The story features the return of Lytton, last seen in Resurrection of the Daleks. It was the first Doctor Who story to be produced in forty-five-minute episodes, and the first since Resurrection of the Daleks to be aired in the format. Both methods would see their end in the 1963 series with Revelation of the Daleks; 45-minute episodes would not reappear until Rose, the first episode of the show's 2005 revival. From that point on, the 45-minute format would become the norm for Doctor Who.
The story also returned to Telos, the setting of the Second Doctor TV story The Tomb of the Cybermen, also reintroducing its Cyber-Controller, albeit redesigned to fit with the then-current Cyberman design. In the process, Attack of the Cybermen attempted to reconcile Telos's depiction as the Cybermen's homeworld in Tomb of the Cybermen with the claim in TV: The Tenth Planet that the Cyberman homeworld was Mondas. In this case, Telos was redefined as a planet temporarily colonised by the Mondasian Cybermen, with a new native Telosian race, the Cryons, being introduced. Ironically, PROSE: Doctor Who and the Cybermen had earlier posited the opposite explanation, purporting that Telos was the original Cyberman homeworld and that Mondas has been the first of their colony-planets. TV: The Doctor Falls would later posit yet a third incompatible explanation, alleging that Cybermen evolved separately on Mondas and Telos through parallel evolution.
This episode is also notable for featuring the first televised instance where the chameleon circuit within the Doctor's TARDIS is shown operational - since the very first episode of the series, it was known to have suffered from a fault that left it in the shape of a police box. Now temporarily repaired, the outer shell of the TARDIS is witnessed changing shape for the first time on-screen. However, the repairs are imperfect and the TARDIS assumes random forms against the Doctor's will, some of which do not blend well with the places it lands and make it hard to tell where to re-enter the machine. The chameleon circuit soon breaks down and the TARDIS becomes locked in its police box form once again.
It was also a prime example of an occasion where the Doctor greatly misjudged someone's pure motives, namely he assumed that Lytton was working with the Cybermen instead of against them. His actions here indirectly led to Lytton's death, and the Doctor stated that he's never quite misjudged someone that badly before, and swore never to do so again.
While trying to fix the TARDIS's chameleon circuit, the Sixth Doctor returns to Foreman's Yard on Totter's Lane in 1985, where he meets his old enemies the Cybermen. They have come from the future to change history by sending Halley's Comet crashing into Earth. Gustave Lytton, last seen working for the Daleks, is involved in the Cybermen's plot. Is Lytton working for the Cybermen, himself or someone else?
Two workmen are inspecting a London sewer. They find a new brick wall where none should be. One of them wanders off and vanishes, while his colleague is attacked by an unseen assailant.
The Sixth Doctor is performing repairs to the TARDIS' chameleon circuit, something he has meant to do for years, but Peri is worried that he is over-exerting himself following his recent regeneration. She suggests he get some rest. He responds that she could also use some relaxation and steers the TARDIS towards Earth. Something begins to draw them off course.
Back in London, the stranded mercenary Lytton now leads a small gang of criminals. They are planning their next job, a diamond heist. One man, Russell, is sent to procure explosives, but instead phones someone to tell them what Lytton is planning.
The TARDIS is undamaged and now following Halley's Comet towards Earth in 1985. The Doctor decides to investigate what affected their flight, despite Peri's misgivings about the comet's reputation as a signal of impending doom. Lytton's gang enters the sewers via a prepared entrance concealed beneath a garage, planning to blow their way into the diamond vault from below. Before he joins them, Lytton adjusts a piece of advanced technology, while his two police allies patrol the street.
The TARDIS lands in the scrapyard at 76 Totter's Lane, having tracked a distress signal nearby. To Peri's amusement, the chameleon circuit alters the appearance to a painted french dresser, inconsistent with a junkyard. As the Doctor and Peri search for the signal's source, they are silently stalked by the policemen.
In the sewers, Russell hears someone following the four thieves. Lytton orders Payne to remain behind to "deal" with whoever is following them while he, Russell and Griffiths proceed into the dark tunnels. Payne is attacked and killed by the shadowy assailant. When he realises the distress signal is relayed via multiple points in the city, the Doctor decides someone must be observing the transmitter to determine when help arrives. The TARDIS, now a pipe organ, materialises at the garage. When he sees the absurd form his TARDIS has assumed, the frustrated Doctor remarks, "This is getting ridiculous". In a moment of whimsy, he plays the opening notes of J. S. Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor", before Peri puts him back on task. The Doctor and Peri find the sewer entrance and the armed policemen, whom they overcome before venturing into the sewers. In the dark, they soon find Payne's body.
When Lytton's gang reach the newly built wall, Griffiths begins to knock down some of the old brickwork to reach the vault. When the black figure appears in the tunnel, Russell flees while Griffiths shoots at it. Lytton forces Griffiths not to panic as the new wall slides back to reveal Cybermen in a hidden command centre. Lytton surrenders. He explains his extra-terrestrial nature to the Cyber-Leader and offers to serve the Cyber race. The leader states the Cyber-Controller on Telos will determine their fate.
On Telos, a group of partially cyber-converted prisoners toil in a quarry under Cyberman guards. Three of the prisoners attempt an escape, killing a Cyberman in the process. Only two make it out alive. The men, Bates and Stratton, need a third to operate the ship they plan to leave Telos in. Despite this setback, they continue with their plan and head for the Cyber-control building. They accost a Cyber-scout on the way and decapitate him, planning to hollow out his head for a disguise.
Russell finds the Doctor and Peri. He reveals he is an undercover police officer. The Doctor disarms him and learns he was investigating Lytton, who appeared suddenly a year earlier and committed several daring crimes with great skill to build his transmitter and who the Doctor had dealt with before during an incident with the Daleks. They return to the TARDIS, disabling the black Cyber-scout with a sonic lance on the way. However, some Cybermen are already inside the TARDIS and kill Russell. The leader, flanked by several other Cybermen, herds Lytton and Griffiths in the ship. The leader orders one of the Cybermen to destroy Peri at once...
The Doctor agrees to co-operate with the Cybermen if Peri is spared on the word of the leader and Cyber-Controller, whom the Doctor believed dead. He sets the TARDIS coordinates for Telos and is placed in another room with Peri, Griffiths and Lytton. Lytton explains that the Cybermen have captured a timeship that landed on Telos and have great plans for that ship and the TARDIS as well. The Doctor asks how Lytton knows so much about Telos and the Cybermen's plans, but he does not answer. The Doctor explains to Peri and Griffiths that the Cybermen came to Telos and annihilated the native Cryons to use their refrigerated cities to store cyber troops after the destruction of Mondas, partially at the Doctor's hand, in 1986.
The Doctor sabotages the navigational controls with the sonic lance, causing the TARDIS to land in the catacombs, rather than Cyber-control, whereupon it assumes the shape of a gateway. The Cybermen are attacked by a rogue Cyberman, one of many driven insane by faulty tombs. The distraction allows Peri, Lytton and Griffiths to escape. Peri is rescued by Cryon freedom fighters, more of whom find Lytton and Griffiths, explaining that they answered Lytton's distress call and he manipulated the Cybermen into bringing him to Telos. The Cryons have hired him to help them stop the Cybermen from destroying Telos when they have revived all their troops and left. Lytton's mission is to steal the time vessel to prevent the Controller's plan from succeeding. He, in turn, needs Griffiths to keep him alive long enough to make it to the ship, paying him with a fortune in diamonds, which are very common on Telos.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is confined in a cold storage room, where he meets a Cryon prisoner, Flast. Flast says a few Cryons survived the Cybermen purges. They are fighting a guerrilla war, sabotaging the tombs to delay the revivals. She outlines the Cybermen's plan to prevent Mondas' destruction by travelling back in the time vessel and diverting Halley's Comet into Earth before Mondas has absorbed too much energy.
Lytton and Griffiths track down the two escaped prisoners outside the city and convince the groups to ally themselves with each other to capture the time vessel, which needs at least three crewmen to operate. Lytton explains that the ship is their only hope and that it will arrive soon. They head into a hidden tunnel, which leads to Cyber-control. As they approach the landing pad, Lytton is captured by a Cyberman patrol while the others continue without him.
The Doctor is outraged at the Cybermen's plan. Saving Mondas would contravene the Laws of Time. He is surprised the Time Lords are not doing something to stop it. He realises it must have been his own people who sent the TARDIS off course and manipulated him into place to be their agent yet again. Flast shows the Doctor what is in the storeroom - boxes of vastial, a common Telosian mineral, highly volatile above freezing. The Doctor uses a small amount to escape the room and kill the guard, leaving his sonic lance with Flast. She cannot leave the room without being boiled alive by the above-zero temperatures in the corridor, but volunteers to use the lance to detonate the vastial and destroy cyber-control.
Lytton is tortured by the Cyber-controller for information before being forced to undergo cyber-conversion. The Doctor and Peri make their way separately to the TARDIS where to lure the Cyberman guards out, the Doctor activates a distress beacon on the body of a dead Cyberman. Before being forced into the corridor and perishing, Flast hides the sonic lance in a box of vastial where it slowly warms up. When the time vessel lands at the platform, the would-be hijackers try to board it but are mercilessly cut down by the Cybermen inside. As the guards leave the TARDIS, the Cryons destroy them at the cost of their leader's life.
The new Cryon leader, Rost, urges the Doctor to leave before Flast's explosion is triggered. The Doctor prepares to go, but Peri urges him to go back and rescue Lytton who, for once, was helping the right side. The TARDIS materialises in the conversion centre, taking the form of a police box, but it is too late to save Lytton, who begs the Doctor to kill him. The Cyber-Controller arrives to stop the Doctor, who surreptitiously puts a scalpel in Lytton's hand. Lytton waits until the Controller is next to him and stabs him in the arm, which is the distraction the Doctor needs. He takes the Controller's weapon and kills the Leader, the Lieutenant and the Controller himself, but not before Lytton is killed. The TARDIS leaves moments before Cyber-control explodes, leaving the Doctor to reflect on his misjudgment of Lytton.
- The Doctor - Colin Baker
- Peri - Nicola Bryant
- Lytton - Maurice Colbourne
- Griffiths - Brian Glover
- Russell - Terry Molloy
- Payne - James Beckett
- Cyber Leader - David Banks
- Cyber-Controller - Michael Kilgarriff
- Flast - Faith Brown
- Varne - Sarah Greene
- Bates - Michael Attwell
- Stratton - Jonathan David
- Cyber-Lieutenant - Brian Orrell
- Cyberman - John Ainley
- Bill - Stephen Churchett
- David - Stephen Wale
- Rost - Sarah Berger
- Threst - Esther Freud
- Assistant Floor Manager - Pennie Bloomfield
- Camera Supervisor - Alec Wheal
- Costumes - Anushia Nieradzik
- Designer - Marjorie Pratt
- Film Cameraman - Godfrey Johnson
- Film Editor - M A C Adams
- Film Sound - Barrie Tharby
- Incidental Music - Malcolm Clarke
- Lighting Director - Henry Barber
- Make-Up - Linda McInnes
- Producer - John Nathan-Turner
- Production Assistant - Llinos Wyn Jones
- Production Associates - June Collins, Sue Anstruther
- Production Manager - Andrew Buchanan
- Script Editor - Eric Saward
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Studio Sound - Andy Stacey
- Technical Co-ordinator - Alan Arbuthnott
- Theme Arrangement - Peter Howell
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Title Sequence - Sid Sutton
- Video Effects - Dave Chapman
- Videotape Editor - Hugh Parson
- Vision Mixer - Nigel Finnis
- Visual Effects Designer - Chris Lawson
- Film Sound Assistant - Gordon Lester (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Film Camera Assistant - Eric Samuel (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Film Operations Manager - Graham Richmond (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Grips - Gray Hutchings (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Film Lighting - Paul Eveny, Max Foster (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Costume Assistant - Julie Godfrey (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Booker - Sarah Bird (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Bookings Assistant - Sheila Hodges (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Design Assistant - Adele Marolf (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Production Secretary - Sarah Lee (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Senior Studio Engineers - Selwyn Allen, John Billett (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Model Film Cameraman - Remi Adefarasin (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Visual Effects Assistant - Graham Brown (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Model Film Lighting - Brian Beaumont, Billy Burn, Joe Ryan (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Grams Operator - John Doyes (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Lighting Chargehand - Bert Smith (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Make-Up Assistant - Sharon Walsh (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Production Ops Supervisor - John Pearson (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Props Buyer - John Charles (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Floor Assistant - Lynda Pannett (INFO: Attack of the Cybermen)
- Cryons are native to Telos.
- The Doctor almost fixes the TARDIS chameleon circuit. It becomes an ornamental wardrobe, a pipe organ, and a metal gateway.
- The Cybermen still make use of 'tombs.'
- When converting people, the Cybermen use a drug to affect the brain.
References from the real world
- The Doctor and Peri view Halley's Comet from the TARDIS.
- The Doctor plays the opening of J. S. Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" on the TARDIS "organ".
- Peri tells the Doctor he doesn't have to play the Lone Ranger.
- Peri finds her and the Sixth Doctor's destination of London to be an anticlimax.
- There is some contention over who exactly wrote Attack of the Cybermen — it was written under the pseudonym Paula Moore. Paula Woolsey and Eric Saward apparently worked together to write the story, with contributions from Ian Levine. However, Levine claims that he wrote the narrative, which was then developed into a script by Saward. Saward denies this and affirms that he wrote the final script and the majority of the narrative, with contributions from Levine, and to a very minor extent, Woolsey. This is also the most recent story to be written under a pseudonym.
- Attack of the Cybermen was first broadcast in two weekly parts; beginning with this serial and continuing for the remainder of Season 22, episodes were forty-five minutes in length (as opposed to previous episodes which were twenty-five minutes long) for syndication. In some markets, this serial was re-edited into four twenty-five-minute segments. The cliffhangers to parts one and three are the emergence of the Cybermen from sewer control and Flast's revelation that the Cybermen intend to prevent Mondas' destruction, respectively.
- Atypically for the title sequence used from Seasons 18 through 23, the story title and author credit are rendered in all capital letters.
- Working tiles for this story included Return to Telos and The Cold War.
- This is Terry Molloy's only on-screen appearance in Doctor Who playing a character other than Davros.
- The Radio Times programme listing for part one was accompanied by a black and white photograph of a Cyberman, plus a full-length black-and-white photographic cut-out image of the Doctor, topped with the neon Doctor Who logo, with the accompanying caption "A sinister subterranean encounter in the sewers of London between the Doctor and his old adversaries, the Cybermen / BBC1, 5.20 p.m. Doctor Who".
- This story reuses some incidental music from Earthshock to establish the presence of the Cybermen.
- This story introduced the Sixth Doctor's spiritual equivalent of the sonic screwdriver, a portable sonic lance, after the screwdriver had been written out in TV: The Visitation.
- When the Doctor and Peri observe Halley's Comet, the background music is Malcolm Clarke's music for the 1981 BBC documentary The Comet is Coming. The original music can be heard on the CD BBC Radiophonic Workshop – A Retrospective.
- When the TARDIS lands in the junkyard, the music playing is a distorted version of the theme music to Steptoe and Son (1962-1974), a BBC sitcom about a father and son rag-and-bone business. The original music was written by Ron Grainer, who also wrote the Doctor Who theme.
- This story was chosen by fans to represent the Colin Baker era by fans to be rebroadcast for Doctor Who @40.
- In A History of the Universe and the first two editions of aHistory, the scenes set on Telos are arbitrarily dated to 2530, as it is set after The Tomb of the Cybermen. The third edition redates it to circa 2495, based on evidence from the Cyberman audio series.
- Though he went uncredited, this is Pat Gorman's last performance in Doctor Who.
- This story was rated "M 15+" in Australia for low level violence.
- The role of Griffiths was written as a Cockney, but had to be rewritten when Yorkshireman Brian Glover was cast.
- Brian Glover was considered for Russell before being cast as Griffiths.
- The regular Cyber Lieutenant actor, Mark Hardy, was unavailable for this story and was replaced by Brian Orrell.
- Koo Stark was supposed to play the Cryon Varne and even appeared in publicity stills with Colin Baker, but backed out when the scope of the costume and makeup came to light.
- In the original script, it was revealed that a colony of Cryons is living inside Halley's Comet. Lytton's job was to convince the Cybermen to use the comet as the agent of the Earth's destruction in order to lure the Cyber Controller there, where he would be ambushed by the Cryons. This scheme is uncovered by the Cybermen, who then turn against Lytton.
- Griffiths was initially killed at the closing minutes of this serial but an under-running part two meant his character was not killed and expanded.
- Nicola Bryant recalled being uncomfortable wearing a skimpy outfit in November in Britain. John Nathan-Turner claimed that her nipples had to be taped down, as "they were obscene".
- Brian Blessed, Ralph Bates, Bernard Hill and Edward Woodward were considered for Russell.
- Donald Pleasence turned down the role of Griffiths.
- It was planned that the Cybermen on Telos would be dressed in blue overalls and globular helmets, to imply the hostile nature of the planet's surface. However, it was found that these additions made the monsters look ridiculous, and they were dropped.
- The costume and make-up for the Cryons continued to evolve during this time; the silvery wisps of hair near the mouth were a particularly late addition, suggested by John Nathan-Turner to help conceal the join between the mask and the actor's skin.
- Trevor Raymond was originally cast as Statton, but he suffered a broken arm and had to drop out of the production. He was replaced by Jonathan David, who had been hired to play the Cyber Lieutenant. David, in turn, was replaced by Brian Orrell, while Orrell's original role as a Cyberman was taken by John Ainley.
- For the tombs on Telos, the production returned to the same gravel quarry in Gerrards Cross where The Tomb of the Cybermen was filmed, at the insistence of Ian Levine. It looked suitably barren on the recce, but when it came to filming, all kinds of flora had sprouted up in the spring weather. As the story was missing from the archives at the time, Levine meticously researched the sets to get the details right and was disappointed that they weren't recreated.
- Michael Kilgarriff reprised his role as the Cyber Controller from The Tomb of the Cybermen, despite having gained a considerable amount of weight since then. Matthew Robinson said, "There wasn't enough silver foil in the world to disguise the girth".
- Michael Kilgarriff was confused by the plot and worried about the violence.
- According to Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times, Matthew Robinson "fought the lighting crew to keep the sewer scenes dark and effectively creepy" and had the idea of changing the Cryons from male to female.
- The repair to the Chameleon Circuit was in part a publicity effort by John Nathan-Turner to drum up more interest in the series. He hinted publicly that it might be a permanent development, but never pursued the idea beyond this story.
- Part one - 8.9 million viewers
- Part two - 7.2 million viewers
- This story replaced one called The Opera of Doom, featuring Jago and Litefoot, Padmasambhava, Omega, the Master, the Rills and the Cybermen. (This was a rumour deliberately started by fans and printed as fact in the news magazine DWB.)
- Glenthorne Road (UCI House), Hammersmith, London
- Davis Road, London, W3
- Birkbeck Road, Acton
- Becklow Road, London, W12
- Gerrards Cross Sand and Gravel Quarry, Gerrards Cross
- BBC Television Centre (TC6), Shepherd's Bush, London
- The scorch mark on the TARDIS wall, caused by Russell firing one of the Cybermen's weapons, is present several scenes before the actual event takes place.
- When Flast is being dragged out of the refrigerated chamber, a couple of the floor crew can be seen kneeling behind some boxes on the right hand of the screen.
- Near the end of part one, a Cyberman gets shot in the mouth by Russell. When the Cyberman falls, the back of the actor's head is clearly visible.
- During the fight in Cyber-Control near the end of part two, the wires used to set off the explosive charges on both Michael Kilgarriff and David Banks are clearly visible throughout.
- The Doctor decides to find a pleasant destination as a break from "the bleakness of Jaconda." (TV: The Twin Dilemma)
- Once the chameleon circuit begins functioning again, the TARDIS lands at 76 Totter's Lane, the location where its police box exterior was imprinted on it. (TV: An Unearthly Child)
- The Cybermen are CyberNeomorphs. (AUDIO: The Ultimate Cybermen)
- The Cybermen attempt to prevent the upcoming destruction of Mondas in December 1986. (TV: The Tenth Planet)
- The Doctor and the Cybermen discuss their previous interaction on Telos. (TV: The Tomb of the Cybermen)
- The Cybermen once again utilise the London sewers. (TV: The Invasion)
- The Doctor recalls meeting Lytton while he was working for the Daleks. (TV: Resurrection of the Daleks)
- The Cybermen have a spaceship on the dark side of the Moon. They previously had a base there. (TV: The Invasion)
- Shortly afterwards, the Doctor and Peri would return to the London sewers as the Doctor detected a Time Wake in the Time Vortex, which linked London in January 1986 to London in 1720. (PROSE: Time Wake)
- Peri claims that this is her first visit to London, although she previously visited the city in the company of the Fifth Doctor and Erimem in both 1597 and 1483. (AUDIO: The Kingmaker). However, from Peri's point of view, it was the first time that she visited London in her own era.
- The Doctor and Peri would later encounter time travelling Cybermen from the distant future at Fell's Point, Baltimore, Maryland, USA in September 1984. (AUDIO: The Reaping)
- The Doctor temporarily repairs the TARDIS' chameleon circuit. His fourth incarnation considered the idea of his future self repairing it "vulgar", (AUDIO: The Light at the End) though he would try to repair it himself close to the end of his life. (TV: Logopolis)
- The Doctor kept a Cryon pendant in his C chest. (AUDIO: The Carrionite Curse)
- Peri claims the Doctor accidentally referred to her as Zodin at one point. The Doctor exclaims he hadn't thought about Zodin for years. (TV: The Five Doctors)
Home video releases
- Attack of the Cybermen was released in a tin boxed set with The Tenth Planet in 2000 on VHS.
- Editing for the VHS and DVD releases was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.
Attack Of The Cybermen was released on DVD in the UK in March 2009.
- Audio commentary by actors Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Terry Molloy and Sarah Berger
- The Cold War - The making of Attack of the Cybermen
- The Cyber Story - A brief history of the Cybermen in the classic series
- Human Cyborg - An interview with Professor Kevin Warwick
- The Cyber-Generations - A gallery of Cybermen throughout the series
- Radio Times listings for Attack of the Cybermen and The Invasion (DVD-ROM)
- A 1969 article from The Listener (DVD-ROM)
- Isolated score
- Trails and continuity
- Photo gallery
- Coming soon - Image of the Fendahl
- Easter egg - On the second page of the Special Features menu, move down to "The Cyber-Generations" then hit left. The Doctor Who logo will appear on the screen, and clicking on this will take you into "The Cybernetic Autonomous Dalek", a short extra piece with Professor Kevin Warwick
- Attack of the Cybermen at the BBC's official site
- Attack of the Cybermen at RadioTimes
- Attack of the Cybermen at BroaDWcast
- Attack of the Cybermen at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- Attack of the Cybermen at The Locations Guide