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Doctor Who - Earthshock

episode 122

UK 1982
produced by
John Nathan-Turner for BBC
directed by Peter Grimwade
starring Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, Matthew Waterhouse, James Warwick, Clare Clifford, June Bland, Beryl Reid, David Banks
written by Eric Saward, script editor: Antony Root, music by Malcolm Clarke, Cybermen created by Kit Pedler, Gerry Davis

Doctor Who, Doctor Who (Peter Davison), Doctor Who (classic series), Cybermen

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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archeological team goes missing in some mines, a group of soldiers goes looking for them. Soon, they too are decimated by some androids. Luckily, Doctor Who along with Tegan (Janet Fielding), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) & the annoying boy genius Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) do arrive nearby in their time-machine TARDIS (time and relative dimensions in space) & they soon find out these androids actually protect a timebomb set to blow up the earth. After they succeed in defeating the androids & dismantling the bomb, one question remains to be answered: Who planted the bomb ? And - on track of the trigger signal meant to explode the bomb - off the Doctor plus his companions plus what's left of the soldiers go to deep space, where, on a freighter commanded by Beryl Reid, they find ... the Cybermen, some of the good Doctor's deadliest foes. Not having succeeded in blowing up the earth via their bomb, they now want to blow it up by crashing the freighter, packed with explosives, into the planet. Just why would they want to do it ... because some big conference is taking place to unite a great many of forces from different planets to fight & defeat the Cybermen (just why the Cybermen would use the very same freighter that carries their vast army is a question left unanswered. As is the question why the Cybermen could come up with an alternative plan needing much preparation just mere seconds after their first plan went wrong). Of course the Doctor & company can spoil the Cybermen's plans, especially Adric who has the freighter travel back in time some 65 million years (just how he did that is never explained), still causing it to crash into earth, but instead of wiping the human race, it now wipes out the dinosaurs (& here the story goes full circle, in the beginning of the story the Doctor commented on how nobody ever exactly knew why the dinosaurs became extinct), making human supremacy on the earth possible in the first place (or at least so the theory goes). Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how much you liked the toddler), Adric dies in the process.


This story, a story of Doctor Who's 19th season (!) is regarded as somewhat of a milestone in the show's long history, not only did it mark the return of the Cybermen after a 7 year hiatus (the last story begore being Revenge of the Cybermen of 1975, with Tom Baker as Doctor Who), it is also one of the few episodes that kills off a central character (only the 3rd time that happened in the series). On the other hand it also shows what did essentially go wrong when John Nathan-Turner tried to take the show "into the Eighties". Everything is so streamlined, slick & polished, with many a shoot-out & action aplenty, just like any decent sci-fi actioner ... & that's exactly what Doctor Who never was meant to be. In its prime during the 70's, with Jon Pertwee or especially Tom Baker in the lead, the show relied heavily on wild concepts, sharp & witty, even absurd dialogue with the Doctor inevitably trying to talk his way out of situations, with sets that looked anything but realistic & monsters that often seemed to be (at least half) made up on the spot.

In this one though, the Cybermen's costumes seemed to be carefully designed to look like something out of bores like Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica (though when in some shots you see they wear customary moonboots, that's at least a little endearing), the (admittedly) wild concept of the Cybermen's bomb making human's supremacy of earth - which they wished to end - possible in the first place, is sacrificed for the emotional moment of Adric's death. Also, the strangeness of the Doctor went somewhat amiss when Peter Davison - an accomplished actor, maybe the best to take the role, but entirely un-weird - took over, not at all helped by the unwitty, uncomical, very very bland dialogues he had to deliver. He for example says to the Cyberleader "when was the last time you saw a sunset, smelled a flower, had a well-prepared meal", which supposedly was thought to be humane & meaningful, but instead comes across overly clichéd & Americanized to the point where it makes you want to throw up ... though the thought of a Cyberman having a well-prepared meal is actually somewhat intriguing.

David Banks by the way played the Cyberleader, a role that he would continue to play in 3 more episodes (The Five Doctors, Attack of the Cybermen, Silver Nemesis) until 1988 - his sticking to the role being somewhat strange though because his face was totally hidden behind a motionless mask !


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
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Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


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On the same day
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produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
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out now on DVD