'Nightmare in Silver' was one of the most anticipated episodes of Series 7. We were promised a new Cyberman design, doing away with many old limitations, such as slow speed and noisy legs, and making them even more scary. However, many of us were gravely disappointed following the episode's airing. Many of these features that were promised to us were overrated or non-existent. The Cybermen's annoying leg-stomping was just as loud, and the 'scary' element manifested itself in a seeming indestructibility to most forms of attack, with an exception to planet-smashing bombs. Coupled with the extreme super-speed of one Cyberman, it resulted in an overly unrealistic new shade of Who's most revered monster.
The factor which I find makes the Cybermen the most frightening is the human element. In their first TV story, 'The Tenth Planet', Cybermen had many features which tied them to their humanoid origins, including fully organic hands. In 2006, it was shown how humans were effectively vivisected, lobotomised and placed inside metal suits to become Cybermen, and many organic features of the steel giants were displayed. The problem Gaiman has created in his new story is that the human element has been almost removed entirely. The idea that the Cybermen convert humans to their own form was implied only with the Cybermen's constant cries of 'YOU WILL BE UPGRADED', and the underdone headgear given to Impresario Webley and the Doctor. In 'Nightmare In Silver', the Cybermen could essentially have been completely alien robots rather than converted humans in suits, further emphasised by the deep, robotic voice that conveyed no human element at all.
|Like this, but less sexy.|
What Steven Moffat and his team could do to try and bring back the fear factor to these monsters is to emphasise the human element, reiterate how the Cybermen were once people like you and me, but with their emotions cleansed. He could do this through the re-addition of organic components (similar to Lisa Hallett in Torchwood's 'Cyberwoman'), or perhaps to add tubes feeding chemicals to still present organic parts. Another potential addition would be the conversion of the helmet piece into a sort of mask, with the faceplate able to lift up and reveal the cybernetically enhanced face of the converted human inside. Imagine how grotesque and terrifying it would be to see a friend or loved one of yours wired up inside a metal suit, their emotionless face gazing straight at you, and then ordering in a voice mimicking its' own (albeit with a robotic undertone) your conversion into a being like itself.
Another problem with 'Nightmare In Silver' is the revision of the Cyberman's weakness. Granted, the cyborgs' newfound ability to adapt does make the prospect of battling them a little chilly, but if this were reused throughout the Cyberman's future appearance, I think that everyone will begin to find it tacky, boring and a producer's excuse to keep characters where they're supposed to be. The 'UPGRADE IN PROGRESS' plot device was used to give the Imperial platoon a more legitimate reason to blow Hedgewick's World to dust, instead of merely eliminating them with the weapons they had. Had the Cybermen invaded Earth, or a different densely-populated planet, the prospect of destroying the planet would be impossible, and thus the Cybermen would be made practically invincible. What's more, if these Cybermen were to confront the Daleks, then the conflict would end in a standoff, with Daleks and Cybermen unable to injure one another (assuming the Daleks are still immune to Cyber-weaponry).
|Surely we would never resort to this?!|
In order to 'save' the Cybermen from further criticism, it is my opinion that the producers of Doctor Who must make an effort to revert the Cybermen to a form before the revival, not necessarily so much in form, but in ability. The Cybermen should become more organic-looking and less invincible. In fact, the only thing they should be totally immune to is the reversal of emotional inhibitors. Seriously, this easy method of 'overloading the Cybermen's suppressed emotions causing their heads to blow up Fembot-style' has been used as a deus ex machina for too long, and a new weakness should be introduced. The Cybermen are too valuable a Doctor Who classic to be made into a joke like they have been over the past seven years, and it's time for change. It's easy enough to think up a realistic storyline where the Cybermen throw away all their strengths and revert to weaker forms, Right? Okay, maybe not, but if Moffat and his colleagues can think up a plot loop as colossal as the Doctor surviving his death, then this should be a doozy.