Earthshock part 1

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    Craig @craig

    Firstly, apologies for the delay in bringing you our fifth Doctor story. Busy life, lots going on etc. And on my return I miscalculated the time coordinates by several weeks.

    You are The Doctor Who Forum who waited. 🙂 Thank you.

    So we resurrect our weekly watching with a story that has ironically, at its heart, the death of the dinosaurs. It has some real surprises, and at the time of broadcast they were quite (excuse the pun) shocking.

    Written by the somewhat controversial script editor Eric Saward, in the 26th Century a rescue mission finds that an exploration team of paleontologists and geologists who were searching caves for fossils have probably all been brutally killed.

    In the TARDIS, it’s just after ‘Black Orchid’ which we watched last year. Adric feels he’s a bit of a joke and the Doctor tries to convince him it’s not true, to guffaws everywhere. Ah, foreshadowing. Landing in a cave underground it’s not long before they come across the heavily armed, but under fire, rescue team.

    It ends with the reveal of an old enemy who had not been seen in Doctor Who for seven years (or a lifetime, if you were about my age in 1982). It’s the sort of reveal that really can’t be kept a secret in these internet days. But at the time it was a major coup for the BBC and the production team.

    Remember, we’re watching this as it was first shown, one episode at a time, so NO SPOILERS for future episodes.

    Earthshock is available on DVD for only ÂŁ6.49 from the BBC:

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    What a ripping yarn! I have always loved Earthshock. There is so much in it, and so many spoilers, which makes it a trifle difficult to talk about it.

    But for starters, there is James Warwick as Scott, fresh from his performance in the truly wonderful creepy mini series The Nightmare Man (1981) directed by Who alumnus Douglas Camfield. Warwick is suitably surly as the 26th century military type, and the “red shirts” who meet a grisly end are all well etched as believable characters, belying their “red shirt” status. In fact, it makes their sudden and grisly demise all the more effective.

    And what can one say about the shock revelation at the end of the episode? It is simply brilliant. I know others, who, like me, grew up on early Who, have commented on their response to the end of the episode. Everybody’s recollection of the impact it made in 1982 was a version of: “Oh my god!!” followed by running around the sofa about six times, and then repeating it all in the schoolyard the next day.

    In the context of 1982, and how long it had been since we last saw those villains, it has to rank as one of the best endings of an opening episode that Who has ever done.

    Cannot wait for episode 2!

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    This should be enjoyable, I love Earthshock. That reminds me that I need to get the DVD again.

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    Well, that’s quite the belter of a cliffhanger and as @craig says, a pivotal moment for Who fans of a certain age. I certainly remember it being the awed talk of the playground the following day. And it does mark the beginning of a sort of mini-era of Who — not only the controversial Saward years but also the arrival of what ended up being the campest era in Cyber-history. Brace yourself for lots of fist-clenching and purring of ‘Exceeellent’. (And I realise that sentence sounds a whole lot filthier than I intended.)

    This possibly also marks the beginning of the show becoming so self-referential (something that many thought led to its troubles a few years down the line). Earthshock is so great for fans because it’s essentially a Cyber-greatest hits. Look at this episode. It’s essentially a slavish remake of Episode One of Tomb of the Cybermen with a dash of Aliens thrown in. Gus Van Sant, ain’t in it. (And it’s interesting that it seems to almost fulfill Who’s original remit too with a bit of educational chat on the dinosaurs’ extinction event thrown in too. We can undoubtedly thank Chris ‘Chuckles’ Bidmead for that.)

    There’s some crap here too, of course. The marines are rubbish. Aside from the terrible acting (the professor especially), they’re the most inept bunch of military dolts that Who has produced (and there’s been some stiff competition for that title over the years). Aside from their tendency to fall over a lot, there’s also the whole ‘look the scanner’s picked up something anomalous in a cavern where a bunch of scientists just died, shall I tell my superior? Naaah.’

    That said, the scenes in the caves are really quite suspenseful and I’ve always found those androids kind of creepy, despite looking like a close relative of the Raston Warrior Robot. Lurking in the shadows really works for them. The death of Snyder is one of the more memorable redshirt Who deaths, as @blenkinsopthebrave says (welcome back, sir, by the way). But it’s an odd thing for Cybermen to use androids though, isn’t it? Why not just send a couple of Cybermen to do the same job? Aside from that it would have knackered the cliffhanger?

    The other key element of crapness can be put into one word. Adric. What an absolute whining arse the boy is. It’s hard to imagine too many of the other doctors putting up with half the stuff that Davison does. Could you imagine him dealing with Capaldi? He’d have booted his backside out the TARDIS doors in two seconds flat. As would Pertwee, either of the Bakers or even Smith, I suspect.

    However, he does illustrate the key problem of this era — the bickering, over-full TARDIS. Look how much of this episode is taken up with the regulars nagging at each other. And the old-school Whovians have the cheek to bitch about AG Who being too much like a soap opera.

    Which brings us nicely onto the great work Davison does here. I’ve said before that he’s a Doctor who never really gets his due. And this is one of this finest stories. And even when surrounded by a lorry-load of whining arse-achers, he’s still never anything less than watchable.

    Anonymous @

    The Doctor hands Adric his copy of Black Orchid that he got from their previous story, where last we saw everyone had fun and left happy. Now Adric wants to go home!! WTF??

    Ignoring the dysfunctional Tardis Crew, so far I like this story. The androids are very cool looking with good special effects for their infrared vision and it’s awesome that they melt people into goo with their lasers. I like how the androids didn’t show up on the monitor, so the alien presence was the Doctor instead leading the marines to confront them.

    Very funny how Nyssa or Tegan immediately try to show them the TARDIS to explain their way out of trouble like they did in Black Orchid, but it doesn’t work this time.

    @jimthefish (btw enjoyed your Firefly blogs, thank you) Good point about the Cybermen using androids. Maybe there will be an explanation for that in the following episodes.  Also I hope the dinosaur dialog gets used in the plot somehow, instead of just being our mandatory lesson of the day.

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    @barnable and @jimthefish, I think the explanation of the androids is simple: the makers of the show wanted to save up the surprise of the Cybermen for the end of the show. Remember, the Cybermen had not been seen on Who for 7 years (in Revenge of the Cybermen with Tom Baker). Having them come back after such a long time was really big news, and their surprise appearance at the end of the episode was phenomenally exciting for everyone watching at the time.

    And the androids were also really quite effective dramatically, because they were so creepy (as faceless killers tend to be).






    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @blenkinsopthebrave — I get the production reasons for the use of the androids to hide the surprise of the cliffhanger but was just pointing out that it doesn’t really tally with any Cyberman modus operandi before or since. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a criticism and I do indeed remember the whole WTF-ness of the reveal at the time.

    And the androids were great. So much so that they’re whole look, as I say, was pinched and given a weird performance-artist-ey style makeover for the Raston in The Five Doctors. I seem to remember also seeing them at the Blackpool exhibition and thinking they were even scary when you saw them close up. Which you couldn’t say for a lot of the props when you saw them up close. The Cybermen included.

    Kharis @kharis

    This is classic Who at it’s best for me.

    • This reply was modified 7 years, 8 months ago by  JimTheFish. Reason: Possible spoilers
    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @kharis — I’ve taken the liberty of slightly amending your post as it teetered dangerously close to spoiler territory. Although these are very old stories, we take the approach on these rewatches that there might be some seeing them for the first time so we avoid discussing anything that didn’t actually feature in the episode in question.

    Hope you don’t mind.

    @barnable — good to see you back and glad you enjoyed the Firefly blog.

    Kharis @kharis

    @jimthefish Thank you, I appreciate you fixing my slip.  I am new here and thought everyone on this thread had seen it.  I would hate to spoil anything.  Good to know.  I will revise and just chime in that I think this is an intense episode and played my emotions like a fiddle.

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    While the cliffhanger may be one of the best of the series, I do feel its significance is lost on a lot of younger viewers. Firstly, the front cover ruins the surprise by having a picture of a Cyberman on it. When I first saw the story, I already knew that they would be in it because of this, so my reaction to the cliffhanger was “oh the Cyberman have finally shown up”. It wasn’t until I watched the extra features that I realise that their apperence was kept secret at the time and that they had not been in a story for several years so it would have been a big (Earth)shock for the fans. Secondly, because we live in the age of the Internet, if such a thing happened now, not only would we know about it, but there would also be photographs from the set, leaked scripts ect. It’s almost impossible for any film/TV program to be a total surprise anymore. Of course there are those of us who try to avoid spoilers, but sometimes it’s impossible to avoid them.

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    @thekrynoidman. Yes, everything you say is sadly true. In some ways, the Internet has a lot to answer for (except , of course, with providing us the opportunity to have this Forum)

    While my memory of the original screening is just a memory, at least I have that memory. I suppose that is one of the few benefits of decrepitude!

    And while the cliffhanger really is one of the best they ever did, there are some more recent corkers. I would probably rate the end of The Time of Angels as one of the best for its sheer bravura. But ranking cliffhangers is probably a topic for another thread.

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @thekrynoidman & @blenkinsopthebrave — to be fair the new series has still managed some corking cliffhangers — did anyone see The War Doctor coming? But they’re narrative ones these days rather than things like revived monsters, which, as you both say, wouldn’t survive the internet.

    A blog on the show’s top cliffhangers? Now that’s a capital idea….

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    @jimthefish oh absolutely. I’ve criticised the new series a lot (a bit too much if I’m being honest), but the cliffhangers have been consitantly good, even on stories I’m not a big fan of.

    janetteB @janetteb

    Finally got to catch up with this. I do recall watching this “back in the day” but on re watching realised that I do not remember anything but the ending. Quite possibly  I only watched the final episode as by ’82 I was not watching regularly.

    The story as it begins to develop is enjoyable in the predictable “base under siege” model. Group of humans under attack, Doctor lands in the middle of the action and gets the blame.  The androids are “proper scary” and the build up of tension in the episode is well done.

    I know that it has been said over and over but I can’t help but echo just how much Davidson’s Doctor was let down by the crap assistants. I think one of the main problems with the companions at this time was that they were not allowed to develop as characters. The argument between the Doctor and Adric that provides the reason for the landing in the caves is utterly unconvincing, poorly scripted and directed. It felt contrived for story reasons. But not to dwell on the negatives, overall I enjoyed the episode as did the boys who watched with me.




    Anonymous @

    @jimthefish and all

    on a treat binge, I’m saving Earthshock for today. marvellous. Yes, there’s arguing and whining, but boy, it’s fun.

    I love the articulation of every statement. The slightly creepy music and the clarity and stiff-upper-lip-ness of the “It must be ….hard going down there….again”

    “it’s my job. No way to recover the bodies otherwise.”

    No sympathy necessary.

    Everybody, straight faced and doing their job. Just an ordinary day….

    Oz was interrupted by continuous ads of a film called Self/Less where some dude is old, gets a youthful happy body which really belongs to someone else. I think it must have cost $80 mill, or thereabouts.

    Anywaaaay, why is Adric complaining?? Everything the Doctor is doing, is kind and inclusive and… look at Adric’s room: there are posters (LOL) and useless teenage-style junk (no-one’s monastic in the Tardis), he should be jolly thrilled. Brat.

    Tegan: oh, Lord that accent. Actually, you’re right: the 4 clientele is 2 too many. Whilst the Dr is acting is his usual…style, I find the others starring in something akin to a school play…The arch looks, the stepping back when told off, the camera quite still. I expect, like Pertwee was saying in that interview, there’d be no time to rehearse camera angles, etc, beyond one quick tech rehearsal the day before shooting?

    I’m not sure what is was like ‘back then’ but at the time, I loved it anyway, and I’m keeping my memories of that era as vivid as possible. Sure it’s a bit rubbish in places, but the suspense, the feeling that something terrible is going to happen goes nicely with the shady interior of the cave and the gentle drip-drip of water…somewhere….I like the takes from one group of people to another….and yes, the ‘teachable’ elements included there for ‘kiddiess to learn something’ is luvly.

    @craig thanks for uploading this…. ooh and I love the hairstyles….very ’80s.


    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave


    but boy, it’s fun

    Yes! That is what is brilliant about this story. It is fun.

    To be honest, I despair of some of the analysis that seems oblivious to that.

    The best Who are those episodes where you realise you have watched the whole episode with a smile on your face.

    Even if it was a scary episode.

    Unless you are 8 years old. Then you should be hiding behind the sofa.

    Anonymous @


    The key to Who is to keep that smile and to not take everything too seriously. It’s a show on a budget and when (on other threads) people start rumbling into agendas about ‘the very fabric of social consciousness and truly androgynous beings,” I start to shake my head. Of course the discussions can be interesting -we’re human, we’re intelligent, we like analysis but, basically, it’s a fun show and running smack bang into an Agenda every five minutes will only result in a broken nose from which one never recovers!


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