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In "Scanners Live in Vain" (1950), Cordwainer Smith explores a society where space travel is only possible if the pilots undergo drastic surgery. The "Great Pain of Space" makes it, well, greatly painful to be up there. Crew have their senses, aside from sight, cut off; they have a chest unit implanted so that they can continue to monitor and control the situation of their bodies. As a side effect, they lose empathy — becoming somewhat robotic in affect and making decisions that don't value human life — as well as giving them the sense of being like walking corpses. They are divided into two castes, the habermans (criminals forced into service) and scanners (volunteer officers who oversee the habermans).

I was wondering if this story was a conscious influence on Doctor Who's Cybermen, when they were created by Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler in the 1960s. While they are certainly not identical (e.g. the Cybermen come from Mondas, the scanners can "cranch" to temporarily regain their faculties), it feels like they have a lot in common, especially in their early presentation in serials like "The Tenth Planet," which emphasizes their surgical alteration and excision of emotion in response to travelling "to the edge of space".

Is there any evidence that Davis and Pedler had been exposed to the "Scanners" story? Or, on the other hand, do we know enough about the origin of their idea to rule it out as a significant conscious influence?

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    It would be really cool if there were a connection, but it seems pretty unlikely to me.
    – Buzz
    Feb 6, 2023 at 16:27

1 Answer 1

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I found a writeup of a Gerry Davis interview where he spoke of the creation of the Cybermen. I've snipped out the part about why they were creating a new monster :

We did set out to create a monster, and we hoped it would be a success.

...

There was no other monster that had come up prior to that, that ranked with the Daleks, so the time had come to create another one, so Kit Pedler and I got together. Kit Pedler was a medical Doctor, a pathologist, a scientist, and he had a feeling about medicine that if you started replacing too much of the human body, where do you stop? When does the result turn into a robot? He felt that you'd lose humanity if you kept replacing arms and legs. So I played on that. I said, 'Well, suppose you had a race of beings who had started off with an artificial leg, and then another one, and then an arm, and this sort of thing, and finally there was perhaps a little core there, but the rest of them, the breathing and the brain functions and everything was cybernetic; what would they be like? So we speculated and we decided they'd be very frightening people to run into on a dark night!

This is not conclusive, as we do not know whether Kit Pedler had read Cordwainer Smith and was influenced by it, but it does appear that Gerry Davis, at least, did not see it as an influence (or, at least, did not see it as an influence worth mentioning).

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    More of a Ship of Theseus thing than anything else.
    – Spencer
    May 28, 2023 at 16:18
  • @Spencer Or the Tin Woodman's origin.
    – user888379
    May 28, 2023 at 16:32

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