Last updated 26 October 2022

Doctor Who: Earthshock


Story Number: 121 (6B)
No of Episodes: 4

Writer: Eric Saward
Director: Peter Grimwade

Starring: Peter Davison, Beryl Reid, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, Matthew Waterhouse, Alec Sabin

BBC One (United Kingdom):
First Broadcast: Monday 8th March 1982 - Tuesday 16th March 1982
Running Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes, 37 seconds

Average Audience: 9.32 Million   

At the entrance to a largely uncharted cave system on Earth, a party of troopers prepares to descend. Professor Kyle (Clare Clifford) is the only survivor of a group of palaeontologists and geologists who have been surveying a cave full of fossils. The troopers, led by Lieutenant Scott (James Warwick), enter the caves. As they do so, two black figures (Carolyn Mary Simmonds, Barney Lawrence), follow them. Outside, Walters (Steve Morley), the soldier in charge of a tracking scanner device, notices the screen flare. 

After a heated argument with Adric, who wants to return to E-Space, the Doctor brings the TARDIS to Earth in the year 2526 and exits into a dark underground cave full of fossils. He discusses the fate of the dinosaurs with Tegan and Nyssa and postulates that their demise was due to a massive asteroid crashing into the Earth. They move elsewhere in the caves and Nyssa finds a metallic door hidden behind a rock fall. 

Meanwhile the troopers suffer casualties. Trooper Bane (Anne Clements) hurts her leg and has to turn back, and she and her helper are then killed by the black figures. Snyder (Suzi Arden), waiting outside with Walters, decides to find out why the scanner trace of the wounded party has stopped moving. She too ends up reduced to an organic puddle on the ground. Another group of troopers, Mitchell (Ann Holloway), Carter (Mark Straker) and Bailey (unknown), who have also gone to investigate, suffer the same fate. 

Scott’s main group arrive at the main cave and confront the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa. Suddenly they are all attacked by the two black figures who turn out to be androids with laser weapons set into the palms of their hands. The troopers try to fight back, but to no avail. Watching the action through a camera placed in one of the androids’ heads are three Cybermen (David Banks, Mark Hardy, Jeff Wayne). The Cyber Leader (Banks) orders the people in the cavern destroyed. 

With the Doctor’s assistance, and also that of Adric who has left the TARDIS to see where the others have got to, the androids are destroyed. Investigating the hatchway, which the androids were programmed to protect, the Time Lord finds a bomb. He deactivates it just as the Cybermen send a signal to try to detonate it. Following the signal back to its source in the TARDIS, the Doctor and his companions take the troopers and Kyle to an area referred to as Sector 16, where a massive freighter is about to leave a space station and head back to Earth under the command of Captain Briggs (Beryl Reid) and her deputy Berger (June Bland). Earth is on red alert due to an interstellar conference being held there, but Briggs has been given clearance and is determined to deliver her cargo on time and gain the bonus for doing so. 

The Doctor and Adric investigate the freighter’s hold, leaving Scott and the troopers on the TARDIS. They are observed on monitor screens by the Cyber Leader, who has identified the Doctor and determined that he must suffer for the Cybermen’s past defeats. Two crew members, Vance (Mark Fletcher) and Carson (Christopher Whittingham), are killed, and the ship’s security officer, Ringway (Alec Sabin), arrests the Doctor and Adric. 

The two prisoners are taken to the bridge, where they watch as a power surge is detected. This has been caused by the Cyber Leader activating his personal guard. Briggs orders the guards positioned around the hold to contain whoever is down there. The Cyber Leader’s guards meanwhile stir in their cocoons and break out into the hold. Scott, Tegan and the troopers have ventured out of the TARDIS, and they find themselves surrounded by awakening Cybermen (Graham Cole, Peter Gates-Fleming, Steve Ismay, David Bache, Norman Bradley, Michael Gordon-Browne). 

The freighter’s crew (David Melbourne, John Towns, Tim Goodings, Val McCrimmon) are unable to stop the advancing Cybermen and fall back. Ringway reveals himself as being in league with the Cybermen and holds Briggs, Berger, the Doctor and Adric hostage. They overpower him and close the doors just as the Cybermen appear. The Cyber Leader orders the door burnt through, but the Doctor rigs up the ship’s anti-matter stabilising container and temporarily prevents the machine-creatures from breaking in. However, the Cybermen then detonate an explosive and blast their way onto the bridge. Ringway is killed and the Cyber Leader informs the Doctor that the Cyber-race wish to destroy the Earth. More Cybermen have been revived to deal with the remaining humans. 

In the hold, Scott and his party find themselves facing more Cybermen than they can comfortably deal with, and try and return to the TARDIS. Two Cybermen await them there and they try to force their way through to the ship. The Cybermen are destroyed, but Kyle is killed and Tegan is captured and taken to the bridge. Scott and two troopers again leave the TARDIS, armed with the Cybermen’s own weapons. 

The Cybermen incorporate a machine into the flight controls of the freighter. The Cyber Leader reveals that the purpose of the conference on Earth is to unite the planets in a war against the Cyber race. Its destruction will be a psychological victory for the Cybermen. 

The Cyber Leader forces the Doctor and Tegan to take him and his Lieutenant (Hardy) on board the TARDIS, leaving Adric, Briggs and Berger on the bridge of the freighter. Adric decides that he must try to decipher the three logic codes that are locking the freighter on a collision course with Earth. 

Scott and the troopers arrive on the bridge and all decide to get away in an escape pod. Adric, having solved two of the codes, is reluctant to leave, and at the last moment leaps back onto the bridge to continue his task. 

Partially freed from Cyber control, the freighter is now travelling back through time, watched from the TARDIS by the Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and the Cyber Leader. The Cyber Lieutenant is searching the TARDIS. The Doctor jumps the Cyber Leader and rubs the gold edge of Adric’s badge for mathematical excellence against his chest unit. The creature writhes in agony and the Doctor then snatches its gun and fires nine times into its chest unit, killing it. 

Adric is interrupted in his attempt to solve the last code as a wounded Cyberman blasts the console before dying. Adric stands and watches helplessly as the image of prehistoric Earth grows larger on the screen. 

Nyssa despatches the Cyber Lieutenant when it returns to the TARDIS console room. The Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa then watch in silence as the scanner shows the freighter explode on impact with Earth.

Synopsis from Doctor Who: The Fifth Doctor Handbook by David J. Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker, reprinted with permission; further reproduction is not permitted. Available from Telos

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