Four-part 5IVE'n'chums high-concept shockah from 1982, EARTHSOCK aka the Sorrows of Young Adric, features everyone's favourite wooden doughy doe-eyed teen brainiac hatemonkey Adults Up and Takes One for Evolution, in possibly the first starring role in kid's pop culture for the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, cleverly time-slipping a stupid production-line Cyberman planet-bomb into the actual original Alvarez Impact... NOW READ ON
i: These days the Silvery Juggheds are quite dead to me, which is a pity, really. I think there are three reasons I turned against them. First, they really did scare me when I was a wee meatspace tiny myself on Old Mars/Telos/Mondas/London Underground/I DON'T REMEMBER OK, as they stumbled spongily through dark b/w tunnels killing killing killing: and the residue of terror vanished is often contempt. Last and recent, the Nu-Who protocols of UTTERLOGICWAR are little but feebly stampy gags around modern digital cliché -- "Delete!" and etc and zzzz -- as soon-to-be-dated as they're dreary. But middle and most, there really was often something spookily poetic about the pre-hardbody 'Bermen. They looked half-formed; they battled their confused mass-larval way out of shrink-wrap cocoons at the end of the first ep; there was something genuinely alien about them, somehow, their humanoid form more an organic pod-production than a factory-line metal macho. Or something. And of course maybe reason three will tumble back towards reason two as time passes: hauntology is the soft shift of today's
stupid technology-habit back towards yesterday's anxious unspoken future-threat dreams blah blah beebaw bleugh. Which is perhaps just to set the scene for my not being v.blown away by this v.famous story...
ii: ... Not that 5IVE seems terribly impressed either. In fact from the off he's distracted, fed up, world-weary and not really his cheerful easygoing self. The whole section of the first ep where he's elaborately tormenting Young Adric by telling him nothing about anything -- kind of a BadBaker Throwback Obnoxion Tic -- is actually quite odd, even as a set-up for later grief and guilt (if this is indeed what is later depicted). And when the Juggheds turn up, his exasperated fed-upness doubles. Genuine WhoSchoolers will correct me here, but I believe they'd been absent from DW for quite a while, perhaps because writers had got written them off -- absent since old HoboDays possibly, except BIG HEAD briefly skirmished with a forlorn handful late in the 'Hed timeline (at which point they are declared scattered and diminished and laughable). None of the companions recognise them here, and 5ive does nothing to clue them in to danger: you'd think Who's ancient war with the Juggheds (how they see each other; how they joust) is worth a bit more than this, but it comes across as boring pest control, just more unending admin, bottling up stupid not-really-robots, protecting stupid self-regardless humanity, shepherding and staving off stupid whiny LOGICBOY...
iii: ... who (doctoral unkindness notwithstanding) is a good deal of any stumbling block, is he not? See, once there was Sherlock H, and today there is Sheldon C, and in-between -- mightier far than either as a science-fictional archetype -- is of course SPOCK: and Matthew Waterhouse was a very young unpracticed semi-non-actor required to realise all kinds of facets of the "reason vs emotion: which will win?" type storyline, NARRATIVE AND THE DIALECTICS OF hem hem PURE LOGIC if you will: facets he was simply not suited to (especially when poorly served by the script). EARTHSHOCK actually skirts resolving into a sort of high-level Comi-tragic Logic-Off -- Adric vs the Top Local Botman in Charge -- with inadvertent solo self-sacrifice defeating trollingly psychotic mass exterminationism (hurrah). But not -- actually -- in a way you learn much from (unless you're learning how not to write a moral fable, or anything else). Partly because this JugHead-in-Chief is actually a terrifically pompous -- and really NOT very rational -- fellow, giving his speeches strangely over-emphatic readings and constantly re-improvising a poorly controlled plan to to destroy a planet to disrupt a conference so that he can humiliate and torment the fleshly ("That's sadistic!" squeaks Tegan at one point. "No, it's scientific!" declares the Jugghead serenely... ) (Adding: I'm advised by wikipedia that the actor, David Banks, recapped this performance several times and became cultishly beloved for the way he says "Excellent!"...)
iv: Sadly, 90% of Real Actual Proper Good Drama is how deftly you get yr heroes and villains on and off-stage, and into the binds and conflicts youwant them in. <--- if this isn't a well-worn dramacraft apothegm it bloody ought to be, if only to underscore why eps like this are so tiresomely underwhelming. The cast is both numerous and diversely teamed: all teams ceaselessly splitting up, often quite unnecessarily. The Juggheds we encounter are of course part of a vast army united in vast strategic purpose, but an intricate localised part of this army, with much to do, little of it on point (viz why have they been busy murdering crew members if they want the vast plan to remain secret until too late? Why leave scary homicidal android guarding a defusable bomb instead of ACTUALLY HIDING THE BOMB BETTER etc); the cave-exploring team split up largely to be easier for the homicidal kinkybots to pick them off; freighter crew somewhat ditto but this does give a sense of the sheer SCALE of this ship (=15,000 containers-worth); and the Doctor-Companion dynamics are just odd -- especially when you remember it comes after BLACK ORCHID aka NYSSA'S DREAM. There's a very little bit of me tempted to argue that the Doctor is so distracted and distanced with Adric because, in some intuitive pre-cog subconscious fashion, he *knows* that the puir wee prodigy is not long for this world (I don't believe this really, I think it's just muddled scriptwriting really)...
v: Anyway time for a direct and simple positive yip yip: Beryl Reid! As a bored and cynical but actually totally competent captain of avast merchant vessel of space, well aware of the dickishness of her crew and the general uselessness of regulations. A good surprise at the first appearance (which I've just spoilered); would have made a good companion actually, Lethbridge-Stewart-style.
vi: various unrelated observations. 1: It's merely anomalous and quaint given that the ep's set centuries in Earth's future, but the various computer tracking technologies, in the cave and on the ship. are also all quite poetic in their blinky bleepy simplicity (= more Hauntology 101 of course). 2: wai oh wai when we encounter a human traitor the Juggheds have suborned do we never see the anomalous charm and guile they must have put into the seduction? How on earth do traitors ever fall for it? (They're not all dimwits -- cf The Invasion -- though this one is. 3: I am a bit fascinated by the cultural relationship the 'Heds have to their blackly clad Latex pervodroids. And why does the droid-killing technique leave such a slimy -- and recognisable -- mess?
vii: Writing this up has been of a sluggish slog -- partly bcz I'm getting back into the rhythm after a too-long lay-off, but also because I find this quite a hard ep to get to grips with. Storywise, it's potentially really rich -- actually probably TOO rich for one four-parter -- but I *really* feel I'm projecting an awareness of the richness on the writers (but it seems very unfair to withhold it: none of this is especially subtle stuff). Just to bring focus back to DINOGEDDON to make the point: I genuinely can't decide if I want them to have made more of this underlying idea, or kept it as a (ideally more deft) Amazing Reveal. The latter allows us to get maximum impact from the Cretaceous-Traumatic Adric Event; but the fact of all the mass-produced JuggHeds struggling out of their shrink-wraps as they power up -- satirical metaphor ahoy! of human extinction by container-freighter carbon-footprint white-goods consumerism! -- would have been very hard indeed for a NuDoc overseer to overlook.
Putting a lot more thought into this issue than I suspect they ever did -- no there is nothing at all wrong with this imbalance, plz to bug-off -- I think there's two aspect to the Matthew Waterhouse problem. First is that logic vs emotion -- whiskered as it is in DW terms -- gains a lot of potential once a major character is a mathematically brilliant child, in terms of big-question SF and in terms of sit-com misunderstanding. (What Jim Parsons brings to Dr Sheldon Cooper is a brilliant layered awareness of different modes and types and age-group modes of intelligence, passing a face at different speeds, pulling a body different clownish ways)
Second is sadder, really: MW actually has a very sweet and engaging face. When he's not speaking or acting, you quite often really really want to like him (sometimes to hug him). Which possibly powers the abreaction (though others are know get very protective... )