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  Directed by
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  Specs
  • Full Frame
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • Additional footage - New CGI effects
  • Audio commentary
  • 2 Featurette
  • Production notes - Subtitles
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus

Doctor Who - Earthshock

BBC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 93 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Doctor Who - Earthshock surprised many viewers when it aired for the first time in 1982, and the effort that went into keeping the return of the Cybermen hush-hush after a seven year absence paid off. There were numerous other interesting oddities spread over the four episodes, and the death of a companion. This death was a sobering experience for some fans and a complete joy for others. Either way, the fans talked it about at length, and what actor could ask for more?

The Doctor (Peter Davison), Tegan (Janet Fielding), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) and Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) arrive in a cave somewhere in Earth’s future. The Doctor and Adric have just finished a slanging match over Adric’s desire to return home. The Doctor feels it is unsafe to travel back into E-space. Landing the TARDIS so that he can go for a walk, he is soon joined by the girls, who encourage him to make it up with Adric.

Unbeknownst to them, there are two androids wreaking havoc in the cave system, which is the site of a paleantological dig. Several paleontologists have been killed, there are rescue teams scouring the caves, and whom should they bump into and accuse of the miners' deaths? The androids of course! Only kidding, of course they blame the TARDIS crew who are obviously sadistic killers, dressed as they are like rejects from Ringling Bros. Circus.

Things are quickly straightened out when the androids stumble across the gathering and proceed to blast anything that moves. The rescue team manages to dispense with them with a few blows from their trusty candy-stripe beam laser guns, and discover a large bomb buried in the cave system. Hmm, now who could have put that there?

The Doctor manages to trace the detonation signal to a freighter hurtling towards Earth. It only contains ore samples, apparently, yet someone or something seems to have hitched a ride. Naturally, there are more deaths aboard the freighter and guess who gets the blame, again? Managing to clear that up quickly, the Cybermen then announce their arrival and begin to bully the few remaining crew. The Cybermen have hatched a dastardly scheme whereby they are going to blow up the Earth so that a planned peace conference cannot go ahead. If successful, the conference will result in an alliance against the common enemy, the Cybermen.

"So, we meet again, Doctor!"

Earthshock was not one of the best written Doctor Who episodes, but it did get many other things right, with some great production values and some well-crafted atmosphere, particularly within Episode One which takes place mostly in the claustrophobic and creepy cave system. This confined setting, combined with the mysterious deaths, the sleek and evasive androids and then the last-minute appearance of the Cybermen, sent many a fan into frenzy.

The new Cybermen outfits were a big and menacing improvement. The actors themselves actually voiced their own lines, there were some good - and some surprising - supporting cast decisions (Beryl Reid as Captain Briggs is a doozie). The final scenes of Adric’s death are quite solid, finally prompting the young actor into actually doing what he was supposed to have been doing all along, acting! His character remains one of the most disliked among fans, but what a way to go out!

This may be a story that is a bit lightweight when it is all added up, but the overall values are good. The story is pretty basic, but given some of the more complex and rubbish storylines that were to come, this is actually a blessing. Peter Davison was well on his way to settling into the role in this, his sixth story. The companions were getting a bit like extra baggage, but with the departure of the weakest, it meant that one or more would never again have to spend the bulk of the story shoved out of sight somewhere like the TARDIS being superfluous. Ask Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) what that’s like. A worthy addition, and one of Peter Davison’s better adventures.

  Video
Contract

Those in the know will be aware that there is a dedicated restoration team that literally does work for love on these releases, and even if this one presented less challenges, being ‘newer’, it still took some painstaking effort, and again they have created a winner.

The image is once more full frame, and quite a good one at that. It may not be razor sharp, but it has more than adequate colouring and minimal grain. Colours in fact are quite solid, with minimal evidence of noise and bleeding, and black levels are similarly good and deep. Shadow detail is a little soft in the cave and freighter cargo bay scenes, but there are no real complaints from this writer.

There are some Mpeg artefacts and other glitches, dirt and marks have been removed, and while there is some evidence of microphony, it is brief and infrequent. There are a few instances of shimmer and aliasing, but nothing worrisome. There is also some noticeable flaring caused by the use of tube cameras that leave a comet as things such as lights and fire moving across the screen. This is inherent and not a fault of the transfer. The layer change is located between episodes.

The newly created CGI effects that can be selected to replace the original effects fit seamlessly and effortlessly and give the show a slightly more modern look. Nothing can really save the dodgy looking props though, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

  Audio
Contract

While the audio is nothing more than a basic Dolby Digital mono mix, it is more than satisfactory. Dialogue is clear and audible, there are no problems with synchronisation, and even the odd fumbled line is still present for the astute.

There is some minimal hiss, as with many of these type of releases, but fans will care little and many will not even notice. There is no great sound range on display, but the lasers and various other explosives sound fine. There is no separation of sound, nor panning, but everything still sounds balanced and natural. The Cybermen voices resonate well, and all are audible.

The incidental music is quite good and harks back to the good old days of Doctor Who, something a few of the composers in the later years should have tried.

  Extras
Contract

This is a single-disc release, so the money conscious will be pleased, but the extras included are still worthy and of varying interest.

The audio commentary gets everything off to a great start. Can we all say “piss take”? Peter Davison and Janet Fielding obviously have a lot of love for the show, and understand the true spirit of it all. Their comments are always amusing and interesting, often at their own expense. The remaining pair of Sarah Sutton and the “equally as drippy off-screen” Matthew Waterhouse add an occasional comment of interest, but Waterhouse spends much of his time annoyingly repeating various lines from the show. It is interesting to hear all four together again even if, technically, this commentary offers almost nothing. It is, however, good for a laugh.

When watched with the commentary, the information text makes for a trivia buff’s wet dream. Even the geekiest of fans (and before anyone gets upset I am one) could not possibly know all there is in this collection, from cast biographies, gaffs, continuity errors, locations, viewing figures, original broadcast dates and more delightfully useless information than one could ever hope to remember.

The specially made featurette Putting the Shock Into Earthshock is a great piece that spends a little over 30 minutes looking at this particular story, the return of the Cybermen, the history of the Cybermen, the death of Adric, viewer response and other assorted memories. There is much input from Peter Davison (The Doctor), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), crew and various experts, writers and critics. It makes for a great time for the fans and a welcome extra.

Of passing interest is 40th Anniversary Celebration, which runs for three minutes and is a montage of the show's 40 years accompanied by a 'dancified' version of the theme. There are some great memories that flash up, but it's of little real value overall.

There are some film sequences included that give an idea of what the actors actually do when filming and unable to react to some "in-studio" prompts etc. There is also some extra footage contained.

Did You See? is a rather grainy ten-minute look at the history of many of the Doctor's monster foes. This British television show may be unfamiliar to Australian viewers, but is interesting nonetheless.

Those who like Doctor Who but not the "less than state-of-the-art" special effects can opt to turn on the new CGI effects that will fit in seamlessly at the appropriate moments. Purists will probably stick with the original dodgy effects that, by Doctor Who standards, are actually quite good.

The photo gallery contains some never before published shots and a couple that captutre the commentary team doing their thing. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one growing old!

In audio options, along with the ability to select the commentary, is the option of playing the isolated music and while it is quite good, it's a bit of a slog to listen to without the dialogue as there are numerous pauses.

Episode 5 is a very brief Claymation short with full Doctor Who credits, and alludes to a possible survival of Adric, only to meet a grizzly end shortly after. This is of dubious worth, especially as the actual credits account for about two-thirds of the running time.

The last extra is a highly amusing Easter egg that is found in the usual manner, or check out our Easter eggs page.

  Overall  
Contract

The Cybermen are arguably the Doctor's second most popular foe after the Daleks, and while this adventure marked their surprise return after seven years, and the cast and production team achieved a good final result, the overall storyline is not particularly outstanding. There are numerous interesting passages, however, a very good opening episode, and the death of Adric (hooray) is a bonus. So, in all, fans should still be satisfied. There are some bigger and better Doctor Who DVDs on the way, but for collectors this is a worthy addition. Casual viewers may wish to also check out The Three Doctors due later in 2003. I know most of us geeks are looking out for that one.


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      And I quote...
    "One of the better Peter Davison era Doctor Who stories, lovingly restored as always, and the first Doctor Who DVD that includes an extra feature in the actual program - the death of Adric!"
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Akai
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
          Wellings
    • Centre Speaker:
          Wellings
    • Surrounds:
          Wellings
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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