Friday, November 18, 2011

Memorable Moments In Whostory: Earthshock

Hey, it's another Doctor Who infographic!

This time instead of showcasing the various Doctors or his enemies I decided to focus on one particular episode: Earthshock, aka "The One Where Adric Dies." I'll probably do more episode specific infographics as time permits. There've been over 200 stories so far (consisting of more than 770 episodes), so that ought to keep me busy for a while.

Obviously you'll have to click "View All Sizes: Original" to read the text. Hopefully everyone will figure out how to read it; start at the upper left and follow the arrows.

Earthshock is one of my favorite episodes. It was the sixth episode of the 19th season and Peter Davisons's first year of playing the Doctor. Davison had the unenviable task of taking over after fan favorite Tom Baker left the series. He had some very large shoes to fill, and did an admirable job in my opinion. I always liked Davison's portrayal of the Doctor.

The TARDIS was becoming a bit crowded during the beginning of Davison's run, as the Doctor had three companions-– Nyssa, Tegan and Adric– traveling with him, something that hadn't happened since the early days of the show.

I had a huge crush on Nyssa back in the day, in her demure little crushed velvet jumpsuit. Tegan I didn't like so much, although I've come to appreciate her more as time passes. Maybe it was her character's abrasive personality that initially put me off?

And then there was Adric. Many fans hated the character and were definitely not sorry to see him go. He was the Wesley Crusher of Doctor Who: the whiny, know-it-all teenager. Personally I never had a problem him; I just figured he was there for kids to identify with.

Matthew Waterhouse, who played Adric, was reportedly a very inexperienced young actor when he joined the cast, and quite often it showed. He finally got a chance to shine in this episode and did a great job, in my opinion. Too bad it was his last show!

I kind of liked having a larger cast, but unfortunately the writers had trouble coming up with something for all of the characters to do in each story. For example, in Earthshock poor Nyssa has absolutely nothing to do and pretty much sits out the episode inside the TARDIS. They occasionally cut to her as she watches a viewscreen and practices looking worried, in order to remind us she still exists.

Since the cast was becoming too large for the writers to handle, it was decided the TARDIS crew needed whittled down a bit. Poor ol' Adric drew the short straw.

British comedienne Beryl Reid plays Captain Briggs in a very odd bit of casting. Kudos to the producers for casting against type I guess, but seeing a elderly lady with a bright orange beehive hairdo in the role of a hard-nosed space freighter captain was more than a little jarring. In fact some fans have taken to referring to her as "Captain Grandma." Reid pulls it off as well as can be expected though, barking out orders in her futuristic leather space jacket.

This episode marked the first appearance of the Cybermen after a seven year absence. The Cybermen seen here are rocking an all new, more advanced design. From what I've read, their big reveal at the end of Part 1 was a huge surprise to viewers. This was years before the internet and spoiler sites, so no one in the audience had any inkling that the Cybermen were returning until the final minutes of Part 1.

The same goes for the death of Adric. Everyone just naturally assumed the Doctor would pop up at the last second and save him. When that didn't happen and Adric bought the space farm, it was a massive shock to the audience. Companions just didn't die on Doctor Who, especially teenage ones. It was a turning point and the beginning of a somewhat darker tone for the series. The death of Adric showed us that the Doctor doesn't always win. That was quite a jolt to viewers.

For the first time in the history of the series, the end credits rolled silently over the image of Adric's shattered star pin.

No episode is perfect though, even classic ones, and this one is no exception. The Cyberleader's Plan B involves rigging the anti-matter powered space freighter so that it will crash into Earth and wipe out all life. Fair enough. So why then was the entire Cybermen army stored in suspended animation on the ship? That never made a lick of sense to me. Surely it wouldn't have taken more than a handful of troops to overpower the five or six crew members manning the freighter. There was no need for an entire army to be stashed there. Once the ship was rigged the whole army had to high-tail it off the ship before it blew up, to a nearby Cybermen fleet. Why were they on the ship in the first place? Why store your army inside a bomb?

Also, the Cyberleader is constantly stating that Cybermen have no emotions. He says this proudly, almost boastfully, while constantly screaming, wildly gesticulating and even taunting the Doctor. If he had a mustache he'd be twirling it. For a member of a race with no emotions, he gets pretty darned theatrical.

As for the actual drawing of the infographic, I changed the color scheme many, many times. When you have so many characters in an image it's tough finding colors that don't cause them to blend in with the background or contrast too much. At one point I thought that since it was Adric's story it would be a good idea to use the colors of his clothing– gold, avocado and red– as the color scheme. That might have been a good idea on paper, but it was eye-searing in reality. I finally settled on the steel blue-gray of the Cybermen as the main color.

I'd already drawn the Fifth Doctor before, so I was able to reuse him here. He was originally holding a sonic, but my pal Ian Ledger pointed out that #5 had lost the sonic by this point in the series, so I redrew his right arm. I'd drawn this version of the Cybermen before as well, so I was able to reuse them too.

Adric's likeness didn't give me too much trouble, nor did Captain Grandma, er, I mean Briggs. Nyssa took a while to get right, but I'm happy with the way she turned out. Tegan was the hardest one of all. I'm still not completely satisfied with her, but it'll have to do.

Lastly I would like to add that I'm glad this infographic is finished because my fingers seem to be incapable of typing Earthshock correctly. I'm tired of typing "Earthsock" or "Earthschok."

Very special thanks to my pal across the pond, Ian Ledger, who helped out with editing, text correction and support.

Drawn and laid out entirely in InDesign.
Just for fun, here's what the page for this image looked like in InDesign. I usually place reference photos off to the side and draw the characters there, then drag them onto the page when they're done. Looks like a mess, but it works for me. You can see my many attempts at a Tegan likeness on the left hand side, and several versions of Nyssa, Adric and Captain Grandma on the left.

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