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Doctor Who serial
The Cybermen discover that an old foe is interfering with their plans
  • James Warwick — Scott
  • Clare Clifford — Kyle
  • Steve Morley — Walters
  • Suzi Arden — Snyder
  • Ann Holloway — Mitchell
  • Anne Clements, Mark Straker — Troopers
  • Beryl Reid — Briggs
  • June Bland — Berger
  • Alec Sabin — Ringway
  • Mark Fletcher, Christopher Whittingham — Crewmembers
  • David Banks — Cyber Leader
  • Mark Hardy — Cyber Lieutenant
Directed by Peter Grimwade
Written by Eric Saward
Script editor Antony Root
Eric Saward (uncredited)
Produced by John Nathan-Turner
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Malcolm Clarke
Production code 6B
Series Season 19
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 8 March–16 March 1982
← Preceded by Followed by →
Black Orchid Time-Flight

Earthshock is the sixth serial of the 19th season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four twice-weekly parts from 8 March to 16 March 1982. This serial marks the final regular appearance of Matthew Waterhouse as the Doctor's companion Adric and his climactic death, with the final episode featuring unique silent credits in memory of the character. It is also the first to feature the Cybermen since Revenge of the Cybermen, in 1975.


As the TARDIS arrives on Earth in its future, Adric argues with the Doctor about the lack of attention and respect he receives compared to Nyssa or Tegan, and wishes to return to his home planet Alzarius, a feat the Doctor claims is impossible. As the group explores a series of caves, they are caught by Lieutenant Scott and his men who detected their arrival. Scott accuses the group of killing the rest of Professor Kyle's exploration team as they were searching the caves for fossils. The Doctor convinces Scott to let them help and points them to a debris of rock, where they find the bodies of Kyle's team, along with an odd metal hatch. As the Doctor examines the hatch, other men in Scott's force are killed by androids, undetectable by the humans' equipment. The Doctor is able to stop them, but the androids are able to send images back to their masters, the Cybermen, who recognize their foe. The Doctor is able to open the panel, revealing a powerful bomb that could destroy the planet, and orders Nyssa and Tegan to return everyone to the TARDIS while he and Adric deactivate it.

In the TARDIS the Doctor traces the signal sent to the androids and the bomb back to its source, a freighter spaceship outside the Solar system awaiting clearance to proceed to Earth after its cargo is inspected. The Doctor instructs everyone else to stay in the TARDIS while he and Adric explore it; the two are soon captured by the freighter's security forces when they happen upon the bodies of dead crew members, and are taken to meet Captain Briggs. The Cybermen, hiding in one of the freighter's containers, decide it is time to take control of the ship, and begin an assault towards the bridge. Though the freighter crew, along with Tegan, Kyle, Scott, and his men, try to set up barricades, their defences are foiled by Ringway, Briggs' security officer who has been working as a double agent for the Cybermen. Kyle is killed and Tegan is captured. The bridge is soon taken. The Cyber-Leader reveals that the Doctor had foiled their initial plan—to wipe out much of the planet while several visiting dignitaries are present for an interstellar alliance conference—but has a backup plan of crashing the freighter into the Earth, its anti-matter engines providing a similar devastating force. The Cybermen set the freighter on a high-speed collision course with Earth, and then affix a lock on the freighter's navigation controls to prevent the humans from tampering with it. The Cyber-Leader, holding Tegan hostage, forces the Doctor to take them to the TARDIS to escape the doomed ship, leaving Adric, Briggs, and other crewmen behind; learning the Cybermen are allergic to gold, Adric passes the Doctor his gold Badge for Mathematical Excellence.

Scott arrives to help Adric and Briggs defeat their guards, and Adric believes he will be able to decode the encryption to deactivate the lock. However, his attempt causes the freighter to jump in time, ending up approximately 65 million years ago. Aboard the TARDIS under the Cyber-Leader's gunpoint, the Doctor reflects that this was the time that a large object had struck Earth and caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Adric is able to disengage another part of the lock, taking the freighter out of warp but still on course to strike Earth. Briggs, Scott, and the remaining crew use the opportunity to use the ship's escape pods, but Adric refuses to leave, intent on defeating the lock. When Scott tried to communicate to the TARDIS that they were able to escape but Adric is still aboard, the Cyber-Leader attempts to kill the TARDIS crew. The Doctor smashes Adric's gold-plated Badge into the Cyber-Leader's chest, momentarily stunning it and the rest of the crew wrest control from the remaining Cybermen. The Doctor tries to pilot the TARDIS back to the bridge to rescue Adric, but the controls have been damaged during the fight. Adric is close to finishing the last lock seal when a damaged Cyberman attempts to fire on him. The shot misses Adric but strikes the keyboard, making it impossible to finish the task. The Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan watch helplessly as the freighter smashes into Earth with a massive explosion. As Nyssa and Tegan weep, the devastated Doctor is left in stunned silence over his inability to save his companion and friend.

The end credits roll in silence over a close up of Adric's broken badge.


The Doctor advises Adric to read Black Orchid, a copy of which he obtained at the end of the previous adventure, of the same name. Their argument shortly afterwards makes a number of references to the previous season, including E-Space, the planets Alzarius and Terradon (Full Circle), the Monitor and the CVE (Logopolis), and Romana staying in E-Space (Warriors' Gate). The clip from Revenge of the Cybermen, which takes place on the Nerva Beacon at a period earlier than in The Ark in Space put at around 2496 in the reference guide Cybermen by David Banks.[2]

The Hand of Fear introduced the concept of the TARDIS being in a state of temporal grace, meaning that no weapons could be used inside it. In this story, however, this function appears not to work as the Doctor, Nyssa and the Cyber Leader are all able to fire weapons inside the console room. Nyssa briefly mentions this in Arc of Infinity but the Doctor simply attempts to shrug it off without providing an explanation. In "Let's Kill Hitler" the Doctor states that the notion of temporal grace was "a clever lie" on his part.

This was the last story to feature Matthew Waterhouse as Adric. Waterhouse would reprise his role twice: a brief cameo in the following serial Time-Flight (1982) and an appearance during the Fifth Doctor's regeneration in The Caves of Androzani (1984). This is the first story to feature David Banks as the Cyber Leader and Mark Hardy as the Cyber Lieutenant. They would reprise their roles in The Five Doctors (1983), Attack of the Cybermen (without Hardy) (1985) and Silver Nemesis (1988). Banks would later play the Doctor in the 1989 stage play Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure. He would also later write a book about the history of the Cybermen (as mentioned above). Banks's rendition of "Excellent!" to indicate approval became a catchphrase associated with the Cybermen.

A brief alternate version of the events at the end of this story appears in the Big Finish audio story The Boy That Time Forgot.


The working title for this story was Sentinel. Although credited as script editor, Antony Root in fact did little or no work on Earthshock. He was credited to avoid Saward, who had by this time replaced him in the job, being credited as such on his own work, which contravened BBC regulations.

This was the first Cyberman story since Revenge of the Cybermen (1975), as producer John Nathan-Turner wanted to bring back an old enemy, but resisted using the Daleks. Before the title was changed to Earthshock, Nathan-Turner was adamant about keeping the return of the Cybermen a secret. He instructed Eric Saward not to have any reference to the Cybermen in the story's title. Nathan-Turner even had the studio observation galleries closed for the duration of recording and turned down an offer from Radio Times to provide advance publicity of the Cybermen on their cover.[3] The success of this convinced Nathan-Turner to continue to mine the series' past continuity for ideas and old enemies.

After the success of using archive footage for the flashback sequence in Logopolis (1981), Producer John Nathan-Turner consulted with series continuity adviser Ian Levine and asked him to prepare another such montage for this story. Levine selected one clip from all of previous Doctors, save for Jon Pertwee who never had a Cyberman story (though they had been briefly glimpsed in two serials from his era). Levine's selected clips were: the First Doctor from episode 2 of The Tenth Planet (1966), the Second Doctor from episode 6 of The Wheel in Space (1968) (with dialogue from the Earthshock Cyber-leader referring to The Tomb of the Cybermen (1967), at that time missing from the BBC archives) and the Fourth Doctor from part 3 of Revenge Of The Cybermen (1975). All the clips were presented in monochrome to preserve continuity, as the first two extracts were originally recorded in black and white.

The exterior sequences seen in the first episode were shot on Thursday 29 October 1981 at Springwell Lock Quarry, near Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. The Cyberscope prop was built using parts the modelmaker (Martin Bower) had scavenged from the Nostromo set constructed for the movie Alien. Similarly, the digital readouts on the device flash up a random series of numbers, which were also seen on the monitors of the Nostromo set.

Cast notes[edit]

Peter Davison has stated that Earthshock is one of his three favourite serials from his time on the programme.[4]

Outside references[edit]

The sudden extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago is known as the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. A similar massive reduction in Earth's biodiversity took place 251 million years ago; this is the Permian–Triassic extinction event. One of the Big Finish Productions audio plays, The Land of the Dead (also featuring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa), provides a possible (fictional) explanation for that event as well. As with all the spin-off media, the canonicity of the audio plays is unclear.

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Part One" 8 March 1982 (1982-03-08) 24:22 9.1
"Part Two" 9 March 1982 (1982-03-09) 24:23 8.8
"Part Three" 15 March 1982 (1982-03-15) 24:24 9.8
"Part Four" 16 March 1982 (1982-03-16) 24:28 9.6

The story was repeated on BBC One (Not BBC Wales) as two 50min compilation episodes in 1982 on 9 August 1982 & 16 August 1982 at 7.20pm as part of "Doctor Who and the Monsters", achieving viewing figures of 4.9 and 5.2 million respectively.[9] The story came 17th in the 1997 Doctor Who Magazine annual best serial survey.

Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping wrote of the serial in The Discontinuity Guide (1995), "Exciting and engaging early on, but a writer is not supposed to get so caught up in the excitement that things happen for no better reason than plot expediency. What we have is great... for a first draft."[10] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker described Earthshock as "the story as a whole stands up very well and is highly entertaining". They felt that small plot holes were not that noticeable. Howe and Walker called the first episode "a masterpiece of suspense and terror" and praised the surprise return of the Cybermen, whom they said were "more effective" than those in Revenge of the Cybermen[8] In 2012, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times praised the tension and thrills, writing "Saward’s script and Grimwade’s direction work in unison, delivering pace, momentum, atmosphere and the eponymous shock." He praised the new look of the Cybermen, guest star Beryl Reid, and the way the story "pulls off the previously unimaginable feat of making us care about Adric". He acknowledged that critics had pointed out "plot holes and logic leaps", but said he was willing to "gloss over them".[11] The A.V. Club reviewer Christopher Bahn was positive towards how the serial characterised Adric which set him up for his demise. Bahn praised the first episode for being "nicely tense and mysterious", but noted that it was separate from the rest of the story which led to too many characters in the last three episodes. He also criticised the Cybermen, feeling that they did not hark back to their eerie emotionless roots and that when they got involved "the plot starts to bog down in its implausibilities".[12] SFX named Adric's death the twenty-ninth best "tearjerker" in science fiction and fantasy, calling it a "tragedy" that managed to make the audience care about him.[13] The magazine also listed the scene as the third best companion departure, calling it "a beautifully constructed death scene" despite the fact that the character was "loathed by fandom".[14]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who Earthshock.jpg
Author Ian Marter
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
18 August 1983
ISBN 0-426-19377-6

The Target novelisation of this serial, was published by WH Allen in 1983.[15] A second edition was published in 1992.[15] It was written by Ian Marter. An unabridged audio reading of the novelisation, read by Peter Davison, was released by AudioGo on 1 February 2012.[16]

Home media[edit]

UK DVD front cover

Earthshock was released on VHS in the UK in 1992.[15] A DVD was released on 18 August 2003[17] as part of the Doctor Who 40th Anniversary Celebration releases, representing the Peter Davison years. The DVD included a commentary with Davison, Fielding, Sutton & Waterhouse, and a documentary, Putting the Shock into Earthshock which included interviews with Davison, Saward, David Banks, as well as various fan commentators including future Doctor Who writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss and then Shadow Transport Secretary Tim Collins.[18] The Region 1 release followed on 7 September 2004.[19] On 2 July 2007, this DVD was re-released with new outer packaging.[20]

In 2013 it was released on DVD again as part of the "Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited 5-8" box set, alongside Vengeance on Varos, Remembrance of the Daleks and the TV Movie. Alongside a documentary on the Fifth Doctor, the disc features the serial put together as a single feature in widescreen format with an introduction from current show runner Steven Moffat, as well as its original version.


  1. ^ From the Doctor Who Magazine series overview, in issue 407 (pp26-29). The Discontinuity Guide, which counts the unbroadcast serial Shada, lists this as story number 122. Region 1 DVD releases follow The Discontinuity Guide numbering system.
  2. ^ Doctor Who - Cybermen, David Banks, Dr Who; New edition, September 1990, ISBN 978-0-352-32738-3
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Peter Davison: 'I was quicker than most Doctors'". BBC News. 21 November 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  5. ^ Shaun Lyon; et al. (31 March 2007). "Earthshock". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 31 July 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  6. ^ "Earthshock". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  7. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (7 August 2007). "Earthshock". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  8. ^ a b Howe, David J.; Walker, Stephen James (1998). "Earthshock". Doctor Who: The Television Companion. London: BBC Worldwide. p. 417. ISBN 0-563-40588-0. Retrieved 6 April 2011. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "Earthshock". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. 
  11. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (21 January 2012). "Doctor Who: Earthshock". Radio Times. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  12. ^ Bahn, Christopher (4 September 2011). "Earthshock". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  13. ^ Golder, Dave (23 October 2010). "SF and Fantasy's 31 Greatest Tearjerkers". SFX. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  14. ^ Salmon, Will (26 September 2012). "10 Best Doctor Who Companion Departures (And 5 Worst)". SFX. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  15. ^ a b c Lofficier, Jean-Marc and Randy (1 May 2003). "Fifth Doctor". The Doctor Who Programme Guide. iUniverse. p. 184. ISBN 0-595-27618-0. 
  16. ^ "Doctor Who: Earthshock (Classic Novel)". AudioGo. Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  17. ^ "Doctor Who: Earthshock (DVD)". BBC Shop. Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  18. ^ Roberts, Steve (17 June 2003). "Earthshock". Doctor Who Restoration Team. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  19. ^ "Doctor Who: Earthsock (Story 122) (2004)". Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  20. ^ "Doctor Who: Earthshock - O-Ring (DVD)". BBC Shop. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 

External links[edit]


Target novelisation[edit]