Sue: Eric Saward. Why do I know that name?
Me: He’s about to take over as script editor. Oh, and he wrote The Visitation.
Sue: Script editor? How did that happen? The Visitation was shit!
The first episode of Earthshock takes place on Earth.
Sue: These paintballers are using some serious kit. They’ve got an Igloo tent for a start. I’ve always wanted an Igloo tent.
A marine named Scott (“He’s been in loads of stuff”) and a Professor named Kyle (“She hasn’t”) are about to search some caves for a group of missing geologists. Scott tries to reassure the professor by telling her that going down again must be hard.
Sue: I bet he says that to all the girls.
Meanwhile, on the TARDIS, the Doctor wants Adric to read Black Orchid, the book written by the famous serial killer and mentalist George Cranleigh.
Sue: Oh, just let it go! Why bring that up again? Who cares?
Adric wants to know why he’s constantly teased.
Sue: Because you can’t act. Oh, sorry, you meant in the show, didn’t you?
Adric pops a fist into his pocket.
Sue: Oh, please give it a rest, Adric, just this once!
Adric chastises the Doctor for not spending enough time with him.
Sue: He’ll be ringing Childline next. Tom Baker wouldn’t have stood for this nonsense.
In short, Adric wants to go home.
Sue: Good. Take him. Replace him with somebody who actually wants to be there. The same goes for Tegan. It should be the same in Big Brother as well: if you go to the Diary Room and you say you want to leave – BANG! – straight out the door and bring the next one in. But I digress.
As the marines enter the caves, their life signs are tracked on a huge monitor on the planet’s surface.
Sue: This reminds me of Aliens.
Me: That’s interesting, because Aliens wasn’t released for another four years.
Sue: In that case, I’m impressed. Who directed this one?
Me: Peter Grimwade.
Sue: Ah, yes, the 1980s’ Douglas Camfield.
Adric and the Doctor are still sparring on the TARDIS.
Sue: Does Adric leave in this story? I bet the Doctor ends up taking him home, which will make Tegan insanely jealous.
On the whole, she’s fairly impressed with Earthshock so far.
Sue: There are a lot of women in this one. It’s great to see a female marine, for example. It’s just a shame they couldn’t find a hat that fit her. It’s going to slip off her head any second now.
When the marines head into the tunnels, a pair of androgynous androids start picking them off.
Sue: Oooh, they’ve got acid for blood. They are very creepy, actually. Blank faces always scare me.
Me: I know what you mean. It’s why I gave up teaching.
Scott tries to take control of a rapidly deteriorating situation.
Sue: He’s basically a futuristic version of the Brigadier, isn’t he?
The TARDIS materialises in the same cave system, which the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa decide to explore while Adric sulks back in the TARDIS.
Sue: This is very educational. I like this. I’m also amused that the Doctor clearly can’t stand Tegan.
You’ll be pleased to know that Malcolm Clarke’s return to the series doesn’t go unnoticed.
Sue: I really like the music. It doesn’t sound anything like the theme tune to Zelda, for a start.
Me: You have impeccable taste, Sue. I love the music to Earthshock.
Sue: KLANG! KLANG! KLANG! Yeah, I like it, too. It’s not bad this. So far, so good.
In fact, Sue is already biting her nails.
Sue: Look at this direction. See, Mr Moffatt, this is how you direct for television. Look at that composition… I’m referring to the rubbish Moff by the way, not the good one.
A bomb has been planted in the caves.
Sue: Just use the sonic on it.
Me: He hasn’t got a sonic screwdriver any more.
Sue: Hasn’t he replaced it yet? Why not?
The first episode of Earthshock ends with a shock.
She is genuinely thrilled and surprised.
Sue: I had no idea. That was really exciting. I actually felt butterflies in my stomach when I saw them. Seriously. I’ve never felt that from watching Doctor Who before.
I tell her that JN-T refused a Radio Times cover so he could keep their appearance a surprise.
Sue: Good for him. That has to be the best cliffhanger in the series so far.
Me: And a generation of children all fell off their chairs at once.
Sue: I bet they did. I almost fell off mine. Okay, I take it all back, Eric Saward can stay.
Sue: We haven’t seen the Cybermen for a long time, have we?
Me: Seven years, give or take. Or a couple of months in our case.
Sue: I like their new helmets. And their new voices. The leader on the left is hamming it up a bit, but at least I can understand him.
The Doctor ushers the marines into his TARDIS before the bomb can go off.
Sue: I’ll never be bored of seeing people’s reactions when they enter the TARDIS for the first time. It’s always hilarious. Somebody should do a compilation on YouTube.
Sue hasn’t enjoyed an episode as much as this for a very long time.
Sue: The direction, the music, the acting – it’s all coming together this week. It feels like proper Doctor Who for a change. It’s excellent.
And then, right on cue…
Me: That’s the Cybermen’s new catchphrase by the way.
Sue: No, I mean that’s excellent. I like monsters with catchphrases.
There are so many passengers in the TARDIS today, it’s starting to look smaller on the inside.
Sue: Bloody hell, it’s cramped. Unfortunately, this Doctor has to take at least one decent actor with him to make up for his companions’ deficiencies.
The Cybermen do some research into the Time Lord known as the Doctor.
Sue: That equipment is very Wizard of Oz. Oh look, it’s William Hartnell. Yay!
The Cybermen fast-forward to a clip featuring Patrick Troughton.
And then they finish with a Tom Baker rant.
Me: I’m probably wrong, but I’m sure they shouldn’t be able to see that Tom Baker clip because it hasn’t actually happened to them yet.
Sue: Oh **** off, Neil. I bet you loved that scene when you were a kid.
Adric admits he doesn’t want to go home after all.
Sue: They shouldn’t tease us like that. Seriously, the next time one of your companions throws a strop, take them home before they change their mind. But take Adric last – you need him to steer the TARDIS properly.
Meanwhile, on a space freighter heading for Earth…
Sue: Bloody hell! It’s Mollie Sugden!
Me: Not exactly. Even I wouldn’t make you watch Come Back, Mrs Noah.
Sue: No, wait, don’t tell me. It’s Beryl Reid. That’s even madder.
Me: It is a bit.
Sue: Is she any good? Does she play it straight? Oh God, I hope she’s good.
The early signs are encouraging, especially when she gives one of her crew a good dressing down.
Sue: I love her already. So is she going to be like Ripley in this? Will she be the last survivor to face the Cybermen?
Me: Yes. She even strips down to her underwear.
The TARDIS arrives on the same freighter.
Sue: The set is enormous, and beautifully lit. You could probably still get away with this today.
The Doctor and Adric investigate the ship as the Cybermen start picking off its crew.
Sue: There’s real suspense in this story. Why can’t they all be this good? It’s frustrating.
The Doctor and Adric wander into the middle of a crime scene and the episode ends with Ringway apprehending them for murder.
Sue: Very good. Excellent, in fact.
Beryl Reid begins to worry Sue.
Sue: She’s playing it too light. I’m not convinced she’s taking this seriously.
The Doctor protests his innocence. As per bloody usual.
Sue: I like the way he wants to drag people back to his TARDIS. After all, it worked for him last week! It’s very funny.
Deep in the freighter’s cargo hold, Cybermen are beginning to stir.
Sue: Not for kids! Not only does that look like autoerotic asphyxiation, kids might have copied it by putting plastic bags on their heads. It’s not very responsible, is it? However, I do like the idea that the Cybermen shrink-wrap themselves.
If the episode falls short when it comes to health and safety, at least it’s progressive in other ways.
Sue: It’s good to see older women in charge for a change. There are a lot of strong roles for women in this one. About time, too.
Sue is fascinated by the Cybermen’s console.
Sue: It looks like a mini-TARDIS. Can the Cybermen travel in time?
Me: That would be a bit silly, wouldn’t it?
The Doctor warns Briggs not to head for Earth, but she doesn’t listen.
Sue: She wasn’t too bad, there. She reminds me of Margaret Thatcher a bit – the greed, the obsession with private enterprise and bonuses, the silly hair…
The Doctor doesn’t know what the Cybermen want this time.
Sue: Good, it isn’t just me then.
Finally, there’s some good news.
Sue: Tegan has put on some different clothes! I don’t believe it! Quick, burn her uniform before she can change back into it.
Nyssa isn’t so lucky.
Sue: Could you imagine Romana wearing the same costume for more than one story? She would have been mortified.
Briggs wants the Doctor and Adric on the bridge where she can see them.
Sue: They never should have told me they had a brig. Now I just think they are completely stupid for not locking them up in it. If Adric and the Doctor were pirates, they could simply walk up behind the crew and garrote them.
When Scott tells Tegan to buck her ideas up, she admits she’s just a mouth on legs.
Sue: Another blow for feminism. At least now I understand why you named our cat after her. That description is very apt.
The Cybermen advance on the freighter’s crew.
Sue: The Cybermen don’t care about being hit by the humans’ poxy guns. It’s very scary, actually. There’s real tension in this story. The Cybermen’s new theme tune is great, too. It’s very Hans Zimmer.
Beryl Reid struggles with her dialogue.
Sue: She’s a good actress but this isn’t the right part for her. I’m sure she hasn’t got a clue what’s going on.
The Doctor gives Briggs and her crew a potted history of the Cybermen.
Sue: I like it when they refer to the past like this. I even remember some of this stuff now that they’ve mentioned it. I didn’t like the one with the tombs on Telos very much. I definitely remember that.
When we are reminded the Cybermen are allergic to gold, Adric tries to hide his badge for mathematical excellence.
Sue: Things must be serious. He bloody loves that badge.
Tegan and Scott sneak up on two Cybermen who are having a chat.
Me: What do you think they’re talking about?
Sue: Their post-invasion holiday plans, probably. He’s saying to the other one, “When we arrive on Earth, we should give Australia a miss – it’s got a Gold Coast. Majorca is supposed to be very nice, though.” Something like that.
The Cybermen try to burn their way through the door which leads to the bridge. The heat causes Briggs to back away like an arthritic Marcel Marceau.
Sue: Oh, don’t make Beryl do that! That isn’t very dignified.
Tegan makes up for all the sexist crap she was spouting earlier by strapping on a gun and kicking some serious arse.
Sue: You go, girl! The guns remind me of Dyson vacuum cleaners. Maybe Dyson branched out into arms-dealing in the future?
The Doctor traps a Cyberman in a doorway.
Sue: That looked amazing. It’s all down to the direction, you know. I’m really impressed.
The Cybermen circumvent the problem by blowing a hole in another door.
Sue: Careful! You might get a splinter from all that wood!
The Cyberleader starts throwing his weight around.
Sue: I really like the guy who plays the lead Cyberman. He’s really going for it.
The episode concludes with an army of Cybermen advancing down a corridor.
Sue: The director is a ****ing genius.
Tegan is tooled up and ready for anything.
Sue: So is Tegan Ripley in this? I’m relieved. I don’t think Beryl could have pulled that off.
Me: Janet Fielding is Sheena Easton in the Sigourney Weaver story.
Briggs is surrounded by Cybermen.
Sue: She doesn’t know where to look. Her eyes are darting all over the place. Maybe Matthew took her aside for some acting lessons. She’s definitely copying him in this scene.
When the Cybermen pursue the marines back to the TARDIS, one of them manages to damage the console.
Sue: You can’t shoot the TARDIS!
Me: They just shot Nyssa’s friend, too.
Sue: The frumpy miner? Oh, I couldn’t give a toss about her.
The Doctor and the Cyberleader discuss the human condition.
Sue: The problem with Peter Davison is that he doesn’t do anger very well. He can do fear brilliantly, but when he’s angry he just sounds petulant. Sorry, Peter.
She’s not impressed with the well-prepared meal speech, either.
Sue: It’s okay, I suppose. The Cyberleader is great, though. I love the way you can hear every single word he’s saying.
Me: Some fans criticise the Cybermen in this story for displaying far too much emotion.
Sue: It doesn’t really bother me. Is smugness an emotion?
Adric decides to stay on the freighter so he can stop it from crashing into planet Earth.
Sue: I have a bad feeling about this. They’re really milking this scene. Is Adric going to be okay?
The Cyberleader decides to commandeer the Doctor’s TARDIS so he can reach the Cyberfleet, which is currently miles away.
Sue: That’s bad planning. If the fleet is too far away, then you didn’t think it through. It’s crisis management at best, and I bet it will turn out to be his downfall. Never change your plans.
Me: Pray he doesn’t alter them further.
Nyssa keeps tabs on the carnage from the safety of the TARDIS.
Sue: She looks like she’s about to use a Ronson shaver.
The Cybermen prepare to evacuate the ship.
Sue: The Cybermen have tight little arses in this story. Just saying.
The Cyberleader breaches the TARDIS defences (ie. Nyssa) and he orders one of his men to search its interior.
Sue: You’ll be a long time, chick.
Meanwhile, on the freighter…
Sue: Adric will solve it. Hang on a minute… Where’s his badge? His badge has to be significant in some way. I’ll be disappointed if Adric doesn’t use it.
Adric cracks the first lock and the freighter responds violently.
Scott: That was some bump.
Briggs: It’s bigger than you think.
Sue howls with laughter. In fact I have to pause the DVD because her giggling fit is even worse than Sarah Sutton’s.
Sue: “It’s bigger than you think!” The way Beryl said that line! God, that’s the funniest thing in Doctor Who ever! I loved that.
The freighter has jumped time warps, which Adric puts down to the fact an alien machine is currently overriding the freighter’s computer.
Sue: Well, if you say so… No, wait, what?
And then the penny finally drops.
Sue: I’ve got it. They’ve travelled back to the time of the dinosaurs, and this is the spaceship that wipes them out. That’s very clever, actually.
A second passes.
Sue: But that means… Hang on, if the dinosaurs get killed, that means… but…
The Doctor tries to lock onto the freighter.
Sue: Come on, Doctor! Materialise around Adric! That’s what Matt Smith would do. Oh no! Adric is the only one capable of doing that at the moment. Oh shit…
Adric tries to crack the code.
Sue: But if he succeeds, he will interfere with time and the dinosaurs won’t die! Somebody has to stop him!
The Doctor attacks the Cyberleader with Adric’s gold badge.
Sue: How soft was that gold? Was it made from chocolate? Eh?
The Cyberleader blasts the TARDIS console.
Sue: No! They’ve killed the TARDIS!
The Doctor retaliates by shooting the Cyberleader at point-blank range.
Sue: Bloody hell, the Doctor just shot him!
Sue: He just shot him twice!
Sue: Three times!
Me: Shit just got serious.
The Doctor tries to rescue Adric but it’s too late.
Sue: Oh no.
Sadly, Adric will never know if he was right.
Sue: **** me. I’m shocked.
Me: You’re Earthshocked.
The credits begin to roll.
Sue: Oh no, there’s no music.
Me: Yeah, what do you think about that?
Sue: It might have worked if a better character had died. It’s making me feel a bit uncomfortable. Maybe they should have used a sad version of the theme tune, you know, like they do in EastEnders. Don’t they have a tinkly piano version?
Sue: Well, run a competition where people send in a sad version of the theme tune which you could play over the credits when Adric dies.
Me: Okay, but don’t hold your breath.
When the DVD cycles back to the menu screen, Sue lets out an exhausted sigh.
Sue: Wow. Poor Adric. But at least he died trying.
Sue: I don’t know what to say. It succeeded in what it set out to do – it surprised me. For the first time, I think, I was genuinely shocked. Twice! The direction was superb, the new Cybermen were great and I really got caught up in the story. Some of the plot was nonsensical, and Beryl was hopelessly out of her depth, but the atmosphere more than made up for it. Yes, I really enjoyed that.
And then we watched Part Five.
Me: Make sure you read the credits to this extra.
Sue: Why, is it Ian Levine? Has he made a longer version of Earthshock where Adric doesn’t die?
A Claymation version of Adric is eaten by a dinosaur.
Sue: It’s not Rob Ritchie, is it?
Me: No, he would have been eight when they made this extra.
Sue: So? It looks like an eight-year-old made it.
Sue: So is that it, then? Oh. Right. Okay.
The credits roll.
Sue: Rupert Booth! I knew him from Stonehills. God, it’s a small world. Hey! Arthur Banks! We know Arthur really well.
Me: I’ve got a funny story to tell you about that Claymation Adric, but I’m saving it for the book.
Sue: Is it about the time you accidentally ended up in a fan video and…
Me: Like I said, I’m saving it for the book.
And then we watch the Putting the Shock into Earthshock documentary, which Sue enjoys a great deal.
Sue: They all look so young. Steve O’Brien looks very cheeky. The Moff looks even better now than he did back then. I’m not sure what’s going on with Mark Gatiss, but Ian Levine looks okay. Who’s the small boy?
Me: That’s Gary Gillatt. He was one of the very first people to comment on our blog.
Sue: Really? In that case, I should probably tone the swearing down a bit.
When the documentary reaches the topic of silent credits, Sue believes she has a solution.
Sue: You could start with silence and then you could slowly fade up the theme music. It isn’t rocket science, you know.
Ah yes, the Blake’s 7 approach. Nice. This extra also gives Sue an opportunity to enjoy some of the episode’s shortcomings that she mercifully missed on her first (and let’s face it, last) viewing. These include Matthew Waterhouse’s touch-typing skills (so funny, she made me play it three times) and the fact Sarah Sutton visibly laughs when Adric meets his untimely end.
Sue: Okay, that’s as much Earthshock as I can take, thanks.
Me: But we haven’t watched Did You See…? yet.
Me: Okay, but before we go, remember the Matt Smith episode on Saturday night, when the Doctor was talking to Rory’s dad and he told him that every once in a while one of his companions died?
Sue: Was he referring to Adric?
Me: Of course he was. For a terrible moment, I thought he was going to say Adric’s name out loud, which would have spoilt everything.
Sue: So Matt Smith was thinking about Adric in that scene? Do you think they made him watch Earthshock first?
Me: Probably. So, do you have any final words for Adric? It’s not as if we’ll ever see him again.
Sue: I feel sorry for the character. His death was tragic because it was so meaningless. But he had to go. There are too many companions and he couldn’t act. It doesn’t take a boy genius to work that out.
It’s Glen Allen’s favourite story.