Monday, 7 February 2011

Earthshock Review

Earthshock is a four part Dr Who serial with Peter Davison as the Doctor. Naturally, the review is crammed with spoilers.

I’ve since given them all away for reasons entirely to do with benevolence and not at all because I needed the shelf space, but I used to have a reasonable number of Dr Who books, including Earthshock. I last read it a long time ago though and certain parts of the plot were a surprise for me.

The serial sees the Doctor visit Earth with a rather large crowd of companions (three, namely Adric, Nyssa and Tegan). The first episode sees them encounter a troop of soldiers on Earth, investigating the sudden death of some scientists in a tunnel system.

It soon transpires that the deaths are due to a pair of androids, and the soldiers (equipped with fantastically awful special effects-emitting weaponry) manage to best them. The killer robots were controlled by the cybermen, who have planted a huge bomb on Earth to destroy the planet and a conference there intended to form an anti-cyberman alliance.

Naturally, the Doctor foils this plot, and traces the bomb’s activation to a freighter where the Cyberleader and his underlings are hidden. Once the freighter gets clearance to head for heavily protected Earth the cybermen emerge and seize control of the ship, which they intend to use as a flying bomb.

On the bridge, the Doctor and the Cyberleader have an interesting conversation about the weakness or strength of emotions, during which the Cyberleader demonstrates that the Doctor’s fondness for Tegan (whom he briefly threatens with death) places the Time Lord at a disadvantage.

The freighter is rigged on autopilot, and the Cyberleader orders the Doctor to take him away on the TARDIS. Those trapped on the freighter (some crew and Adric) are able to escape, but at the last minute Adric returns to the bridge to try and stop the autopilot.

Adric fails to fully disengage the lock the cybermen have set up, but does manage to do so partially and sends the ship back in time by 65 million years. The ship becomes the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, leaving the Cyberleader looking rather daft.

Using a star of gold that belonged to Adric, the Doctor kills the Cyberleader [cybermen, of course, being allergic to gold], and regains control of the TARDIS.

On the whole, I enjoyed this quite a lot. There are too many companions, and Beryl Reid was not well cast as Captain Briggs. However, the cybermen were fantastic. The voices are excellent, and the huge number of errors they make (presumably the cyber-helmets, into which they had to be screwed, offered scant vision) are amusing rather than off-putting.

The plot has a number of good twists in it (er, unless you read this post, in which case it only has one undisclosed) and the DVD has tons of good extras. I’d probably give it 8 out of 10 overall.

I hope the Mondas cybermen come back in New Who.


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