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Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Season Number: Season 19
Story Number: 122
Doctor: Fifth Doctor
Writer: Eric Saward
Director: Peter Grimwade
Broadcast: 8th March - 16th March 1982
Format: 4x25 minute episodes
Previous Story: Black Orchid
Following Story: Time-Flight
"Destroy them! Destroy them at once"

Earthshock saw the unannounced return of the Cybermen at the cliffhanger of Part 1 and the death of companion Adric at the end of Part 4.



A conference to unite military powers against the Cybermen is taking place and the Cybermen plot to destroy the Earth by crashing a space freighter into it. The Doctor must stop them, whatever the cost...


Part One

Lieutenant Scott and his men climb up a bleak hillside, escorting Professor Kyle to a camp set up by Scott's team. The scanning equipment at the camp-site is directed at a cave and set up to detect mammalian life forms. Kyle had been part of a scientific expedition investigating the caves for fossil remains, but the expedition has all but disappeared. The lack of readings suggests they are all dead. Kyle's knowledge of the tunnels is necessary to direct Scott and his men into the caves to find out what happened, while two troopers remain outside to maintain a constant scan. As they investigate, the squad is being stalked by two dark figures.

Meanwhile, in the TARDIS, Adric is arguing with the Fifth Doctor about the lack of attention and respect he receives compared to Tegan or Nyssa. Finally, he declares that he wishes to return to his home planet of Terradon, which the Doctor loudly proclaims is not possible, However, Adric is insistent that he can calculate the coordinates to guide the TARDIS back into E-Space.

Scott's squad splits into two groups, but a strange jangling sound comes over the communications system, and a flare appears on the outside scanner indicating members of the squad who are killed. Outside, Walters and Synder see more life-forms appear on the scanner — the TARDIS crew, which have just landed in the caves. However, Scott instantly assumes that the newcomers must be responsible for the deaths, especially when he is informed that one of the new lifesigns shows two heartbeats.

The Doctor, meanwhile, is examining the fossils of dinosaurs on the cave walls and musing about how he had always wanted to find out how they died. As the wounded party is making slow progress, Snyder goes in to help, but they are attacked by the dark figures. The jamming increases, and Snyder is reduced to a pile of smoking remains. As the survivors start to investigate, they continue to be picked off one by one.

Scott and the remainder of his squad come across the Doctor and his companions and capture them. Scott accuses the Doctor of the murders and while the Doctor tries to convince him otherwise, the dark figures continue their approach. Digging away at a recent rockfall, they discover the remains of the scientists as well as a metal hatch which begins to emit a trilling sound. The dark figures pick up their pace and begin to attack as everyone dives for cover.

The Doctor realises that the attackers are androids, which is why they did not show up on the scans. The androids appear to be defending the hatch and shrug off the troopers' counter-attacks. Kyle recognises the sound the androids are making, and realises that they were the ones who murdered the others. As an android focuses its gaze on the Doctor, the image is transmitted elsewhere to their masters: the Cybermen. The Cyber-Leader orders that the androids destroy them all...

Part Two

Adric wanders out of the TARDIS, trying to locate the Doctor because he wants to find out what signal is being received by The TARDIS. He is able to distract one of the androids long enough for Scott and his team to destroy it. The other one is subjected to intense fire at one point, also resulting in its destruction.

The Doctor has realised that the signal is being transmitted to whatever is inside the hatch. He runs back to the TARDIS and is able to jam the transmission. He and Adric return with the Doctor's tool kit, Tegan and Nyssa ushering the rest back into the TARDIS where they will be safe as the Doctor and Adric open the hatch to discover an explosive device within. The Doctor fiddles around with the bomb and inadvertently reactivates it, but together with Adric manages to disarm it before it detonates. Returning to the TARDIS, the Doctor informs the others that they are going to trace the source of the transmission. The Cybermen are puzzled as to why the bomb failed to detonate, but when they see the TARDIS, they realize the Doctor is involved and begin to review their past encounters with the Time Lord.

Meanwhile, out in space, a freighter is being inspected by Earth security forces while replenishing its supplies and crew. However, the morale of the crew is low, kept going only because of the promise of their bonus for delivering the cargo on time. Ringway, one of the bridge crew, wonders if the bonus is worth it, with several murders having already taken place. Berger seems to think that it is, and suggests Ringway adopt a more cheery attitude towards the crew to maintain their morale and his.

Having arrived on board, the Doctor and Adric explore the freighter, and come across the bodies of two dead security men. Ringway encounters them over the bodies and declares them murderers; the penalty for which is death.

Part Three

Ringway escorts the two travellers to meet the freighter's captain, Briggs; a middle-aged woman who is only concerned about the bonus.

Scott and Kyle start to worry about the Doctor and Adric, although only Scott says anything. Scott announces that he wants to go and find the Doctor, but Nyssa replies that the Doctor will not thank them for their efforts. Scott takes no notice and Tegan, also willing to help, goes with Scott and his remaining soldiers.

The Cyber-Leader decides that it is time to take control of the freighter, and orders a unit of Cybermen to be activated. The unit marches on the bridge, and is spotted on one of the monitors. Briggs orders a blockade set up outside the bridge, despite the Doctor pleading that her men won't stand a chance if they do that. Sure enough, the Cybermen effortlessly blast through the barricade. At the same time, Ringway turns on the crew and announces that he now works for the Cybermen, having grown tired of Briggs. The Doctor manages to disarm him, and closes the bridge doors before the Cybermen can get inside. Briggs seems confident that they can hold out until they get back to Earth, as there are only a few Cybermen; until Adric inquires as to how many cargo containers there are, when she realizes that all 15,000 are probably full of Cybermen.

As Scott, Tegan and the others kill a Cyberman and damage a second, the Cyber-Leader has his troops soften one of the bridge doors with a thermal lance. The Doctor taps into the antimatter storage system and uses it to stabilise the door just as a Cyberman breaks through, with the result that the Cyberman is fused into the door. The Cyber-Leader had also fitted explosive charges to the other bridge door, however. Just before it goes to detonate them, the Cyberman that Tegan killed crawls up. His lieutenant points out that all the crew have been accounted for, and the Cyber-Leader erroneously concludes that Ringway lied about the crew numbers.

The explosives are detonated, destroying the bridge door. The Cybermen take the bridge, and the Leader has Ringway killed for his "deception". The Doctor and the crew members all watch as the additional Cybermen are revived, in order to deal with the other humans, and as they march through the hold the Leader declares, "My army awakes, Doctor!"

Part Four

The Cybermen fit a device to the ship's computer which locks it on course to collide with Earth. It then explains its mission - several galactic powers are going to meet on Earth that day and hold a conference that will unite them in a war against the Cybermen. Their original plan was to use the bomb to virtually destroy Earth, commandeer the freighter and use the army to kill anyone who survived. Due to the Doctor's interference, the Cyber-Leader has switched to its backup plan - crash the freighter into Earth. As it is powered by antimatter, the resulting blast will be every bit as devastating as the bomb would have been.

Tegan gets separated from Scott and his men, and is eventually captured. Scott returns to the TARDIS, but is followed by a pair of Cybermen. The troopers kill the Cybermen and take their guns, but Kyle is killed in the process. Tegan, meanwhile, is taken to the bridge. Noting the Doctor's reaction when she is brought into the bridge, the Cybermen comments that emotions must be a severe handicap for the Doctor. The Doctor argues that emotions are what makes life worth living - in response, the Cyber-Leader orders that Tegan be killed. The Doctor throws himself in front of Tegan, and the Cyber-Leader remarks that emotions are a disadvantage, as now he only has to threaten to kill Tegan for the Doctor to obey him.

Scott and the troopers leave the TARDIS again, as the Cyber-Leader decides to leave the ship in the TARDIS. Briggs, Berger and Adric are left on-board so that a few remaining Cybermen can observe their reactions, and thus better understand human weaknesses. The Doctor and Cybermen leave in the TARDIS, and Scott takes out the Cybermen guarding the bridge. Briggs wants to abandon ship, but Adric tells her that he might be able to override the device controlling the ship's computer. He overrides one segment of it and Berger tries to bring the ship out of warp, but this has an unexpected effect - the freighter jumps into a time warp and going backwards in time. Tegan is relieved at this, believing the Earth to be safe. Her relief is soon shattered when the Doctor points out that it has made the situation far worse - not only will Earth still be destroyed, but with the freighter now back in an earlier point of its history, the planet's whole existence will be nullified.

Adric overrides another part of the control device, bringing the freighter out of warp - but still perilously close to Earth. Briggs decides that it's time to abandon ship, but Adric is still determined to break the codes. Scott drags him into the escape pod, only for Adric to jump out at the last second and continue his efforts. Back on the TARDIS, the Doctor points out that they have travelled back 65 million years - at about the time the Earth collided with an object which killed the dinosaurs. Tegan realises that the object was really the freighter, and that rather than erasing Earth's history, the explosion will form a key part of it.

While Adric continues in his efforts, Scott signals the TARDIS and informs them that Adric's still on-board. The Cyber-Leader decides to kill the TARDIS crew, but Tegan jumps on him and the Doctor breaks up Adric's gold-plated Mathematics Achievement badge and feeds the fragments into the Leader's chest unit. The maddened and asphyxiating Leader fires its gun aimlessly - damaging the TARDIS console in the process - and the Doctor grabs the gun and shoots the Leader, killing it.

Adric is closing in on fully deactivating the control device, but is thwarted when a damaged Cyberman tries to shoot him. The shot misses Adric and destroys the freighter's controls instead, leaving no chance of altering the freighter's course. The Doctor tries to save Adric, while Nyssa quickly deals with the Cyber-Lieutenant, but is unable to work the damaged TARDIS console, and he, Nyssa and Tegan watch helplessly as the freighter smashes into Earth with a massive explosion, killing Adric.

The episode ends with silent credits to mark Adric's death.




  • Adric considers returning to Terradon, in E-Space.
  • The freighter was stopped in Sector 16 prior to departing for Earth.
  • The Doctor grinds Adric's gold edged star into the Cyberleader's chest.
  • The Doctor's TARDIS's state of grace circuitry is not functioning.
  • The Cybermen are aware of TARDISes (and that a single person can pilot one), regeneration, and, significantly, that Time Lords are arrogant but forbidden to interfere.
  • The Cybermen's androids fire beams from their palms that dissolve tissue.
  • The Freighter functions by simulating the use of anti-matter.

Story Notes

  • This story had a working title of; Sentinel.
  • Producer John Nathan-Turner was keen to keep the return of the Cybermen a surprise, and thus ensured that this aspect was given no advance publicity – even going so far as to arrange for the studio observation galleries to be closed for the duration of recording and turning down Radio Times when they offered to feature the Cybermen in a cover photograph and article to mark the start of the story. The Cyber-Leader and Cyber-Lieutenant were referred to as simply Leader and Lieutenant in the combined Radio Times cast for Parts One/Two.
  • This is one of the few serials in which the ending credits have been changed from the regular credits. Adric's gold star is shown broken in pieces while the credits roll in silence.
  • The multiple rows of marching Cybermen in Part Two are clearly a single row duplicated and placed side by side using photographic editing.
  • The Cyberscope prop was built using parts the modelmaker had scavanged 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.


  • Part One - 9.1 million viewers
  • Part Two - 8.8 million viewers
  • Part Three - 9.8 million viewers
  • Part Four - 9.6 million viewers


to be added

Filming Locations

  • Sprinwell Lock Quarry in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire (This was the only location work, which featured at the start of the story, not featuring any of the regular cast)
  • BBC Television Centre (Studio 8), Shepherd's Bush, London

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • The Cybermen use emotional words like "Excellent". Positive emotion is supposedly absent in Cybermen. The Doctor elaborates on this when the Leader uses "fondness", but the Leader claims it is a word like any other, just like "destruction". (As stated, they view these as being just words, without the underlying emotional connection that humans might associate with them.)
  • Why did they draw attention to the Cyber-bomb on Earth by having androids kill anyone who approaches it? However, they don't start killing people until they've actually reached the cavern where the bomb is being held, so this may have been a last resort.
  • Why didn't the Doctor take some troopers with him to talk to the Captain rather than trying to convince her with a pretty suspicious-sounding story?
  • When the Cybermen are deactivated or 'asleep', they are placed in large metal cannisters. When the Cybermen are woken up in Episode 3, they rip the canisters apart to get out, so why are none of the cannisters seen ripped open and instead seen in a normal state throughout Episode 4? Not all Cybermen may have been activated as the activated Cybermen evacuate the ship afterwards.
  • Lt. Scott's accent changes slightly between the location shoot and the studio.
  • When Kyle falls onto the rocks from exhaustion, they shift and move around, as though made of lightweight material.
  • As Scott prepares to gun down the two Cybermen, the emotionless creatures seem to be gossiping, complete with hand gestures. (They are simply communicating. Nowhere is the implication given that they are "gossiping".)
  • During the cliffhanger, it's obvious that the three columns of Cybermen are mirror images: watch the middle one's right hand disappear
  • The steel bulkhead the Cybermen destroy flaps around as thought made of cardboard — the pieces of door also look like cardboard. The bombs are specially designed to change the molecular structure of the materials they are attached to.
  • The Cybermen set four explosive charges around the outside of the bulkhead, but only the middle is damaged. (Construction such as walls and bulkheads are often at their weakest points in the middle, where they are not being buttressed by other bulkheads.)
  • As Tegan complains that she's exhausted, something that looks like a stick is being waved around in the darkness. Then, as they climb the stairs on their way to the bridge, a person holding a script can be seen in the background.
  • When the Cyberman breaks through the softened bridge door, the damage to the door and the Cyberman's arm change size and position between shots.
  • Just before the wounded Cyberman blasts the computer, Matthew Waterhouse is poking at it very gingerly, as though knowing it's about to explode.
  • Not only does the Cyberdevice miraculously allow the freighter to travel through time, it also transports it to the side of the Galaxy that Earth was on 65 million years ago. (Time travel is usually shown to occur with fixed spatial coordinates relative to their start point in spacetime.)
  • When Scott returns to the TARDIS, he has two men and a woman with him. A Cyberman grabs the woman, but when they enter the TARDIS, the man is missing. Later, when they leave, the woman is gone again.
  • Near of the end of this episode, pay close attention to when the Doctor shoves Adric's gold laden badge into the Cyberleader's chest from behind. Through the Cyberleader's face plate, a silver box can be seen pressing against David Bank's face. The Cyber costumes had radio microphrones in them for recording so the modulation of the actor's voices could occur in real time. The batteries for these mikes were taped to the top inside of the actor's helmets. Over time, of course, the tape would work free and the batteries would fall out of place, resulting in the silver box seen in the Cyberleader's face plate for this scene. Also, when the Cyberleader explodes, the wire attached to the small microphone can be clearly seen.
  • In episode one, a trooper turns around and clearly must see the shadow of one of the androids, but he moves on anyway.
  • In episode two, the Cyberleader misses a button on his console, but we still hear a beep.
  • The dead crewmembers at the end of episode two can be seen breathing.
  • When Ringway is running down a corridor, supposedly in a tearing hurry, he visibly pulls up just before going out of shot.
  • Just before Tegan and the soldiers find the bodies in episode three a white baton appears behind them.
  • If the Cybermen are fully anticipating the bomb to destroy the Earth, why are they concealed on the freighter in the first place? The limited range at which they can remotely detonate the bomb/control the androids, means they would have to be within the boundaries of human space and the best place to hide is on an Earth ship.
  • The Androids seem to be good shots early on - killing 3 people in a matter of seconds - but when they reach the Doctor they completely miss! - During their initial assaualt the androids are not under fire themselves, but when they fire on the Doctor and the battle continues the androids are recieving fire from the remaining troopers Even though they are androids their accuracy will be diminished by having to evad incoming fire.
  • No-one in the Earth crew expresses any surprise at the size of the TARDIS- nor do they question the Doctor as to where he came from and how he got such technology. Lt Scott expresses surprise through his facial expression, but presumably he feels there are more pressing matters than asking questions about the TARDIS.
  • What happened to the person viewing the scanner screen? And why do the radios stop working? - surely he'd alert them to another dot (when Adric came out of the TARDIS) coming on the screen
  • When the Doctor is dicussing the androids at the end of part one Nyssa and Tegan are nowhere to be seen - yet from the androids view point they are right beside the Doctor


  • Unknown to the Doctor, a future companion named Jack Harkness is, for reasons unknown, on Earth at the time of the freighter explosion, though Jack would believe the destruction of the dinosaurs was called by a meteor hitting Earth. (TW: Fragments)

DVD, Video, and Other Releases

DVD Releases

Released as Doctor Who: Earthshock.

NTSC - Warner Video E2022



Video Releases

Released as Doctor Who: Earthshock.

PAL - BBC Video BBCV4840

Audio Release A soundtrack album of the music from this serial was released by Silva Screen Records as Earthshock: Classic Music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop Vol. 1 (FILMCD 709).This is an edited re-release of the "BBC Records" release, "Doctor Who the Music: Volume 1". Of the 22 tracks, only three are from "Earthshock".


Main article: Earthshock (novelisation)

External Links

  • BBC - Doctor Who - The Classic Series - Episode Guide: Earthshock
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide - Detailed Synopsis - Earthshock
  • Doctor Who: A Brief History of Time (Travel) - A Brief History of Time (Travel): Earthshock
  • The Locations Guide to Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures: Story Locations - Earthshock
Cyberman Television Stories
Original Cybermen: The Tenth Planet  • The Moonbase  • The Tomb of the Cybermen  • The Wheel in Space  • The Invasion  • Revenge of the Cybermen  • Earthshock  • The Five Doctors  • Attack of the Cybermen  • Silver Nemesis
Alternate Universe Cybermen: Rise of the Cybermen/ The Age of Steel  • Army of Ghosts/ Doomsday  • The Next Doctor
Torchwood: Cyberwoman
Season 19
Castrovalva  • Four to Doomsday  • Kinda  • The Visitation  • Black Orchid  • Earthshock  • Time-Flight

This article uses material from the "Earthshock" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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