Doctor Who: Breaking Up With the Daleks and the Cybermen

Categories: Doctor Who

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Details are short on what we can expect beyond glorious eyebrows from Peter Capaldi's Doctor this coming autumn, but one rumor that's become quite prevalent is that the Doctor will face off against his two greatest enemies: the Daleks and the Cybermen. Frankly, it's time to retire the two races for a good long while.

New Who has a fair at best record of bringing back the classic monsters. In fact, I would argue that only two episodes out of the 80 or so in the new series really stand the test of time when it comes to featuring older enemies.

The first is "Rose" and the Autons. The Nestene Consciousness has never been a great villain, all things considered. They're creepy, sure, but ultimately they haven't really got a motivation deep enough to make them grand. Let us also never forget that they were responsible for the stupidest death in the entire 50-year history.

And that's why "Rose" works so well. The episode is not about the monsters at all, and there's no hype to them. The whole point of the adventure is merely to show Rose that there is a whole universe of mysterious threats out there and that there is a Doctor whose job it is to stop them. By making the Autons just one part of a greater picture than a piece of nostalgic fan service, they actually become interesting...so interesting that aside from a cameo, they haven't appeared again.

The other episode that really sold a classic monster well was "Dalek." Yes, I am a big Eccleston fan, thanks for asking, but that's really just incidental. In "Dalek," again, the magic comes from what the Dalek means to The Doctor and to Rose, how what it is shatters both their words. The fact that the only thing that can stop it is its own self-destruct function that it willingly uses did more for establishing the menace of the race than any act before or since in the history of the show. It was all that really saw them through the deus ex machina-iness of "The Parting of Ways."

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Aside from those two examples I am hard-pressed to think of a really great use of a classic monster in the show. The Sontarans and the Silurians became more or less laughable in their modern incarnations, with Strax and Vastra being far better as allies of The Doctor than their races have ever been as threats to the modern three. The Macra barely feature in "Gridlock," and while that is a pretty amazing retelling of "The Macra Terror" they are mostly inconsequential to the plot.

The return of the Ice Warriors and the Zygons did little to advance the clout of either race. The former ended up as an inferior conglomerate of better sci-fi terror tropes and the latter was more of a distraction to the 50th anniversary celebration than an essential part of the plot.

Davros has never been more than a super Dalek even in his own classic series appearances, and his one showcase in "Journey's End" was an exploration of how cartoonish and unthreatening the Daleks have once again become. As for the Cybermen, I've already gone on record about how they have only become shells of their former selves.

Except in "Nightmare in Silver." What made that different? Well, the answer was Mr. Clever.

The Cyber-possessed part of the Eleventh Doctor's mind served as the main antagonist of the adventure, with the traditional Cybermen really being no more than a reason to have battles in the background. The real fight was going on in the mind of The Doctor, and Matt Smith proved himself an incredible villain when pitted against himself. He really wasn't a Cyberman at all.

This story continues on the next page.


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12 comments
conatonc
conatonc

I, for one, am truly sick of both the Daleks and Cybermen. I know Moffat feels like he has to please the fans, but sometimes the majority of the fans are just wrong. I'd agree that "Dalek" was a brilliant episode, and then the threat of the Daleks was gradually neutered more and more with every appearance. The basic premise of the Cybermen is pretty terrifying, but they rarely live up to that potential.


The best episodes of the current Who series are usually fresh concepts and not fanboy-fawning reincarnations of old school monsters. Even giving the Daleks a whole season off during Smith's run didn't really help the situation. They need to be semi-retired, and yes, the Weeping Angels do, too.

redneck3
redneck3

No, how about we DON'T bring back the Vashta Nerada. Unstoppable baddies with no weaknesses are not fun- nor are the ass-pull means the writers have to use to let the Doctor win. (I despise the Weeping Angels for the exact same reason.)

Jack_Tyler
Jack_Tyler

The great British public want Daleks.

End of.

cindermane
cindermane

The whole outlook on looking back in the modern series for bringing back monsters has been done (honestly) to death. I'm very tired of seeing the Weeping Angels, and while I think that we should in fact see less of the Daleks and the Cybermen, I don't think retiring them for a long period of time is the answer. Consider the Doctor's villains to be like different kinds of alcohol. Having some of it some of the time is well and good, but too much can be just that...too much.  

mostmagicalcat
mostmagicalcat

All depends on the writing, love to see those two in a well written episode with P.C. As with anything, you can wheel out all the baddies at once and it can be rubbish, all it takes is a spark of invention and bang, classic ep. Cybermen and Daleks, still have potential, however only if the story is right(and often it isnt in all the who history). 

Smedley
Smedley

I'd vote for a return of the Rutans... We'd regularly hear from the Sontarans about their enemy race, but we only ever got to see one in Horror of Fang Rock.

drusilla.grey
drusilla.grey

Moffat has given us some terrifying monsters. But he has a tendency to run things into the ground. For example: weeping angels. They need to be retired as well.

What I want to see from ages past are scary historical situations like the Aztecs. There was no real monster there other than humans. I'd also like to see The Rain return.

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@cindermane  It occurred to me after writing this that I neglected to mention that "Asylum of the Daleks" was a great example of a new type of Dalek story that served as a worthy addition to the mythology. We see the Dalek new democratic government, get a new kind of human-hybrid that doesn't suck, and there's there's the whole body-horror thing with Clara at the end. More Dalek stories like that would be excellent. 

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@mostmagicalcat  Hey, like I said. I love "Dalek" because it was both something old and something new. I like the whole Mr. Clever bits for the Cybermen as well. I guess I just get sick of having the races be this homogeneous, predictable presence. Let's see some schisms. 

I should mention that I forgot about "Asylum of the Daleks" which was brilliant. 

redneck3
redneck3

@drusilla.grey Actually, the pony stage acting of the Aztec actors was a real monster, if you're really looking for one. }:-{D

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