Wednesday, 16 March 2022

581 Earthshock Part Four

EPISODE: Earthshock Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Tuesday 16 March 1982
WRITER: Eric Saward
DIRECTOR: Peter Grimwade
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 9.6 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Earthshock

"This is excellent news, Doctor. Earth will be destroyed. It will never exist as you have known it!"

The Cybermen attach a device to the navigation system to control the ship. The Cybermen lock the ship on a course for Earth turning it into a bomb to disrupt a conference aimed at uniting races against the Cybermen. The Cybermen plan to leave the freighter before it impacts with Earth. Scott returns to the Tardis, with Kyle killed by a Cyberman trying to gain entry to the ship. Tegan is captured and taken to the bridge where the Cyberleader threatens her to exert control over the Doctor. Scott takes the remainder of his troopers to rescue the Doctor. The majority of the reactivated Cybermen leave the ship via the airlock. The Doctor & Tegan are taken to the Tardis with Adric left with Captain Briggs & Berger on the bridge. The Tardis leaves the ship as Scott and his troopers storm the bridge freeing the crew and Adric. They re-barricade the bridge against the remaining Cybermen as the Freighter pursued by the Tardis nears Earth. Adric works on cracking the logic codes to release the navigational systems. The Cybermen device starts to interfere with the ship's warp drive taking it back in time. Adric cracks the second code taking the freighter out of warp as Briggs gains access to the escape pod. The drag Adric away but as the doors close he slips out of the escape pod to try to enter the final code. The Doctor tells Nyssa & Tegan that they have travelled back in time 65 million years to the time of the Dinosaurs: the freighter will be the meteorite that destroyed them. Scott reports to the Tardis that they have escaped but Adric is still aboard. The Cyberleader destroys the communicator and is going to kill the Doctor when Tegan distracts him allowing the Doctor to grate Adric's badge into his breathing apparatus damaging him and allowing him to be killed with his own weapon. A dying Cyberman enters the bridge of the ship destroying the terminal that Adric is using. Unable to unlock the ship's computer it crashes into the Earth killing Adric.

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That's a huge shock at the end! For the second time in this story you get an episode dominated by it's ending as Adric dies in the freighter's impact on Earth and the episode closes with no music, as the credits scroll, for the first time since The War Games, over a black background showing the remains of Adric's damaged badge. Apparently the idea for the end titles comes from an episode of Coronation Street which ran it's end titles without music following a famous death. Producer John Nathan-Turner remembered this and decided to use it on Doctor Who. If I have one criticism about this episode is there's a musical cue, reused from earlier episodes that keeps cropping up. You get bored of it after a while!

Did Adric deserve to die? At the time I'd have said no, but re watching the stories now he's quite annoying as a character. As someone says on the DVD "When will program makers learn that we hate boy geniuses?" The four main characters has proved slightly too much this season which has led to a situation where one or more of them has been sidelined somehow in many of the stories. Given that there are three companions and one needs to go Adric is the obvious choice to my mind.

The Chekov's Guns, hung on the wall in previous episodes all get used this episode, starting with the speculation as the fate of the Dinosaurs in episode 1:

DOCTOR: It may be of some small consequence to know we've travelled backwards in time some sixty five million years.
TEGAN: Big deal.
DOCTOR: Think about it.
NYSSA: Do you recall the fossil dinosaur bones in the cave on Earth?
TEGAN: What?
NYSSA: And why it's believed they died out so quickly?
TEGAN: Earth collided with a meteorite.
NYSSA: Or something.
TEGAN: The freighter?
DOCTOR: The antimatter vessel will split open on impact. There will be a tremendous explosion.
TEGAN: The freighter was the meteorite?
DOCTOR: It seems inevitable, as is your history as we know it.
LEADER: You lie, Doctor.
DOCTOR: Not at all. You've lost. The Earth is safe.
Then the revelation that Adric's badge is gold edged proves useful as the Doctor uses it to attack the Cyberleader:

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Their weakness to gold isn't the only Cybertropes during this episode: we very nearly see spacewalking Cybermen as were seen in the Moonbase & The Wheel in Space. Sadly we don't get to see it here, just a group of them waiting at the Airlock.

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A particularly bonkers plan is a trademark of nearly every Cyberman story..... except I don't think it is here. The object of the exercise is to disrupt the Anti Cyberman conference:

BRIGGS: You're mad if you think Earth security will let you crash into the planet. They'd shoot the ship down.
LEADER: There will not be time. You have a security transponder with clearance for Earth.
ADRIC: Yes, but why do it? On impact this ship will destroy everything. The planet will be useless.
LEADER: There is a conference about to take place on Earth.
DOCTOR: The reason for the red alert.
LEADER: Yes. The heads of many powerful planets will be present.
DOCTOR: So you destroy a few presidents in a needlessly destructive way.
LEADER: It is more than that. The purpose of the conference is to sign a pact uniting their military forces in a war against the Cyber race.
DOCTOR: Of course. A war you couldn't possibly win.
LEADER: Their combined forces would be too great.
DOCTOR: Destroy the conference and you destroy the unity.
LEADER: It will be a great psychological victory. The strength and might of the Cyber race will be confirmed.
DOCTOR: So the freighter replaces the bomb.
LEADER: Yes, Doctor. In spite of your interference, we will still triumph.
Their plan A was for the bomb in the caves to devastate Earth as they approach it in the Freighter and the Cybermen from the freighter make their way to the shattered Earth to subdue the survivors.

How did the bomb and Androids get there? Smuggled in previously, possibly by Ringway on a previous run, would be my suggestion.

This plan goes out the window when the bomb is deactivated by the Doctor so from there on they're improvising plan B: hit Earth with the freighter after the Cybermen have been evacuated. Later dialogue all but confirms an on the hoof change of plans

CYBERMAN: Leader, the main fleet has acknowledged your intentions.
LEADER: Do they agree?
CYBERMAN: Yes, Leader. As soon as the freighter impacts, a small force will follow through and under your instructions subdue survivors.
LEADER: Excellent.
The Cyberleader and Doctor get a superb exchange over emotions during this episode which the Cyberleader wins!
TEGAN: Doctor! Adric!
DOCTOR: Where did you come from?
TEGAN: That thing caught me.
ADRIC: Where's Nyssa?
TEGAN: She's safe. She's in the Tardis.
LEADER: Who is this woman?
DOCTOR: An Earthling. No one of consequence.
TEGAN: Thanks a lot.
DOCTOR: Be quiet.
LEADER: She's one of your crew.
DOCTOR: In a manner of speaking.
LEADER: I see that Time Lords have emotional feelings.
DOCTOR: Of sorts.
LEADER: Surely a great weakness in one so powerful?
DOCTOR: Emotions have their uses.
LEADER: They restrict and curtail the intellect and logic of the mind.
DOCTOR: They also enhance life! When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well-prepared meal?
LEADER: These things are irrelevant.
DOCTOR: For some people, small, beautiful events is what life is all about!

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LEADER: You have affection for this woman?
DOCTOR: She's a friend.
LEADER: And you do not consider friendship a weakness?
DOCTOR: I do not.
LEADER: Kill her.
LEADER: Such a reaction is not a disadvantage?
LEADER: You are mistaken. I now have control over you, Doctor. All I need do is threaten the woman's death for you to obey me.

We finally get a decent look at Trooper Austen, played by Nikki Dunsford, just before Scott's crew return to the Tardis:

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It's a good job too, because as they're filing into the Tardis, she's on the rear and gets grabbed by a Cyberman!

However when the Troopers enter the Tardis, she's first in the door and can be seen regularly in the Tardis scenes that follow along with the straight haired trooper, Marshall played by Jonathan Evans!

My thanks to the Earthshock Fact of Fiction in Doctor Who magazine 441 for being the first to point this out to me!

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It's worth noting Marshall and Austin were the only two troopers seen in The Tardis in episode 2 and again are the only two troopers seen in the Tardis here. Was Brooks, played by Steve Whyment, absent on the Tardis studio day? Yes, a third trooper is seen passing in front of the camera in episode 3 but it's far too close to be sure which Trooper it is! We couldn't definitely spot Brooks in the caves either and the production notes on the Blu Ray say the Caves and Tardis scenes were in one studio session while the Freighter scenes were in another.

Austin making it into the Tardis at the expense of Brooks definitely is an error because once you get outside the Tardis again, Scott has two male troopers, Brooks and Marshall with him, which is then confirmed by dialogue as Marshall is left on guard on the stairs:

SCOTT: Marshall, you stay there and cover us. Brooks, come with me.

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You can see Brooks clearly advancing with Scott but things then get a bit confused again a little later when Brooks is on guard on the stairs, where Marshall was left, while Marshall assists with blockading the bridge!

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Brooks is then seen consistently on the bridge and is in the Escape Pod at the end as the sole surviving Trooper.

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So what happens to Marshall? Should we assume he dies defending the bridge? If so then he becomes the fourth Trooper to die off screen, after Jones & Seaton in episode 1, whose deaths were lost at the starts of the fight with the androids, and Foster in episode 2, who dies towards the end of that battle. Throw in Austin's mismanaged death here and it doesn't look too good. You can have a little bit of hand waving to explain extras vanishing but when you start naming characters and giving us the ability to track them it all becomes a bit more obvious something's not right. See also: counting the crew members in episode 3!

Older fans would have been watching the scene of the Troopers and Cybermen in the Tardis and been up in arms with what follows as guns are fired in the Tardis console room: Didn't the Doctor say the inside of the Tardis existed in a state of temporal grace, preventing weapons from being used, in Hand of Fear? There's several guns discharged in it during this episode, and at one point the Doctor himself uses one, dispatching the Cyberleader with his own weapon.

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I'm not 100% sure how I feel about that because, as we commented in Seeds of Doom, using a gun isn't a very Doctorish thing to do. Here however.... his Tardis is invaded, the Earth is under threat of destruction and he's racing to get back to the freighter to rescue the crew & Adric.

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Nyssa to is seen using a gun inside the Tardis, but previous stories have shown her being quite trigger-happy, notably using the Ion Bonder in Keeper of Traken, so it's not so much of a surprise as the Doctor.

So why doesn't the Doctor go back and rescue Adric? Yes the console has been damaged in the struggle with the Cybermen but what's to stop him going back later? There's a considerable gap in time between the escape pod launching and the freighter being destroyed, how does the Doctor know what has happened on the bridge during this time? Why doesn't he land the Tardis on the bridge the moment the escape pod leaves and rescue Adric then? The Time Warp doesn't seem to be affecting the freighter by this point. It's a small plot hole, but it bothers me.

It's perhaps surprising that there aren't more major problems with the story because Earthshock was written by then script editor Eric Saward as a rush replacement for Christopher Priest's The Enemy Within, which was the second script by Priest, following 18 story Sealed Orders intended for Tom Baker's last season. Priest was not asked to write for the series again.

Obviously Earthshock is Adric's last appearance in Doctor Who and thus should be Matthew Waterhouse's last association with the show. But in order to keep Adric's death a secret a cameo appearance as an illusion in Time Flight was organised thus necessitating a Radio Times credit for the following week. He'll return in the Fifth Doctor's final episode Caves of Androzani as a regeneration induced hallucination and in fact the Fifth Doctor's final word is "Adric" indicating his regret at the death here. He has released an autobiography entitled Blue Box Boy but I suspect you'll have difficulty obtaining a copy now.....

It's also (incredibly) the last story directed by Peter Grimwade, but he's got three stories as a writer to come. Earthshock cemented his reputation as a good director that could deliver a high class product even if, as related on the DVD, he didn't get on that well with the cast. He was slated to direct Warhead, the closing story of the 20th season, which ended up being cancelled due to a strike and events in the aftermath led to a falling out between him and John Nathan-Turner.

I love Earthshock: I think it's a great story and it had a lasting impact on me and Doctor Who. Adric's death says that being a companion is not a safe business and makes you worry about the companions survival. It brings back the Cybermen and establishes them as THE monster for the Eighties. The design is basically the same for the rest of the decade with only minor tweaks. They become John Nathan Turner's "go to" monster doing most of the work on location for the 20th anniversary story, The Five Doctors, opening the show's 22nd season in the Attack of the Cybermen and starring as the monster in the show's official 25th anniversary story, Silver Nemesis. The story cements Eric Saward's reputation as writer and Peter Grimwade's as director which leads to their pairing again for Warhead. Unfortunately, as we'll see, events there sow the seeds for behind the scenes trouble which will haunt the program during the mid eighties. And while the grim and gritty style of this story proved popular at the time, it sets the story as a template that the show will try to use repeatedly (Warhead again!) and then on a downward path towards complaints of violence and horror against the show which are if anything greater than those in the Seventies.

But there's no doubting that Earthshock was a hit at the time, with only the second episode dipping (just) below 9 million viewers. So it's no surprise when it was repeated as two 50 minute omnibus editions that summer to close the "Doctor Who and the Monsters" repeat season on the 9th & 16th August 1982. It was novelised by Ian Marter in 1983, the latest story in the series that he adapted. After this point he specialises in older Hartnell & Troughton stories, returning to the Cybermen in print in the superb Invasion. Marter died on 28th October 1986 on his 42nd birthday.

Earthshock was released on video in September 1992. I can remember it being shown - with Unearthly Child 1 and Destiny of the Daleks - at a video night to celebrate Doctor Who's 30th anniversary when I was at University.

It was released on DVD on 18th August 2003. You need to buy a copy.

Doctor Who Season 19, containing Castrovalva, Four To Doomsday, Kinda, The Visitation, Black Orchid, Earthshock & Timeflight, was released on Blu Ray on 10th December 2018.

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