the Cryons return Peri to him. However, they also reveal that Lytton was working for them all along, rather than the Cybermen as the Doctor assumed, and he agrees to try to save him.

The TARDIS arrives in Cyber Control (with the chameleon circuit stuck in police box form once more), where the Doctor finds a partially converted Lytton who begs the Doctor to kill him. The Doctor tries to free Lytton, but the Controller arrives with a gun. Lytton attacks the Controller, who kills Lytton. The Cyber Leader and his lieutenant arrive, but end up killing each other in the crossfire. The Doctor grabs one of the dropped guns and shoots the Controller, finally destroying it. The Doctor, feeling guilty at having misjudged Lytton and Peri escape in the TARDIS. Seconds later the rigged box of vastial detonates, setting off a chain reaction of explosions that obliterates Cyber Control and the tombs.


This story takes place immediately after The Twin Dilemma. Peri is still worried about the Doctor's problem regenerating, and the Doctor says they need a rest after Jaconda. This story has been criticised for relying heavily on elements from Doctor Who's past, confusing all but hardcore fans of the series.[2] The scrapyard where the TARDIS arrives in London is supposed to be the same location from which the Doctor departed in the first Doctor Who story, An Unearthly Child. The Doctor would again revisit the scrapyard in Remembrance of the Daleks. Peri claims that the Doctor has called her "Tegan, Zoe, Susan" and "Jamie", as well as the "Terrible Zodin". Zodin is a never-seen character first referenced in The Five Doctors and later mentioned in a Martha Jones blog entry labelled Infinity on the official Martha Jones Myspace site.

Other continuity references in this story include the Cybermen's first attempt at destroying the Earth in 1986 (The Tenth Planet) and the Second Doctor's encounter with the Cybermen on Telos in the 25th century (The Tomb of the Cybermen). The Cyber Controller was originally introduced in that story. Michael Kilgarriff reprises the role. The Doctor makes reference to his first encounter with Lytton in the Fifth Doctor story Resurrection of the Daleks, where Lytton was working as a mercenary, though they actually only meet once. The Doctor and Lytton are briefly seen on-screen together – when the Doctor is captured by the Daleks and is about to be duplicated - they are also seen again twice where Lytton tries to fire at the Time Lord before he escapes.

The TARDIS changes from its police box shape for the first time when the Doctor manages to repair the chameleon circuit. It takes the shape of a decorated stove, a pipe organ, and an ornamental gateway. This story has a scene where the Doctor shoots the Cyberleader with a laser rifle, a rare occasion in which the character has used a gun (although the Fifth Doctor struggles with a Cyberman in a similar scene in Earthshock). First introduced in The Hand of Fear, the TARDIS' "temporal grace" function, where weapons are unable to be used inside the ship, appears still to not work in this story, just as it previously did not in Earthshock. It is later stated by Matt Smith's Doctor, in the 2011 episode "Let's Kill Hitler", that this is just a 'clever lie' invented by him.


The repair to the Chameleon Circuit was in part a publicity effort by John Nathan-Turner to drum up more interest in the series. He hinted publicly that it might be a permanent development, but never pursued the idea beyond this story.

Pennant Roberts was originally assigned to direct Attack of the Cybermen; however, he proved to be unavailable, so Matthew Robinson was asked to direct instead. Roberts would later go on to direct Timelash.


The serial is credited to "Paula Moore"; however, behind that name lies one of the most confused and controversial authorships in the entire series' history. Authorship copyright on the serial is divided between "Paula Moore" (real name Paula Woolsey)[3] as the author; Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis as creators of the Cybermen; Eric Saward as the creator of Lytton and the BBC who hold the copyright on the series elements.

Several separate accounts offer differing versions of who actually authored the story. Most accounts agree that series fan and continuity advisor Ian Levine suggested a number of plot elements.[4] At the one extreme, it is suggested that the story was authored by series script editor Eric Saward, with or without substantial input by Levine, with Woolsey only acting as the story's author to prevent problems with the Writers' Guild, who objected to script editors editing their own scripts. Alternatively, it is suggested that Woolsey originated the story, but Saward heavily rewrote it in his capacity as script editor. Levine himself claims that Saward wrote the dialogue to Levine's story and plot and that Woolsey "did not write one single word of that script". Saward has flatly denied this in an interview with Doctor Who Magazine.

One reason for the complexity and confusion around the script's origin is that under Writer's Guild guidelines, script editors were forbidden to commission themselves, and Levine's deal with the series specified that he could not receive any on-screen credit for his work. Thus the use of "Paula Moore" may have been an attempt by Saward to disguise the fact of his involvement from John Nathan-Turner.

Broadcast and Reception[edit]

Episode Title Run time Original air date UK viewers
(millions) [5]
1 "Part One" 44:17 5 January 1985 (1985-01-05) 8.9
2 "Part Two" 44:29 12 January 1985 (1985-01-12) 7.2

Attack of the Cybermen was the first of several stories from this season to provoke controversy over its depiction of violence. In 1985, Australasian Doctor Who Fan Club president Tony Howe singled out the crushing of Lytton's hands until they oozed blood as being an instance of "sick, shock violence like Andy Warhol's" that was present for "cheap shock value only".[6] Doctor Who: The Television Companion's own review of the story is similarly critical of the scene, describing it as a "gratuitous incident" which is "unnecessarily nasty and gory". It acknowledges Matthew Robinson's "polished direction" but said the story is "superficially exciting but it does not stand up to considered scrutiny or repeated viewing", describing it as "one of the most derivative stories that Doctor Who ever turned out".[7]

Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times reviewed the story in 2012 and said "Attack of the Cybermen is nowhere near as wretched as I remembered it. Part one is markedly more eventful and involving than part two, but there’s plenty of amusing lines and well-shot action." Mulkern was critical of aspects of Peri's character and Nicola Bryant's inexperience as an actress, but enjoyed a "never less than entertaining, and often very funny" performance by Colin Baker. The review concluded by stating "On balance Attack of the Cybermen is a brash start to season 22 that would benefit from another polish."[8]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Attack of the Cybermen
Doctor Who Attack of the Cybermen.jpg
Author Eric Saward
Cover artist Colin Howard
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
20 April 1989
ISBN 0-426-20290-2

A novelisation of this serial, written by Eric Saward, was published by Target Books in April 1989.

In 1995 the novel was also issued by BBC Audio as an abridged audio book, read by Colin Baker.

Home media[edit]

Attack of the Cybermen was released on VHS in November 2000 from BBC Video as "Doctor Who: The Cybermen Box Set: The Tenth Planet and Attack of the Cybermen" double-tape set for its United Kingdom release (both stories were released individually in the United States, Australia and Canada in 2001). The DVD version of "Attack of the Cybermen" was released on Monday 16 March 2009. The special features on the disc included a commentary featuring Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Terry Molloy and Sarah Berger that was recorded on 26 June 2007, a making-of documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew, including Eric Saward, Matthew Robinson and film cameraman Godfrey Johnson, and an interview featuring real-life Cyberman Kevin Warwick. This serial was also released as part of the Doctor Who DVD Files in Issue 82 on 22 February 2012.


  1. ^ From the Doctor Who Magazine series overview, in issue 407 (pp26-29). The Discontinuity Guide, which counts the unbroadcast serial Shada, lists this as story number 138. Region 1 DVD releases follow The Discontinuity Guide numbering system.
  2. ^ Howe, David J.; Stephen James Walker (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed.). Chatham: BBC Books. pp. 470–471. ISBN 0-563-40588-0. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017. 
  6. ^ Tulloch, John; Jenkins, Henry (1995). Science Fiction Audiences : Watching Doctor Who and Star Trek. London: Routledge. p. 160. ISBN 0415061407. 
  7. ^ Howe, David J.; Walker, Stephen James (1998). "Attack of the Cybermen: Analysis". Doctor Who: The Television Companion. London: BBC Worldwide. pp. 470–1. ISBN 0-563-40588-0. Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  8. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Howe, D, Stammers M, Walker, S The Handbook: The Sixth Doctor (1993) Doctor Who Books (Vigin Publishing) ISBN 0-426-20400-X

External links[edit]


Target novelisation[edit]