Why Do the Cybermen Have So Many Origins?

The Doctor has been fighting the Cybermen ever since the final days of his first incarnation. Originally introduced on 1966’s “The Tenth Planet,” the Cybermen are Doctor Who’s ultimate sci-fi body horror monsters. Once human, the Cybermen upgraded themselves, replacing human flesh with cybernetics and removing all emotions to become uniform, unfeeling, calculating cyborgs, set upon converting all humanity into Cybermen.

“The Tenth Planet” established Earth’s twin planet, Mondas, as the homeworld of the Cybermen. However, just one year later in 1967, “The Tomb of the Cybermen” would claim the icy world of Telos was in fact their home. While 1985’s “Attack of the Cybermen” claimed the Telosian Cybermen were in fact colonizers from Mondas, other accounts suggested the Cybermen started on Telos and then colonized Mondas, or even developed independently on the two worlds. The modern series and Doctor Who‘s Expanded Universe have added even more origins of the Cybermen, throwing their history into question.

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The Many Origins of the Cybermen on Doctor Who

Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor faces the Mondasian Cybermen.

While the very first appearance of the Cybermen on Doctor Who introduced them as inhabitants of Mondas — which is generally considered their definitive origin — conflicting accounts of Cyber history have emerged over the years. The humans excavating the Cybermen’s tombs on Telos seemed to believe that planet was where the Cybermen originated. The Doctor Who Magazine comic strip “The World Shapers” would reveal Marinus, a planet from the First Doctor serial “The Keys of Marinus,” was the home of the Cybermen. The comic suggested that Marinus, Mondas and Planet 14 — a world referenced by the Cybermen in the Second Doctor serial “The Invasion” — were all one and the same.

The account of the Mondasian Cybermen’s origin given in “The World Shapers” contradicted the accounts given in the later Doctor Who Magazine comic strip series “The Cybermen” and the Fifth Doctor audio adventure “Spare Parts.” All of this was at odds with the novelization of “The Tomb of the Cybermen,” which claimed Cybermen first developed on Telos before colonizing Mondas. It is perhaps no wonder that when the revival series of Doctor Who introduced the Cybermen, it drew a line under previous iterations, and instead had the Cybermen developed by a fascistic narcissist on a parallel Earth. However, the Twelfth Doctor would eventually explain these myriad Cyber origin stories.

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The Cybermen are a Product of Parallel Evolution

The Cybermen attack the 12th Doctor in

The Doctor Who Season 10 finale, “The Doctor Falls,” saw the Twelfth Doctor confronting a band of Cybermen who had evolved over thousands of years on a Mondasian colony ship. The ship was experiencing time dilation due to its proximity to a black hole, providing yet another origin story for the original Cybermen. The Doctor would explain to the two incarnations of the Master who were with him that the Cybermen always emerged wherever there was life — an inevitable product of “parallel evolution.” He explained that the Cybermen’s spread across the universe wasn’t the result of a grand evil plan, but simply the result of life and technology evolving in tandem.

The Doctor goes on to list planets where the Cybermen have evolved, naming Mondas, Telos, Marinus, Planet 14 and Earth, confirming these are all separate planets where Cybermen have developed independently of each other. This explanation reveals why so many stories have emerged concerning the beginnings of the Cybermen and why so many planets are considered the homeworld of the Cybermen. It also adds a terrifying new dimension to the Cybermen: they are inevitable. Every planet in the universe supporting intelligent life will one day be plagued by the march of the Cybermen.

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