Earthshock stars Peter Davison as the Doctor, Matthew Waterhouse as Adric, Janet Fielding as Tegan and Sarah Sutton as Nyssa with Beryl Reid as Briggs, David Banks as the Cyber Leader and Mark Hardy as the Cyber Lieutenant. It was written by Eric Saward and directed by Peter Grimwade with Antony Root as Script Editor and John Nathan-Turner as Producer. It was aired on Mondays and Tuesdays from 8 to 16 March 1982 on BBC One.
Don’t ever say John Nathan-Turner didn’t know how to shock his audience into watching Doctor Who. He may have been the producer of the show when it was cancelled in 1989, but early on as producer he knew what he could do to get the ratings high with a shock factor to keep people watching. Earthshock is one of several times Nathan-Turner put in a shock and is arguably the most successful instance of this happening as there are two shocks present in this story. The first comes at the end of Part One where it is revealing the return of the Cybermen after almost seven years being off the screens and fifteen years since they had a good story. They have had a total facelift from their previous appearance wearing more of a loose fitting suit with a chest piece and heads with the human chins showing. They may look like cheap androids but there are subtle signs of their lost humanity that make me love their design almost as much as those seen in The Tenth Planet and The Tomb of the Cybermen.
The plot of the story sees the Cybermen infiltrating a freighter to crash it into the Earth. That would in turn stop a World Peace Conference being held to put Earth together to explore space and destroy threats to the human race. This plan while weak in originality is better than some of their previous plans like getting revenge by blowing up a planet and invading a space station because of reasons. The Doctor is there to stop their plans but not without dealing with some character drama of his own as Adric wishes to return home to E-Space and wants to prove that he is capable of actually doing it.
Eric Saward actually succeeds at making Adric more likable as a character in his script, compiling this with that ending and how Saward presents him more akin to the character we saw in Season 18 and not the whiny over privileged brat we saw through Season 19. This is also seen through the performance of Matthew Waterhouse who is clearly giving it his all and has found a director who can help him through the tough job of being a young actor in their first real big role. There is of course his performance in Part Four where we get to feel the impact of that ending on the character as eleven minutes into Part Four, Adric realizes he is the only one in the story who has the mathematical know how to get the freighter to stop crashing into the Earth. This action however is what leads to the second shock of the story, which is Adric dies as he runs out of time to get the ship off course and it crashes into the Earth. This sacrifice hits hard for the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan who all react differently, which I will go into later on in the review, but a complaint people may have is that Adric could have left in the escape pod as the freighter had been sent back in time long enough so it wouldn’t impact humanity. These people forget that it is the audience, the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan only who know this important piece of information so Adric’s sacrifice isn’t lessened in any way. The death is beautifully shot and performed with the final credits being silent.
Moving on to the Doctor, with Peter Davison getting the chance to show off his range as an actor. Now on television he is the weakest of the Classic Series Doctors as he plays him as a normal human, but here Eric Saward writes him as an actual human with flaws. They aren’t very large flaws as he is just a bit arrogant to Adric because of the danger and because he knows best. His reaction to Adric’s death is also pulled off very well as he has no lines but Davison gives Tegan this single look that this has happened and they cannot change it. The way Peter Grimwade directed this made it even better as he has the shot focusing on Tegan hugging Nyssa as they just realized what happens with the Doctor in the background. His interactions with the Cybermen are also great range showcasers. Saward also has the Doctor shoot the Cyber Leader, played by the brilliant David Banks, down in cold blood proving just how much according to The Doctor’s Daughter he is the man who never would.
Tegan Jovanka also gets to have moments in the spotlight in this story as she is fighting against the Cybermen and in the foreground for the entire story. Yes she gets captured and has her moments to complain, but is far away from the mouth on legs actress Janet Fielding would often comment upon. Nyssa is the companion whom I have a problem with in this story as she does literally nothing. At this point the TARDIS is so crowded she gets pushed to a corner. This becomes more obvious when you consider how many supporting characters Eric Saward forced into the story. They are all boring with the exception of Beryl Reid as the captain, Briggs. On a better note the direction by Peter Grimwade and the music by Malcolm Clarke matches up to near perfection which is great.
To summarize, Earthshock is a truly shocking story that has a great plot and sees the real return of the story. The writing of the main cast is mostly good with the exception of Nyssa who has absolutely nothing to do. The supporting cast doesn’t fare much better which brings the story down along with some odd effects decisions. 85/100.