Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the First Appearance of the Cybermen and the First Regeneration
The Tenth Planet
By Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis
“Emotions. Love, pride, hate, fear. Have you no emotions, sir?”
The Doctor, Ben and Polly arrive at the South Pole by the TARDIS in the year 1986. There they quickly find the Snowcap Base which is a monitoring base for space rockets. The crew of Snowcap Base is now in the process of supervising the mission of the Zeus 4 spaceship which is running a routine check of the Earth’s atmosphere. But something unexpected happens. Zeus 4 picks up a new planet heading toward Earth and suddenly Zeus 4 starts to experience power failures and the crew of Snowcap Base tries to help Zeus 4 back to Earth but to no avail as the ship is destroyed.
The Doctor quickly realizes what the planet is. It is the Earth’s twin planet Mondas and he predicts its inhabitants will be visiting Earth soon. While the crew of Snowcap Base are distracted with what happened to Zeus 4 no one noticed the three visitors that have entered the base wearing parkas that they acquired from the search party they killed earlier. Once General Cutler realizes that something is wrong the Cybermen made their presence known and successfully takes over the base. The Cybermen plan for the destruction of Earth has begun and it’s up to The Doctor, who isn’t quite his old self, with the aid of Ben and Polly to stop The Cybermen from siphoning the power from Earth causing Earth’s own destruction.
The Tenth Planet is one of the most important Doctor Who stories in the shows history. Not taking anything away from the Cybermen’s first appearance which is one of the reasons this story is so important but The Tenth Planet is known more for the Doctor’s first regeneration which was called renewal as it wasn’t known as regeneration until the Jon Pertwee story Planet of the Spiders. Think about how important for the shows history this renewal was. The producers replaced William Hartnell, who was starting to suffer from bad health, with Patrick Troughton when they could have just ended the show. For 1966 the regeneration was pretty risky. What if it didn’t work and the fans rejected Patrick Troughton as William Hartnell was beloved and seen as a grandfatherly figure to a lot of kids back then. This was a huge risk that ended up being very successful as 50 years on from the first regeneration we have our answer as the show has gone on in one form or another for 53 years and we’ve had eleven lead actors since William Hartnell.
Could you have imagine if they had social media back then and all the negative tweets and Facebook posts they would of gotten. It would have been huge and probably shut the internet down. Since they did not have that in 1966 and the news didn’t leak out like it would today I wonder what the reaction was of the fans of Doctor Who back then when they saw the first regeneration. I’m guessing one of confusion and shock as the face of William Hartnell disappeared and replaced by Patrick Troughton. I bet it was pretty wild to experience that and actually being confused and then tuning in next week for Power of the Daleks to see what had happen to the Doctor. Well it was pretty smart to have the Daleks in the next story as they were still super popular and something familiar for the fans to grab onto while watching the new Doctor.
The Tenth Planet is the first base under siege story in Doctor Who and this would become a mainstay in Doctor Who for years to come more so in the Troughton years than any other era. Hard to believe that in the years leading up to Season Four that they never had a base under siege story before. The Tenth Planet is the classic story where you have an invading force trying to take over a base that is crucial in their plans for world domination. I love base under siege stories and The Tenth Planet is one of my favorites.
There is so much tension in The Tenth Planet with the Cybermen trying to siphon the power of Earth for Mondas and Ben trying to figure out a way to stop them with the aid of Barclay but it isn’t that easy. General Cutler is so obsessed with saving his son who is stuck in orbit in an attempt to save Zeus 4 that he would use the Zbombs to destroy Mondas. So the TARDIS crew has two problems as they have to find a way to stop the Cybermen and also to stop the madness of General Cutler whose plan could destroy half of the Earth that is facing Mondas when the Zbombs go off. What a great story that builds up the tension with two adversaries to go up against. It is pretty hard to figure out how Ben and Polly would get through this as The Doctor was incapacitated for most of the story. I also loved the flow of the story as it felt like a true science fiction story more than they have done in the past three seasons of the shows early beginnings.
The Tenth Planet is also the first appearance of the Cybermen. 50 years ago they made their first appearance in Doctor Who and they have been a mainstay ever since. While the Cybermen have taken to changing their appearance through the years I always thought the ones from Mondas were the creepiest. They looked like robots but the Tenth Planet Cybermen still had human features. The most noticeable is that they had human hands. If you look closely you can see them as they hold that bulky piece of equipment that is also their gun. How creepy is that that the Mondas Cybermen kept the human hands after they were converted to Cybermen. Also if you look closely you can see human eyes staring out of the mask. I know this was not intentional but it does add to the creepiness that they kept the human eyes intact during conversion. Plus when they talked their mouths opened. No this was not creepy at all but actually quite comical. By watching these Cybermen you can tell why they decided why they change the way the Cybermen talked. I just love the Cybermen and the ones from Mondas are definitely the creepiest if not the most primitive.
One of the unfortunate things about The Tenth Planet is that episode four is missing. Fortunately they do have the clip of the regeneration but that is it. For the DVD release episode four was animated and even though it’s not the same thing as watching the original it is far and above watching telesnap recreations. I found the animation for episode four to be really well done and it did not detract from the original story. I’m glad they animated the missing part and hopefully they will animate the rest of the missing stories that have not been animated yet. They are doing Power of the Daleks so who knows.
The Tenth Planet has its place in Doctor Who history and will always be known as the story that had the first regeneration and the first appearance of the Cybermen. Even though the regeneration was simple and quite anticlimactic to today’s standards it still is an impressive thing to see and experience if you haven’t seen it before. The Tenth Planet has solidified the shows longevity and has spawned over 50 years of adventure for The Doctor. The Tenth Planet is also a really good story to watch in which you need to pay attention to and use your brain while watching it. It is a great base under siege story and it has some fine acting performances like Robert Beatty as General Cutler as he really portrays a man you believe to be desperate and crazy in his own way. Besides the regeneration there are some good moments in The Tenth Planet like the reveal of the Cybermen and the climatic solution to the Cybermen invasion. The Tenth Planet still holds up today and is a great story that is just as exciting and wonderful to watch today despite the missing episode four.