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Doctor Who & Star Trek Assimilation 2: The Cybermen Rise Again

Later this month The Doctor will visit the crew of the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D commanded by Jean-Luc Picard in a story that fans have been looking forward to since its announcement.

Dramatic structure generally puts a story in one of a very few categories---Man against Man, Man against Nature, Man against Himself, Man against God, Man against Society, Man caught in the Middle. These "conflict narratives" provide the backdrop for every story you've ever seen and lay the groundwork for what makes the man vs. machine mythos discussed previously so interesting. When fighting against machines is man really fighting against himself? How many people have had embarrassing experiences they want to forget, or painful ones, or sad ones? In those moments is it really the experience that isn't welcome or the unpleasant emotion associated with it? Doctor Who's Cybermen show us that it is the emotion. Debuting in 1966 in the serial The Tenth Planet, the Cybermen are part machine and part human originally from the Planet Mondas---which was a mirror of Earth travelling in an orbit that kept the sun between it and the Earth explaining why it was never discovered. The race of cybernetic beings, having used all the resources on their own planet fled to Earth with plans to conquer. The Doctor---then in his first incarnation, portrayed by William Hartnell---along with his human companions learned that the Cybermen were once humanoid but adopted cybernetic implants as their bodies began to wear out. Most telling, however, was that in upgrading their race the Cybermen identified the human heart, sentiment and emotion as one of the weaknesses that was necessary to remove from their race. This would be a recurring theme of the Cybermen over the course of the series, but in this first serial the focus was on the Cybermen's plot to rejuvenate their planet by absorbing all the energy from the Earth and transport the human race to Mondas to upgrade them to Cybermen. The Doctor engages in a dangerous waiting game, knowing that Mondas is doomed and that upon it's destruction the Cybermen on Earth will no longer have a power source. The story itself, while not one of the classic series' best, is a fan favorite simply because it is the swansong of Doctor #1 William Hartnell and the debut of Doctor #2 Patrick Troughton---establishing the concept of Regeneration that would be a staple of Doctor Who and keep it on the air---with only relatively short breaks---into the 21st century. The Cybermen themselves, however, changed very little over the course of the classic series. Their overall appearance was upgraded several times and the addition of a type of command structure appeared with the implementation of a cyber-leader and cyber-controller and other varying ranks but the beings themselves stayed very true to their purpose of conquest. When Russel T. Davies re-introduced them to new Who fans in the 2006 two part story Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel, the underwent a sort of renaissance. The backstory was retconned (somewhat) as a new race of Cybermen was created on an alternate Earth by one man, John Lumic (Roger Lloyd Pack)---in classic mad scientist fashion---seeking immortality through cybernetic upgrade. In this version of the story the cessation of emotion served two purposes; that of making everyone the same and thus putting an end to competition, ambition other of humanity's driving factors and the more practical purpose of keeping those who have been upgraded from feeling the excruciating physical pain they were in due to the cybernetic implants. In the end the Cybermen achieved a sort of higher awareness and decided that all humanity would be better served to be Upgraded into the more superior Cybermen, echoing the original storyline of conquest through assimilation. Regardless of the impetus, the Cybermen seek to create a more perfect race by freeing humanity from the restrictions of feeling, from the bonds of emotion. The Doctor, opposing them at every turn in defense of those qualities as being inherently human and in fact what makes human beings amazing to begin with. Though having an inherent respect for life, The Doctor is equally saavy to the fact that the Cybermen are unsalvageable as human beings and are dangerous to be kept alive in any fashion---and so he doesn't hesitate at an opportunity to exile them, as a species in order to have humanity. This sort of crisis of conscience echoes the struggle of humanity to always improve upon itself while preserving its existence and is the basis for many of the stories told in Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek. Later this month The Doctor will visit the crew of the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D commanded by Jean-Luc Picard in a story that fans have been looking forward to since its announcement. Assimilation 2 (read: Assimilation: Squared) will see Doctor #11 (portrayed on the BBC by Matt Smith) along with human companions Amy Pond (portrayed on the BBC by Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (portrayed on the BBC by Arthur Darvill) on board the Enterprise working along side Captain Picard, Commander Riker, Data and the rest of the crew as the Cybermen join forces with the equally conquest driven Borg. Though the basis of both the Cybermen and the Borg are similar, there are enough inherent differences that one has to wonder if the Borg will be upgraded or if the Cybermen will be Assimilated. Either way The Doctor and the crew of the Enterprise have their work cut out for them as they show both races that resistance is, in fact, not futile.
Want to write about Doctor Who, Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Cybermen, William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Arthur Darvill, Enterprise, The Tenth Planet, Conflict Narrative, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Borg, Resistance is Futile, Commander Riker, Data and Star Trek? Get started below...

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A paragon of all things geek, by day Adam repairs computers for kids grades K-12 who go to school online. By night he writes articles about (mostly) Star Trek for What Culture as well as working on several creative projects (http://maddeningmuse.blogspot.com) He lives in Ohio with his Polyamorous life partner and their three children.