Earthshock: Doctor Who: Season 19
Earthshock begins in the 26th century a platoon of marines investigate some caves where a archeology expedition disappeared with only one survivor. Deeper in the caves the Tardis materializes, not long after the soldiers are killed one by one and the Doctor is blamed when discovered.
The real enemy are androids protecting a hatchway. Once they are destroyed by Lieutenant Scott and the remainder of his platoon a bomb is discovered beyond the hatchway powerful enough to destroy a nearby peace conference.The Doctor and Adric manage to dismantle it
The bomb belonged to the cybermen who launch their plan B for destroying the anti cybermen conference. They take over the Earth bound freighter they occupy. The Doctor traces their signal to late to prevent the cybermen from capturing the ship. The cybermen also take the Tardis and Adric is trapped on the freighter in a race against time to disarm the cyber bomb it has become.
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Earthshock CAST & CREW
Peter Davison (Fifth Doctor)
Matthew Waterhouse (Adric)
Sarah Sutton (Nyssa)
Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka)
James Warwick — Scott
Clare Clifford — Kyle
Steve Morley — Walters
Suzi Arden — Snyder
Ann Holloway — Mitchell
Anne Clements, Mark Straker — Troopers
Beryl Reid — Briggs
June Bland — Berger
Alec Sabin — Ringway
Mark Fletcher, Christopher Whittingham — Crewmembers
David Banks — Cyber Leader
Mark Hardy — Cyber Lieutenant
Production Staff for Serial 6B:
Writer - Eric Saward
Director - Peter Grimwade
Script editor - Eric Saward
Producer - John Nathan-Turner
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What can one say about Earthshock? It's gone from being praised to panned to praised to panned.
Still the SHOCK value this provided me as a kid suddenly seeing the cybermen again at the end of part 1 back on a mild autumn night in '83 sent shivers up the spine. They were still recognizable despite now looking ultra modern for the early 80's anyway. Yes the cybermen are back after their second 7 year lay off. These guys weren't employed much as a menace in the 70's but they make their mark here in a good return to form.
Yes there's lots of things to deride about Earthshock, Beryl Reid, the cybermen's methods to destroy a conference, Beryl Reid, the whining woman professor, Beryl Reid, the cybermen's moon boots and Beryl Reid. The plot revolves around the cybermen trying to blow up a conference on Earth that has a distinctly anti cyberman stance, they still seem to be doing things in a round about way like they always do and yes indeed there are plot holes.
This is the one problem I have with Earthshock is how a bomb the size and shape of a ghetto blaster in some caves in the middle of nowhere going to blow up a conference which presumably would be in a nearby city or town? All the director really needed to do was show a model shot of a city on top of the caves or something, or show that the ghetto blaster was just the top of the bomb- any indication would've been good but these are minor niggles.
Still Earthshock's combination of actual script combined with pace, atmosphere and memorably threatening background music is a potent mix from the beginning. A group of soldiers are picked off one-by-one searching for a professor's lost expedition in some gloomy caves by man and woman shaped black androids. Now why would the cybermen build two androids based on the different human sexes? One has clearly got little bumps for boobs. But that said the tension builds every minute from the attempt to stop the cyber bomb's signal to the Doctor and Adric wandering round the freighter's hold. The Doctor and Adric finally seem a team again, made more poignant by Adric's demise. The Tardis crew are on top form performance wise, Davison particularly puts on his best so far, especially in his "small beautiful things are what life is all about" speech to the Cyberleader when put under emotional blackmail in part 4.
In fact all the performances are realistic and no one is sub par in the Earthshock supporting cast, except I never really bought Beryl Reid as the Freighter Captain, she doesn't look like she knows what's she's doing and even in the commentary most of the cast said she confessed to not knowing what she was doing either. Plus Prof Kyle, though sympathetic seems a wasted character after they leave the caves to track down the cybermen.
The tension increases on the freighter, where menace of the cybermen is fully restored as they march onto the bridge and take over. One of my favourite Davsion moments being the Dr trying to keep them from breaking into the bridge on two fronts, he almost succeeds then fails. The cybermen do seem a threatening and unstoppable force this time round, here it takes concentrated laser fire to even slow them down! David Banks does a superb job as the Cyberleader smug and slightly emotional but a throwaway line by the Dr. indicating they've been programmed with 'false' emotional reactions is intriguing. Of course the unexpected moment is finally some of the Dr.'s foes take over the Tardis and he seems powerless to stop their plan.
That fate intervenes with the crude cyber time technology and sends the freighter back in time is good and the final 'what the' moment as Adric is unexpectedly killed and suddenly takes the show where it's never gone before, dealing with the death of one of the regular characters. Waterhouse actually does a good job here in the acting stakes as in trying to become more like the Doctor. he realises he never can be without the power of regeneration as the freighter crashes ...oh and wipes out the dinosaurs as well.
With the final silent rolling credits and the shocked reactions of the crew, Earthshock has made the show adult again and as never before. You can overlook the faults because it's so well constructed. A 9.5/10 from me - Earthshock is classic stuff. Hey Grob noticed when you first watched this your age when down by 3 years. Did you go back in time with the freighter? Or was that just shock?
When I was a kid, Earthshock blew me out of the water. It was fast, pacy, filled with tension and horror, had the cybermen in it which scared me even more and had that heart stopping battle on the freighter bridge which ended with the Doctor and Nyssa and Tegan going off in the Tardis at cyber-gunpoint and Adric left on the freighter with a large bomb. And then Adric and the ship blew up. As a twelve year old that was heady stuff!! Earthshock was one of those stories that stayed with me for yonks afterward and I remember my tiny brain grappling with the death of a companion the night after the ABC screened it.
So what of Earthshock now? Sure, it has a plot that has holes big enough for Tim to demonstrate his shocking abilities behind the wheel and drive his car through. And - okay - episode one has very little to do with episode two which has nothing to do with episode three which only kind of has something to do with episode four, but that is beside the point.
Eric Saward's script is chock full of cliches such as super macho Commander Scott and his POWERFUL delivery of corny lines to the sniveling second in command freighter dude and his weary no-nonsense seen-it-all-before captain. Saward also borrows heavily from almost all the other cybermen stories. There is the cybermen unwrapping themselves from plastic (Invasion) and bursting out of their tombs (Tomb) to their vulnerability towards gold (Revenge). Heck, we even get a flashback sequence as well sporting the Doctor's previous meetings with the silver bastards - although as a nine year old THAT was pretty cool.
But I am prepared to overlook all this cos Earthshock is a story where everyone concerned went for broke, particularly the director who shot god knows how many more shots that usual in a Who episode to get that fast-cut movie quality about it. Its tension-electric here from the first appearance of the androids who are off-ing Scott and his mates with their zap guns that turn people into piles of steaming pudding (and you actually SAW it too!) Also, you could actually CARE about the fate of the characters as well.
Peter Grimwade is a very good director for the series, probably one of the best along with Camfield and Harper. He pitches each scene at the right level and he is acutely aware of how one scene ends and how the next one should be played. I saw on the DVD that Grimwade was unpopular as a director cos the way he treated the actors and cos of how much he demanded but I think its what is on the screen that ultimately counts. He put the work in and got the results. The ending of episode one with the shock reveal of the cybermen behind everything is brilliant and totally unexpected. It was one of those moments where you go "Holy shit! Its the cybermen!" We even spoke about it at school the following day. I coudn't wait until episode two.
The cybermen are very effective in Earthshock which is very satisfying since they were rubbish in Revenge of the Cybermen. They seem like an unrelenting unstoppable force and their updated appearance with their GI suits and glass chins is very good. Pity their next appearance in the Five Doctors just turns everything on its head and they get massacred way too easily in every story thereafter. Sadly, their emotions are coming out again (naughty naughty, Eric) and the cyberleader is practically frothing at the mouth plate as he gleefully tortures the Doctor by threatening to blow Tegan's head off. And then there is that scene in episode two where the cyberman is practically growing a giant cyber woody in his pants as he DETONATES THE BOMB!!!!! in the cave.
However, as a threat the cybermen are very real and its helped by the cast really believing in the threat of them. Its also a very gripping hostage situation scenario with the cybermen taking over the freighter, then arming it with a bomb and making the crew die for the cause (they could be Muslims the way they are thinking). And finally the way they take control of the Tardis which is supposedly a safe haven for everyone. Another strength to this story is its central villain. David Banks really makes the part his own and he sounds great and he moves like a leader and commands attention from the viewer. He's very threatening as the cyberleader and you get the shivers up your spine as he strides into each of his scenes.
The Earthshock guest cast are all very good. James Warwick as Scott is very likable but you can trust him to get the job done. I liked Beryl Read as Briggs. Sure she has that "light entertainment" quality about her but I think she looks and sounds like the crusty old salt that a freighter captain would be like. June Bland is okay as Berger and Clare Clifford is sympathetic as Kyle so her eventual death is quite moving even though as a director Peter Grimwade just glances over it when it happens. The regulars are very good and Peter Davison just gets better and better as the Doctor. You really feel his concern and worry as the cybermen reveal themselves.
And so to Adric. Pretty daring to wipe out a companion but I don't think there was any other way this annoying little twat could have been written out. Who would marry him or have him part of their society? No, blasting his sorry white arse halfway across the galaxy is a pretty good way to go. Apparently Matthew Watercloset cracked the shits over this cos he was worried he could never be asked back to the show but on the other hand, who would want him back anyway? Its very well directed by Peter Grimwade who does a lot of fast cutting between scenes as we see the Tardis crew under threat from the cybermen as they try to rescue Adric who has cyber problems of his own. As a youth back then I suppose there was that tiny part of me that identified with that little awkward prat so it was VERY unexpected when he landed all of his 206 bones separately on prehistoric Earth. The final shot of his little gold star in pieces over the silent roll of credits is a nice touch too.
In all, Earthshock is a very good piece of drama with some top performances and exceptional strong direction. 9.5/10
I was really looking forward to watching Earthshock last night... so much so that I thought the 9.5 I was going to give it would probably be revised down to a 9 or less cos it wasn't going to live up to my expectations. However Earthshock did - and then some.
I know earthshock gets a bit of a ribbing about plot holes... well I don't think it has many at all... if any. There are 4 things that I could see were potential "problems" - The Cyber controller talks about the TARDIS landing in the hold before it actually does (I think), The Cyber controller shows a fair bit of disappointment when their plan A is foiled (disappointment is an emotion Cyber guys!), it's a bit convenient that the ship is able to time travel after being over ruled by "alien control" - I don't think we've ever known the Cybermen to time travel before, and finally there's the whole "temporal grace" thing in the TARDIS, so gun fire shouldn't be able to happen... well... that was breached in visitation too when the android was blown up... and wasn't there some shooting in Invasion of Time too... maybe it was just a temporary temporal grace!
None of these take away from Earthshock at all. The plot is quite simple - as a lot of good plots often are - it's just that it's revealed slowly. The Cybermen want to send a message to the galaxy by blowing up the planet that hosting an inter-galactic conference on dealing with the Cybermen... I guess if we knew that from the start they would have called it "Day of the Cybermen!"... and I guess there was no need to see the conference itself, cos Pertwee would have been covering that given his love of conferences!
So yes, it's a simple plot divided into two parts (plan a - the bomb, and plan b - taking over the ship and crashing it into earth) - all makes sense to me. And as the action ensues, it sticks to the basics of the plot well. Once again Saward has written a script that asks all the right questions and then gives all the right answers... and throws in two of the all time classic cliff-hangers with the part 1 cybermen reveal, and the part 3 breaking out of the silos... OK, the part 2 one is the clichéd "Doctor accused of murder" one, but it works nicely though.
And the script is complimented by some of the best direction we've seen in Who. As the plot is quite simple, we're relying on the tension of the impending doom to keep the story going... and there's a fair bit of running around in corridors at the start of part 3 too! But the tension here is top notch - and the bulk of parts 3 and 4 is edge of your seat stuff! Part 1 is a nicely paced cave romp (and these are quite effective studio caves for a change too), while part 2 is where Grimwade does his best work - the constant cutting backwards and forwards between the hidden cybermen and the bomb could be annoying, but it's done just right... which is no mean feat.
Earthshock is topped off with some excellent performances. Our regulars are superb - Davison is brilliant... possibly his best performance. And it's through his frustrated relationship with Adric that we see some of the best part of his Doctor - the fluster and then the calm is brilliant... as is his famous "emotion" speech - which is made even better by the Cyber controller threatening to kill Tegan to illustrate his point. While on the Controller, Banks is excellent in the role - he's cold and calculating. This is his best outing by far. Tegan really comes into her own in this one... is this the first appearance of "brave heart"? Anyway, she comes of age when she dons the overalls and goes off to shoot a cyberman... mouth on legs indeed! Nyssa too is excellent as the back-up Doctor. Her work around the TARDIS console is convincing... you think she knows exactly what she's doing... she's almost the group's leader too, the way that she convinces the Doctor to look at Adric's calculations. And Adric, well, even Adric looks good in this... which is probably helped by the ending... but I'll get to that.
Lucielle Ball is great as the blustery ship commander (she could have taught the blokes from Nimon and Kroll something about making over the top look understated!), and her second in charge is great as Berger (well, the rational second in charge always does well!). All the geologists are great too - Mitchell was shaping up as being the best of them before getting blasted by the androids! The bloke with the moustache who looks like the next door neighbour on George and Mildred does well too.
Now, that ending. In many ways, this is a prototype for the kind of Doctor Who we are getting now. Love him or hate him, there was some genuine feeling for Adric, and everyone was effected by his untimely end. I mean, he did throw away his life to try and save earth (although in true Adric style, if he had have been able to steer the ship, he would have fucked everything up cos the dinosaurs wouldn't have been blown up!). Up until now, in recent times, departures hadn't really been met with much emotion. Romana (oh yes, you go and help the Bee Gees in E-space... and here, take my tin dog), Leela (yes, you go and marry that bloke you've just met... and here, take my tin dog... cos I've got a spare), Sarah (yes, off you go, you can't go to Gallifrey.... and I'll send you a tin dog later!) and Harry (sorry, no dog - off you go cos you're not really up to travelling in space) were pretty standard cheeros!
I guess there was a bit of emotion with Jo, but certainly nothing as dramatic as this one. The "Holy fuck" reaction from Tegan, and the silent credits said it all... this was new ground for Who, and the consequences of it hit hard. Great stuff.
While earthshock is probably not as good as other 10s, stuff it... I'm going all the way! 10/10
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