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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Doctor Who: Earthshock: Part 1 starts on Earth in the future during the
year 2526 where a team of paleontologists & geologists have been
attacked & killed in some caves, an army unit lead by Lieutenant Scott
(James Warwick) along with the sole remaining scientist Kyle (Clare
Clifford) is sent in to investigate but are picked off one-by-one by an
unknown force. Meanwhile the Doctor (Peter Davison), Nyssa (Sarah
Sutton), Tegan (Janet Fielding) & Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) arrive in
the cave system in the TARDIS. After an argument Adric stays behind in
the TARDIS as the Doctor, Nyssa & Tegan explore their cavernous
surroundings outside but run into Scott & his men who blame them for
the unexplained killings...
Episode 19 from season 19 this Doctor Who adventure originally aired here in the UK during March 1982 this was Davison's sixth story as the Doctor from his first season, directed by Peter Grimwade I personally think Earthshock is Peter Davison's best story. The script so far by Eric Saward is a nice claustrophobic horror with a group of people being killed off one at a time by some unseen menace, in fact the whole heavily armed soldiers walking into an isolated & enclosed location & being picked off reminds heavily of Aliens (1986) even though Earthshock was made a full four years prior. I do like my Doctor Who stories when they try to be scary & actually have the balls to try & be horrific, there's plenty of dark cavernous corridors & the remains of melted soldiers to satisfy on both counts & there's the great ending which suddenly reveal the return of the Cybermen who are probably my personal favourite Doctor Who monster. At 25 minutes it moves along at a nice pace, the story is good if a bit familiar & it's a much better written & thought-out episode than usual for this period of the show's history.
The first thing to say is that the cave sets look a little fake, they aren't too bad but they are the one production aspect of Earthshock so far which lets it down. I also have to mention the new look Cybermen, they look great although I would maybe have liked a more electronic robotic sounding voice. In fact the Cybermen had not featured in Doctor Who since season 12 & the mighty fine Tom Baker story Revenge of the Cybermen (1975) but both writer Saward & the Doctor himself Davison were fans of the of the silver cyborgs which probably helped convince the production team they were ready for a long overdue come back. There weren't many special effects in Earthshock, the pink laser beams that the soldiers fire from their weapons actually look alright although the DVD (another brilliant special edition DVD by the way) gives you the option to replace these, as well as other various effects, with brand spanking new CGI beams which obviously look a lot better but as I said they aren't too bad to begin with.
Earthshock: Part 1 is just a great Doctor Who episode, it's got surprises, some nice tension, atmosphere, eeriness & the reappearance of the newly designed Cybermen in a great cliffhanger ending. Surely this is Peter Davison's best story, surely...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Adric encounter the Cybermen in a rather
vicious encounter which results in the death of young Adric.
Adric, who had been the teen-aged stowaway with the previous Doctor (Tom Baker), suddenly seemed out of place when #5 Peter Davison took over the main role.
What should have been a worthwhile, almost nuclear family quartet, suddenly gave way to strange rumors.
Did Peter Davison want Adric & Tegan removed from the show, feeling only he and Nyssa were worthwhile? Or did Matthew Waterhouse (Adric) behave too irresponsibly and cause his own departure? The truth may never be known by the masses, but as Peter Davison says with his three co-stars on this story's DVD audio commentary, "Earthshock" is now rather discussed by fans because of Adric's death.
Was it a good story or was it behind-the-scenes shenanigans that brought about Adric's death? Looking back now, I didn't like Adric's death then, and I still don't like it. I would have much rather preferred he left in "Terminus" with Nyssa.
However, to hear the commentary of the four cast regulars shows that there was clearly no animosity amongst them, thank goodness.
No harm done.
But still, I didn't think Adric should have died.
(Note: A review of all four episodes)
It is hard to imagine the effect that Earthshock had on its original viewers back in 1982. With its plot twists now easily revealed on the art work for the VHS and now, of course, DVD versions of the story. Despite that fact Earthshock remains a well paced adventure that packs a punch for its viewers.
Earthshock features some of the better performances from the TARDIS crew of the time. Say what you will about an overloaded TARDIS with Peter Davison's fifth Doctor, Janet Fielding's Teagan, Sarah Sutton's Nyssa and Matthew Waterhouse's Adric but hear me out. For Davison and Waterhouse at least this would prove to be some of their best work in the series, particularly in parts three and four. With this being Waterhouse's final story, there seems to have been much emphasis placed on Adric and his relationship with the fifth Doctor which gives this story some distinction. While this emphasis takes away from Teagan and Nyssa, the finale of part four gives everyone a chance to show off in what is one of the series (original or new series for that matter) biggest surprise endings.
There's also a good supporting cast as well. Amongst the supporting cast are terrific performances from James Warwick, Clare Clifford, June Bland and Alec Sabin amongst others. There's also Beryl Reid as Captain Briggs of the freighter where much of the story takes place. While Reid (an award winning actress in her own right) gives a commendable performance there are certainly moments where her credibility is stretched very thin. Yet the true highlights of the supporting cast lies not in the people but in the "surprise villains" of the story: the Cybermen.
After quite a few appearances in the 1960's, the Cybermen disappeared from Doctor Who after a rather abysmal appearance in Revenge of the Cybermen. Seven years later Earthshock would reinvent and reintroduce the silver giants. In what would prove to be one of the defining moments of the series in the 1980's the Cybermen suddenly changed from the not so menacing men in suits of their previous appearance to be a truly menacing force. The "new look" Cybermen have a truly inhuman quality to them that makes them as impressive today as they were twenty-six years ago. Much of that menace is given to them by the actors (especially David Banks and Mark Hardy) who make scenes that could have potential dull like the flashback sequence in part two seem exciting (try imaging the same scene with the Cybermen from Revenge Of The Cybermen for example). At the end of the day it is a welcomed return that remains as impressive now as it was then.
While all of the above are obviously important to how successful of a story Earthshock is, in my mind the success really stems from three men who gave this story its cinematic feel: writer Eric Saward, director Peter Grimwade and composer Malcolm Clarke. Eric Saward crafted what is almost certainly his finest script for the series with fine dialogue and action combined almost perfectly. The perfect compliment to Saward's script is the direction of Peter Grimwade, who turns the script into a well paced and orchestrated action/adventure that also manages to pack an emotional punch. Last, but no least, is composer Malcolm Clarke whose music brings just the right amount of emphasis to a scene without it being either too intrusive or completely underwhelming. Together the works of these three men make Earthshock amongst the most cinematic Doctor Who stories.
Earthshock features many things. It has terrific performances, to the Cybermen (at quite possibly their best), good writing, fantastic direction and a score to beat, amongst other things. Above all it is a well paced adventure that packs a punch both action wise and dramatic wise. In short; what more can you ask for?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Spoilers follow. Lots of them:
I didn't see "Earthshock" in 1982, but having assumed at nine years of age that "Attack of the Cybermen" was the first Cybermen story since "Revenge", and having failed to realize that my uncle's refusal to tell me anything about the story before we sat down to watch it was anything more than his usual goofiness, "Earthshock" is still one of the greatest memories of my childhood. I can't put into words the impact the cliffhanger at the end of episode one had on me and still has on me and I can't describe how involved I was in the rest of the story, and how I sat in silence after Adric's death at the end of the fourth episode, shocked and even saddened. It was, pretty much, the coolest damn thing I'd ever seen.
Watching "Earthshock" as an adult should be a different experience. I suppose I should see the lack of strong character writing here, I suppose I should notice that it's ultimately little more than a lot of shooting, shouting and running around. I suppose that I should admit that if one were to nit-pick they would find a lot of 'flaws' here. Still, watching "Earthshock" now is ultimately no different an experience for me than watching it as a nine year old, other than the initial shock of it having worn off. I find myself just as entranced and enthralled by it, just as impressed by the Cybermen, just as entertained by the action, just as affected by Adric's send-off and the numerous other great moments here.
My rationale for loving "Earthshock" and considering it better than many other more thoughtful and intelligent stories is the same rationale I have for loving Dario Argento's "Suspiria", a film about a girl who goes to an art school which is actually a witches' convent, and is basically one giant contrivance to get to the horror set-pieces. There are many smarter and more thoughtful films, but few as thrilling and enjoyable.
I certainly don't hate Eric Saward as much as some others do. In fact, I really like him as a writer, and I believe that he must have worked fairly hard as script-editor. His stories are all very good, "Revelation of the Daleks" and "Earthshock" being real classics, while "Resurrection of the Daleks" and "The Visitation" are a lot of fun. "Earthshock" inspires a lot of criticism for its script, although the story is generally very well-regarded, but I think it's a fine action-driven script with wonderful little character set-pieces sprinkled throughout the story, and a strong set of supporting characters (not that they are developed all that much, but they're all ultimately solid). The episode is wonderfully directed by Peter Grimwade as well.
"Earthshock" will always be one of my absolute favorites, not just in "Doctor Who" but out of any TV series.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you're going to end a story in the shocking death of a main character, then at least make sure the character is halfway sympathetic. Not only that, but ensure the events leading up to the 'heroic death' make some kind of sense. From what I can make out, the Doctor - for no apparent reason - leaves Adric on a bomb-laden spacecraft heading for the Earth in prehistoric times. The inevitable happens and he dies as the result of the collision. Despite the popular Dr Who myth that 'Adric died saving Earth', the truth is that Adric died failing to stop a spacecraft wiping out the dinosaurs. Indeed, if he had stopped it, he would have altered history and the human race might never have existed. Most of the story leading up to this is quite entertaining, in a clumsy kind of way. The androids are effective, although the military types are pretty wooden. Beryl Reid is laughably miscast as a hard-nosed freighter captain. At this point in the show's history, the powers-that-be were more interested in casting (often inappropriate) 'big-name' guest stars than they were with credibility. The Cybermen are good, although it's painfully obvious trick photography is being used when the Cyber 'army' approaches. In short, this is a watchable story let down by a 'heroic death' which was ill-conceived and badly-thought-out.
Review of the Complete Story:
EARTHSHOCK is an effective, well-paced DOCTOR WHO serial and possibly the best of the Peter Davison era. The narrative sees the Doctor and his three (count 'em!) companions doing battle with the nefarious Cybermen, who this time around have a convoluted plan to bomb Earth into destruction. Despite the distinctly episodic structure to the story, EARTHSHOCK is a zinger: action packed, filled with incident, and not bad effects.
The Cybermen have always been my favourite of Dr Who villains - they just seem to have the edge over the Daleks, somehow - and they're on top form as the android menace in this production. They get plenty of screen time, and almost half the running time seems to be made up of intense shoot-outs between the humans and their robotic foes.
The storyline is all over the place at times, and there's early stuff - like a futuristic potholing expedition - which seems to a little extraneous considering what comes later. But that matters not. The cast are on top form, and joined by seasoned professional Beryl Reid who brings plenty of irascibility to her role of Briggs. Really, though, this serial belongs to Matthew Waterhouse's much-hated Adric, who turns out to be something of a hero after all. Who knew?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Refers To All Four Episodes . Major Spoilers
A geological team has been attacked in a cave system in the Earth's future . A military unit led by Lieutenant Scott takes the lone survivor Professor Kyle back in to the system . The Tardis crew have also landed within the cave system and immediately find themselves accused of murder . As it turns out the danger is still present and being coordinated far away by one of the Doctor's greatest enemies
This is it . One of the greatest and most fondly remembered stories from the show's history . It's a return to the Troughton era where the " base under siege " plot was in vogue but one that hadn't been seen for several years and also features the return of a legendary foe It's also the only story where a long running companion is killed off . You can understand why this was voted as an instant all time classic on its broadcast
..when you stop to draw breath and think about the plot in any detail everything falls apart and is a great example of what Alfred Hitchcock described as " The ice box effect " . By this he means you go to the ice box ( Refrigarator ) to get another beer then you're suddenly hit by the complete illogic of the plot . Take for example the plan to plant a mega-bomb in an Earth cave system . Why then do the Cybermen bother to invade a planet that is destroyed ? Why bother having Andriods guarding which draws attention to a bomb being there ? How do you smuggle 15,000 Cybermen aboard a space freighter ? The more you think about it the more everything collapses .There's also other flaws such as The Cybermen being a bit too conversational and there's a bit too much exclamation of " Excellent " coming from the Cyberleader
...none of this mattered when it was broadcast in 1982 which caused a buzz in the school playground . Rarely did the conversation revolve around DOCTOR WHO at school in 1982 except to say " That new Doctor Who isn't very good " but Earthshock captured the imagination of a lot of schoolboys . Despite the confusing nature of the episode one cliffhanger - I thought The Cybermen were behind the hatch - it is one of the most impacting and shocking cliffhangers in the history of the show and caused my jaw to literally hit the floor , helped by the fact the production team managed to keep secret the Cybermen making a reappearance . Director Peter Grimwade manages to craft great tension and mood out of Saward's script and while never being as effective as a masterwork such as The Web Of Fear keeps the audience on the edge of their seat
It also signals the end of Matthew Waterhouse in the role of Adric who literally goes out with a bang . Waterhouse is considered as one of the worst actors to have played a companion but seeing him in the last couple of stories one instinctively feels that he was poorly served by the scripts . Originally a juvenile delinquent from E-Space come maths genius one can't help thinking he would have worked much better if he'd been written as a naive innocent abroad type character which would have better suited Waterhouse's rather effete performance . It also took some guts for the production team to kill off a long running character and unlike today in the show death is forever . The credits rolling without the theme tune is one of the most poignant moments of drama the show has given us
In short Earthshock isn't the most cerebral or multi-layered stories from DOCTOR WHO . It is heavily flawed where the plotting is concerned and unfortunately these flaws become more pronounced on repeat viewing . It is also very manipulative . None of this really matters however and if you saw this in 1982 then like me you'd probably be watching the end credits in a state of shock
I'm not a Whovian by any stretch of the imagination, but used to watch
every episode as a child in the 70s and 80s. How things have changed!
I'm currently sitting here in 2010 watching this with my 7 and 10 year
olds on SciFi HD on a 37" LCD screen with my kids absolutely falling
about laughing at the effects, acting (how many times has that Cyberman
said "Eeeexcellent" like Mr Burns from The Simpsons?) and the
story-lines. This is just a few days after they were truly wowed by
Matt Smith's debut as The Doctor.
Having said that, they are still sitting here nearly an hour and a half later... There must be something in it.
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