The Tin Woodman and the Cybermen

One point that struck me when reading The Wizard of Oz was the resonance between the origin stories of the Tin Woodman and the Cybermen. Here is what the Tin Woodman tells us of his story:

"I was born the son of a woodman who chopped down trees in the forest and sold the wood for a living. When I grew up, I too became a woodchopper, and after my father died I took care of my old mother as long as she lived. Then I made up my mind that instead of living alone I would marry, so that I might not become lonely.

"There was one of the Munchkin girls who was so beautiful that I soon grew to love her with all my heart. She, on her part, promised to marry me as soon as I could earn enough money to build a better house for her; so I set to work harder than ever. But the girl lived with an old woman who did not want her to marry anyone, for she was so lazy she wished the girl to remain with her and do the cooking and the housework. So the old woman went to the Wicked Witch of the East, and promised her two sheep and a cow if she would prevent the marriage. Thereupon the Wicked Witch enchanted my axe, and when I was chopping away at my best one day, for I was anxious to get the new house and my wife as soon as possible, the axe slipped all at once and cut off my left leg.

"This at first seemed a great misfortune, for I knew a one-legged man could not do very well as a wood-chopper. So I went to a tinsmith and had him make me a new leg out of tin. The leg worked very well, once I was used to it. But my action angered the Wicked Witch of the East, for she had promised the old woman I should not marry the pretty Munchkin girl. When I began chopping again, my axe slipped and cut off my right leg. Again I went to the tinsmith, and again he made me a leg out of tin. After this the enchanted axe cut off my arms, one after the other; but, nothing daunted, I had them replaced with tin ones. The Wicked Witch then made the axe slip and cut off my head, and at first I thought that was the end of me. But the tinsmith happened to come along, and he made me a new head out of tin.

"I thought I had beaten the Wicked Witch then, and I worked harder than ever; but I little knew how cruel my enemy could be. She thought of a new way to kill my love for the beautiful Munchkin maiden, and made my axe slip again, so that it cut right through my body, splitting me into two halves. Once more the tinsmith came to my help and made me a body of tin, fastening my tin arms and legs and head to it, by means of joints, so that I could move around as well as ever. But, alas! I had now no heart, so that I lost all my love for the Munchkin girl, and did not care whether I married her or not. I suppose she is still living with the old woman, waiting for me to come after her.

"My body shone so brightly in the sun that I felt very proud of it and it did not matter now if my axe slipped, for it could not cut me. There was only one danger–that my joints would rust; but I kept an oil-can in my cottage and took care to oil myself whenever I needed it. However, there came a day when I forgot to do this, and, being caught in a rainstorm, before I thought of the danger my joints had rusted, and I was left to stand in the woods until you came to help me. It was a terrible thing to undergo, but during the year I stood there I had time to think that the greatest loss I had known was the loss of my heart. While I was in love I was the happiest man on earth; but no one can love who has not a heart, and so I am resolved to ask Oz to give me one. If he does, I will go back to the Munchkin maiden and marry her."

This is the original dialogue introducing the Cybermen from Episode 2 of The Tenth Planet:

CYBERMAN 1: We are called Cybermen.
BARCLAY: Cybermen?
CYBERMAN 1: Yes, Cybermen. We were exactly like you once but our cybernetic scientists realised that our race was getting weak.
BARCLAY: Weak, how?
CYBERMAN 1: Our life span was getting shorter so our scientists and doctors devised spare parts for our bodies until we could be almost completely replaced.
POLLY: But… that means you’re not like us. You’re robots!
CYBERMAN 1: Our brains are just like yours except that certain weaknesses have been removed.
BARCLAY: Weaknesses? What weaknesses?
CYBERMAN 1: You call them emotions, do you not?
POLLY: But… that’s terrible! You… you mean you wouldn’t care about someone in pain?
CYBERMAN 1: There would be no need. We do not feel pain.

This is the introduction of Gerry Davis’ Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet, slightly revised and improved from the earlier novel Doctor Who and the Cybermen:

The Creation of the Cybermen

Centuries ago by our Earth time, a race of men on the far-distant planet of Telos sought immortality. They perfected the art of cybernetics — the reproduction of machine functions in human beings. As bodies became old and diseased, they were replaced limb by limb, with plastic and steel.

Finally, even the human circulation and nervous system were recreated, and brains replaced by computers. The first cybermen [sic] were born.

Their metal limbs gave them the strength of ten men, and their in-built respiratory system allowed them to live in the airless vacuum of space. They were immune to cold and heat, and immensely intelligent and resourceful. Their large, silver bodies became practically indestructible.

Their main impediment was one that only flesh and blood men would have recognised: they had no heart, no emotions, no feelings. They lived by the inexorable laws of pure logic. Love, hate, anger, even fear, were eliminated from their lives when the last flesh was replaced by plastic.

They achieved their immortality at a terrible price. They became dehumanized monsters. And, like human monsters down through all the ages of Earth, they became aware of the lack of love and feeling in their lives and substituted another goal — power!

It’s fascinating that both (well, all three) have the gradual replacement of original human body parts with artificial substitutes; with the side-effect of this being that emotions are lost too. The Tin Woodman sees it as a Bad Thing, and the Cybermen see it as a Good Thing, but in both cases it’s the driving force of their narratives.

I’m sure I am not the first person to notice this, but it rather leapt out at me!

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1 Response to The Tin Woodman and the Cybermen

  1. seawasp says:

    Hm, yes, well I did say I didn’t do formal proofs. This rather shows why.

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