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Doctor Who: Earthshock by Ian Marter

01/03/2012. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who: Earthshock in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: Earthshock in the UK

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pub: Audio Go/BBC. 4 CDs 222 minute story. Price: CD: GBP 13.25 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-40846-831-9. Download: GBP 9.89 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-40845-052-9) cast: Peter Davison and Nicholas Briggs.

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‘Earthshock’ is the freshly minted audio version of a classic ‘Doctor Who’ story that sees the return of the Cybermen and the death of a companion.

Written by retired Doctor Who companion, Harry Sullivan, the late Ian Marter, this is a great story which ends in a noble sacrifice, sort of. At least, it’s not meant to be a sacrifice. I can see why the Doctor has never been trusted with a young companion again. They all think they are super-clever and immortal at that age.

When the TARDIS materialises in a cave, we shouldn’t really be surprised. Those planet backgrounds are expensive and having our team stumble through underground passages is much cheaper. At least the audio version has a rather nice opening with the planet described in vivid details down to the bird wheeling overhead.

The Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Adric never get to see the sky and find themselves in a series of tunnels. Above ground, a scientist explains how her team have gone missing and are all apparently dead. The head of the security detail doesn’t know how this can have happened but a scan does reveal there are no signs of life. He is rather dismissive when she reveals they are palaeontologists and archaeologists as the area is a high security zone.

When the Doctor and the security team meet up they encounter some deadly androids but these are not their worst enemy. The androids are part of an invading force. The deadly Cybermen have returned and they want to attack the galactic peace conference taking place on Earth. The action moves to deep space as the androids retreat and the Doctor follows to try to uncover the mystery. That’s when things get really hairy.

As with other Target novelisations, this does have lots of detail but retains the key plot elements. All the memorable points are there, though good as this is, there is nothing quite like the sight of a Cyberman being trapped into a solid door panel by the Doctor or the thousands of Cybermen breaking out of their packaging.

I really enjoyed this, though, and it was strange to hear the new Cyber voices. A bit odd, too, as we don’t associate that ‘excellent’ with the Classic Series. Purists might prefer the original soundtrack and I wonder if this a decision made on the grounds that they want to attract new listeners as well as old fans.

Sue Davies

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