At the end of Part 1, the Cybermen have landed on Antarctica in the not-too-distant future year of 1986, right on top of the underground UN research and space-control base, and killed the handful of luckless soldiers who happened to be up on the snowy and windswept surface at the time.
Down inside the base, General Cutler is scoffing at the Doctor’s statement that there will be visitors from that other planet that’s approaching Earth and looks just like it, except upside-down to our traditional north/south perspective. Both the Doctor and General are unaware that the visitors have already arrived.
Up on surface, the Cybermen throw the winter cloaks they’ve taken from the dead men over their shoulders and distinctive headgear as a sort of makeshift disguise, and head down through the hatch into the base. It’s not a very good disguise, but it does the trick; no one notices them coming down the stairs into the control room until they throw off the coverings. Polly screams.
I’ve never cared much for the Cybermen later on, either in the Doctor Whos I watched growing up, or in the New Whos. They seemed like clunkier Borg without the Cenobite S&M panache.
But I like these very first Cybermen as they introduce themselves after zapping another soldier or two. They are believably what they say they are–people who were once very like the Earth’s humans, but they’ve had to modify themselves and replace some body parts to survive as the environment on their own world, Mondas, grew more hostile to life. Their hands are bare and still obviously human. The extra features on the DVD tell me this was a mistake and the costume department forgot to order silver gloves, but I think it’s a very good touch, intentional or not.
The voices of the Cybermen are done by other actors offscreen, which creates another nice touch: the Cyberman “speaking” only drops his stocking-covered mouth open and doesn’t move or close his jaw until his speech is completed. What we hear is a creepy, high-pitched, sing-song voice that sounds electronically modulated, emphasizing syllables at random and breaking words or sentences up in weird places. It’s my favorite thing about these first Cybermen, and I think it’s a pity that this style of speech was dropped when they returned in later episodes. It’s as distinctive in its way as the hysterical Dalek shrieks.
The base personnel were working on bringing the space capsule containing two astronauts back to Earth after Mondas threw it off course and affected its power. It’s a difficult job, and not a good time for a bunch of Cybermen to come in and take over the place. The invaders are indifferent to the plight of the astronauts or the need to get them down before they crash once they’re informed of it. Their human emotions have been removed along with various organs. It’s not so much that they want the astronauts to die, but they believe it’s impossible for the capsule to land safely now. It’s a waste of time to try.
“But they’ll die!” Polly cries out, horrified. “Don’t you care?”
“Care? Why should we care?” the Cyberleader replies. But he allows the base to contact the capsule so Dr. Barclay can try to talk them down.
Well, perhaps the Cybermen were right. The effort doesn’t work and the capsule comes into the Earth’s atmosphere too fast and crashes. The two astronauts are lost.
The Cybermen continue to explain their purpose in returning to the Sol system. Mondas’s energy is nearly exhausted, so they’ve come back to drain the energy from their old twin Earth. One planet or the other must be destroyed and with cold rationality, they’ve decided in favor of their own survival.
But they inform the horrified humans that they aren’t going to let the people of Earth die. No, they will take everyone with them to Mondas and cybernize them all. Isn’t that generous of them?
The Doctor’s other companion, the cheeky Cockney sailor Ben has the idea of trying to get back up to the Tardis, parked on the surface, to do something about the Cyber-invasion, but he’s quickly caught when he makes a dash for the stairs. He doesn’t get killed, but is thrown into the base rec-room, where the men must watch movies while on breaks. There’s a film projector.
Ben manages to escape by playing the film on the projector. It’s an old Western that he remarks he’s seen before. He shines the flickering light into the Cyberman’s eyes long enough to blind him, then kills him in the ensuing struggle–although he feels bad about having to do it. Now Ben has a cyber-weapon.
Ben sneaks back to control room and surreptitiously passes the weapon to General Cutler, who zaps the other two Cybermen there and kills them. He doesn’t feel bad about the necessity, as Ben does.
Now that they’ve taken care of the immediate problem on the base, the General contacts the U.N. Secretary General in Geneva to alert the rest of the world about the coming invasion. The military in countries worldwide prepare for the first interplanetary war.
While he’s talking to Cutler, the Secretary General adds that once they were aware of the new planet, which happened in the previous episode, they sent up a second rocket containing single volunteer astronaut, the General’s son. Now it’s not just the Earth that’s at stake; for Cutler, it’s a personal crisis.
Believing that his son is doomed unless he acts, General Cutler orders the launch of the base’s missiles to destroy Mondas first.
Hundreds of spaceships are picked up on the base’s radar, already coming from Mondas toward Earth.
To be continued…