Some episodes stand out in Doctor Who history and episode 1 of Earthshock is one of them.
The cave sets; the menacing androids - an excellent design with their blank heads - that flit about in the shadows and who reduce victims to boiling puddles of flesh; the incidental music, courtesy of Malcolm Clarke, is one of the most atmospheric pieces ever; and all that building up to the mother of cliffhangers, when we see the Cybermen return after a seven year hiatus.
The Cybermen themselves have undergone another design change and are better looking in many respects - their suit is apparantly a fighter pilot suit , painted silver. Their moonboots are a bit silly and I don't like the transparent jaw. The latter shows a silver chin moving, giving them a more obvious indication that they are slightly biological, but I think it is better when their faces are expressionless masks and their mouths are black slits. Their voices are a bit naff too as they have expression and not the monotone, electronic sound from the Troughton years.
There is more reference to the show's history in this story (the trend was really beginning to pick up) with the Cybermen looking at past stories with the Doctor. It was OK back then as I hadn't seen "the Tenth Planet" or "the Wheel in Space" (clips shown along with "Revenge of the Cybermen"). The waking Cyber army is an attempt to recreate the reactivation scenes of Cybermen in "the Invasion". And we get the trivial Doctor/Cyberleader debate about emotions.
"I'm just a mouth on legs."
The body count in the story is quite high, something very noticeable in this era of Who. (The story was written by Eric Saward.) Troopers, freighter crew and Adric are all killed. Adric is the third companion to die - Katarina and Sara were killed back in the Daleks' Masterplan.
The story starts off well but begins to fizzle out as it moves along. The conclusion is dramatic, with Adric trying to solve a logic problem and stop the freighter crashing into Earth, only to see his work destroyed by a Cyberman.
Matthew Waterhouse actually makes a good swansong here but in the end I wasn't miffed to see him go. The scene before Adric is vapourised is touching; he clasps the rope belt passed on to him by his brother Varsh in Full Circle as he watches the Earth loom on the ship's monitor.
A mixed bag but enjoyable.
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