The Doctor Who Cybermen Origins Explained

By Jason Collins | Updated

Doctor Who 2023 special episodes are scheduled to air this November in celebration of the show’s 60th anniversary, with David Tennant and Catherine Tate assuming the roles of the Fourteenth Doctor and Dona Noble, respectively. The official synopsis isn’t officially disclosed, but we’re bound to witness yet another regeneration scene and quite possibly a run-in with the recently appearing enemies, such as the Master, Daleks, and, of course, Cybermen.

Cybermen removed their human emotions—and other human-defining traits soon after—through a process called Cyber-Conversion.

We won’t dive into speculation regarding the upcoming Doctor Who narrative; this report will focus on Cybermen and their origins within the Whoniverse as less attractive and certainly less-friendly versions of theTin Man.

As their name implies, Cybermen are a race—for lack of a better term—of cybernetically augmented humanoids, with augmentations that would have the Adeptus Mechanicus salivating at a mere thought—we’re referring to the cybernetically augmented Priesthood of Mars from the Warhammer 40k universe.

Cybermen Hail From The Planet Mondas

Cybermen’s origins in the Doctor Who universe are actually well-known but rather messy. They originally come from Mondas, planet Earth’s twin planet, which drifted outside our solar system and into the depths of space.

The absence of the sun and its life-sustaining energy devastated Mondas, turning it into a frozen and desolate planet. The inhabitants that remained, original human beings, began experimenting with cyber augmentations to increase their survivability, and thus, the first Cybermen were born—or rather, made.

A Cyberman with Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor in “Ascension of the Cybermen”

These were referred to as Mondasian Cybermen in the Doctor Who series. They had removed their human emotions—and other human-defining traits soon after—through a process called Cyber-Conversion.

This process allows the conversion of physically similar and compatible humanoids into Cybermen, thus allowing the alien race to multiply. Initially, the process could only convert live specimens, which Cybermen saw as a massive drawback, and further development of the conversion process allowed them to convert corpses.  

Cybermen Are Similar To Star Trek’s Borg

The Cyber-Conversion increased the survivability of Monda’s inhabitants, who soon came to believe themselves better than organic life firms. Thus, Mondasian Cybermen soon embarked on the mission to convert all organic life, seize control of the galaxy, and spread the Cyber Empire across the stars through Cyber wars—similar to how the Borg assimilate other species in the Star Trek universe.

As a result of their expansion, Cybermen now greatly vary in design due to numerous Cyber-subspecies from different edges of space-time evolving simultaneously.

The Cybermen first appeared in Doctor Who in 1966

In fact, Cybermen have evolved significantly since their first appearance in the Doctor Who series in 1966. The first iterations of Cybermen, the early Mondasian Cyberman, weren’t fully covered in metallic armor; instead, they were coated in some kind of toughened medical gauze, mostly over their faces and hands. Some had exposed wiring and tubing on their outer skin, while others had fully metal armored bodies with no exposed circuitry.

Cybermen’s Origin Story Is Retconned

The aesthetic evolution of the Cybermen, brought by the advent of special effects technology, also brought about the evolution of their origin story. As stated above, the first Cybermen came from Earth’s twin planet, but both the planet and its inhabitants were destroyed following their run-in with the First Doctor.

However, they were favored by the audiences since they actually make a perfect enemy—cold, ruthless, and very calculated—so the Doctor Who showrunners decided to revive Cybermen by retconning their origin story.

In fact, the origin of the Cybermen was reconned quite a few times within the Doctor Who universe. According to one version of events, the Cybermen originated on Mondas but had adopted the planet Telos—thus giving birth to Telosian Cybermen—while trying to restore their world.

Other versions state that Cybermen originated from outside the Doctor’s universe after they managed to invade the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey. The continuous retconning of their origins created a mess within the canon, causing many contradictions within the series.

Ultimately, Steven Moffat, one of Doctor Who’s showrunners, came up with the solution that states that Cybermen are a product of parallel evolution—across time/space—and an inevitable evolutionary step of life, regardless of the planet or universe they originate from.

This is perhaps the most elegant solution, as it encompasses and validates all previous origin stories presented through the Doctor Who narrative. Following recent reports, perhaps Ryan Gosling is the next evolutionary step of Cybermen.