Friday, 20 August 2010

Blast from the Past: Earthshock

By the time that this story came around, Peter Davison had fully settled into the role of the Fifth Doctor, and was becoming a strong favourite amongst the audience, achieving considerably higher ratings than the previous series with Tom Baker still at the helm. Davison had always said that he wanted to do a Cyberman story since he got the part, and this epic four-part tale was his time to shine…

The first episode is the most sinister of the lot, where we are presented with two shadow-like Robots who murder anyone that enters the caves which they are guarding. Peter Grimwade is the perfect director for this story, giving a real sense of energy and pace to Eric Saward’s action-packed adventure. He was an unpopular man amongst the cast (for constantly pestering them to give stronger performances), but the results he obtained from this method are unbeatable.

This story stands out as containing two of the biggest surprises throughout the show’s history, the first of which being the shocking return of the Cybermen at the end of the first episode. David Banks is excellently cast as the Cyber Leader with his deep booming voice and witty portrayal, and is a huge improvement on the rather camp Cyber Leader which appeared in ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’.

The second shock of the story is the tragic death of the companion Adric, who is notable as being the first fulltime companion to die. This is arguably the best departure scene of any companion in the classic series of Doctor Who, and one which would not be forgotten by any fans of the show. Matthew Waterhouse has often been criticised for his portrayal of Adric, but in these final moments he gives an exceptional performance, and proves that he could have been an excellent companion if given a real opportunity.

‘Earthshock’ is a phenomenal story for the time and budget in which it was made, and a true ‘classic’ adventure in Doctor Who, for the simple reason that everything worked in the planning and execution of the production. The sets clanked instead of creaked, the actors performed instead of played, the director stuck with it instead of surrendered. Peter Davison’s first series was a new beginning for Doctor Who, and this story marks a real highpoint in the show’s history.

Tomorrow: Vengeance on Varos

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