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Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet

"Trans... Mondas... Express..."
"It's far from being over..."

Season Four, Series 2 (DD)

Starring William Hartnell as the Doctor
With Anneke Wills (Polly) and Michael Craze (Ben)
Written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis
Directed by Derek Martinus
Produced by Innes Lloyd
Script Editor: Gerry Davis

Broadcast Dates, Viewers, Appreciation
  • Episode 1 - 8 Oct 1966 (5.5m, 50%)
  • Episode 2 - 15 Oct 1966 (6.4m, 48%)
  • Episode 3 - 22 Oct 1966 (7.6m, 48%)
  • Episode 4 - 29 Oct 1966 (7.5m, 47%) **MISSING**

How to Watch:
  • Not currently available on Britbox nor in rotation on Pluto.tv (as of July 2023)
  • The 2000 VHS release included a reconstruction of episode 4 based on telesnaps and surviving segments of video
  • The 2013 DVD release includes an animated version of episode 4, with the VHS recon included as a bonus feature
  • The reconstruction of Episode 4 included on the VHS release is available here, but please support the official BBC releases!


The TARDIS lands in Antarctica, 1986, near Snowcap Base, a rocket tracking facility led by General Cutler. The latest orbiter, Zeus 4, goes off course and is losing power. The Doctor correctly predicts the presence of a rogue planet as the culprit, drawing them out of orbit. Indeed, the planet has the same land masses as Earth, and it's revealed to be Mondas, our lost twin planet. The Doctor also correctly predicts the arrival of visitors, and indeed, large hulking silver creatures arrive near the base, killing several crewman. They are the Cybermen; originally human, they had to replace their body parts with cybernetics when Mondas went out of orbit, and also have removed all emotions. Now they are back and plan to drain the Earth's energy and convert the population. More saucers arrive from Mondas as the Cybermen's invasion fleet occupies Earth. The increasingly crazed base commander General Cutler – especially since his own son is also stuck in orbit – attempts to launch the Z-Bomb, a radioactive missile, to wipe out Mondas, but doing so would also imperil the Earth. Ben sabotages the missile, and correctly reasons that the Cybermen are susceptible to radiation, using radioactive material to defeat the Cybermen at Snowcap Base. As for the rest of the invasion force, the problem resolves itself: Mondas drains too much energy from Earth and breaks apart, and without power from their home planet, the Cybermen all die.

Meanwhile, the Doctor has grown increasingly weary, commenting that his body seems to be "wearing a bit thin." After the Cybermen's demise, he stumbles into the TARDIS, appears to draw energy from the console, then collapses. To Ben and Polly's astonishment, his body transforms into a completely different person...

Notes and Observations

Let's talk about the Cybermen first.

Generally speaking, the Cybermen will always be compared against Star Trek's Borg; I will throw down my gauntlet and die on this hill: the Borg are what the Cybermen would be if Doctor Who had the budget and the writers knew what to do with them. They aren't just generic baddies, their entire ethos involves cannibalization of parts and technology, and constant adapting/upgrading even moment-to-moment. So are the Cybermen, theoretically.

Only a handful of Cyberman stories actually addressed their core essence: they replaced their body parts with cybernetics, and decided that others needed the same treatment. In "The Tenth Planet," they mainly want to hoover up Earth's energy, but at least mention converting humanity into Cybermen. The script simplifies the notion, but not without a hint of menace. "Come to Mondas," says Cyberman Krail – they have names here, for the only time – "and you will have no need of emotions. You will become like us."

Over the next several stories even into the 80's, the Cybermen might partially convert a character or two, but by and large they're just a hulking menace that could be swapped out with any other alien menace. It's not until the New Series that they are primarily out to upgrade, if not delete, humanity, and the bitter irony is that they wind up being wannabe Borg, when the Borg were initially wannabe Cybermen.

With the current series reviving these original Cyberman designs, a lot more attention is being paid to just how gruesome they are here in a way that they never are again. The way their mouths open and the sing-song computer-speak voice just falls out, the hands, the eyes just visible thru the holes in their face covering... pretty chilling even by contemporary standards.

It is a bit sad that Hartnell, in his farewell performance, does next to nothing apart from shouting at the Cybermen; he's a secondary character in his own show. When he came down with bronchitis (or called in sick) during rehearsals for episode three, he was written out pretty easily. Polly unfortunately is largely useless, doing little except screaming and being the audience cipher, and it's ultimately Ben who accomplishes anything substantive. And then we run into the most significant problem with this episode: humanity doesn't need to do anything to defeat the Cybermen other than sabotage their plans long enough for Mondas to be destroyed. The Cybermen's plan is foiled because, well, it was a shitty plan and it went very badly.

It's subtle, but I appreciate that the human cast is (relatively) diverse, in contrast with the uniformity of the Cybermen. The story featured Earl Cameron as astronaut Glyn Williams, possibly the first black astronaut character in the history of the BBC. (Nichelle Nichols, however, made her debut in Star Trek on American television one month earlier). There's also a non-speaking extra at the UN in African garb, but then the rest of the diversity is displayed as White People With Various Accents, from the American base commander right down to the stereotypical horny Italian guy ("Mamma mia, eetza wooman!").

So the producers won out in the end. Hartnell's age and declining physical and mental faculties had put the future of the program in jeopardy; he outlasted Wiles but in the end Innes Lloyd got him out of the role. The question then came, once it was determined that the role would be re-cast, and Patrick Troughton came in, was how to carry off the change in the lead. Retconners have apparently decided that the Doctor's final decline was initiated by his fatigue following the distillation processing in "The Savages," but the producers hadn't even gotten the green light to replace Hartnell at the time, so this is spurious. This wasn't part of a pre-planned, season-long narrative, this was an on-the-fly decision made only weeks ahead of time. Given the revolving door of companions, producers, writers, etc, there always seemed to be a constant state of chaos and flux, and it's absurd to think of the transition from Hartnell to Troughton – who was cast six weeks before his first scenes were shot – with the same metrics as the transition to, say, Ncuti Gatwa whose casting was announced last year and is currently shooting scenes due to be broadcast sometime late NEXT year.

The option was considered to have the new Doctor be a younger version of Hartnell's character, but when Troughton became the leading candidate, they tossed that idea and, perhaps in a fit of inspiration mixed with a bit of desperation, they decided that, no, this was to be an entirely different characterization, effectively a new person. The Doctor is an alien, right? He can... just... do that! And a few years later, his bosses force him to change again, as part of his exile. But we'll get to that.

The future of the series would hinge on how the viewers would respond to this radical recasting...


Not exactly what you'd call a 'meet cute,' but Michael Craze ended up marrying the production assistant who threw fake snow in his face during the shooting of this story, inflaming a scar on his nose from a recent surgery.

Earl Cameron's space suit was re-used by one of the bounty hunters hired by Darth Vader to pursue Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back.

One drawback to restoring the image quality to arguably better than broadcast is that we can see that the Cybermen's 'handlebar' headpieces are held together with clear tape.

The original plan was for Hartnell to collapse while wearing his cloak, and fall in such a way that the cloak obscured his face; then when Ben and Polly raised the hood, they'd find a different man. But vision mixer Shirley Coward took advantage of a faulty mixing desk and suggested an alternative. The image of Hartnell's face flared to near-whiteout, they did the reverse for Troughton, and then took the footage and faded from one to the other. This required Troughton to come in before the start date of his 22-episode contract to film the Doctor's 'renewal,' signing a one-day contract. The sequence was filmed on October 8th, the day episode one was broadcast.

On Season Four

Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis basically produced season four by the seat of their pants. On the surface, apart from the replacement of Hartnell and eventually the two companions that brought us through the change, things seemed placid enough but under the surface there was a great deal of chaos. The script for Power of the Daleks was written with the understanding that there would be a new lead, but the following stories were essentially commissioned on the fly, a guest actor got promoted rather spontaneously to companion, some stories were hastily re-shuffled, and the cushion between shooting date and broadcast date would get about as thin as you could go...

Haven't I Seen You...

  • Robert Beatty (Cutler) had appeared alongside William Hartnell at least twice before, in the 1946 film Appointment With Crime, as the police detective tracking Hartnell (in a rare lead role) down, as well as the 1947 classic Odd Man Out. He also played Bran Foster, the political dissident who found and recruited Roj Blake back into the resistance in the premiere episode of Blake's 7.
  • Earl Cameron (Williams) had a long career in film and TV, being a pioneer in the UK along the lines of Sidney Poitier. He died in 2020 at the age of 102.
  • Reg Whitehead (multiple Cybermen) would continue to play Cybermen in "The Moonbase" and "Tomb of the Cybermen" as well as a Yeti in "The Abominable Snowmen"
  • Gregg Palmer (multiple Cybermen) would return as a human, as Lt. Lucke in "The War Games"
  • Roy Skelton and Peter Hawkins (Cybervoices) appeared frequently as voices of Cybermen and Daleks.

Does the BIPOC Character Survive? No. (Williams dies in episode two)

Sausage Factor: 94.4% (one female minor character out of 18 credited guest actors)

Rating: Two and a half out of Four Old Bodies Wearing A Bit Thin.
John Geoffrion is a semi-retired semi-professional thespian, a professional data guy, and a Dad. He usually falls asleep to the Classic Doctor Who channel on Pluto.tv

1 comment:

  1. I've been hoping to see classic reviews return!

    I dig these cybermen as they indeed come off scary in their own way, as opposed to the often simple brutes we get later. I also prefer the 60s-80s cybermen's look over most of the modern cybermen, that come off too robotic instead of as a merging of organic and machine like they're supposed to be, cheaper special effects notwithstanding.

    I loke the Borg too, but 100% with your take on the situation John. I Found 'Silver Nemesis' to be especially irksome as they were acting like literal Borg in that one!

    I like Troughton significantly more than Hartnell, but still sad he went out like this. For all his flubbed lines and other issues, he was the first Doctor, and we'd not have a show without him!


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