Doctor Who #584: Earthshock Part 4

"When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well-prepared meal?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.16 1982.

IN THIS ONE... ADRIC DIES!!! Taking all the dinosaurs with him.

REVIEW: Our long national nightmare is over, Adric is dead. And in the proud tradition of unwanted and unloved television characters dying, his last episode is geared to make us miss him, or at least, finally respect him. Sure, there's the awkward moment when Matthew Waterhouse obviously knows the console he's working it will be blown to bits, so he gingerly pushes buttons on it, keeping well away from expected sparks, but otherwise, it's well done. All the elements that make up the character are used. His artful dodging has him palm his gold star and secretly hand it to the Doctor (and it's what ultimately defeats the Cybermen). His math skills deviate the ship from its collision course with 2526 AD Earth (but not from Earth entirely, sorry dinos). And his impetuous knack for running off and doing his own thing (that's how he got on board, after all) makes it reasonable for him to agree to stay behind. His final moment, showing a brave front but fiddling with his brother's rope belt, more disappointed than afraid, is I think his best in the entire time on the series. You won't be missed, Adric, but you went out with your head high (and with one of history's biggest bangs). You deserve the silent credits scroll over your broken badge, no matter how cheesy some think it is. After all, he's the first official companion to die, and the first since the Hartnell era even you count Bret Vyon, Katarina and Sara Kingdom!

Effects-wise, they weren't able to crash a ship into the planet, so the Doctor just looks at a ship model glow and explode without the Earth, which was so big on the viewscreen before, appear in the picture at all (but see Versions). Adric isn't the only casualty of course. This is an extremely bloodthirsty and violent serial. The Doctor doesn't just scrape some gold into the Cyber-Leader's breathing unit, he shoots him with his own gun at point blank range repeatedly, as the Leader screams in agony! It's the end of The Visitation all over again, and I sort of dread Saward's long tenure on the program now. There's always been death and destruction in Doctor Who, and yes, the Doctor's been responsible for much of it, but what's been ramped up is the pain felt by the dying characters, and that's where it gets uncomfortable. At least the Doctor gets to fight with words as well, having an impassioned debate about the value of emotions. The Cyber-Leader seems to win, but friendship is what makes Adric do everything he does, not that the Leader realizes how exactly he was done in.

Another concern is Nyssa. Adric's out on his own saving the day. Tegan is skulking around doing her best Ripley impression. But Nyssa is still adamantly against any and all action from anyone! She does nothing, even when she knows the Doctor is in danger, and advises the marines to stay put (they don't, and it's their intervention that allows Adric to do his thing). Worse, her one responsibility, the wet geologist who stays behind, is killed anyway. With the crew now a little smaller, lets hope she gets more to do.

VERSIONS: The DVD's CGI option comes into its own during the crash sequence, with features a more convincing prehistoric Earth too. I'm not aware of any major difference between the Target novelization and the televised story.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - In terms of quality, this is really a medium. Nyssa is an entrenched non-participant and the level of violence is unreasonable. Where's Mary Whitehouse when we need her? But Adric's departure is memorable and well handled, and historically significant to boot.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - I might say the same about the entire serial. Remove Adric's farewell episode from the mix, and its watchability drops significantly. It's almost three episodes of padding while we wait for it to happen.


Anonymous said...

They rarely air the final sequence as originally presented to audiences:

Also, I don't think I've ever missed Venusian aikido as much as in Davison's fight with the Cyberman. Not that Venusian aikido is likely to work on a Cyberman either, but it would at least be something. The Doctor shouldn't ever look quite as ineffectual as Davison did.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I remember being shocked by this and going to school the next day and not really being able to talk about it with anyone. I was one of the very few kids watching Who at that time in my school.

Siskoid said...

Anon: I think that plays exactly like an episode of Two and a Half Men. (The video, not the fight.)

Davison had a little judo than this in earlier episodes.

Tim: I wasn't, and since the shows repeated on a loop, a friend who had seen it before spoiled it for me well in advance. So I was looking at each episode basically awaiting Adric's death.

Jeff R. said...

At this point I really have to say:

Didn't hate Adric. Not one bit. Actually sort of liked the guy.

Turlough was worse than Adric in every conceivable way, and I'll thumb-wrestle any man who says otherwise. The only thing stopping Turlough from being the worst companion in the history of the show is the existence of Kamelion.

Siskoid said...

Kamelion definitely the worst companion ever, but he's about as official as Sara Kingdom in my book. Actually, less, because I count Sara as a real companion.

Turlough - and I'm going to reevaluate him soon - at least has the added virtue of having been put on the TARDIS as a mole, which is at least interesting.

So I take it you're a Mel liker? Because ppl often tag her as the worst companion.

And a case can be made for Mickey too.

Anonymous said...

Earthshock was, not the first serial I saw, but the one that made a Doctor Who fan out of me. I knew nothing of the characters going in, so when Adric died at the end I was absolutely gobsmacked.

I liked the character a lot at the time, because I was about 12 years old and well...I kind of *was* Adric in more ways than I'd like to admit now. I guess I was his target audience.


jdh417 said...

I'm ambivalent about Adric, but was shocked by his death here. Earthshock is one of my favorites. Whatever criticism can be applied to this serial can be applied to just about any another Dr. Who serial. If it lacked intellectually or in cleverness, it easily made up for it in action and drama.

Anonymous said...

What I like about Earthshock is that the Cybermen are truly formidable in this story. Guns, lasers, NOTHING can stop them. As opposed to later on, when writers with less imagination made them vulnerable to slingshots. The reveal of thousands of Cybermen in the ship's hold really gave me that "Holy cow, the Doctor is DOOMED!" feeling.

Even as a kid, though, I wondered why the Doctor didn't bring his new marine friends up to the bridge with him.

Siskoid said...

That's just it.

All the elements were there to craft the most epic 5th Doctor story ever. A huge army of Cybermen that even invade the TARDIS, the death of a companion, timey-wimey dinosaur destruction... but it's lacking in INCIDENT. A lot of pointlessly walking through caves and corridors, and decisions that only keep the plot from happening, don't help it along.

I just want it to be so much more.

Kinda's crown is safe for now.

Jeff R. said...

Mel's not in the top half, but I wouldn't put her (or Mickey, for that matter) on a list of worsts.

Toby'c said...

This was my first Adric story (ignoring his cameos in Time-Flight and The Caves of Androzani), and that may have something to do with why I've never outright hated him in any of the stories I watched later, (except Four to Doomsday). I guess I'd rank him a bottom-fiver, along with Dodo, Kamelion, Mel and Peri (going by televised stories only).

I don't suppose you have a review planned for Earthshock Part 5?

Siskoid said...

No, but enjoy these joke cards all about the claymation mini-episode, from my Who CCG:

Adric - Clay Aching

Clay Mission

LiamKav said...

The "well-prepared meal" line just might be my favourite 5th Doctor line ever. For anyone else it would be an absolutely crazy example to use if you were trying to convince someone of the value of positive emotions, but for the 5th Doctor, it works.



(I was wondering if you were going to go with that, or "now I'll never know if I was right". Which I would genuinly put on a list of "best final lines from all TV shows".)

Siskoid said...

It was a tight race.


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