Tuesday 26 June 2012

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

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.

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. (Incidentally the current producer of Coronation Street is Phil Collinson, producer on the first four years of the new series of 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.

More Cyber'tropes during this episode: spacewalking Cybermen (to escape the ship) were seen in the Moonbase & The Wheel in Space while a particularly bonkers plan is a trademark of nearly every Cyberman story..... except I don't think it is here. Their plan A is the bomb in the caves devastates 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). 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.

I've had a continuity error in this episode pointed out to me (courtesy of the Earthshock Fact of Fiction in Doctor Who magazine 441) that I can't not see now: As Scott approaches the Tardis with his three remaining troopers the female trooper at the rear is grabbed by a Cyberman stopping her from entering the Tardis. Yet the female trooper is the first of the two trooper entering the Tardis console room and survives for a little while longer. Older fans would have been watching this scene 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. 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.

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 rescues Adric? 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 recently released an autobiography entitled Blue Box Boy but I suspect you'll have difficulty obtaining a copy now.....

It's also (incredibly) the last directing appearance for 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.

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 again (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) bellow 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment