After it was teased earlier in the run, Doctor Who series 12’s eighth episode finally revealed The Lone Cyberman, a battered and rusty, half-made version of the Time Lord’s classic enemies The Cybermen with a mysterious mission in 1816.
“That – is a Lone Cyberman,” Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor admits when the ill-formed cyborg crashes into the Villa Diodati, where she and her TARDIS team had been involved in an apparent haunting alongside literary luminaries Mary Shelley and Lord Byron.
As it turns out, the ‘ghosts’ were all part of a security system keeping this Cyberman out – and after previously being warned by Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) in an earlier episode to refuse this particular villain’s demands, the TARDIS team were in for a bit of a fight.
In real life, however, the cast were actually quite excited to finally face off with such a well-known Doctor Who monster.
“Acting opposite Cybermen is really good,” series star Mandip Gill told RadioTimes.com.
“They're an amazing iconic part of the show. You know, we've come up against the Daleks before. So for us it's like ‘wow – this has been going on long before we got there.’
“So being able to play against something that's been going on for a long time... it sort of cements us in the Doctor Who world. It’s like ‘Yeah, we're part of the family now.’
“It was handy that they’re [physically there] as well,” series star Jodie Whittaker told RadioTimes.com before the series began airing.
“With the P’ting episode or the spiders episode, you’re guessing. But obviously the Cybermen are right in front of you. So there’s a lot of instinctive reaction to go with.”
In Doctor Who series 12’s two-part finale there’ll be even more Cybermen to play off, with a whole army of the silver-plated baddies set to face off with the Doctor and company in Ascension of the Cybermen and The Timeless Children.
Interestingly, these Cybermen appear to have had a bit of a redesign, with their headpieces changing to include larger “earmuffs” and flatter faces similar to those seen in the 1960s and 1970s Cybermen. The Lone Cyberman, however, is clearly a beaten-up version of the Cybermen created in 2013’s Nightmare in Silver, with a more curved face and smaller earpieces.
Exactly how and why the design change will come remains a mystery for now – as does how this Lone Cyberman’s plans will feed into the finale – but Doctor Who boss Chris Chibnall has assured us that what’s coming is something we won’t have seen before.
“I think this year with the Cybermen I had a specific idea I wanted to do,” Chibnall told RadioTimes.com before the series began.
“There was a particular story I wanted to tell. I think we've probably done something slightly different with them this year.
“So there were lots and lots of reasons for doing them. They're really awesome, and they're just relentless, the Cybermen. They just don't stop.”
And given how much trouble just this one broken Cyberman has caused, we can probably expect some major fireworks when his brothers turn up…
Doctor Who continues on BBC One at 7:10pm on Sundays