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Earthshock

Production Code: 6B

First Transmitted

1 - 08/03/1982 18:55

2 - 09/03/1982 19:05

3 - 15/03/1982 18:55

4 - 16/03/1982 19:05

Plot

The TARDIS arrives on Earth in the 26th Century in a cave system containing numerous dinosaur fossils. The Doctor's party comes under suspicion from a military force, led by Lieutenant Scott, who are investigating the disappearance of a group of palaeontologists and geologists. They are all then attacked by androids - the true culprits - under the control of the Cybermen.

The Doctor manages to deactivate a bomb intended by the Cybermen to destroy an imminent peace conference. He then follows the bomb's activating signal to an approaching space freighter, commanded by Captain Briggs, on board which it transpires that an army of Cybermen are concealed.

An attempt by Adric to thwart the Cybermen's plans result in the freighter being inadvertently sent millions of years into the past, where it explodes and causes the extinction of the dinosaurs - and also the death of Adric. The Doctor destroys the Cyber Leader by forcing into its chest unit some gold fragments from a badge previously worn by Adric.

Episode Endings

The Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa have been taken prisoner in the caves by Lieutenant Scott and his troops. They start to investigate a mysterious metal hatch but are forced to take cover when two black-clad androids suddenly appear and start firing bolts of energy at them from their hands. One of the androids scans the scene and relays the image to a group of Cybermen. The Cyber Leader gives the order: 'Destroy them! Destroy them at once!'

The Doctor and Adric are exploring the hold of the freighter when screams ring out. They hurry to the source and find the bodies of two slaughtered crewmen. The freighter's security officer, Ringway, steps up behind them. He states that they have been caught red handed, and that on this ship murderers are executed.

The Cybermen storm the bridge of the freighter and take control, completing the reactivation of their troops. The Cyber Leader proudly points out to the Doctor a view screen image of columns of marching Cybermen in the hold.

The Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa watch helplessly from the TARDIS as the freighter hurtles toward Earth. On board, a dying Cyberman damages the controls and Adric realises that he cannot prevent the impact. The boy stands solemnly, holding his dead brother's Outler belt. The freighter hits the Earth's atmosphere and there is a massive explosion. Tegan and Nyssa break down in tears, and the Doctor stands silently.

Roots

Alien.

The Buck Rogers movie (impenetrable defence shield).

Coronation Street (silent credits).

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "Brave heart, Tegan"

Cyber Lieutenant : "A Time Lord. But they're forbidden to interfere."

Cyber Leader : "This one calls himself the Doctor - and does nothing else but interfere."

Tegan : "I'm just a mouth on legs."

The Doctor : "Emotions have their uses"

Cyber Leader : "They restrict and curtail the intellect, and logic of the mind."

The Doctor : "They also enhance life. When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well-prepared meal?"

Cyber Leader : "These things are irrelevant."

The Doctor : "For some people, small, beautiful events is what life is all about!"

Dialogue Disasters

Scott : "No... It could be... rough"

Scott : "The hold is crawling with robots."

The Cyberleader : "So, we meet again, Doctor."

Double Entendre

Scott : "I realise going down again must be hard."

The Cybermen : "We must act... quickly!"

Nyssa : "Oh dear, it's all getting rather silly, isn't it?"

Continuity

The Cybermen are aware of TARDISes (and that a single person can pilot one [unlike the three person craft in Attack of the Cybermen]), regeneration, and, significantly, that Time Lords are arrogant but forbidden to interfere. They know of the Doctor's fondness for Earth. The Cybermen refer to Cybercontrol. ['We meet again' implies that the Cyberleader is always the same program in different bodies.] They carry hand held weapons and use a thermal lance. They don't need air, and are invulnerable to blasters unless they are concentrated on them. Their own weapons kill them.

A reactivating Cyberman gives off a powerful electromagnetic field. They have bombs that can devastate a planet with one blast, and deep space probes that can detect the TARDIS while it travels [they are able to monitor the vortex]. Their androids fire beams from their palms that dissolve tissue. The Cyberleader has a personal guard.

The Doctor is ectopic [has a heart (and perhaps other organs) in the wrong place]. He doesn't know what killed the dinosaurs, and always wanted to find out (see Doctor Who and the Silurians). The TARDIS can jam a signal. Adric considers returning to Terradon, in E-Space, and can do quick square roots mentally. Nyssa can operate some systems, but can't really fly the TARDIS. Both she and Tegan can use guns.

QV

Cyber History

Temporal Grace

Location

Earth, and a freighter en route to it, in 2526.

Future History

An interplanetary peace conference is taking place [involving the Draconians: see Frontier in Space], with the aim of allying against the Cybermen. The Cybermen, who are aware of events in 2875, talk of uniting with another force [in the ensuing Cyber wars].

Links

Trivia

The Cybermen make their shock reappearance at the end of Part One. Producer John Nathan-Turner went to great lengths - including turning down the offer of a Radio Times cover feature on the story and crediting the Cyber Leader as simply 'Leader' and the Cyber Lieutenant as simply 'Lieutenant' in the Radio Times cast listing for the second episode (as Doctor Who was now being transmitted twice-weekly, only two episodes of each story featured a cast list along with the billing) - to try to ensure that the Cybermen's appearance in this story remained a total surprise to viewers.

A sequence of clips from earlier stories is used as the Cyber Leader discusses some of the Doctor's past encounters with the Cybermen.

Technobabble

How can an alien computer make your freighter go back in time?

Goofs

In episode one, a trooper turns around and clearly must see the shadow of one of the androids, but he moves on anyway.

In episode two, the Cyberleader misses a button on his console, but we still hear a beep.

The dead crewmembers at the end of episode two can be seen breathing.

When Ringway is running down a corridor, supposedly in a tearing hurry, he visibly pulls up just before going out of shot.

Just before Tegan and the soldiers find the bodies in episode three a white baton appears behind them.

When they climb the stairs a woman can be seen reading the script in the top right corner.

A few minutes later the two Cyberguards are chatting away with some great gossipy hand gestures.

In episode four, as they approach the TARDIS, the female of the remaining troopers is grabbed and doesn't make it inside. Except when they do get inside, it's a man that's missing.

The woman vanishes again, once more replaced by the man, in the next exterior scene.

Adric handles his keyboard gingerly, as if he knows it's about to explode, and the continents of 65 million years ago look strangely familiar.

Why is Ringway (the traitor) so obviously worried about the power drains?

Where do the Cybermen evacuate to?

What'll happen when 15,000 Cybermen land on Earth?

If they could arrive in secret to plant a bomb, why are they going to such trouble now?

Why choose those particular caves?

Why cause a power failure on the ship which threatens to prevent it from getting to Earth (which is where they want to go)?

Why not kill the freighter crew, who are bound to have a go at the controls?

Why leave several Cybermen behind on the freighter, some of them still dormant? (They're revived by accident, it appears.)

If the Doctor wants to convince the crew of his credentials, why not introduce them to the high ranking military officer he's brought with him?

Emotional concepts expressed by Cybermen include betrayal, vengeance and cruelty.

Fashion Victim

Beryl Reid in leather. (Cult Editor's Note - Oh, come on boys! How fantastic!)

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Peter Davison

Adric - Matthew Waterhouse

Nyssa - Sarah Sutton

Tegan - Janet Fielding

Berger - June Bland

Briggs - Beryl Reid

Cyber Leader - David Banks

Cyber Lieutenant - Mark Hardy

First Crew Member - Mark Fletcher

First Trooper - Anne Clements

Kyle - Clare Clifford

Mitchell - Ann Holloway

Ringway - Alec Sabin

Scott - James Warwick

Second Crew Member - Christopher Whittingham

Second Trooper - Mark Straker

Snyder - Suzi Arden

Walters - Steve Morley

Crew

Director - Peter Grimwade

Assistant Floor Manager - Nick Laughland

Costumes - Dinah Collin

Designer - Bernard Lloyd-Jones

Film Cameraman - Keith Hopper

Film Editor - Mike Houghton

Incidental Music - Malcolm Clarke

Make-Up - Joan Stribling

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Jane Ashford

Production Associate - Angela Smith

Script Editor - Antony Root

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Fred Wright

Studio Sound - Alan Machin

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Peter Howell

Visual Effects - Steve Bowman

Writer - Eric Saward

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

Exciting and engaging early on, but a writer is not supposed to get so caught up in the excitement that things happen for no better reason than plot expediency. What we have is great... for a first draft.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

It was perhaps only a matter of time before the new Doctor found himself up against one of the 'old favourite' monster races. Just as the Daleks had been used to help ease Patrick Troughton into the role and the Daleks and the Cybermen had been dusted off for two of Tom Baker's first few stories, so the Cybermen were chosen by the production team to make a comeback in Peter Davison's debut season, after an absence of some seven years.

The opening episode of Earthshock is intentionally structured so as to misdirect viewers as to who the enemy might be, and is a masterpiece of suspense and terror. Director Peter Grimwade handles the cast and cameras with aplomb and wrings every scrap of tension from his gloomy underground tunnels, mysterious black-clad figures and unwary military team.

'The deadly black androids are terrifying - they flit about silently, in the darkness,' observed Ian Berriman in DWB No. 105, dated September 1992. 'They do nothing, they explain nothing, they just kill... despite their simplicity (a couple of body stockings and face masks can't have eaten into the budget much) they are much more impressive than the Cybermen. They are subtle, they are undetectable, and better still, they can run!'

The moment of revelation, when the viewer finally learns who is behind the events unfolding on Earth, is one of Doctor Who's all-time classic episode endings. 'After the strenuous efforts of the production office to avoid advance publicity [for the Cybermen's return],' wrote Peter Anghelides in Shada 10, dated May/June 1982, 'the ending of [Part One] was a real surprise - not the half-hearted "discovery" of Death to the Daleks, for example, or The Sontaran Experiment. The advantage of this revelation... is that it gives the viewer an omniscient overview of the events that are occurring. We are never in any doubt as to whose machinations are putting our heroes in danger, but we are made more fearful; we know the danger is there, but we know that our heroes don't know.'

The Cybermen featured here are altogether more effective than those seen in season twelve's Revenge of the Cybermen. They have been logically updated and streamlined, given a more 'eighties' look, and yet retain their aura of power and efficiency undiminished. The casting of David Banks as the Cyber Leader is particularly key to their success. Banks makes the part his own in a way that has not really been seen with one of the series' monsters since Michael Wisher gave his definitive performance as Davros back in Genesis of the Daleks.

General reaction to the story at the time of its original transmission verged on the rapturous. 'Clearly the classic of the season,' wrote Stephen Collins in Zerinza Issue 27 in 1982, '...combining a fine script, an excellent monster, crisp direction and the daring step of wiping out a companion - all combined to produce an epic adventure.'

In latter years the story has been reassessed in a less positive light by some reviewers, including Berriman: 'As the name Earthshock suggests, it's a story which relies on shocks - surprises, twists - a typical Saward characteristic. This made it very exciting to watch at the time (which is, of course, what counts). The continual surprises stopped you from noticing how very little plot there was. On repeated viewing, however... what you're left with is a lot of bloody awful padding.'

Padded or not, the story as a whole stands up very well and is highly entertaining. Such deficiencies as there are in the plotting are really not all that noticeable. The icing on the cake comes at the end of Part Four when the annoying Adric is finally written out in a highly dramatic way that shows the level of brilliance to which Doctor Who could still ascend if the production team put their minds to it. John Connors, writing in TARDIS Volume 7 Number 2, dated May/June 1982, was particularly affected by the youngster's departure: 'Matthew Waterhouse's... final scenes... and in [Part One] where he gives as good as he gets in the argument with Davison, [exemplify] his skill and acting ability. Although some... seem to dislike him... I found his approach original, clever and at all times interesting. He made Adric into a real rough diamond, far surpassing original character drafts... Adric will ultimately be remembered as a tragic hero - "I try so hard" [is] the quote which comes most to mind from his time. I shall certainly miss him.'

No doubt many children in the audience will have shared these sentiments; and if nothing else, Connors' comments do at least go to show that in Doctor Who there are no absolutes, and that even those aspects of the series that are greatly disliked by a majority of reviewers are admired by some - a sentiment that might perhaps provide a crumb of comfort to all those involved in the making of the season's closing story...

< Black OrchidFifth DoctorTime Flight >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



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