Recap: Doctor Who S19 E6 "Earthshock"
"Now I'll never know if I was right."One of the biggest Wham Episodes that ever happened on Doctor Who's classic series. Noel Clarke even cites it as the story that enlightened him to the concept of death during his childhood watching the show.A bunch of people who look like they bought surplus helmets from Starship Troopers fifteen years before Starship Troopers came out. That's Doctor Who for you. Anyway, they go into a cave system to find a bunch of paleontologists who have gone missing. They're also followed by a pair of shadowy figures who look like people in costumes.Meanwhile, in the TARDIS, the Doctor and Adric are having a rather childish argument. Adric feels that he's being bullied, ignored and treated like an incompetent underling, and wants to go back home to E-Space. But the Doctor thinks it's too dangerous as E-Space is... E-Space. Either way, the Doctor materializes the TARDIS on 26th century Earth in a cave system and goes out for a little sulk. Nyssa and Tegan join him, pointing out dinosaur fossils in the walls as they go. (As they discuss the fossil, we even hear the first xylophone riff from the "Fossils" movement of Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals.) The Doctor, who's read ahead in the script, mentions that he's always wanted to know how those dinosaurs died out.Back with the missing-palaeontologists plot: the troopers decide to split up into multiple groups and explore deeper into the cave system. They even pick up a few life signs — one of them with two heartbeats. The leader of this group naturally assumes that the owners of these strange life signs are responsible for the palaeontologists who went missing, but they don't have much time to act on this before they are, sadly, turned into sludge. The survivors, lead by a man named Scott, stumble across the Doctor and the TARDIS and immediately relate their problems... until, that is, they notice that the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa make great suspects. Before either group can make their case, however, those shadowy figures attack: Androids! Androids commanded elsewhere in a distant location by... Cybermen!Adric wanders out of the TARDIS and is nearly killed by one of the two Androids attacking everyone else, giving them a chance to take the Android out. The second one falls soon after, but the Doctor realizes that those who controlled the Androids were sending some sort of transmission to a hatch built into the cave. Opening the hatch, the Doctor is shocked to find a bomb has been set by whomever started this mess. Bravely, the Doctor takes the bomb out of its hiding place and fumbles around with it, luckily defusing the bomb before it can be activated. Ha ha, no. The Doctor actually activates the bomb with his fumblings and it takes the combined efforts of the Doctor and Adric together to turn the bomb back off again.The Cybermen, for their part, finally put two (a TARDIS) and three (a man dressed oddly who meddles in their affairs) together and get five (the Doctor). They start preparing for his inevitable meddling as well, but not before the Cyber-Leader decides to show the audience some footage of the First, Second and Fourth Doctors from some of their Cybermen-oriented adventures.The Doctor, satisfied with his deeds in the cave, ushers Adric, Nyssa and Tegan (as well as a few surviving humans from the cave) into the TARDIS. He decides to go trace the signal sent by the Cybermen to the Androids and the TARDIS materializes upon a freighter ship out in space that's suffered many random murders aboard during their travels to Earth. Almost immediately after stepping out of the TARDIS, the Doctor and Adric stumble across two dead bodies. Of course, the crew finds the Doctor and Adric standing over the bodies and blames them for the murders.The Cyber-Leader chooses now to take over the freighter, and activates a unit of Cybermen. They hatch from their tombs and begin to stomp all over the ship as the Doctor and Adric are taken to the Captain, a middle-aged woman named Briggs (hey, it's Beryl Reid!) who has the rare talent of sounding eternally drunk. One of the Cybermen bumbles onto the bridge and is instantly killed, only for the security chief to conveniently declare he's a double-agent for them. The Doctor and Briggs barricade the bridge by shutting the doors and Captain Briggs at first seems confident that they can survive to Earth... until she realizes that there must be around 15,000 Cybermen on the ship, hiding in her ship's cargo.Meanwhile, the people stuck in the TARDIS decide to go see what happened to the Doctor and Adric, only to find a few Cybermen running around. Tired of waiting around, Tegan joins them and shows she Took a Level in Badass somewhere along the line when she kills a Cyberman with its own gun. Back on the bridge, the Cybermen nearly break through by melting one of the doors... until the Doctor manages to re-solidify said door around a lone Cyberman. Of course, the Cybermen just blow up the other door and take the bridge anyhow. Bragging, the Cyber-Leader activates all the remaining Cybermen on the ship, proudly announcing how he's won the day — but not before killing off the security chief under the mistaken belief that he attempted to hide the existence of Scott and his troopers, proving that bad communication really does kill.Finally, the Cyber-Leader announces his plan, which is so vast that it requires about 15,000 Cyber units. There is a massive meeting of governments taking place of Earth, which will unite all those peoples against the Cybermen. So the Cybermen have decided to break up the meeting, which makes sense. Turns out that little shoebox-sized bomb the Doctor deactivated in the caves was powerful enough to destroy everyone and everything on the planet's surface, proving that the Cybermen firmly believe that There Is No Kill Like Overkill. The Doctor thwarted their attempt to detonate the bomb, but the Cyber-Leader has a contingency plan — crash the freighter into Earth, and the explosion of its antimatter-fueled reactor will have basically the same result.Regardless, Tegan is captured and dragged to the bridge while Scott and a few other humans run around blowing up Cybermen... but spending most of their time hiding from them. The Doctor makes a show of bravado until Tegan is threatened, and the Cyber-Leader claims that this is the weakness of organics. The Doctor claims otherwise, wondering when the Cybermen enjoyed the laughter of a child or sat down to have a nice meal together. The Cyber-Leader also heads out to the TARDIS to make his escape with a few other Cybermen. At this time, Scott's Commandos break onto the Bridge and pretty much slaughter most of the Cybermen there. Unfortunately, Adric's attempt to bring the freighter out of hyperdrive goes spectacularly wrong and sends the freighter careening back in time, meaning that the Earth of the future may be safe but the Earth of the past (and thus, all future) is now in danger.Adric decides to stay at the control console, trying to fix the problem before everyone dies. Scott's Commandos and Captain Briggs instead leap out into escape pods, while the Doctor and the two ladies head out to recapture the TARDIS from the Cybermen. Inside the TARDIS, the Cyber-Leader holds the Doctor and companions at gunpoint while they talk for a good length of time. The Cyber-Leader brags about how Earth will be wiped out, but the Doctor then realizes that they've gone back in time just over 65 million years. This means that the dinosaurs were wiped out by the freighter/bomb combination rather than any meteor or asteroid... but no one remembers to tell Adric this, and he is feverishly crunching numbers in an attempt to stop the ship.Fed up with the talking, the Doctor finally straight-up murders the Cyber-Leader by first rubbing Adric's golden badge all over it, but not before it shoots and damages the TARDIS console. And then the Doctor shoots it repeatedly in the chest with its own gun for good measure. Several times over. Adric, for his part, is nearly done screwing up history when a lone, near-death Cyberman prevents him from entering the calculations by blowing up the console. The Doctor knows he can't save Adric, and we watch Adric's ship ram itself into the surface of the Earth, killing off all the Dinosaurs and making way for Man... with Adric along for the ride.Tegan and Nyssa hold each other for comfort as the Doctor can only look on at the screen helplessly. Silent credits roll over Adric's broken badge...Watch it here.(English with French subtitles.)
— Adric's last words.
- Action Girl: Against all expectations, Nyssa is the one who guns down the Cyber Lieutenant at the end of the story. Tegan is less successful in this regard, as she does manage to kill one Cyberman, only to be captured moments later and then spends the final episode being held hostage by the Cyber-Leader.
- Plus at least a third of the soldiers are female, instead of the usual token female guest star amongst an all-male battalion.
- All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": Thanks to the internet and DVD release, pretty much every Whovian knows this is the Cybermen story where Adric dies, even if they haven't seen the episode itself. And besides its reputation, it may attract modern viewers as the only Cybermen story of the Davison era.
- Artistic License – Biology: Dinosaurs are described as a "species". As in, just one.
- Artistic License – Geography: Adric's ship seems to be heading straight for Korea, which apparently looks the same 65 million years ago as it did today — as does the rest of the Earth, in fact (the remastered special effects on the DVD fix this mistake).
- BBC Quarry: One of the few serials of Doctor Who to feature a quarry that the Doctor and companions never visit.
- Bechdel Test: Passes with flying colours and a gold star.
- Boomerang Bigot: The Cyber-leader mocks the doctor about emotion, but he seem to show traits of it himself.
- Bittersweet Ending: The Cybermen are stopped but at the cost of Adric's life.
- The Corpse Stops Here: at the Doctor's and Adric's feet.
- Creepy Monotone: Played straight (sort of), but ONLY by the regular Cybers. The Leader sounds, er... very emotional at some bits, due to actor David Banks having a Cybermen obsession. (He would go on to write and record a four-hour comprehensive history of the species, just for the heck of it.)
- A Day in the Limelight: Each of The Doctor's companions was given a story where they could take a bigger role this season. This is Adric's. He gets the Heroic Sacrifice, the first since Katarina and Sara Kingdom back in season three.
- Famous Last Words: Adric's "Now I'll never know if I was right."
- Flashback: The Cyberleader gives his lieutenant a brief history of their encounters with the Doctor. Clips from "The Tenth Planet", "The Wheel in Space" and "Revenge of the Cybermen" are shown, though the Cyberleader mentions the events depicted in "Tomb of the Cybermen" rather than Wheel as Tomb was missing at the time and would not be found for another ten years.
- Foreshadowing: The Doctor while looking at dinosaur fossils says he always meant to go back and find out what killed them.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Whenever the 1980s version of the Cyber-Leader is involved, expect wall-to-wall scene chewing from at least one other actor. Such as Peter Davison in this serial, who tries to out-ham his enemy with all he can muster.
- Informed Attribute: The Cybermen are supposed to be emotionless. It is not apparent.
- Killed Off for Real: Being blown to shreds and scattered across the prehistoric Earth will do that to you. (Although the Big Finish audio "The Boy That Time Forgot" gave Adric a different fate in the end.) Incidentally, this was the third and final instance of a classic series companion being killed, unless you count Kamelion, and Peri's death-that-wasn't.
- Large Ham: The Cyber-Leader, of all people. "My army awaits, DOCTORRR!" Throughout the episode, he displays anger, pride, irritation, even malicious smugness. It's even Lampshaded by the Doctor:
- Compared to some, this one is positively flippant.
- Even a single word sentence from the Cyber-Leader becomes hamtastic, thanks to how it's read out each and every single time.Excellent!
- Left Hanging: The surviving crew members of the freighter escape in their lifepod but it happens after they time travel to prehistoric Earth. The last we hear of them is Lt. Scott informing the TARDIS crew by radio that Adric wasn't on the lifepod with them. They are promptly forgotten about in the wake of Adric's death, and their fate isn't revealed until the following story, where Nyssa mentions in passing that they returned the crew to their own time. This wouldn't have been so problematic at the time, since stories in this era often used the first episode of the following serial to tie up any loose ends, but with the VHS and DVD releases of this story and "Time-Flight" being separated by several years, it left more than a few modern-era viewers wondering What Happened to the Mouse?.
- Let's Split Up, Gang
- Missing Episode: While reviewing the Doctor's history with the Cybermen, the Cyberleader refers to the events of The Tomb of the Cybermen , but the clip of Patrick Troughton comes from The Wheel in Space. At that point, Tomb had not yet been returned from Hong Kong and was still missing from the BBC Archives.
- Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs: Turns out the ship that crashes into Earth (with Adric still on it) was the supposed meteor that killed the Dinosaurs.
- Plot-Driven Breakdown: The TARDIS' controls get damaged at the worst possible time...
- Sealed Army in a Can: The Cyberarmy on the cargo ship.
- Sensor Suspense: The expedition base camp has a scanner that shows life-signs moving around in the cave system the expedition is exploring. Over the course of the first episode we get dots suddenly disappearing (expedition members being killed), a dot that fades in and out (the thing that's killing them, which is alien enough to confuse the scanner), and dots suddenly appearing (the Doctor and friends arriving, just in time to be accused of the murders).
- Silent Credits: At the end of the last episode.
- Taking You with Me: Just before a Cyberman dies it shoots the controls, meaning Adric can't pilot the ship away.
- Trailers Always Spoil: Averted to truly heroic levels. Showrunner John Nathan-Turner went to enormous lengths to keep the Cybermen's return secret, resulting in a famous Oh Crap! moment when Episode 2 aired. JNT actually avoided getting a cover shoot on the Radio Times in order to keep the secret as secret as possible, also insisted the cast listings in the same magazine simply referred to the Cybermen with speaking parts as "Alien Leader", "Alien Lieutenant", etc. In addition, he put a scene for Adric in the next story so he would be present in the listings that came out the week the second half of the story aired... hiding his death in this one.
- Too bad there's a Cyberman on the DVD cover.
- Wham Episode: Companion death has always been very rare, and the ones that have died in the past (and future) were all one-story companions, with the exception of one who joined at the end of one story and died early in the next. A main cast member of the show has died precisely once in its long, long history and that one is Adric. "Earthshock" intensified the effect by silently rolling the credits over a picture of Adric's badge, smashed beyond repair. While that's the biggest WHAM part of the episode it also has further value: Back when it first aired, the Cybermen being the villains was a well kept secret which also adds to the shock value. But both twists have suffered It Was His Sled at this point.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: When Briggs asks this the Cyberleader says he wants his guards to watch the reactions of the crew for scientific reasons, so they can understand human weaknesses.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Amusingly subverted. It appears that the Cybermen initially intend to honour their deal with Ringway, but when Scott's troopers arrive on the freighter and start shooting up the place, the Cyber-Leader wrongly assumes that these are extra crewmembers who Ringway was trying to hide the existence of, and kills him at the next opportunity.