Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Adric’s rubbish isn’t he? Totally rubbish. What did the production team think they were doing when they cast an inexperienced Doctor Who fan as one of the male leads in one of its longest running television programmes? Thank goodness they got rid of him in the end. Except in the last few seconds of Earthshock you won’t be thanking anyone. Part of you will be hoping against hope that this time the dying Cyberman isn’t going to blast the control panel and condemn Adric and the spaceship to a messy dinosaur exterminating end. Why? Because Adric’s death touches us all.

Episode one of Earthshock is, for me, Doctor Who at its best. It’s got some lovely character moments for the Tardis gang; crew doesn’t really describe those four does it? More of a mob (funny how the fifth Doctor’s Tardis seems crowded with four where the First Doctors never did). Including a reference to the previous story in the shape of the ‘Black Orchid’ book (a reference that I really enjoy for some reason). Nyssa and Tegan ‘handling’ the Doctor and Adric is lovely to watch and Davison and Waterhouse perform a couple of great character scenes with style.

The game, meantime, is afoot with a bunch of jump suited pot-holers getting turned into bubble and squeak by something nasty in the darkness! It’s tense, it’s convincing, it’s cheap and it looks great. Naturally it isn’t long before Blue Box Army get blamed for the murders and the Rastan Warrior Robot’s less anatomically correct cousins show up. Then the killer as, in what was at the time a complete surprise, the Cybermen turn up for the first time in eight years. JNT did well to turn down a Radio Times cover, such a surprise would be impossible today. Just like the Master’s anagrams. Episode one of Earthshock is damn near perfect Who.

So what about the rest of the story? The plot itself is simple but so well delivered that it doesn’t matter at all. Sawards script ties in some continuity but not enough to weigh the serial down. Malcolm Clarke’s music, with the exception of the Cybertheme, is a little pedestrian. There is a guest appearance from the boom mike in episode four and an hilarious Cyberslip as the villains negotiate some tricky stairs. Peter Grimwade’s direction is tight as usual. The guest artists are fine though James Warwick is excellent and Beryl Reid, though fine, is an undeniably odd choice to play a starship captain. Of the guests David Banks excels as he delivers a towering performance as chief baddie. His Cyberleader behaves in ways we do not expect a cyberman to. He is without mercy but far from without emotion. His penchant for gloating leads to some great exchanges with the Doctor. He is sadistic, forcing Tegan to watch the destruction of her world. His thirst for revenge upon the Earth and the Doctor is palpable. The words are Saward's but the performance is Banks. He is magnificent. The moment he struts onto the bridge he moves and behaves like a leader. I’m reminded of David Prowse in thinking how stunning it is when people act through that much costume. Many have speculated that this emotional Cyberleader is a mistake, a goof, an item of discontinuity. I say rubbish. I’m sure we can, between us, come up with a reason why Cyberleaders display some types of emotion. Whatever it takes don’t take my vengeful, spiteful Cyberleader away.

We round off this little excursion with a massacre which starts on the spaceship and concludes with the death of the Doctors youngest companion. Selfish, greedy, childish Adric fragged in the stratosphere of a planet he only visited three times but decided to settle on! Does it hurt? Of course it does, it’s the Doctors greatest failure. The twenty-sixth century Earth is only saved by accident and Adric, well. He doesn’t put up much of a fight does he? Adric's death is touching but more than that it’s essential. Every time the sixth, eighth, seventh, ninth or tenth Doctors companion is in trouble I will see in his eyes Adric twisting his brothers belt in his hands. Never again. So join me in thanking Matthew Waterhouse, John Nathan Turner and Eric Saward for that little bit of pain and that extra bit of depth of the Doctors character that is Earthshock.

Thank you.

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