Our Cyber-celebrations continue as Andrew Jero goes back to 1982 and revisits Earthshock.
The story which at the moment closes out my personal top ten and contains my least favorite character in Doctor Who ever...
No, it’s not Adric, it’s the Cyberleader that causes his death.
Earthshock was one of the first Doctor Who adventures I ever saw and as a young kid. Adric’s death was completely devastating, even more devastating than Qui-Gon Jinn’s in The Phantom Menace. The story is one that holds up very well, the atmosphere is perfect and, because of which, the Cybermen have gone on to be my favorite Doctor Who villain. That reason and because my local PBS station didn’t broadcast any Dalek episodes when I watched the show the first time, so I never knew what the Daleks were. It didn't matter... I had the Cybermen.
Earthshock is easily one of the best ever Doctor Who stories, which comes from my second favorite season of the long running series. Peter Davison gives an amazing performance, one of his absolute finest which, in my opinion, he only topped in The Caves of Androzani. We also have the interesting three companion dynamic, something that we would only see once more in the classic series (during Terminus) - unless you believe that Kamelion counts as a companion in The Five Doctors through Resurrection of the Daleks.
Doctor Who rarely deals with the death of a companion, with only Katarina, Sara Kingdom and Adric in the classic series and Rory, Amy and Clara in the new series to have been killed of. But in all fifty plus years the show has never nailed the death of a companion so perfectly as in Earthshock. Making the Doctor unable to help in any way with saving Adric is the most painful thing to watch, I almost hate Earthshock for how well it kills Adric. Companion deaths are, in my opinion, more painful to take than Doctor 'deaths' (regenerations). I'm not the only one who struggles with them, when Peter Davison heard that Rose was going to die in Army of Ghosts/Doomsday he inquired with Russell T. Davies about the matter, because he didn’t want to traumatize his grandchildren. Davies replied thusly, “You killed Adric!” Supposedly the conversation ended there, tongue in cheek no doubt, but also a testament to the job done in Earthshock, which Russell T. Davies most likely saw on broadcast as a child. That pain stayed with him throughout all these years too.
Earthshock starts out with one of my favorite scenes with Davison and Waterhouse arguing about going back into E-Space, this gives the feeling that something between these two characters will happen, and they actually bond more in this story than they have in others. I think that makes the end of the episode even more painful. Added to that, the guest stars in this story do a fantastic job and really help push
the feeling of uncertainty, we're not confident that this time everybody
will make it out alive.
Back in 1982 I wonder if people thought, “okay, how are they going to get Adric out of the TARDIS, because they won’t kill a companion.” And then later found themselves saying, “Oh, god, no! No! Adricccc!!!”.
Despite all the emotional damage this episode caused many children, it is also one of the coolest and paciest adventures in the entire show. Earthshock never drags, and the Cybermen we have here are just cool, not stompy, not ridiculous, and not overemotional like they were in Revenge of the Cybermen. It may have been 7 years since the last Cyberman story, but it was worth the wait.
Andrew Jero lives in Iowa and has a very strong love of both Red Dwarf and
Doctor Who. He enjoys acting and writing plays, television scripts,
and short stories. Follow Andrew on Twitter.