Reimagining Doctor Who

The Tenth Planet

Episode notes

1986, Antarctica.

This one needs some reviewing: Add in some grandeur to the production, and make the Cybermen more relentless, while foregrounding the Doctor but still playing his character as dying, and the basic idea still rather applies. 

So why the South Pole? Here’s one possibility: Essentially, if opposites attract, it is along the axis upon which Earth rotates that its twin approaches, our south to their north, in order that the Cybermen can drift close enough to drain power directly from the Earth and transfer it to Mondas. Exactly how may need some work, but the need is palpable – Mondas has been dying for a long time. Does that then mean that the entire planet is defeated when it drains too much power? And that this results in all Cybermen collapsing? That’s always been a bit weak a resolution, but maybe the key to this is in how it parallels and/or contrasts with the Doctor’s own failing health and approaching death. 

Here, the more ‘regenergy’ present around the Doctor, the less effective it now is in restoring him. Instead, he battles it because he knows that if he allows it to consume him then it will mean his end (as the uninitiated audience, we still think that whatever he is holding back is actually something fearful; that it is death, even). So, maybe in that regard, that resolution does still work. But instead of the Cybermen draining energy from the Earth, they believe that the Doctor’s regenergy will restore them and their planet and systems. When it doesn’t – when, in fact, it destroys them – then we are even more fearful for the Doctor, who is holding back the regenergy, which more frequently and now almost continually consumes him. And so while the regenergy – which I’ve always thought to also be artron energy – is sought to regenerate the Cybermen (but ultimately destroys them), the Doctor seeks to avoid its effects in order to stave off his end (but which actually gives him a new life). 

In addition to the famous speech of the First Doctor’s to the Cybermen, we need to also have a physical confrontation in which, at the end, the Cybermen’s massive steel bodies are also coursing with artron energy as they grapple with the Doctor, who is also now consumed in the same artron energy field, before their respective ends come; for the Cybermen in a combustion of fire and ending in ash, and for the Doctor, later, in the TARDIS, in a conflagration before – surprisingly – rebirth. 

Cold Open

The TARDIS materialises in a snowstorm at night. Inside, the Doctor attends to the console as he normally would but soon he seemingly experiences some kind of attack and hunches over the controls in exhausted agony. His body is again wreathed in the strange light we have seen appear and disappear around him at times throughout this series – except this time, when he opens his eyes, we see them consumed with that same fire. As he gasps for air, the glow escapes from the Doctor’s mouth and towards the ceiling of the TARDIS. There, it interlaces through the Space-Time Visualiser before emerging out of the roof of the ship, swirling into the dark frozen air.

We then follow the spark through the storm, upwards above the clouds towards the atmosphere above the blue planet below, which shows the viewer that the TARDIS has landed at the South Pole in midwinter. The otherworldly glow floats almost serenely towards the stars above. Just as it seems that we are going to lose sight of it in the vastness and splendour of space, there is a ripple in the fabric of space-time.

A moment passes and the ripple begins to tear into an apocalyptic chasm – from which a planet emerges. Initially wreathed in the same light, the glow around this new planet dissipates as it emerges into the space of the solar system. We at first can only see the dark side of the planet before panning and zooming out and to the side to frame the Earth in the distance beyond it, before we switch again to now settle on the sight of the planet as it would look from the perspective of the Earth. Initially, we only see a sun-lit snow cap that zooms further and further out until it becomes clear that we are seeing an exact copy of the Earth as it would appear from the North Pole, and which now moves inexorably towards the Earth – as though on a slow-motion collision course.

Act One


Some time has elapsed before Ben and Polly emerge laughing from the inside of the TARDIS only to find the Doctor at the base of the console. They help him up, but the Doctor insists that they are to stop fussing over him and that he is fine. The TARDIS instruments are not providing the date and location of their arrival, but on the Time-Space Visualiser they can see the snowy wastes outside. At that moment, the sky comes alive with the lights of aurora borealis – or australis. They each put on thick, winter clothing and boots to go out and experience the beauty of the natural event. Once outside, they spot the lights of a nearby base and determinedly strive towards it through the blizzard.

Inside the polar base, Snowcap, we are succinctly introduced to General Cutler of the United Nations Space Exploration Taskforce, the UN staff back in Geneva, and his multinational crew, one of whom initially spotted the three figures of the Doctor, Polly, and Ben walking towards the base. They learn that they are at the South Pole. Above them, and above even aurora australis, we see Earth’s clone close in on the unsuspecting planet.


The Doctor, Ben, and Polly are met with suspicion and Snowcap by its suspicious crew. A still exhausted but defiant Doctor is interrogated by General Cutler. We learn that Snowcap is the mission control base for the latest UN scientific taskforce mission to space involving a manned flight of the space station to orbit the moon. On board the flight is Lieutenant Terry Cutler, the General’s son, who captains the mission.

The Doctor learns the date – New Year’s Eve 1986 – and insists that at midnight tonight they will all face a great danger, much to everyone’s surprise, including Ben and Polly’s. At that moment, we cut to Cutler’s son aboard the space shuttle where an instrument alerts them to a huge gravitational force that could pull them off course. Nothing is sighted in the vastness of space, but the alarm spooks both crews. During this time, the Doctor only has time to answer Ben and Polly’s question about what will happen with a foreboding: “Mondas…”, before General Cutler turns his attention back to the Doctor, Ben, and Polly. He orders that they are to be taken away as suspected saboteurs. The Doctor insists that Cutler and his crew should listen to him. Asking for pen and paper, he writes down what will happen and passes it to the scientist, Barclay, who hurriedly and dismissively puts it in his pocket before returning to Cutler and his work.

Left alone with only one man on guard, the Doctor at last explains to Ben and Polly what Mondas is: This is the night that Earth’s twin, Mondas, returns from its wonderings through the multiverses to this Earth. This is interspersed with the viewer seeing the planet close even further in, until it becomes visible from Earth’s surface.

Meanwhile, a general alarm is raised in the Snowcap control room as the station’s orbit of the moon begins to drift from its course. Soon afterwards, an unexplained object registers on the radars: Mondas. The tenth planet’s gravity has thrown the space mission out of its planned flight path, and it is now in danger of being caught in the new planet’s gravity and crash landing to its surface.

As the news about the general alarm filters back to the man guarding the Doctor, Ben, and Polly, only confirming the Doctor’s supposedly preposterous story, the guard is caught in two minds as to whether or not to release them. Failing to convince him, the Doctor urges the guard to at least go to Barclay and ask him what the Doctor wrote on the piece of paper.

Doing so, and in the presence of Cutler, Barclay reads the Doctor’s note. Cutler commands the Doctor be brought before him so that he can explain himself.

The Doctor is brought before Cutler who insists that the newcomers reveal their true identity but the Doctor can see the imminent danger that the space shuttle is in and immediately begins to solve for how to save Cutler’s son. From the view of the deck of the space shuttle, we can see that it begins to work, but then something happens: Mondas comes into full view and, inexplicably, halts its approach. From its North Pole, a single spacecraft emerges from the surface bound for Earth’s South Pole.

First turning point

The Doctor is interrogated by Cutler, who cannot understand why the Doctor would save his son if he were a saboteur; nonetheless, the General does not believe in the slightest that they are not spies after all. Instead, the Doctor implores him to stop conspiracising and focus on the facts; an advance party from the planet Mondas that will lead an invasion on the Earth for its natural and human resources has already been launched, and it is due to arrive on the Earth’s surface at any moment now. During this dialogue, we cut to see the progress being made by these unnamed, unseen alien invaders; first, their ships darting towards Snowcap, then landing in the snow, the silhouette of the aggressors marching imperviously through the blizzard, accompanied by an inhuman clanking. Then, we see a human hand reach to the door handles that separate the safe and warm control room from the outside. As the Doctor closes his answer to Cutler’s question of just who is it that is invading, we see the threat emerge into focus, framed in the harsh down lights of the base:

The Cybermen have arrived.

Act Two

Rising Action

The Cybermen prepare a bridgehead for the conquest of Earth while Snowcap’s communications are cut off, including with the space shuttle, as good as condemning it to a crash course with Mondas. To the initial relief of Cutler, the Cybermen say that his son will not die, and then to his horror that he will be intercepted and cyberised. (This then leads to the speech the Doctor and Polly have about emotions with the Cyber Leader, which paints a picture of their true levels of actual inhumanity.)

After mounting an unsuccessful gunfight attempt at repelling the Cybermen from the Snowcap control room, which leads to the death of many of its men, the survivors, comprising General Cutler, Barclay, Tito, the Doctor, Ben and Polly, amongst others are placed by the Cybermen in the brig of the base. There, they are informed that, one-by-one, they will each be taken back to their ship and converted into Cybermen. They begin by taking one of their number (essentially a ‘red shirt’ who is part of the multinational crew).

In their makeshift cell, General Cutler ensures that they are alone and there isn’t a Cybermen listening to them. He begins to detail the true, enormous dimensions of Snowcap – which makes the Doctor suspicious as to the true intentions behind the construction of Snowcap as just a space observation point – as the General concocts an elaborate escape plan. It will see Polly, small enough to slip through the ducting, return with the keys to the brig and two handguns from a secret locker known only to him.

Second Turning Point

Upon Polly’s return, Ben and Tito are sent to fight their way out, ordered by General Cutler to retake control of Snowcap. Knowing that there is a high probability that they will die, they must do their duty as soldier and sailor. Inevitably, they come across a Cyberman – but not just any Cyberman, but what used to be one of the Snowcap Base crew. Finding out that bullets are ineffective against the Cybermen, Ben and Tito enter into a hand-to-hand battle with the huge Cyberman. In the skirmish, Tito manages to disarm it and kill it with its own weapon just as the silver creature is strangling the life out of Ben. Using the same gun in a surprise attack, Ben and Tito kill the other three Cybermen, including their leader, but not before the Cyber Leader kills Tito with its headlamp laser.

Shaken, Ben returns to the brig to let the others out. He is commended for his by bravery by the General, but dismayed by Cutler’s own lack of bravery in not joining them, thinking of Tito, and also of his own brutal killing of the Cybermen, Ben does not see any valour in what he has done. In the time that Ben and Tito have been away, Barclay has come around to believe that the Doctor and his companions are not saboteurs but their best chance of overthrowing the Cybermen.

Rising Action (continued)

They all return to the control room; however, when the Doctor reveals that his plan is to ‘do nothing’, saying the he knows that history will resolve itself, just as he knew that Mondas would appear on this night, Barclay’s fear and scientific credulity leads him to lose his nerve and instead throw his support without any other choice behind Cutler, who insists he knows how they can defeat not just the Cybermen but all of Mondas – by using an all-powerful nuclear fusion device – called ‘the Z Bomb’ – which is the true secret hidden in the depths of the ice at the heart of Snowcap.

Re-establishing communication links with Geneva and the space shuttle, General Cutler informs them of the threat of invasion from Mondas by the Cybermen. He invokes the authority to use the Z Bomb; a planet-destroying device so devastating that it will leave half the Earth scorched and irradiated upon its detonation, and whose force when deployed against Mondas while so close to the surface of the planet could potentially throw Earth out of its orbit and towards the sun. Cutler is insistent – they have no choice but to launch the Z Bomb against Mondas; that there is only one certain choice against all the uncertainty. General Cutler gets Professor Barclay to calculate the exact moment that they must launch, ensuring that his son’s shuttle will be above the surface of the Earth when the Americas and Europe will be in sunlight facing away from Mondas at the moment of impact, saying that it will solve all their problems, both now and in the future (that is, he will also be bringing the Cold War to an end…). Under duress, Barclay calculates that the timing is imminent and there are mere minutes until that window closes.

Crisis Point

Cutler primes the Z Bomb and the short countdown begins. The Doctor and Cutler argue again, but to no avail. The missile reaches ignition point, roars out of Earth’s atmosphere and locks on to the North Pole of Mondas. Moments before the expected detonation, there is a flare-out on the monitors and a deafening feedback on all audio channels. Mondas is still there and the Z Bomb has disappeared from their radar. It is replaced by flotilla of a million Cyber warships, making their way directly to Earth, the spearhead due to arrive any moment now, at the South Pole.

Cutler’s son continues on his trajectory to crash land on Mondas. Earth entire is defenceless. The Cybermen’s conquest of Earth has begun.

Act Three


The first ships of the Cyber fleet land around Snowcap. The rest of the Cybermen will arrive across the planet once the polar bridgehead has been re-established. Cutler has enough time to check on his son while the Doctor surmises that the Cybermen must want to ensure that there are no other cold fusion devices (or ‘Z Bombs’), a question Cutler refuses to answer but in so doing admits that there are.

At that moment, the Cybermen rip through the doors of Snowcap, exposing the control room to the elements as the icy polar winds scream into the sanctity of the base. The Cybermen close around the humans, demanding who is in charge. Cutler steps forward defiantly, refusing to tell them how to dismantle the remaining Z Bombs, having already confirmed their location using their sensors. The Cybermen propose a bargain; if the General tells them where they are and how to disarm them, the Cybermen will save his son. The General accepts, to everyone’s horror. Cutler instructs Barclay to tell the Cybermen how to dismantle the remaining three Z Bombs. The Cybermen drag the Professor away as they descend into the missile silos underneath Snowcap. With Cutler no longer useful, the Cyber Leader uses his headlamp to laser the General. Before Barclay disappears, he shouts to the Doctor that he had better be right…

The new Cyber Leader now turns his attention to the Doctor, Ben, and Polly. The Doctor comes to stand between the invaders and his companions. They enter into a colloquy, in which the Doctor mocks the Cyber Leader, tricking him into revealing their plans – the total conversion of the Earth’s population into Cybermen and the plundering of the planet for its energy resources.

But this won’t save Mondas from dying, implores the Doctor; it will only serve to defer the time of collapse. The Cyber Leader tells him that they have been conquering Earth over countless millions of years across the multiverse, and that they will continue to do so again – except the energy signature that they detected from this Earth was much stronger than found on any other Earth in any other universe. It’s then that a realisation dawns on the Doctor. He asks what kind of energy signature, with the Cyber Leader replying that it was of a temporal not just spatial nature – an energy signature that they have observed while travelling between the universes but which they cannot access as they do not have the technology to be able to pierce through the walls of time. The energy detected on this Earth will allow them that power, and after this conquest they will have the power to tear through all the planets of all universes and convert all life into Cybermen.


The Doctor slumps in defeat. He has finally figured out what must be done, and says that he fears that it will come at such a great personal cost – but that he knows his own responsibility, because he ultimately brought the Cybermen here. If he is to be the Doctor to the universe – to this universe, at least – then he must keep its promise to it…. His hands and face begin to shimmer. Is this the energy you found, he asks the Cybermen. All of the Cybermen stop what they are doing around the control room and face the Doctor. They begin marching towards him, as though moths to a flame.

The Cyber Leader clasps his hands around the Doctor’s neck, appearing to strangle the visible, increasingly brightening life force out of him. In agony, the Doctor screams and the energy begins to overflow to another Cyberman, and then another, and another and so on, until all of the Cybermen on the base are charged alight with it. It then spreads to all the Cybermen waiting for the signal to invade in the skies above the Earth. The glowing energy at first appears to give an invigorating power to them – but soon things begin to go wrong.

The Doctor, still in agony but a note of rising triumph now in his voice, begins to tell the Cybermen that this energy doesn’t come from Earth; it has come from himself, and that is not an energy that they can contain, that it is an energy not designed for Cybermen, that it is the most dangerous energy in the universe, in all the universes. It is artron energy, the energy mastered by his people, the source of all power of the great… his words drowned out by the roar of the artron energy’s all-consuming fire.

There is an almighty flash, and then we see both all the Cybermen on Earth and in the heavens burn up to nothingness, their ships exploding in space, and Mondas disintegrating to dust as it attempts to escape through the dimensional rift it has reopened. The Cybermen have been defeated.


In the silence of the aftermath of the chaos, we see Ben, Polly, and the Doctor lying prone on the floor of Snowcap. The Doctor’s body shows no sign of the artron energy. They are surrounded by fluttering, burning bits of debris; all that remains of the inhuman Cybermen. Over the radio, we hear the space shuttle radio in, asking if they are all safe. Lieutenant Cutler’s voice alerts the Doctor, Ben and Polly. Ben and Polly raise a shout; it’s all over. The Cyber invasion is over! The Doctor staggers to his feet and says that it is far from being all over…. The confused reply is left unanswered, as the Doctor struggles away, intent on getting to the TARDIS. He is followed by Ben and Polly, who stagger their way out of the wreckage of Snowcap.

We cut to the Doctor entering the TARDIS console room and away of the burning snowstorm outside the safety of its battered blue doors. He collapses to the floor, his vital signs slowing to a complete stop, the old man drawing his last breath. All the while, we can hear what sounds like a rapid double-heartbeat eventually slow and then, at last, stop…

Just at the moment, Ben and Polly enter the TARDIS. They see the Doctor’s pallid skin. Ben checks his breathing and his heart. He looks at Polly in tears and they embrace and begin to sob.

The Doctor is dead.

A beat, and the scene returns to the Doctor’s form, blurring out all else and moving to a close up on his face. The suspense builds. Slowly, surely, and dreadfully, we begin to see it: The energy that destroyed the Cybermen is returning, gathering about his old body. The Doctor’s eyes snap open, alight with the now familiar, deadly fire. The artron energy spreads to the rest of his body, for all intents and purposes burning him, and blinding Ben and Polly. The fire wreaths the TARDIS console room in a brilliant light that threatens to once again destroy everything.

But it doesn’t. Instead, peering through the dissipating glare, Ben and Polly see the Doctor’s face shape begin to morph, begin to change in front of their very eyes.

The light retreats. In the Doctor’s place lays instead a complete stranger…

Cut to black.

Cue end credits.

Remember to share your thoughts in the comments section below, please.

(To be advised)


(Previous episode: The Cosmic Toymaker)

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