The Daleks and the Cybermen are the Doctors two most iconic enemies.
Though the Doctor has had many colourful and imaginative rogues over the years. None have even come close to matching the recognition and overall iconic status of the Daleks and the Cybermen.
Its even more impressive when you consider how old they both are. The Cybermen were introduced in 1966 in the first Doctors last ever story “The Tenth Planet”, whilst the Daleks were introduced in the second ever Doctor Who story “The Mutants”.
So why is it that these two in some ways ridiculous looking, clunky, 60’s monsters continue to reign supreme? Both terrifying and captivating children in the 2010’s just as much as they did in the 1960’s?
Well I think its because the Daleks and the Cybermen despite their larger than life qualities appeal to a very real fear unlike other monsters.
The Daleks represent man’s inhumanity to man. They capture all of the very worst aspects of human nature. They despise others simply for being different. They have a total disregard for their environment to the point where they believe they can destroy it or shape it to any way they wish. They unleash devastating weapons that can erase an entire civilisation in the blink of an eye.
The actions of the Daleks in certain stories incredibly enough can even be seen to parallel those of actual people. The Daleks plan to exterminate the thals by poisoning the environment with radiation is similar to the British’s attempts to use agent Orange to destroy communist insurgents crops during the Malayan Emergency in the 50’s. Their attitude towards the Thals meanwhile, viewing them as nothing more than insects that need to be stamped out evoke the horrifying views of some of the most evil men throughout human history, including Herman Goerring and General Chivington.
Finally the images of the Daleks rounding people off the streets and herding them together like animals are also reminiscent of images that we see from the second world war of the Nazi’s rounding people out of their houses and into death camps and ghetto’s.
Whilst they may look like just silly robots on the surface underneath the Daleks are a powerful metaphor for race hatred, the threat of nuclear power and genocide.
The Cybermen meanwhile play on our fears that technology that was once supposed to help mankind will eventually turn in on us.
Now this is a common trope of sci fi. One of the most prominent examples being The Terminator film series. However I would argue that the Cybermen are a much more effective example of this trope than even The Terminator. The Terminator shows us humanity being overrun by intelligent machine’s. The Cybermen meanwhile show us humanity actually becoming those ruthless machine creatures. Thus the future with them in it is more bleak.
In The Terminator version of the future there is always a chance, and even if we do eventually lose to Skynet, we still die as human beings. With the Cybermen however not only is their no hope, as we have transformed ourselves into machines, but we also completely lose our humanity too.
The Cybermen also play on an age old fear of being turned into a monster. This idea has terrified human beings since practically the beginning of recorded history. Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves, Ghosts they are monsters who all start out as human just like the Cybermen. The Cybermen are merely this idea brought into a science fiction environment.
The idea of losing our humanity, our personalities, memories, everything we believe in and becoming just a member of a faceless hive mind, and being forced to do things that we would normally find abhorrent, including even harming our loved ones. Is an idea that will always terrify human beings whether it is with the Cybermen or Zombies.
Thus it is for these reasons that I feel that the Daleks and the Cybermen still stand head and plunger above all of the Doctors other many wonderful enemies.
However which of these two sci fi icons is better?
Well I can’t answer that for sure obviously as it is entirely a subjective question. Still however I am going to look at both monsters side by side and try and judge who has had the better stories, who has done more harm to our dear old doc, who has more impressive weapons and who has beaten who more times etc.
As always all opinions here are only my own and let me know who you prefer in the comments below.
1/ Who Has Done More To The Doctor
Now both the Daleks and the Cybermen have been responsible for quite a number of tragedies in the Doctors life throughout the years which has also helped to contribute to their status as the Doctors main enemies.
However who has done more?
Well its undoubtedly the Daleks.
The Cybermen were responsible for the death of the First Doctor. They didn’t kill him directly, but they were the final straw. They wore him down. They also were responsible for the death of his companion Adric, whom they actually killed directly. They also were partly responsible for him losing Rose and they also turned both Danny Pink, the man Clara loved, and the Brig his oldest and dearest friend into Cybermen. Though both were ultimately able to fight their control.
The Daleks however have been responsible for the deaths of 4 Doctors. The 8th Doctor whose ship crashed in the time war, the War Doctor who was worn down by fighting them for so long, the 9th Doctor who had to absorb the time vortex from Rose who had only absorbed it to stop them. And finally the 11th Doctor who was also worn down in their war on Trenzalore.
In addition to this they caused him to lose another regeneration during the Stolen Earth with Handy. They also were responsible for the deaths of two companions, Sara Kingdom and Katirina in the classic era. In the new who meanwhile the Daleks destroyed his home planet and caused him to lose Rose and Donna. Though the destruction of his home planet was later undone, its still lost because of them.
Thus the Daleks have ultimately down more to the Doctor over the years. The Cybermen have caused him an awful lot of shit, but the Daleks really have to win this round
Daleks 1 Cybermen 0
2/ Who Has Better Stories
Now this is the most subjective. Personally I think the Daleks have far better stories overall than the Cybermen. I think there are only 3 Dalek stories that are not either all time classics or minor classics at least. Planet of the Daleks, Destiny of the Daleks and Daleks in Manhatten/ Evolution of the Daleks, and even then I wouldn’t call any of them poor.
However the Cybermen I think have only four major classic stories. Tomb of the Cybermen, The Invasion, Earthshock and Rise of the Cybermen/Age of steel. There are a few other Cybermen stories I would rank as minor classics, and no truly terrible stories except for Dark Water/Death in Heaven.
However that is just my opinion of course.
Still I think the vast majority of Who fans and even mainstream viewers if you were to ask them would say that the Daleks have better stories.
The Dalek stories have always been a bigger hit with viewers. Genesis of the Daleks is the most repeated story of the Classic era. Journey’s End meanwhile marked the first time that Doctor Who had managed to reach number 1 in the viewing figures.
Genesis has also often been voted as the greatest Doctor Who story of all time and is usually in the top ten, if not top five at least. Both Power of the Daleks and the Evil of the Daleks have been voted the greatest Doctor Who story ever made as well on different occasions. No Cyberman story has ever been voted the best story ever made in any major poll. To be honest the only Cyberman story that usually makes the fans top ten lists is Tomb of the Cybermen and it is normally ranked below Genesis, which normally isn’t the only Dalek story to crack the top ten. Rememberance of the Daleks and Dalek are normally in the top 10 as well.
Thus whilst I can’t speak for everyone, overall I think its safe to say the Daleks stories are at the very least more celebrated than the Cybermen’s.
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3/ Who Has Done More To The Companions
Strangely enough I am going to have to give this one to the Cybermen. The Cybermen haven’t met anywhere near as many companions as the Daleks. In the Classic era the Daleks only didn’t meet 6 companions. Dodo, Zoe, Liz, Leela, Adric and Mel. Even out of those they only haven’t met Adric and Liz in spin off material. They have met every companion in the revival meanwhile.
The Cybermen on the other hand only met 15 companions in Classic Who, whilst they also sadly never got a chance to meet either Martha Jones or Donna Noble or River Song.
Still the Cybermen have managed to inflict more pain on the Doctors loved ones than the Daleks.
The Daleks caused Victoria to lose her father, Jack to become a cursed immortal, Rose to be trapped in a parallel universe, and Donna to lose her memory of the Doctor as well as the deaths of Sara Kingdom and Katirina.
The Cybermen however first of all caused the death of Adric. Unlike either Sara or Katirina, they actually killed him directly. Also they caused the death of Martha’s cousin, and Danny Pink the man Clara loved to come back as a monster, and Rose to be trapped in an alternate universe, and if you count the Brigadier as a companion they also brought him back as a Cyberman too. They also caused Rose to see her own mother get turned into a Cyberman. Though it was in an alternate universe its still a pretty horrible thing to happen.
Overall I’d rank this as being much worse than what the Daleks have done to the Doctors loved ones. Unlike with Katarina and Sara Adric was killed directly by the Cybermen. It wasn’t just on an adventure with the Cybermen that he died. They made him stay on a crashing space ship and the Doctor was unable to save him.
Also whilst Donna did lose her memories she still had a happy life. She got married and won the lottery! Similarly Rose eventually got her own Doctor too. The Brig however is still a Cyberman, flying through space on his own as a machine, Clara still has the memory of Danny’s rotting corpse brought back as a Cyberman.
Actually the Daleks have done a lot of nice things for the Doctors companions ironically. After all it was because of them that Susan met David the man she loves, Ian and Barbara found a way back to their own time, Mickey found an alternate reality where his grandmother still lived (as they were the ones who tore down the barriers between realities) and though they may have ripped Rose screaming from the Doctor. They also are the ones who caused her to get her Doctor clone too. They shot the Doctor creating the whole meta crisis in the first place, and they broke the barriers between realities down allowing Rose to enter our world, this also allowed Mickey to cross over into our reality where he met his wife Martha Jones! Even Captain Jack becoming an immortal has at various times been both a good and a bad thing for him.
So yeah by and large the Daleks have unintentionally done a few nice things for the Doctors companions over the years. They’ve helped them get home, get superpowers and even find love.
With the Cybermen however its all been nothing but misery so they definitely win this round.
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4/ Who Is Scarier
I am going to also have to give this to the Cybermen. Now again this is also purely subjective, but still I think most people, at least those that I have spoken to find the Cybermen more unnerving.
Look at it this way all the Daleks can do is kill you. Well okay they can also force you to work in a Dalek camp or turn you into a roboman. Still the Cybermen slowly remove every single part of your body and replace it with a mechanical component, transforming you into a cold, unfeeling machine. You’re awake throughout all of it and you have to watch as chunks are ripped out of your flesh and your humanity is removed in every respect.
Thus the Cybermen are scarier in that the way they kill you is just so much more fucking horrible.
Also I think its true what Neil Gamian said that the Cybermen were always scarier because in the 60’s at least they hardly ever said anything. They were just silent, you had no idea what was going on in their heads, as they also obviously had no facial expressions either. The Daleks however were bombastic and loud and aggressive always shouting at the top of their voices how angry and at times scared they were.
Nicholas Briggs the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new Who has said that he always found the Cybermen to be much scarier.
Now Nicholas Briggs is the biggest Dalek fan on the planet! Nobody loves or I think understands them as well as old Nick, but even he has to admit that the Cybermen are more frightening. Like Gaiman he said that they were scarier because they were so quiet. The Daleks he said he found fascinating, but the Cybermen genuinely terrified him.
Many actors who worked with both monsters have often said that they found the Cybermen far more frightening than the Daleks. Nicola Bryant who played Peri, Sophie Aldred who played Ace and Andrew Hayden Smith who played Jake Simmons have all said that the Cybermen scared them more on set than the Daleks.
I had a recurring dream as a child that I think was inspired by the scene in the Colin Baker Cyberman story Attack of the Cybermen where Lytton is captured. I was climbing up a ladder like Lytton and then a Cyberman grabbed my foot and pulled me down. I remember struggling so hard, but the Cyberman’s strength just was just virtually limitless so it pulled me down right away. I can also remember being so scared at being cornered by the Cyberman as you just know there is nothing you can do. You can’t fight it. Its not like a Zombie where you can shove it off, a Cyberman is a big towering, mountain of steel, and there is no way you can reason with it either. After they caught me they then dragged me away to their conversion chambers and I remember not only being placed in them, but also seeing other people beside me in them too.
Some of them were half way there into being Cybermen, but still had enough humanity left to have a look on their face of unimaginable horror. Others who had only just begun the process were screaming to be let out and the Cybermen only responded with an emotionless stare. I can also remember looking down at my hands which had now become metal and unfeeling.
Needles to say this dream always disturbed me and even made me afraid to go to sleep! I can’t imagine the Daleks ever inspiring that same kind of fear in someone. Like I said all the Daleks can really do to you is just shoot you like a lot of villains, with the Cybermen its much worse than that, so yes the Cybermen win this round for me.
Daleks 2 Cybermen 2
5/ Who Has Caused More Destruction To The Universe
This one has to go to the Daleks. The Daleks have destroyed billions of worlds across the entire universe. They have in fact threatened every universe and in their second ever appearance they managed to conquer the earth and drive humanity to the very brink of extinction.
The Cybermen aren’t in the same league as the Daleks when it comes to blowing things up. To start with until Nightmare in Silver in 2013 they were never able to convert non humans and thus were only ever a threat to humanity. On top of that they never ever actually managed to conquer the earth too. The Daleks did that in their second ever appearance and have done so many times since. Day of the Daleks, Bad Wolf/ The Parting of the Ways (where humanity numbers 98 billion) and The Stolen Earth/Journeys End.
The Cyberman’s track record for causing pain and death is quite frankly embarrassing compared to the Daleks. Daleks definitely win this round.
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6/ Best Weapon Of Mass Destruction
For the Daleks this is the Reality Bomb a weapon that can destroy ever single universe and is powered by stolen planets! For the Cybermen its the Cyberking a Godzilla sized robot that can convert billions of people into Cybermen in a second.
Both of these superweapons were devised by the twisted genius of Russell T Davies, but which is better?
Well again i am going have to say the Daleks here. I love the Cyberking. It is so badass its not true. However you can’t really top the reality bomb. I mean it can destroy everything literally. Hence its name the Reality Bomb, plus the fact that it is powered by stolen planets its also just too badass for it not to take the lead.
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7/ Best Pets/Servants
For the Cybermen this is the Cybermats, the Daleks it is the Ogrons. Now the Cybermats are probably more iconic than the Ogrons. However I am sorry I have never found the Cybermats remotely scary. In fact I thought they were quite cute. The Ogrons however were intimidating. That bit where the soldier turns around in Day of the Daleks and just sees one standing over him before it clobbers him is a very effective and frightening moment.
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8/ Best Leader
The Cybermen take this one for me. The Cyber leader played by David Banks in the 80’s had much more of a personality (ironically enough) than any of the Dalek supremes except for Dalek Sec of course. Still even then David Banks gloriously hammy and evil Cyber Leader will always have a special place in my Whovian heart.
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9/ Best Overlord
Now this is a hard one as I do love both the Cybercontroller and the Emperor of the Dalek. However I am going to have to give this to the Daleks. The Emperor is much more of a character. His comeback in the Eccelston era was also much, much better than the Cybercontroller’s comeback in the Colin Baker era. Plus the Emperor actually caused the death of a Doctor too. Emperor definitely takes this.
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10/ Best Creator
The Daleks definitely win this. John Lumic the creator of the Cybermen was entertaining, but Davros is one of the greatest villains of all time. He is a true Who icon and has been the star of some of the greatest Doctor Who stories ever made. Plus he is far more bat shit mental too.
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11/ Best Home
Now I am going to give this to the Cybermen. The Dalek city is obviously a very impressive set, however the Cyber tombs on Telos are a truly iconic set piece and something that really sticks in your head. I don’t think there’s any Whovain who will really forget the image of the Cyberman emerging from their tombs to the classic music.
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12/ Best Surprise Cliffhanger
This one I am going to have to give to the Cybermen too. The Daleks best surprise return was in Army of Ghosts when we think its the Cybermen who are going to emerge from the Sphere only to be greeted with 4 Daleks. The Cybermen’s meanwhile is in Earthshock when we discover who is behind the mysterious androids and it zooms out to reveal the Cybermen. Now both are classic Doctor Who moments, but the Dalek one was somewhat spoiled by the next time trailer which revealed a Dalek gun shooting someone leading to widespread speculation that they would return before the episode aired. The Cyberman one however was kept completely under wraps by JNT. Also the Cybermen hadn’t appeared for 7 years at that point. I sadly don’t think the Daleks could ever have a cliff hanger as amazing as Earthshock as they are used so frequently. At this rate it would be a huge shock if they didn’t pop up in at least one story per year.
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13/ Best Good Guy Member Of Each Race
Now there have actually been a few good guy members of both races. However the one I am going to choose for the Cybermen is Kroton a character who only appeared in comic books and was briefly a companion of the 8th Doctor and for the Daleks, Rusty. Now as for who I think is better well I am going to have to give this to the Cybermen. I love Rusty and I think he has potential to be a great recurring character, but Kroton was a brilliant character. I think its a shame he has never crossed over into television, but he is still one of my fave Whoniverse, spin off characters. He helped save the entire mutliverse from the Master, all Rusty did in Into the Dalek was zap a few Daleks.
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14/ Best Killing Of A Main Character
In The Stolen Earth the Daleks murder Harriet Jones in cold blood. In Earthshock the Cybermen forced Adric to remain on a spaceship as it crashes into the earth and the 5th Doctor is unable to save him in time.
Both are powerful, poignant moments, but again I am going to have to go with the Cybermen here.
Harriet dies a heroes death. She defies them to the end and dies getting the Doctor there which ends up saving every universe.
Adric’s death is much more horrible as his death is utterly meaningless. He dies trying to save humanity from the Cybermen unaware that if he actually succeeds in stopping he ship from crashing he will wipe humanity from existence. He also dies thinking he failed to saved earth the home planet of one of his best friends and stands there alone, knowing that he failed to save billions of innocent people and worse that the Doctor failed to save him.
Compare their last words to see the difference.
“Oh you know nothing of any human and that will be your downfall”
“Now I’ll never know if I was right”.
The Cybermen definitely gave a main character a much more horrible death, so they win this round.
Daleks 7 Cybermen 7
15/ Who Is More Powerful
Okay for the finale round lets take a look at which of these two abominations is the strongest. Now I could debate for hours about it by bringing up all of the badass things they have done and comparing them side by side, but there is a much easier way.
Instead I am going to look at all of the times they have actually fought and measure up who has had more victories against the other.
Lets get stared shall we.
Round 1/ The Ultimate Adventure
The first time the Daleks and the Cybermen ever met was in the stage show, Doctor Who the Ultimate Adventure which starred Jon Pertwee and later Colin Baker. The version starring Colin Baker was later re made by Big Finish Productions.
In this play the Daleks work with the Cybermen to destroy the earth. However the Doctor later reveals to the Cybermen that the Daleks are planning to frame the Cybermen for the destruction of earth to the Time Lords, leading to an all out battle between the two races on Skaro.
Sadly we don’t know who the winner is however as the Doctor flees Skaro before we see who wins, so we will have to call this a draw.
Round 2/ The Battle of Canary Wharf
The Daleks and the Cybermen met for the first time on screen in the two part season two finale of the revival. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday. It was the battle Who fans had been waiting for for 40 years.
However sadly it couldn’t really be called a battle as the Daleks completely fucking thrashed the Cybermen. The Cybermen meanwhile weren’t able to scratch the paint on the casing on one of the Daleks.
It gets worse when you consider that for most of the fight the Daleks have only 4 members, whilst the Cybermen have 5 million.
Also the Cybermen end up working with the Doctor himself who gives them advanced weaponry that can hurt the Daleks and even with this the Daleks still fucking thrash them, and they don’t even manage to hurt one Dalek. Eventually once the Dalek army is unleashed they begin slaughtering Cybermen all over the world and the Cybermen become so desperate they try to flee to their own universe!
Its one thing to flee a planet from an enemy or even to the end of this universe as the Master did when he faced the Daleks in the Time War, but to flee this plane of existence itself is really fucking embarrassing. Ultimately before the Daleks can completely wipe the Dalek race from existence the Doctor manages to pull both armies into the void.
However I think that we can still give this to the Daleks. Poor Cybermen were really outclassed in every way here.
According to spin off material the Cybermen did manage to kill one lowly Dalek drone by luring it onto the ground and ripping its head off. However that’s one Dalek compared to the millions of Cybermen that the Daleks killed.
Yeah this is definitely a Dalek victory.
Score/ Daleks 1 Cybermen 0
Round 3/ Daleks vs Cybermen GAME
This on line game is set in an alternate universe to the main Doctor Who universe. It features an alternate version of the events of Doomsday. Here the Cybermen are more of a match for the Daleks and in the game you play as the Cybermen fighting the Daleks. Once you kill the black Dalek the Daleks are defeated and the Cybermen claim the earth as their own.
I suppose technically you could also count this as a Dalek victory, depending on how good a player you are. If you lose then obviously the Daleks win and the Cyber race is exterminated. However the proper story of the game see’s the Cybermen win which means this is a Cyber victory.
Score/ Daleks 1 Cybermen 1
Round 4/ Doctor Who Live
The two races met again in another Doctor Who live tour, starring Matt Smith in special pre recorded scenes. At the end of the story the 11th Doctor releases the Cybermen with the sole purpose of destroying the Daleks who have cornered him. The Daleks have the upper hand at first but the Cybermen eventually thrash them. Its a total reverse of the Battle of Canary Wharf as here the Daleks are utterly humiliated as they retreat into their OWN weapon that they had hoped to trap the Doctor in to escape the Cybermen. The Cybermen finally get back at Dalek Sec for telling them they are better at dying, not that Cybermen care about revenge, a petty human emotion anyway.
Score/ Daleks 1 Cybermen 2
Round 5/ The Doctor and the Dalek
The two races would clash again in the most recent online game The Doctor and the Dalek featuring the 12th Doctor, with Peter Capaldi even reprising his role. The premise sees the Doctor work alongside a good guy Dalek named Lumpy to try and stop the Daleks, Cybermen and the Sontarans from obtaining pieces of a time lord weapon that will allow them to rule the universe. You play as Lumpy and battle Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans. Now Lumpy is able at one point in the game to defeat several Cybermen by himself on their home planet of Telos even when his power is low. The Doctor doesn’t trust him to have full power so Lumpy is only able to stun the Cybermen. Still he manages to beat them. So the Cybermen lose to a half functioning good guy Dalek on their home turf. Pretty humiliating defeat, though at least Lumpy doesn’t rub it in like Sec did
Score/ Daleks 2 Cybermen 2
Round 5/ Siege at Trenzalore
All of the Doctors worst enemies gather for a big royal rumble at Trenzalore. Daleks, Weeping Angels, Cybermen, Slitheen, Tereliptiles, Zygons, Sontarans, Silence, Ice Warriors, Silurians and even the Mara. In the end however only the Daleks remain. All the others either “burn or flee” though the Daleks are eventually defeated by the 11th Doctor, they still last a lot longer than the Cybermen making this yet another victory for the Daleks making the final score
Score/ Daleks 3 Cybermen 2
This also makes the finale score overall
Daleks 8 Cybermen 7
Therefore the Daleks are the winners overall
It was very close but ultimately I find the Daleks to be the better villains. The Daleks were always my fave villains as a child. They were the reason I got into Doctor Who as a child in the first place. So yes I guess it makes sense that they will always be my faves.