Tightly paced, refreshingly free of the camp humor that sometimes blighted the show in the 1980s, and with a notable guest turn from Beryl Reid as the ship's captain, Earthshock is one of the Doctor's finest adventures. Overlook a few gaping plot holes and by the end they simply won't matter; when the final credits roll in silence the effect is as powerful now as it was shocking to audiences back in 1981. If only Star Trek: The Next Generation had done the same to Wesley Crusher! --Gary S. Dalkin
Episode 2 isn't quite as tense, but still easily manages to retain excitement and interest despite a silly claim about the TARDIS' capabilities and how the main enemies in this story can see into the future where they go over the Doctor's bio/history record. But that is a small point. The moment leading to the cliffhanger is reasonably excellent as well.
Episode 3 is now a full shift away from the wonderful claustrophobia of the caves of the first 1.5 episodes. The freighter's interior is extremely well realized considering the show's budget (or even on a big movie budget, they got everything RIGHT) and provides some great tension for more than one gripping scene. The cliffhanger, despite using a prismatic lens to make one row of enemies look like 3 rows, packs a decent punch as well. I won't mention how kewl it was to see how the Doctor deals with the enemy force about to break into the freighter's bridge... So far, the story is worth all of the praise it gets.
Episode 4 is awesome, though the ending is flaky. The ending involves the freighter entering time travel, which seems to be cheaply written in as an afterthought. The reasons behind the ability of the freighter to do this don't cut it and they could have used some flimsy technobabble about the warp engines being the cause instead of the enemy machinery locking the ship's directional control panel. But that's one small point.
Episode 4 does end with another big surprise that you, depending on your point of view, will like...
The story was augmented with modern computer effects. I prefer the original effects, even if they are different than what was intended to be (for example, a spaceship exploding instead of crashing, though it can be said the spaceship exploded in the planet's atmosphere...).
I expect that the video and audio quality will be comparable to the other Dr Who releases (except "The Key to Time", which the UK Restoration Team did not work on). I gather the soundtrack is isolated, which is another BIG plus.
One of my big problems with 80s Dr Who is not as much JNT but Saward. Even from his earliest penned story "The Visitation", Saward loves using gore. Indeed, in "The Visitation" he wanted to have the remains of the smouldering murdered family to be shown, but the director had enough guts to show well orchestrated fade-in clips of the empty house's interior that was far more effective... Fortunately, we're still in the 5th Doctor's early run so it's not so pronounced (by Davison's final year, Saward - both as writer and script editor - went out his way to ensure pointless gore was used. But that's another story...) The only real gore in this episode is how the androids kill people (the people turn into a liquified state which is horrific yet doesn't go out of its way to be shock value. In other words, it's appropriate and maturely handled and properly tells us that the androids doing the killing shouldn't be reckoned with... (in later years (Davison's final year and to an extent Colin Baker's first year), the gore was haphazardly thrown in, with any true atmosphere chucked out the window in name of sleazy shock value. Colin's era did match gore with a coherent intent, but the purpose seemed to be excessive, resulting in the gore being just as pointless as in the prior season...)
But I digress. This is a WONDERFUL story, worthy of 5 stars and is ideal for showing to any potential fan. Also, the enemy I spoke of is the Cybermen. They were created in 1966 and had been disused since 1974. As the story was made 7 years later, it was deemed that they should be re-introduced with as little fanfare as possible. And it worked. and it worked so well that subsequent viewings don't wear the concept down. For a producer maligned with the stigma that he loved using continuity, the continuity works well in this story as it reminds of previous Cybermen history to whet our appetites (later stories merely use continuity to bury storylines, but Earthshock tells a story and uses references in a way that expands one's interest to become a fan, and doesn't pander to fans (who'd only nitpick any inaccuracies in continuity).
The Cybermen were organic creatures who replaced more of their limbs and organs with technology. They're like the Borg, only they'd been around long before the Borg were. And "Earthshock" is possibly the best story they're used in, apart from "The Tomb of the Cybermen". ("Tomb"'s plot is superlative but I don't think it was carried out well, apart from episodes 1 and 4. There are some great performances, but the technobabble is grating, episode 3 is pure pointless padding, and the inclusion of Toberman as an indentured servant of all things is boggling, why couldn't he be an equal? On the other hand, his contributions to the end of that story prove he is the most human of them all... and as "Tomb" had also been released on DVD, it's worthy of pick-up as well.)
You know, I used to think Dr. Who was all about plot, but I've changed that view. I think it is about a situation, as all good story telling is (so Stephen King seems to assert!.
Take Robots of Death. Take a bunch of futuristic cynics, stick them in a big sand mining ship, add a bunch of robots, then throw in a maniac who programs the robots to kill and stir.
But in the 1980s Christopher H Bidmead tried the two situation story, starting with Logopolis and developing it with Castrovalva. Earthshock has Eric Saward following suite, first the Doctor and crew are hurled into dark subterrrainian tunnels where sleek black faceless killers stalk a human military task force...and then the story shifts seamlessly to a huge, Alienesque space frieghter with a hidden cargo of muderous Cybermen who go on the attack. Brilliant. And a companion dying at the end is not only powerful but makes a sharp contrast to the Cybermen's cold indifference when one of their number lies dying at the Cyberleader's feet, dripping fluid like blood. "Very skilled resistance" is a detached reaction compared to Tegan and Nyssa crying their eyes out. The Cybermen only mimmick humanity, but it's a cold, empty, soulless parody. And David Banks unnatural shifts in voice emphasis is so machine-like. "I shall now...KILL YOU...Doc-tor" and "he must 'SUFFER' for our past defeats." It's like being threatened by the talking clock! I will destroy you, this is a recording..." Very creepy! Oh and Davison shows a lot more guts here, actually attacking and then shooting the Cyberleader, a big improvement on his initial bouts of vulnerability. One of the all time greats and my personal favorite. Brilliant.
In this episode, Earth soldiers are sent to investigate an attack on a geological survey team deep within some caverns (on Earth... Read more