HomeAll postsDoctor Who (1967): The Tomb of the Cybermen

Doctor Who (1967): The Tomb of the Cybermen

Tomb of the cybermen

The Doctors Revisited volume I part ii of iv
A review by Nalini Haynes

Foolish humans search for the tomb of the cybermen in the hope of unlocking treasures. Bickering establishes that Kaftan (Shirley Cooklin), the wealthy woman who funded this archaeological expedition, is the power behind this expedition while Professor Parry (Aubrey Richards) vainly tries to maintain control of his expedition. Later Kaftan’s husband, Klieg (George Pastell), is revealed as the silent (quieter?) financial power-broker. Always watch the quiet ones.

The archaeologists bomb the hillside (as archaeologists do, eyeroll), revealing the entrance to the tomb of the cybermen. As the party charges up the hillside to the entrance, viewers will notice the extraordinarily large cast for an episode of Doctor Who. As I watched this race to the entrance, I thought this could be a horror story where people are picked off one by one. [Dun dun DUNNN]

The Doctor (Patrick Troughton) leads companions Jamie (Frazier Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling) to meet the expedition right after the first death of the story, caused by trying to open the doors. The Doctor is blamed, he argues, he inveigles…

Without the Doctor’s interference – repeatedly opening doors – nothing would have happened; instead he opens doors or tells people how to open them, then says they shouldn’t. I’m not sure if the writers intended this element of comedy but it fits with Patrick Troughton’s take on the Doctor.

Like with many horror stories, the premise for ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ is a bit thin and hole-y but the story entertains. The horror elements are sufficiently mild to allow young children to watch, be entertained and frightened then reassured that, once again, the Doctor saves the day.

Race and Gender

Racism and sexism are rampant in this story in spite of more enlightened writing in earlier stories.

First ‘the women’ are repeatedly grouped together for ‘special treatment’ like staying behind, going together in a group and being protected. It could be argued that this was an excuse for the ‘splitting them up’ trope but patronising comments from some of the men inspire a good slapping.

Toberman (Roy Stewart), the only non-white character in the story, is eye-candy for the discerning viewer with his slender yet muscular frame. At first it appears Toberman is a non-speaking character but eventually he speaks, barely; he’s not quite reduced to grunts. Toberman is the wealthy couple’s servant, treated like a slave.

[Spoilers, Sweetie]

Toberman is eventually caught by the cybermen who begin his transformation into a cyberman. The Doctor rails at Toberman, yelling at him that the cybermen’s treatment of him is evil, encouraging Toberman to resist the telepathic waves that were so naively drawn on the film as a special effect (adorbs). I wondered if the writers were delving deeper into characters and motivation with the ironic slavery double-standard; I doubt it because not even the Doctor seemed concerned about the way Toberman’s employers treated him.

[Spoiler ends]

‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ is a mild horror story suitable for family viewing. The continuity of the development of the cybermen is remarkable (I want to watch the whole Cybermen cycle now). ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ is a piece of history, part of the evolution of Doctor Who and the development of television programming at large. With a rating of 8.1 on IMDB, ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ is immensely popular.


Extras feature some very short interviews with people like Neil Gaiman, Stephen Moffat, Wendy Padbury (companion Zoe), Frazier Hines (companion Jamie) and more.

When viewing, you have a choice of watching the original story with or without an introduction by Stephen Moffat. This was good because, in the review copy, the first episode was corrupted in the version without the introduction and the final episode was corrupted in the version with the introduction; with a bit of fussing I managed to watch the whole story.

Stephen Moffat talks about the silliness of the plot in the ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’, using that to justify the silliness of plots under his jurisdiction.

These extras are part of a larger whole in the Doctors Revisited.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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