Interview with Nicholas Briggs
The Doctor Who Team
UPDATE: The Doctor Who: Cybermen Monster File is now only available from BBC Worldwide.
Nicholas Briggs has been the ‘Voice of the Cybermen’ since their return in 2006 and so who better to read Cybermen: Status Update, the new adventure that you’ll find in Doctor Who – The Cybermen Monster File Ebook?
Aside from the Cybermen he’s also voiced an array of aliens including the Daleks, Skaldak the Ice Warrior, Zygons and the Judoon.
We caught up with Nicholas and asked for his unique take on the Cybermen, their new story, his favourite Cyber moments and who would have won the Time War had the Time Lords been fighting the Cybermen…
Question: The Doctor has faced literally hundreds of villains and monsters over the decades… What makes the Cybermen so special?
Nicholas Briggs: I think what makes them so scary is that they are essentially ‘us’ but with all the humanity removed. The walk, they talk, but they have blank faces and no emotions. That means they are devoid of all the things that make us human. They have no conscience, no pity and no love. And they want us to be like them. Terrifying.
Q: The Cybermen are emotionless creatures… How difficult does that make them to voice?
NB: It actually makes it really difficult, because if we were to be strictly ‘logical’ about how the voice should sound, it would be utterly monotonous and boring to listen to. All the things that grab our attention in a human voice are to do with emotions. The Daleks are very emotional, which is what makes their voices so scary, because they’re so cross and afraid all the time. The Cybermen… well, they don’t give anything away in their voices at all. So when we devised the new Cyber voices in Age of Steel, we went for ‘tactless’, which gave them an unpleasant edge.
Q: In terms of the audio version of the story, could you describe Cybermen: Status Update for us?
NB: It’s a really clever little tale from the point of view of a piece of social media software from the future on another planet. The idea is that instead of just posting on Facebook or tweeting on Twitter or whatever, you actually connect BOB to your brain and it updates your statuses with your thoughts and feelings. So, when the unfortunate lead character gets involved in a Cyber invasion of their planet, you get a real first-hand, terrifying account, as told through their thoughts and emotions. And imagine how weird that is when the person connected to BOB gets Cyber-converted!
Q: What’s been your favourite scene featuring the Cybermen since their return in 2006?
NB: There have been so many. I think their face-off with the Daleks in Doomsday was pretty good.
Q: Reaching back a little further, which of the early (pre-Rise of the Cybermen) stories is your favourite?
Q: And do you have a favourite line of Cyber dialogue?
NB: You belong to us. That’s a pretty horrifying thing to hear.
Q: What was your favourite version of the Cybermen and why? And you’re not allowed to pick the current version!
NB: My favourite version to look at is the version from The Invasion. That design is so streamlined and simple — if you ignore the laces on the boots! But the best voice, although it’s the most difficult to do, was in The Moonbase and The Tomb of the Cybermen. It was produced using an artificial larynx, the kind of thing that people who’s lost their vocal chords use. It produces a vibrating, buzzing sound that can be articulated by the movement of your mouth. Very difficult to do.
Q: If the Time War had been fought between Cybermen and Time Lords, who’d have won?
NB: Well, no one really won the Time War did they? Forgive me for being a bit serious here, but I think the point that’s being made with the whole Time War thing is that no one really wins a war. Even the people who win suffer appallingly. It’s best to avoid wars. So, I think it would have been a horrible stalemate that would probably raged for eternity. Not nice.
Q: Which is your favourite of the many iconic photos featuring Cybermen?
NB: The one from The Invasion, when they’re walking down the steps from St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Q: If you could give the Cybermen just one emotion, what would it be?
NB: I’d give them a conscience if I wanted their ceaseless thirst for conquest to stop!
Many thanks to Nicholas Briggs!