Revenge of the Cybermen
|Dates||Mar. 8, 1982 -
Mar. 16, 1982
With Peter Davison, Matthew Waterhouse,
Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton.
Written by Eric Saward. Script-edited by Anthony Root.
Directed by Peter Grimwade. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.
|Synopsis: A deadly plot is set into motion on 25th century Earth by the Cybermen, where the Doctor is thought to be a conspirator.|
Bang! by Dennis McDermott 18/3/97
I remember watching a tape of this show with a few friends before it was shown on PBS. Some of the more vocal ones actually stood and cheered when Adric bit it.
I think that says a lot about this show. It is a landmark show in many ways, continuing the Cyberman saga and killing off a companion for the first time since The Dalek Master Plan. But while I don't see much wrong with it, but it isn't really one of my favorites either. I think the reason is, with the Cyberman, it is difficult to explore issues. The Cyberman threaten Earth; the Doctors foils their plot. The Cyberman try again; they fail one more time. It not that it isn't entertaining; there just isn't that much to it. In short, this show is just fluff. Good fluff, but fluff nonetheless. Just to put it another way, think of the Daleks without Davros. They'd be simply killing machines, difficult to build a good story around. That is what happened to the Cybermen.
There's another point I wish to use this story to make, and that is concerning the misuse of companions during at least the early Nathan-Turner era. (To be honest, I don't know if it's fair to blame the producer for this, but it seems to coincide with his taking over the helm.) They don't come off very well, and I think this had to do with a desire to introduce more tension in the TARDIS. When I word associate with the companions, I come up with the following: Adric: foolish; Nyssa: bland; Tegan: morose; Turlow: coward; Peri: whiny. Not one of them a positive attribute. There has always been conflict in the Tardis, but there has also been sympathy and understanding. Sarah Jane and Jo understood the Doctor was often distracted, and the Doctor understood his companions couldn't comprehend things as well as he did. Somehow they got along.
At least, if I were Adric, I wouldn't be insisting that the Doctor answer my questions as he's working feverishly to keep the Cybermen from busting through the door.
A Review by Jen Kokoski 27/3/97
What community or family doesn't have troubles now again? This time, the trouble came not from the otherwise moody Tegan but from the boy who demanded to grow up too soon. The argument between the Doctor and Adric in the beginning sets the stage for one of the classic endings in the Davison era. In the end, the Doctor relearned a tragic lesson. He can't win every fight. And sometimes, the cost of winning is higher than he's willing to pay. Kudos to the producers for the silent credits at the end of the last episode. Sometimes silence is louder and more profound than a spoken word.
A Review by Michael Hickerson 19/12/97
If you're like me, then the first thing that first comes to mind when you hear the title, Earthshock, is the one where Adric dies. And let's face it, this is one of the defining moments not only of the Davison years but of Doctor Who as a whole. Adric's death is a pivotal moment for the show and while it's one that is particularily well done quite emotionally wrenching and shocking, I'm not really sure the rest of the story stands up that well.
As I stated in my thoughts on Logopolis, this is one of those stories that ends on such an emotional high that it's easy to forget some of the gaping holes and glaring errors in the story. It's pretty much two, two-part stories barely linked by the presence of the Cybermen. And while this is arguably the best Cyber-story of the eighties, it doesn't come close to the menace of the Cybermen from the Troughton era. The Doctor and his companions are quickly caught up in a race against time to stop the Cybermen from destroying Earth. And while it does have some nice suspense moments as well as some really haunting music (I love the Cyber march score!), the story just isn't as good as it could be. A lot depends on coincidence--especially the ending in which the ship is sent back in time to kill of the dinosaurs. It feels rather contrived. There are also a lot of Who cliches here--such as the Doctor being suspected of murder not once but twice in the story.
One of Saward's usual strengths is a strong supporting cast beyond the usual TARDIS crew, but it doesn't work here. The emphasis in on the driving forward of the narrative and it never really clicks on all cylinders. Yes, I will say the final moments as the ship hurtles toward Earth keep me on the edge of my seat, but overall, it's not as ripe with tension as it should be.
So, yes, Earthshock is a defining moment for Who. I just wish it'd been in a stronger story.
Earthcrock by Ari Lipsey 23/1/98
Since this episode has been reviewed many times, I'll just put in the ideas I felt had not been adressed. First of all, Earthshock's music is stellar, with the song at the beginning my personal favourite. The title is also pretty good, because it leaves you oblivious to the fact the Cybermen are controlling the robots and responsible for all the evil stuff until the end of episode one ( My friend thought it was all caused by the dinosaur people!). There's also the death of Adric, which is really well done even sixteen years after it was first shown. And David Banks is great.
However, that's about it. What's left is really weak. First, the plot makes no sense. I don't know who to blame, Saward or Root. Was it really necessary to have the Commander Scott utter the Who cliche "The Cybermen. Who are they?" This makes it rather difficult to justify that the humans are conferencing with other planets to destroy them, after what is presumably an interstellar war. With the clips of previous adventures, even I find it hard to believe that there are humans that don't know the Cybermen. And the Cybermen must really hate Earth. If everything goes as planned, the Earth will first be leveled by a bomb within their midst. Then the freighter will smash into the planet again. And this huge army of 15, 000 Cybermen, will they also be destroyed? What was the point of bringing them on board in the first place?
This episode also suffers from too many companions with too little to do. Nyssa stays in the background and the torch is handed to Adric and Tegan. Nothing special, until Adric dies. The script lacks any working humour, which is a surprise, since Beryl Reid is cast and is severly unutilised. There's a lot of violence, but I don't think the script has a justified plot or charm to handle it. A waste of talent.
A Review by Leo Vance 16/11/98
I've mentioned this before, but I'll say it again. I love the Cybermen.
This story is difficult to criticize, so I'll try that first. I don't think that Beryl Reid played her part very well, and Berger was played particularly poorly. Ringway seemed a pointless character.
Let's see about the best parts: David Banks has always and always will be truly unbelievable as the Cyberleader. He is too good to be true. Mark Hardy is good too, and the soldiers are all impressive. Peter Davison has rarely been this good. His lines about sunsets are excellent, and Eric Sawards script is superb. The continual action is the major good point of this story. Early on, he recaptures some of old Doctor Who dread in the tunnels as the androids search for the Doctor, and the emergence of the Cybermen from their coccoons is great. The Cybermen's redesign improves vastly on the earlier ones. Tegan and Nyssa are both competent, and Tegan's description of herself as 'a mouth on legs' is as real as Tom Baker's description of Sarah in Ark in Space. I really don't understand the gripe about Matthew Waterhouse's acting. The final scene of Earthshock is one the most moving and poignant moment in the Doctor Who's that I've seen. Waterhouse and Davison's expressions, combined with some of the magnificent music that fills this story, are truly believable. Well, I cried. The sets are all excellent, and Peter Grimwade's direction is never bettered. Music and costumes are good, and the androids are well designed.
All in all, a great Doctor Who story. Not quite worthy of being called a 'classic,' but great. 9/10
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 6/4/99
Earthshock is very effective for a number of reasons. True it can be seen as undemanding action/adventure fare, but it is notable for a number of reasons. The opening episode is a masterpiece of suspense and terror, complete with atmospheric and dimly lit underground tunnels, and androids killing people for no apparent reason. This makes the surprise revelation of the Cybermen all the more worthwhile, and director Peter Grimwade should be applauded for this.
The Cybermen themselves benefit from a sleeker, updated revamp and yet still retain an aura of power. This is due largely to David Banks as the commanding Cyber Leader. The guest cast are good also but underused -- Beryl Reid in particular doesn`t get a great deal to do. The regulars are on fine form also, even if Sarah Sutton`s Nyssa is kept in the background, and the sight of a gun-toting Tegan is pleasing. Peter Davison is also a lot stronger here, bringing a sense of urgency to The Doctor.
Given that it was his last story, Matthew Waterhouse, as Adric, is given some real character development and he manages to rise to the occasion, actually conveying a sense of doom in his portrayal. Unfortunately Earthshock doesn`t stand up to repeated viewing, and when the surface is scratched there are some plot holes, and also a lot of padding. Some of the violence too is also unnecessary, and behind the gloss, Earthshock doesn`t come across as anything too memorable, other than the (dramatic) death of a companion and a grand return for Doctor Who`s second favourite monsters.
On the whole, though, the good points outweigh the bad, and Earthshock is never anything less than enjoyable.
A Continuity Clanger, Delicately Wrapped in Tin Foil by Steve Scott 29/1/00
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a story generally regarded as one of the finest in Who's history. Fans loved their memories of this, a rollicking action-packed adventure starring Peter Davison and tinfoil baddies. "Exciting", "well-written", "brilliantly acted" were some of the more modest words used to describe it. Eric Saward and John Nathan-Turner became figures to worship for providing us with such magnificent television, and we also got rid of the annoying bloke with the weird haircut. But then, tragedy struck. In the 9th month of the space year 1992, Earthshock was released on video.
I recall with some glee Martin Wiggins' near-psychotic yet stinging attack on this story (the review bore a wonderful title - "Earthschlock") in the October 1992 DWAS magazine. The controversy it aroused was quite astonishing, with several fans berating his views and even managing to knock the Cybes' 60s escapades. However, slowly and steadily, others began to realise that disliking Earthshock wasn't exactly a hanging offence, and a huge number of people expressed views near to Martin's own, if more sedately (if less fluently) written.
I really dislike this story, for the simple reason that it demonstrates what went wrong about 80s Who. Never mind Attack of the Cybermen, which at least has a set of reasonably interesting characters, Earthshock has nothing to redeem itself from the sticky hole of continuity that it has dug so competently for itself.
Who cares if the Cybermen can recognise the TARDIS?
Who cares if the Cybermen are aware of the Time Lords’ propensity for arrogance?
Who cares if they have borrowed some earlier clips from the BBC of the Doctor's past incarnations saying nothing really worth listening to?
Who cares if the Doctor once sealed them in their ice tombs on Telos?
I think you get my point. I'm no anti-Saward, but his treatment of the Cybermen renders them as boring as the next race of prospective tyrants (a tactic he would sadly repeat with the Silurians). If he places such emphasis on their slavery to logic and incapability to master emotions, why does the Cyber Leader express such satisfaction at encountering the Doctor again, get thoroughly cheesed off when Ringway betrays him and has a near-nervous breakdown when his plans go tits up? What made the Cybes such a success in their 60s appearances was their bland yet disturbing indifference to the murders they commit and the planets they attempt to enslave. But here, there is nothing to distinguish them from the humans. The Doctor's propensity for violence is also on display here - perhaps a little more thought could be applied to the destruction of the Cyber Leader than just firing his gun at him. This is really unacceptable, considering the well-written and highly moral dialogue Saward provides the fifth Doctor when arguing with the Leader. At least with Colin Baker's Doctor there was a genuine admittance that sometimes to do things "right" didn't mean to do it while simultaneously smelling a flower, watching a sunset and eating a well-prepared meal. It makes for jarring viewing.
This is why Saward's ethos sat so uncomfortably with the fifth Doctor. Faced with the violent universe that Saward so gleefully portrays in his stories, Davison's wonderfully confused yet compelling Doctor would give up and go and live in a cave. The abrasive Sixth Doctor was more in tune with this realistic view, and whether you consider this as a good thing is a matter for another study.
But anyway - this is why I hate Earthshock. Even if it's got Beryl Reid in the almost surreal casting of grizzled space captain.
A Review by Rob Matthews 13/6/01
'Too violent', 'too bland', 'too facile', 'too superficial', 'everything that was wrong with JNT/Saward' and so on and so forth.
Personally I think it's all politics. I believe most fans will happily watch and enjoy Earthshock, but will never admit they like it because it's attained this odd symbolism.
Most people will grudge two strengths (and two only) to this adventure - the cyber music, and David Banks' performance as the Cyberleader. Occasionally they'll say the death of Adric was a powerful moment, but, let's face it, it's not as if someone we like like Sarah Jane had died. Adric is only really bearable in this story because we know he snuffs it in the end.
The death of Adric certainly signposts the darker path the show had opted to take at this point. Perhaps a way of showing the watching kiddies that it's not all fun and games on board the Tardis, that it's not only peripheral characters with no names and no lines who die-
That's the thing that really annoys me when people moan about the Saward era. Throughout the show's entire history you'd be hard pushed to find a story where no-one is killed. For all we talk about the Doctor being lovely and gentle and never picking up a gun, Doctor Who probably has the biggest body count of any British TV show ever. Yet when it's an actual character and not a cipher, suddenly it's too much. When Oscar is killed in The Two Doctors it's gratuitous. But when a nameless minion is shot dead by a laser in Dastari's office, no-one bats an eyelid. Fans who attack Saward are shooting the messenger. It's all very well to say that the Doctor shouldn't foil the Cyberleader by shooting him, but isn't that exactly what you would do if a super-strong robot was threatening the lives of you and your friends and you had about four seconds to act ?
See, I think Saward is a deeply humane writer, he's just not one who's wilfully naive. And he likes to challenge the Doctor's anti-violence stance by putting him into these situations. Anti-Sawards like to smugly agree with Tegan's words from Resurrection of the Daleks, 'It's stopped being fun, Doctor' - but somehow forget that it was Saward himself who put those words into her mouth.
And if Saward was concerned only with violence and cynicism, he wouldn't have given the Doctor that sunset and flowers speech in the first place. He wouldn't have included a character like Lieutenant Scott, who would rather go and fight the unseen menace with the Doctor than stay on Earth and put his feet up. Even the cynical, grizzled captain of the freighter is unflinchingly ready to go fight and die with her men when it becomes appartent they're losing the battle with the Cybermen (until Ringway stops her).
One of the reviewers here has claimed Beryl Reid isn't very good in the part, but I can see no grounds for this criticism. She's convincingly snide and convincingly fearful at all the right moments. And when Tegan, a complete stranger, is brought to the commandeered bridge, she's instantly (physically) protective of her. People don't act purely out of self-interest in this story, not all the time. They do actually stick together. And it's self-sacrifice that saves the day for all concerned.
Superficial? Well, maybe. It's a story about baddies wanting to destroy humanity. Most Who stories are. I think the real problem here is the Cybermen themselves. What are they after really? Originally it was survival, and a nice new home planet. In Revenge of the Cybermen they suddenly thought they were 'destined to rule the cosmos'. Here they're protecting themselves from the threat of an intergalactic alliance that will wage war against them. But what, in the end, are they up to? Not just in this story, but through the history of Doctor Who in general? Are they like the Daleks? Do they want to build an empire? In Silver Nemesis they'd reverted to their original plan to replace Mondas with Earth, and I always had the feeling that once they'd done that they'd sit down with a nice cup of cyber-tea and never bother anyone again. They're not driven by hate like the Daleks or space-testosterone like the Sontarans.
Another oft-made criticism (contradicting the praise for the Darth Vader-like Cyberleader) is that the Cybermen have too much personality here. Again, I think that's because their motivation is a bit lost and the show is seeking out a new identity for them. They look good, but what are they for? (you'll note that their next proper story, Attack of the Cybermen, went to some lengths to invoke their history, perhaps trying to seek out or refresh some driving motive).
My little theory on the Cyber-personalities is that they have some kind of personality simulator to aid their dealings with other life forms. That would certainly explain why all Cyberleaders are the same. In fact, if I were John Peel I'd write a novel about the missing adventure where they teamed up with the Rani to imbue themselves with similacrum-personalities - and throw in an explanation of the Rani's glam makeover between Mark of the Rani and Time and the Rani, and why the Sontarans sometimes have more fingers than they should.
The plotting is slightly clumsy in parts - the Cyberleader nicks the Doctor's Tardis because 'the fleet is too far away', so what exactly did he plan to do had the Doctor not coincidentally turned up? - but mostly alright. Well, it is only the Cybermen's contingency plan.
The parts that grate mostly on people's nerves - the fanwanky bits like 'I know that object' - are pretty superfluous. And it was about eight years since their last appearance. I can forgive a bit of jubilance.
A Review by Cody Salis 7/9/01
Some of these reviews of this story are negative in the result of how a character was or the lines that each actor had. In my opinion however, I found that I liked this Peter Davison story very much. Almost 5 years after it was filmed, I saw it for the first time on my local PBS station in the Boston MA, area and it kept me glued to what was going on.
One of the items in the story has to do with Adric. His character has been very maligned during his tenure post Castrovalva. I found in this story (besides arguing with the Doctor in part one) that his mathematical skills were used to good form as he convinced the Doctor that he could get back home to Alzarius. We are made to believe that Adric is really leaving and then made to forget about that in part 2. The shocker of this adventure is that in part 4 as Adric is trying to keep the freighter from crashing on Earth of the past is that one wounded Cyberman destroys the panel and Adric is killed. In a way this was very similar to "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" when Spock is "killed" very early in the story in a training mission and then you find out it was only a training mission and he does not die. But then at the end of the movie, Spock DOES DIE saving the crew from the explosion of the Genesis wave.
As a result of having 4 main characters someone had to take a backseat role and again like in Kinda that fell to Nyssa. I was disappointed in this as Tegan had most of the adventure with the Doctor and Adric. But in the final few seconds of Earthshock was one of the best scenes in any Science Fiction and Doctor Who in particular. The Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan witness (from the TARDIS) the freighter crashing into Earth with Adric on board. The look on all three of their faces is one of very big shock, Tegan turns to the Doctor and says,"Adric"? then angrily but quietly," Doctor!" Then both girls cry very quietly, and the look of shock on the Doctor's face is very plain to see, and then the shattered star badge of Adric superimposed with a silent version of the closing credits. I sat there stunned as this happened. What a way to write a character out!
As for the Cybermen in this story this is the first time in about 7 years that they were featured in Doctor Who and I was pleased to see that the costumes of the Cybermen were improved from the last time they had been featured in the programme. David Banks (sounding like James Earl Jones's version of Darth Vader in Star Wars) has handled the role of the Cyberleader very well. I like these Cybermen in the later stories better than during the Hartnell or Troughton eras as each actor voiced the Cybermen instead of the actor in costume and someone doing the voice off stage. (Like Graham Hawkins did in the early Cyber stories) Yes I noticed the silver paint on some of the actor's chins but this is a minor gripe for me. Also seeing clips of past Doctors (although I am surprised as to why Jon Pertwee's Doctor never faced them) was interesting. One thing puzzles me as to how the Cyberleader in part 2 knew which of the two people on that globe who the Doctor was.
Again this is one of my favorite stories and I rate it 9.95 out of 10
A Review by John Smith 28/9/01
I find myself agreeing, yet disagreeing with reviews of this story. Many people accuse this of being the worst kind of Saward script. I don't think it is. Yes it's got emotional Cybermen, yes it's got a plot that seems full of bullet holes, but I think that this is a completely different kind of bad writing to that displayed in Resurrection of the Daleks, which to me shows more of the faults of this period. In Resurrection, many of the scenes feel false to me. Very few scenes flow together properly. And there's just not enough panache to the thing. In a story that's supposedly an example of style over substance, that's a glaring ommision. But Earthshock, to me, is different. It floooooooooooows. It moves. The scenes seem joined together properly. There's real drama, executed well. In the early row between the Doctor and Adric, Mathew Waterhouse is good. I know, dammit, but he is. He's a real troubled teenager. Watch the scene where Davison walks up to him and says, "You did all these calculations for nothing" and slaps him on the head with the notepad. A fantastic scene, and to me, a kind of scene which is all too elusive during the eighties. The two characters are making up and it's clear that for all the rows and spats, they like each other. It's a wonderfully (for want of a better label) human scene. This was the first story I saw with Adric, and for a few years I had a much higher regard for the character. His death is wonderfully set up and the imaginary countdown ticks off like in a James Cameron movie. It feels right. Tension is also served up by the bucketload in the course of this tale. The direction is fanatstic. The creepy scenes in the caves and the freighter hold are about as close as Doctor Who got to cinematic suspense.
I can understand fans picking apart this story and labelling it a dud because of plotholes. But I still think that what resonated with viewers at the time was the emotional dimension, which is definetely there. So next time you watch this, and I know you will, because we all watch the stories we consider bad along with the alleged good, consider the little scenes, which for me, are the ones that join together the set pieces and make them more meaningful. And also observe the style with which those set pieces are realised. I still find it incredible that the next story was Time-Flight, when this is just so damn thrilling and seems so immediate. Yes Doctor Who would try to recapture this tale and fail dismally numerous times, but just this once, the formula works.
Tegan with the Cybergun is worthy of comparisons to Ellen Ripley and the Doctor using one later seems to raise the stakes rather than be an action too far out of character. He's desperate to save Adric, and the situation is grim. I'm not saying Earthshock is perfect or anything, but I think its still a character gem when many of these type of scenes were bland. So, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, this a story where you've got to enjoy the good parts, and learn the lesson from the bad. In the best tradition, Adric goes out with not a whimper but a bang!
Leave us kids alone by Mike Morris 31/10/01
I like this story. A lot.
I just wanted to get that out of the way. Because, while a lot of stories go through 're-evaluation' (The Gunfighters is the worst Who story ever, no, it's a comedic masterpiece; The Androids of Tara is a bland silly pointless story, well actually it's a marvellous swashbuckling romance) Earthshock is unique in that fan opinion seemed to swing in pretty much united voice;
The first point is, in the cold light of day, quite obviously not true. Part of the reason for this is that the second point is at least partly true. The third is the most interesting. In many ways I think that some of the general criticisms of Saward-era Who are levelled at Earthshock in particular, and I'm not quite sure why. Earthshock seems sometimes to be held up as a symbol of the Saward era as a whole, and as such it ships criticism that just doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
And besides, the throttling back-and-forth of opinion misses out on the key point. In spite of a few unresolved plot points, in spite of dodgy macho dialogue, in spite (or because) of a miscast Beryl Reid, Earthshock is wonderfully, magnificently, fantastically entertaining.
The first episode is, of course, superb. On this site I've already commented how downright brilliant the Raston Warrior Robot is, and here we've got two Raston Warrior Robots and they're black! And they turn people to piles of goo! And they're picking people off one-by-one! And it's dark! And they can do stuff that normal Doctor Who monsters can't do, like... you know.. run!
Meanwhile, the TARDIS crew are squabbling again. I've been doing some revisiting of Season 19 lately, and the more I watch it the more I like the large TARDIS crew, and particularly their interaction with the Doctor. I like the early Doctor-Adric scenes; I love the bit where Tegan has to go and "talk sense" into the Doctor.
And then there's some music, and then the Doctor gets suspected as usual, and there's a 25th century Brigadier who acts all tough, and then
DESTROY THEM! DESTROY THEM AT ONCE!
I showed this to a couple of friends lately, and boy that got a reaction: the Cybermen! It's the bloody Cybermen! I thought it was going to be about dinosaurs or those lizard blokes with three eyes or something!
After the initial brilliance, things settle down a little. Sort of. There's a freighter, and the Cyberleader says things like "even under threat of death he has the arrogance of a Time Lord". And it's fun! Why criticise the continuity references, when the bit with all the other Doctors is so cool? Why argue with the 'guest star' casting of Beryl Reid when she's so damn enjoyable to watch (I want them caught, she says, sounding like somebody's granny telling policemen to apprehend the ruffians who stole her garden gnome)? And besides there's so much good stuff here; the Cybermen manage to be menacing even though they just hang around and chat for twenty-five minutes, Tegan gets that great "mouth on legs" line, the Doctor gets a big camera zoom and whispers "Cybermen", a Cyberman gets frozen into a door, stuff blows up, Nyssa gets sadly neglected. The freighter crew get methodically and disturbingly annihilated. The traitor guy gets killed. Janet Fielding once again runs around being brilliant, matched only by Peter Davison's wonderfully energetic portrayal.
And as for the bad bits... it's fun! Get your mates round! Thrill as the guy with the moustache says "the hold is crawling with robots"! Laugh as a Cyberman has a bit of trouble with polythene! Cheer as the Doctor confronts the Cyberleader! Say "seeya rat-features!" as Adric finally pops his clogs! Get mad 'cos there's no theme tune at the end! Spot the woman reading the script in the shadows!
Earthshocks Cybermen are well-used, comparatively speaking, but they remain the show's great misunderstood monsters. No mention is made of their human origins, which would have been nice; it would have been nice if we'd seen Mondas at the end as well, orbiting the Earth. Instead Earthshock focuses on the 'emotionless' side, and then rather confuses the issue by having the Cybermen be a bit too sadistic and self-satisfied to be emotionless. Yes, the Doctor's great speech about smelling flowers is nice, but a truly emotionless Cybermen wouldn't even enter into discussion. The problem isn't really that the Cybermen are too emotional; rather, they're just a bit too chatty. The beauty of the Cybermen was that they were Doctor Who's great mute monsters. They didn't have to say anything; they didn't have to have credible motivation. They went around conquering planets because, well, they just did, and they were bloody scary. But when they start nattering, they're less plausible, and certainly less original. It works well sometimes (the "there is no chance" scene is wonderful, as is the "kill her" bit) but often they drift into the territory they should avoid at any cost; Daleks with legs but no catchphrase.
There's a lot of talk about massive plot holes. Hum, maybe, although it's not as big a factor as is sometimes supposed. The mention of a "secondary force" in space somewhere can be made to explain away a lot of issues, and it's not that implausible to suggest that the Cyberleader would change his plans to secure the TARDIS.
As for the accusations of violence... what? Where? Earthshock isn't really any more violent than any other Who serial; body-counts in the Pertwee era were often higher. And the Doctor holding a laser for approximately 0.17 seconds isn't exactly a crime.
But Earthshock does contain a lot of Saward-era elements; and as such it displays that they weren't bad things in concept, just that their execution became gradually worse. The death of Adric is a tragic story of an unlikeable misfit discovering his heroic side too late; Oscar's death in The Two Doctors is a pointless and tasteless killing-off of a comedy character. The "previous Doctor" scenes are an enjoyable culling of the show's past that re-establish the history of the returning monsters, whereas in Resurrection of the Daleks it's a few pictures of past Doctors just for the hell of it. The body-count in Earthshock is acceptable because it's a war-story with a coherent plot and logic, whereas in Resurrection the plot is a mess and the deaths seem unnecessary and thus gratuitous.
Bad things have been said about Saward-era violence. I should know, I've said some of them. But a in truth it's a reference to later, disillusioned, lazily-edited Saward-era stuff. What's a shame is that the poor quality of the later stuff, and Season Twenty-Two in particular, is sometimes allowed to tar earlier stories with its tasteless brush. Earthshock is early Saward, a Saward who was fascinated by the notion of a character like the Doctor fighting in a nasty, gritty universe and who wrote stories about just that. A Saward who felt that Who could be fast-paced and action-packed, and who wrote a story that broke new ground and re-invented the notion of what Doctor Who could be. Earthshock, in spite of its flaws, is written, directed and performed with conviction and style. It rattles along at great pace, and - in particular when viewed episodically - is an emotive and enjoyable slice of escapism with lots of great touches.
And it therefore does everything a Doctor Who story should. So I like it.
The Flawed Davison Classic by Mark Irvin 14/12/01
Many fans find it fashionable to criticise Earthshock, yet none appear to be able to back these criticisms up with any points that, at least in my mind, aren't superficial. I think to argue that this isn't even one of the better Davison stories is certainly fighting an uphill battle. What's the serious competition? Kinda? The Visitation? Castrovalva? Compared to the earlier stories in season 19 it's like striking gold. So it's slightly flawed. So what I say. What Doctor Who's don't have plot holes, flaws or lose ends? It's a formidable task to try and think of any. Mike Morris has recently contributed a fair and unbiased review - And I'll at least attempt to do the same here.
In my opinion Earthshock's good points easily outweigh these niggles in similar fashion to that of Resurrection of the Daleks. Although both of these Saward stories have higher amount of holes than usual, I believe that his basic driving storylines are interesting and comprehendible. It's just that in both examples a few of the loose ends needed to be tied up (Or deleted completely for that matter). In any case these action based stories don't really rely on tight plotting and detail for their success - unlike something along the lines of Logopolis or The Curse of Fenric - in which you really need to concentrate and follow all the finer points to understand and appreciate it.
Fans that continually whinge and whine about these plot inconsistencies annoy me. I admit that the flaws in Earthshock are slightly frustrating and in a perfect world wouldn't be there. But if you're chasing perfection you might as well shoot off and watch another sci-fi show. You aren't going to find perfection in budget offering like Doctor Who which incidentally is really part of it's charm. How about sitting down, relaxing and actually enjoying a story for once? And Earthshock is definitely nothing short of entertaining.
First of all I'll pay tribute to the opening episode as it could well be close to the best ever. The cave setting is completely believable and exceptionally realised, containing a tremendous dose of suspense and intrigue. The Black Androids work brilliantly being both mysterious and fearful whilst the Earth troopers lead by Lieutenant Scott are also very good. Additionally the standoff gunfight between the two parties is spectacular (I love that cool sound their rifles make!) And don't tell me you honestly didn't get a shiver down your spine when the updated Cybermen make their long overdue reappearance at the cliff-hanger. A perfect example of how to do an opening episode.
Davison produces one of his finest performances at last finding his feet in the role of the Doctor. I don't care what anyone says - I think he took a long time to settle into the role (Black Orchid in my opinion). He's convincing in the deactivation of the Cyberbomb and the emotional speech to the Cyberleader is wonderful. Also of special note is the look on Davison's face when the camera zooms in whispering "Cybermen". Great stuff. Mathew Waterhouse easily gives his best performance in his last appearance and shows that any of the potential his character was flushed down the toilet. Why clutter up the Tardis with companions? Would we have missed one of them? Someone should have been shown the door earlier as one or two is definitely the optimum companion number. Tegan would be better left on bloody Logopolis. (Sorry, couldn't help myself)
Complete with the renowned Earthshock music the redesigned Cybermen look sensational. David Banks is the icing on the cake as the Cyberleader and together must surely be one of the best things to come out of eighties Who. For example, the part where the obligatory traitor is executed by the leader for providing "false information". (The hand movement to signal the execution is great!)
Cyberleader - "He deceived us"Adric's death was a sad way to end the story but it was very well done and a notable part of Who histoy. True, we all know that he was one of the most dislikable companions. But I always cringe when I see him run back onto the bridge in a vain attempt to try and save the lives of others. This heroic act alone must surely be at least some redemption for the show's most maligned companion.
Doctor - "You never change........always the perfect guests"
Yes, Earthshock is a flawed from the storytelling point of view - well, at least in the second half it is. But it is always exciting, action packed and very memorable. All of this is most unusual to be found in a single Who story. An emotional outing that always demands ones upmost attention. The path that more eighties Doctor Who should have taken. Here's my advice. Just sit back, relax and most importantly - just enjoy it.
Easily one of Davison's best.
A Review by Daniel Spelner 21/1/02
Earthshock encompasses nearly all of Dr Who's clichés, binded together and done on a bigger and better scale than ever before. It had over 300 shots which raced the story along, grand detailed sets, updated Cybermen, Janet Fielding got to show her bravado in a physical way, Adric's death and basically action all the way! Indeed in its day (1982) it was rapturously received by the fans. However by today's standards it seems much slower, far less compulsive and overrated. Peter Grimwade demonstrated his versatility as a director as he proved just as adept at straight-forward action as complex cerebral drama. Indeed Grimwade was amongst the most talented directors the show found - a highly intelligent and gifted man, he tackled Dr Who with all seriousness. It was a big loss when he resolved not to work for the show again after a row with JN-T.
Shock Tactics by Andrew Wixon 20/5/02
In early 1982, the Cybermen were a legend to me. I'd seen photos in the DWM Monster Gallery, I'd read the novelisation of Tenth Planet, I was even pretty sure of the right way to pronounce their name. But they were part of the great shadowy magical bulk of Old Doctor Who that had been made before I was born and that I never thought I'd really get to see. For reasons I won't go into I only ever saw the second and fourth episodes of the stories in Season 19 and when I got home the night Earthshock episode one concluded, my reaction to my father's usual summary of the night's story, which ended with '... and then some monsters came on, and your sister's pretty sure they were Cybermen,' was a rather cynical one.
But she was right. The Cybermen had returned in spectacular style. It's fair to say that if the big DW event of 1981 was Tom's departure, then 1982's biggy was the Cybermen coming back. Nowadays we've all got used to everyone from the Chameleons to (oh, God) the Nimon reappearing, but we owe this possibility, for good or ill, to Earthshock. With the exception of the Daleks whose superstar status give them a special place in the programme's mythos, it was the first time that a monster reappeared after a long gap, not written by their original creator. Without Earthshock, we'd have been much less likely to see the return of Omega in Arc of Infinity, or the Black Guardian, or the Silurians, or the proposed Auton revival.
Overreliance on continuity and general introspectiveness are usually declared to be the causes of Who's decline and fall in the 80s, and Earthshock usually gets tagged as being the thin end of the wedge. The near-adulation it received on its first showing had turned into a backlash by the 90s, and I was all set to put the boot in myself when I sat down to review it. But, here's the annoying thing. It's a damn good story, taken on its own merits. Episode one is a near-masterpiece of rising tension as the androids stalk and kill Scott's troopers. Even the TARDIS soap serves a dramatic purpose given what happens to Adric at the end. Episode two flags a little but is pepped up by the change of scene and the flashbacks. The battle of wits in episode three is another superb piece of writing and direction. Things fall apart quite badly in episode four, though (why do the Cybermen leave so many of their own kind on the freighter to get vaporised - it looks like the ones who try to storm the bridge are revived by accident? Who wounds the Cyberman who shoots up the console? And the time travel plot device doesn't stand up to scrutiny). But Pyramids of Mars has equally big holes in it and on first viewing you don't notice, so swept up are you in the story.
And there's the ending, which stunned me at the time and had me in tears on the repeat showing that summer. Yes, back in 82 I liked the boy Adric. And even today his final episode is moving, if slightly contrived and melodramatic.
I feel obliged to sling a couple of small bricks at the story, though: there are signs of Eric Saward's limitations as a writer even in his second story. The guest characters are all terribly gung ho, their dialogue consisting mainly of snarled witticisms or thinly veiled threats. And the 'twist' ending is basically the one off The Visitation, given a few tweaks here and there (aliens revealed as cause of unexplained historical mystery).
Yes, Earthshock did pave the way for some very lame imitations. Yes, the plot unravels quite badly near the end. Yes, Beryl Reid isn't terribly good or well-cast. But for a story which some might - justifiably - call the beginning of the end for DW, Earthshock is much, much better than it has any right to be.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 15/6/02
This one.... yeah, the one where we get the "Saward" view of the Whoniverse, the Cybermen return in their new, chin-visible costume, and where Adric dies in an explosion.
Um, first thought after I'd watched it for the first time in ages -- it went from brilliant to crap across the four episodes.
The first episode is wonderful, despite the silly soap opera bitching between the Doctor and Adric. A millitary team goes into the caves and are picked off slowly, in small groups. You have two androids running around that armed with a weapon that reduces humans to primal goo. And, you add in some fun little Doc educational moments. Action, pace and timing come together beautifully. And then, the cliffhanger with the Cybes revealed... wow.
Episode two slacks off a bit, with the whole silly apology bit between the Doctor and Adric, but the bit with the bomb is good suspense stuff, working on three fronts -- the bomb, the TARDIS and the Cybermen computer thingy. Once we get to the freighter, though....
Things start to slide. The Cybes turn out to be less interesting than the ones in Revenge, although the first revival scene and march on the bridge is great old-school DW. The Cyberleader becomes very annoying, lacking in logic that the Cybes are supposed to use in place of emotions. The crew of the freighter run from bland to annoying -- I cheered when Ringway was killed, and not because he was a rat. Tegan becomes Uber-Companion and Nyssa just waffles in the TARDIS. The Doctor comes across as a weenie. The only saving grace is Adric, who in the last episode, gets to be the Doctor, for the most part.
So, after more marching by silver suited goons, more bad acting by the Cyberleader, we get to Adric's demise. It clearly done for shock, but if you kow your DW, you can tell in the first episode that Adric will not be part of the next story. In the end, it comes off as a cheap gimmick.
Earthshock is potential unrealized. It's not terrible, but it does scream out for tighter plotting and editing.
Get Earthshocked? by Mike Jenkins 25/6/02
I say this because for a Doctor Who fan, this story might be over-stimulating. Almost like a drug. Although it is in no way addictive. Action as opposed to dialouge is used to flesh out the plot. This could have been a bold and daring risk but ultimately evolved into an unfortunate blunder. Many questions are left unanswered just so that we can watch the Doctor shove Adric's badge into a cyberman and watch him croak like Marlon Brando on the high jump. Alright, now prepare for a short continuity lecture. Have the Cybermen disovered how to travel in time. If indeed as the Cyberleader said, 'Mistakes will not be made', they certianly would've thought of this. The Cyberleader seemed so in control. He comes apart at the seams, as all good villians should do at some point or another, yet it happens in an awkward and rigidly quick manner. Then again, Cybermen, characterizationally speaking, are about as smooth as Dalek radiation medicine.
The action grips throughout, the regulars (yes, even Adric this time) are wonderfully performed. Scott and his troops are a little cliched but as in many other stories, superb characterization compesates. On the other hand, Brigg's lot are acted quite well. The cybermen, like most of the visuals, are well put together no doubt but seem overly emotional. Therefore, a quality of old is lost in this story. Despite the opinion held by many that the early cave scenes envoke a classical horrific style. As a pure action story it is enjoyable and this is the only story with the exception of Kinda in which we will see Matthew Waterhouse and Peter Davison display any worthwhile interplay between one another. Its only failing is in a lack of tight plotting or intelligent scripting. Nonetheless, a well-done 6/10 action adventure fare staple.
Eric Saward In "Earth" Shock by Matthew Harris 16/8/02
Part One Of A Series! Oo! Exciting!
Weren't the eighties great? No, really. The single most fascinating period of Doctor Who's history. Just one producer, just three "proper" script editors (not counting Antony Root, who was only there for about eight minutes and was only ever credited because the real script editor had written the script), but four Doctors. Bitterness, in-fighting, recriminations, Hawaiian shirts. I'm just surprised it's only inspired one piece of drama (Peter Grimwade's The Comeuppance Of Captain Katt). Someone ought to make a TV film of it. Starring the late Gary Olsen as JNT. And Craig Cash as Eric Saward (American readers: replace with your own minor and\or dead celebrities).
Point? Well, I had to introduce these reviews somehow. These, I hear you say? Reviews, I hear you say? Somehow, I hear you say? Well, first, stop babbling. And second, yes, plural. See, I think that the whole Eric Era can be nicely summarised with reference (and footnotes in the margin) to his Big Three Recurring Monster Things: the Cybermen once (well, twice, but I'm not touching the question of Attack's authorship with a twenty-foot bargepole, on a rope, dangling off a space-shuttle in orbit around a planet in an entirely different solar system) and the Daleks twice. One from the very start. One from the end. And Resurrection in the middle. And so that's what I'm going to do. Er (pauses to try and remember what he was going to do), that is, review all three consecutively in a gigantic ball to try and come to some vague point about the Eric Era (but don't be surprised if all I end up with is three seperate instances of me prattling like a simpleton).
So. Earthshock, then. Good one, eh?
Don't get me wrong; I love it. I think Earthshock is Great. It's just that everyone else seems to hate it, except Mike Morris and Mark Irvin, and... the people who don't hate it (I probably should do these things in drafts, instead of making it up as I go along). Perhaps because I first saw it when I was small, perhaps because of the robots, perhaps because of the death of Adric, but this is stamped on my brain in frankly horrible (when taken literally) fashion.
Of course, if the whole thing had been up to the standard of episode one, it would be hailed as a modern-day classic. People have already mentioned its utter and complete brilliance and brilliocity, so I won't expand too much. Except that the robots are great. And the whole "oh my dear sweet LORD they've turned her into GOO OH DEAR GOD" factor is very high, not least as we don't get to see the proccess whereby people get turned into goo. Nor do we want to... right? And it's all topped off with a fabulous cliffhanger (OH SWEET MOTHER OF JESUS THOSE ARE CYBERMEN BLOODY CYBERMEN). So "Go part one" then.
Then there's this freighter, see. And Captain Opposite-Opinion-To-Recognised-Convention strikes again: I think Beryl Reid is fabulous. You heard me. No, you didn't. But you read it, unless you subliminally bleeped over it in disbelief. Just to make sure, I'll say it again, in big letters, in HTML-tastic italics:
BERYL REID IS FABULOUS.
If I say that word any more times, it'll start to sound camp. But I love Briggs, I think she's great. I don't think she's miscast at all, except in that someone else would probably have fitted the character's remit better. Um (pauses to read through that again) I mean, she wasn't very grizzled or space-captain-y, but I'd rather have watched her in Earthshock than, say, Brian Blessed. Or Keith Barron. She's just great to watch. The "I've just composed a particularly nasty epitaph for him" bit! The bit where she switches the alarm on, then switches it off immediately! "Apprehended! Why can't he just say 'caught'?" She's great! She's not in any way right, but she's great! And so's the wonderfully earnest Berger! And the completely nasty Ringway! And David Banks and Mark Hardy are in many ways the Dream Team as far as Cybermen are concerned! And I'm going to stop the spurious exclamation marks now!
After episode two (tailed with another fab cliffhanger - "On this ship we execute murderers" indeed) it falls apart a little. And this is a problem that Eric had for the entire entirety of his career, at least with Who: sacrificing things like "substance" for things like "style". In particular: the plot. Initially (ie in this story) it's not so bad: the Cybermen are given a motivation, unlike the Daleks two years later, even if it isn't very interesting (blah blah conference blah blah world leaders blah alliance against Cybermen blah bomb blah blah CyberArmy blah blah blah). It's not so much plot in this episode as focus. It seems to forget what it's doing at times, even though it knows why it's doing it. And it doesn't matter so much here anyway, but Eric had, probably still has somewhere, a flair for exciting, pacey scripting which papers over any plot holes there might be. Well, it does for me, anyway. That and the direction (Mr Grimwade again)... again, pacey. The idea was that Eric and Mr Grimwade worked together on it, trying to get it to look like a movie. It doesn't, but it comes as close as Doctor Who ever could (it has the most scenes of any other story in the history of the series, dont'cha know). And the music, which the BBC hated with a passion, to the extent that they ordered them to change it. They didn't. Good. Malcolm Clarke ruined the otherwise excellent Sea Devils for me with that hideous screeching noise. But he introduces the Cybermen so much better it's almost impossible to believe it's the same man (it is the same man, isn't it?). Oh, and the recapitulation of the "Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta.... ta-ta-ta" (you know what I mean) tune that Paddy Kingsland wrote for Full Circle is a very good idea, becoming more and more poignant until...
Oh yes. Almost forgot. Adric's death. Another thing about Eric: in the early days, and when the mood took him, he was Mr Characters. All of Davison's companions had an extra "human" dimension lacking in, say, Jo Grant, or Victoria, or even Sarah Jane (come on, brilliant as she was, can you honestly say she felt much like a real human being?). You had Tegan. An obstinate, miserable "mouth on legs" (great line), but also devoted to her accidental friends, and with a very worrying tendency toward self-destruction born of desparation (toward the end of part four, for example, where she makes the cameraman fall over by jumping on the console). You had Turlough. An alien pretending to be a public schoolboy who initially tried to kill the Doctor, and who had as much of an air of mystery as the Doctor (used to). That this mystery is not expounded upon properly is not Eric's fault entirely. You had Nyssa. A sort of latter-day Zoe, younger than Romana, but no less a know-it-all. Alas, she had nothing to do (again) in Earthshock, stepping out of the TARDIS precisely once, for half of episode one.
And you had Adric. A little boy lost, a frustrated kid who wants to be a proper grown-up, like the man he secretly admires, the Doctor. Gifted, and he knows it, giving him a sense of directionless superiority. Sneer at him if you like (go on - it's on me), but I think he's the same as all of us male men at early puberty. Annoying, frustrated, fed up, often - as here - feeling that absolutely no-one understands and that there's absolutely no-one around who can. Mind you, he has a little more cause to feel that than most of us, being as he is in a completely different universe to the one in which he was born. Here he finally grows up, learning nobility, then just as soon dies. But he dies nobly, sacrificing himself in a vain attempt to save others. His last line, "Now I'll never know if I was right," is genuinely moving. In fact, the whole last five minutes of Earthshock are heart-rending. The lack of music. The freighter, exploding casually on the scanner. The expression of Davison's face... one of confusion, more than despair... the stripped down, single-note versions of the Full Circle "Adric Theme". One of the best moments in the series' history? Top ten, at least.
The script's great as well. Eric wasn't Mr Plot, but he could do the actual meat and potatoes of the script better than anyone. The Cyberleader gets some fabulous quips, oddly enough. "Affection. I'm suprised you recognise the term." "It is a word, like any other. And so is destruction, which is what we are going to do to that planet." That's a good one. "This is piracy!" "It is war." Or "Mistakes will not be made" said like a kindly smalltown postman. A cybernetic postman. With no emotions. I take Mike Morris' point about them running off at the mouth a bit, but who cares when the lines are so good? And of course, there's the famous Well Prepared Meal speech. Make no mistake: Eric could do words proper.
AOB? Well, as for the continuity references.... Steve Scott phrased it right when he said "Who Cares" four times, but for the wrong reasons. Clearly, Mr Scott, you care, or you wouldn't draw attention to it. Me, I didn't think it was important. No-one had seen the Cybermen since Tom's first season... about a million years previously. Plus, if they hadn't discovered the Doctor, they wouldn't have announced themselves, so it's a plot thang. And anyway, all it is is an acknowledgement that the series has existed beyond this episode! What on Mondas is wrong with that?
So. For what it's worth, plotholes and all, I think Earthshock is Great. And Fab. Humourous, exciting, frightening, moving. The story disappears up its own arse eventually, but not for a long time. And not nearly as quick as my next subject... Resurrection of the Daleks...
A Review by Andrew Hunter 2/9/02
Arriving on Earth, the Doctor once again faces the Cybermen in their attack. Why are they attacking Earth? Can the Doctor stop them and save his friends as well...?
One of the reasons I like Earthshock is because of the special effects. Though they look dated today (Earthshock was made twenty years ago), they are at the top of Doctor Who special effects.
Alongside these special effects come amazing sets. The bridge and cargo bay of the freighter look realistic and believable. Unlike its special effects, Earthshock's sets do not look dated. How often can this be said about Doctor Who?
This freighter is taken over by the Cybermen. Their plan is to turn the ship into a "flying bomb" and crash it into Earth, shattering the plans of a conference to unite various races against the Cybermen. This is understandable why the Cybermen are invading, making them more believable.
Although their motives for invading are good, the Cybermen are let down by poor voices. Their voices sound too human, which makes them less frightening. They show more human elements when two Cybermen stand talking, waving their arms, about something! If the Cybermen are emotionless, why do they scream when they are attacked? For me, this is the downside of the eighties Cybermen.
During the course of the Cybermen attack, one of the Doctor's companions - Adric - is killed, diverting the course of the freighter slightly. This particular companion is not popular with the fans; some of them are glad to see him... leave! Episode four ends with no music, shocking the viewers.
Before he dies, Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) and the Doctor have a row about Adric going back into E-Space. As we do not see the Doctor and a companion have such a heated row, Earthshock shows us some more of life aboard the Tardis.
Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) and Tegan (Janet Fielding) eventually calm the two down. These are their only big scenes in Earthshock, as the story focuses on other elements. Nyssa spends most of the time in the Tardis looking at the scanner and talking sense into other characters. Tegan is kidnapped and does not do much else. As a result, the performances of Fielding or Sutton do not shine.
On the other hand, the performances by James Warwick as Lieutenant Scott and Claire Clifford as Professor Kyle are very strong. Both are interesting characters. The scenes where Scott and the Doctor are attacked by silent androids of the Cybermen are wonderful. The setting - dark caves - is perfect, as are the very brief battle scenes.
Earthshock has many more good points than bad points about it, making it one of Peter Davison's best stories.
Truly shocking by Tim Roll-Pickering 31/3/03
This is a story full of surprises but it manages to carry them off successfully for the first time viewer. With no advance warnings, especially not a give-away title, the revelation at the end of Part One that the Cybermen are the villains of this story is a genuine surprise and makes the creatures' return all the more welcome. The Cybermen had had another redesign for the story but it works no end. Gone are the rubber suits, clunky piping and poor voices of earlier stories and instead we get tough, strong voiced Cybermen who have a strong physical presence and are exceptionally difficult to kill. Unfortunately the use of the androids in the part of the story to hide their controllers' identity is a weakness since the androids are fairly non-descript and prove relatively easy to destroy given the right knowledge and strong enough weapons. However this element is quickly forgotten as the story proceeds through the Doctor's deactivation of the bomb and then the action shifts to the space freighter. The scenes of the Cybermen coming to life and bursting out of their silos are reminiscent of The Tomb of the Cybermen and may reuse some shots more than once but they are extremely memorable nonetheless and are enhanced no end my Malcolm Clarke's highly memorable score. After a period of over a decade in which the Cybermen have made only one weak appearance in Revenge of the Cybermen, this is a story that restores them to their position as a strong force that is to be reckoned with. David Banks' performance as the Cyber Leader is especially notable for the way he ensures that the character has presence by itself, making the scenes where it confronts the Doctor all the stronger.
Equally memorable is the death of Adric. Rather than writing him out through falling in love or deciding to help a newly liberated group of people rebuild their world, neither of which would be in character for him, the story instead first suggests that he will finally be returning to his own people, now settled on Terradon. All too often the unhappiness felt by companions has been brushed over but here it is firmly addressed in some strong scenes between the Doctor and Adric, helped no end by the good performances of both Peter Davison and Matthew Waterhouse. When in Part Two Adric tells the Doctor that he's decided against leaving there's a sense of relief and a deceptive belief that this means the character will be around for a good while yet. Indeed his last shared (group) scene with Nyssa has no foreboding whatsoever that he will not return. It is only in Part Four as the Doctor and Tegan are taken from the bridge that there's any sense that Adric is saying goodbye, but it is not until the wounded Cyberman destroys the ship's consoles and thus denies Adric the chance to finish releasing the ship that you realise he is doomed. The final shots of the Earth getting ever closer and Adric standing firm, holding his brother's belt, before the ship explodes are shocking and saddening, fully justifying the sombre scene in the TARDIS as the Doctor silently confirms to Tegan and Nyssa that their friend is no more. The silent closing credits over a shot of Adric's broken badge can not fail to bring a tear to the eye. It is truly shocking that the series took such a decision to kill off a character so popular with the younger viewers (like Jar-Jar Binks in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Adric has always been far more popular with the younger viewers than with the seasoned viewers) but this bold move provides a worthy exit for the character and shows him dying a hero.
Otherwise Earthshock is a story with a number of plotholes that don't stand up well to repeated viewing, though it was not intended for this, and has some relatively mundane performances from the rest of the guest cast. Although the location work serves to provide little more than a realistic exterior to the caves, the rest of the production is strong though, with the hold seeming enormous and the special effects working well, most obviously the scene where the Cyberman gets trapped in a door whilst trying to break through. Earthshock is ultimately a tale where the main successes come from the restoration of the Cybermen and the surprising plot developments, rather than on the more conventional parts of a story. Nevertheless it remains an extremely strong and memorable tale. 7/10
"ADRIC!" by Joe Ford 3/4/03
This story is so full of positives and negatives I fail to understand why I like it so much. The story actually hangs together very well despite a gaping number of flaws and is worthy of its impressive reputation.
Much of the story is very exciting and stylish that I cannot deny. The first time I watched the first episode I was gripped by the tense mystery that was unfolding in the tunnels, it was as scary and exciting as Doctor Who had ever been. The direction of these early scenes are famously renound for returning the show to its behind the sofa roots... just watch the scene where the troopers discover Synder's remains it is so well constructed its hard to believe we're watching Doctor Who. The camera pans ahead of the troopers into the gloom and a spotlight lights up the swirling mists in front of them... then they step in something and the camera shoots in towards the grisly remains. Soon after the androids glide into the cave and wipe them out. Terrifyingly good. However on repeated viewing these scenes lose much of their edge as we know everything that is going to happen. It becomes just a bunch of running about... which wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for Eric Saward's terrible dialogue/characterisation.
Scott is an embarrassing caricature of every bullying military type, so butch and serious that every time he opens his mouth ("It could be rough!") you're close to wetting your pants with laughter. Kyle isn't much better, so incredibly pathetic and moany she makes Tegan look amiable in comparison. I was counting the episodes until her death. The acting is hammy beyond belief and why these actors were chosen baffles me. Take a look at Beryl Reid who is so mis-cast I cannot believe she agreed to take on the role. She seems utterly confused by everything that is going on around so confines to spitting out the scenery chewing dialogue with as much relish as possible. It's quite embarrassing.
There are some incredible directional lapses (for example the scenes with the Cybermen chatting away with hand gestures!) but who cares since Grimwade squeezes as much atmosphere out the story as he can. He is helped by a number of wonderful gloomy sets which for once look as damp and gritty as their supposed to. The cargo hold is especially good full of shadows to hide lots of nasties. Grimwade's direction of the android attacks and the Cybermen emerging from hibernation are masterful and provide the story with lots of "gosh wow!" moments. It is these set pieces that you remember long after the rotten plot is forgotten. Especially dramatic and well filmed is the attack on the bridge with the Cyberman stuck in the door... lots of snazzy, quick cuts and real dread creates a feeling of overwhelming panic. The deactivation of the bomb works well too with Nyssa's well timed "Whoever they are they're fighting back!" helping immeasurably.
Did I mention the Cybermen? Yep, they're back after so many years and they look better than ever. The gorgeous new Cyber-costumes are lingered upon for ages with lots of menacing low angles and scenes of them marching about in numbers. The budget must have been stretched in this one but they look superbly menacing. Which is good because they have rarely come across as hypocritical as they do in this. In later episodes they criticize the Doctor for his emotions saying they are a weakness. Good point mate, but isn't that coming from the same guy who earlier was getting all worked up over his bomb ("We proceed towards the destruction of earth!" he cries like some melodramatic schoolboy!) and later gets in a hump when his plans fail ("You lie Doctor!"). I don't want to knock what Mr Saward achieved in this story as he injects some much needed threat into the Cybermen but they could have toned down the emotional dialogue they have a little.
The biggest shock about this story is probably Peter Davison who actually acts like he is properly concerned about the situation. He rushes about screaming at people, trying to solve ten problems at once (okay four... the androids, the bomb, the Cybermen and the freighter), snaps off at Adric (finally) and has some good meaty dialogue in the last two episodes. Davison has gone on record saying how much he admired this story and it shows, he gives a dedicated performance that puts the next year of dull as dirt adventuring into sharp relief. Tegan is around but doesn't do much but run about and scream. She shoots a few people which is cool but on the whole she does nothing offensive and she even manages to pull off a terrific line ("I'm just a mouth on legs!" Hah!). It is Sarah Sutton who leaves this convoluted story with the most praise again despite being virtually ignored throughout. It is her reaction to Kyle's death that provides the story with its most dramatic moment and she also gets the best line ("I want things to settle down before we go out!") plus she makes the dramatic final death scene with her desperate scream of Adric's name... the thing that elevates Ms Sutton above her fellow regulars is how restrained she is with her performance not just belting out her lines for the sake of the drama. Nyssa is thoughtful and clever, I like her a lot.
But this is Adric's story isn't it? And his childish behaviour in episode one leaves the fans craving for a death and soon. Matthew Waterhouse just cannot deliver dialogue with any sense of believability and the cuts back to him and his pathetic one liners in the TARDIS ("Don't wander too far Doctor!") are wince inducing. He becomes more bearable in later episodes when he stops whinging and starts to get involved with the action. His "Goodbye Doctor" is actually quite sweet. The ending featuring the death of a companion is as shockingly brave now as it was then and the astonished reactions in the TARDIS must surely mirror any audience watching for the first time. It's so well directed, especially the cuts to Adric holding up his brother's belt, that we actually care about the little tike. What the hell is that all about?
This is easily the best Doctor Who action-adventure story because the threat comes across as very real throughout. Despite some scripting and acting problems the story holds up well as one of the most exciting in Doctor Who history. The Cybermen are back with a vengeance (easily their best 80's appearance) and we say goodbye to a crap character in true style.