Doctor Who: Earthshock by Eric Saward (TV story review).

It is the year 2526 on Earth and a military team is in underground caves looking for a missing archaeological team and slowly finding their own team is slowly facing the same fate.

Meanwhile, on the TARDIS, Adric (actor Matthew Waterhouse) has told the Doctor (actor Peter Davison) he wants to return home. Thing is, that’s in E-Space and the Doctor says it’s too complicated to do it and Adric thinks he’s been undervalued and is determined to do the mathematics to show it isn’t.

The TARDIS arrives in the caves and while Adric remains inside doing calculations, the Doctor, Nyssa (actress Sarah Sutton) and Tegan (actress Janet Fielding) study the dinosaur skeletons. When they stray into the main cavern, the military unit capture them, thinking they are responsible for the missing scientists. That is until they are all attacked by two androids. They manage to defeat them and find a metal door concealing a powerful bomb. The Doctor evacuates them all to the TARDIS and jams its radio ignition signal and then he and Adric, as his assistant, disarms it. They then take the TARDIS to the source of the emissions, a cargo freighter in space. The Doctor and Adric go and investigate only to find something has just killed two guards.

It isn’t long before they are captured and the captain (actress Beryl Reid) keeps them both on the bridge as the Cyber-Leader (actor David Banks) orders his team out of their readywrap to kill the crew. The Doctor finally seeing his enemy on the bridge monitor gets some co-operation and for some time keep the Cybermen from getting onto the bridge. However, they are then kept prisoner and can only watch as the spaceship is turned into a bomb targeted on Earth.

Nyssa prevents the Earth military on the TARDIS to go until the electromagnetic effects die down. Tegan then joins the team as they explore and find the dead crew. When they are discovered, Tegan runs in the wrong direction, attempting to head back to the TARDIS, but captured and taken to the bridge. The Cyber-Leader discovers that Tegan can be used to get the Doctor to obey him and takes them both to the TARDIS, leaving Adric behind, so they can watch the blast.

The military unit finally make their way to the bridge and kill the two Cybermen guards. The Doctor, meanwhile, has been ordered to keep the TARDIS adjacent to the spaceship in flight. However, Adric’s attempted to dismantle the bomb gets the spaceship going back in time. The rest, as they say, is history and you need to watch for yourself for significant spoilers.

The oddest thing about re-watching this story again is that this Cyber-Leader has 1500 Cybermen on-board. Considering that there was only 10 crew, that’s a bit more than outnumbering them, more so as they were then ordered off the spaceship. Why have an invasion force on a doomed spaceship? Having them all in readywrap also seems a little odd when freezing them was the original choice back in the Troughton era. In the audio commentary, the cast pointed out how this upset Mary Whitehouse, more so as kids did imitate the Cybermen. Previously, and this comes from watching the 9 minute extended outside recorded film sequences is would they detection equipment have recognised the Cybermen had they been there? After all, they still some organic parts. It does make me wonder what Walters reaction was when his team vanished completely when they boarded the TARDIS.

There is also something that the current production team needs to take note of if they rewatch these shows. Finding things for 3 companions to do as well as the Doctor proved increasingly difficult to do and one always had to be left out of the mix. In this case, this was Nyssa.

The audio commentary is done by the mostly amnesic cast of Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse who can barely remember being there. Hence a lot of the discussion comes to hair acting before counting the number of times they wander around with their hands in their pockets. Davison’s puzzlement over why the two androids delayed firing at them is simply worked out as they needed to identify who their enemies were and spotted the Doctor. Although not shown, if the military technology could identify the Doctor as being alien, then the Cybermen could surely do so as well.

There’s so much they talk about that I could correct. The exterior cabling of the Cybermen is probably a combination of coolant and hydraulics. Quite why they aren’t better protected beats me but the same thing applies to human spacesuits as well. Having visible cables is a sure way to get them cut accidentally or deliberately. Janet Fielding certainly can’t tell the difference between the colours khaki and green. The reason why the armed crew didn’t have as much success against the Cybermen as the Earth military is all down to them not having their power rifles on full power.

Peter Davison makes a song and dance about the appearance of an assistant floor manager appearing in the back of a scene but really, it’s only a piece of paper moving and I doubt that even if you watch you’d barely notice it.

The 32 minute ‘Putting The Shock Into Earthshock’ looks at the production through cast, production and other people. I do think the Tory MP should have been edited out or at least his pot shots at the Labour Party at the time this was recorded in 2003.

The 40th Anniversary 1932-2003 is a 3 minute montage from the series. Oddly, the biggest omissions is not seeing Roger Delgado as the Master and no Romana regenerations.

The 10 minute feature from the 1982 series ‘Did You See..?’ looking at the history of the series is awfully patronising and, no, I avoided it when it first came out.

If you want to see the story with new special effects, then you will need to turn this feature on. Had I known or read the back of the box, I suspect I would have watched the audio commentary on and watch them combined.

This story is significant from having a more intelligent and talkative Cyber-Leader and his deputy. Objectively, it must be a lonely life being an assimilated Cyberman. I mean, you keep quiet, obey orders and go into battle and that’s pretty much it. The world of obedience. None of these oppressive species have much use for free will. Watch and learn.

GF Willmetts

February 2018

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC. 1 DVD 93 minutes 4 * 24 minute episodes with extras. Price: £ 3.00 (UK) if you know where to look. ASIN: BBCDVD1153)

cast: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse

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