‘THE SONTARAN EXPERIMENT’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Sontaran in Dartmoor
This is a two-part story featuring one Sontaran!
‘The Sontaran Experiment’ was something very enthralling; entertaining and compelling. I wouldn’t class this as one of my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ stories, but it’s a nice little adventure with a Sontaran.
This two-part story is by the Bristol boys, Bob Baker and Dave Martin, who filled the gap between ‘The Ark in Space’ and ‘Genesis of the Daleks’. It depicts the Sontarans in a horrifying and disturbing way compared how the Sontarans were depicted previously in their debut story, ‘The Time Warrior’.
Set in the far future, the Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan arrive on Earth following the events of ‘The Ark In Space’. They find what is left of the human race terribly tortured and on the run from the Sontaran, Field Major Styre who is on the planet, conducting terrible experiments on them.
I found the idea of a Sontaran major experimenting on human subjects for military purposes interesting and disturbing. The fact that Styre is testing the humans’ limits before allowing the Sontaran fleet to invade Earth is a frightening concept and it’s very compelling in just two episodes.
Kevin Lindsay, who played Linx the Sontaran in ‘The Time Warrior’, returns as Styre in ‘The Sontaran Experiment’. Styre is a darker and grim Sontaran character compared to Linx. Kevin does a fine job, bringing the same Sontaran strength and menace into Styre as he did for Linx in ‘The Time Warrior’.
I’m not a fan though of the new Sontaran make-up featured in ‘The Sontaran Experiment’. It’s grey and pale and it should be brown and warty as it was from ‘The Time Warrior’. Kevin Lindsay died shortly after he played Styre, which is sad as he had a bad heart condition when he was in that story.
The fact that the whole story is filmed on location makes the story fast-paced and gripping to see. The Dartmoor landscape provide an atmospheric quality to ‘The Sontaran Experiment’ as the Doctor; Sarah Jane and Harry tread rugged terrain when encountering Styre and the other horrors on Earth.
I enjoyed Tom Baker as the Doctor. Tom accidentally injured his collarbone when he was making this story on location. The Doctor fares well though, especially when he fights Styre in a single combat in ‘Part Two’ that was exciting to watch (although that was a stuntman fighting as the Doctor, ha, ha).
I also liked Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. The scene where Sarah Jane meets Styre for the first time and mistakes him as Linx were very heart-stopping to watch. I also found the scenes where Sarah Jane gets experimented upon very terrifying, and Lis as Sarah Jane shows how terrified she is.
Ian Marter does really well as Harry Sullivan. Harry gets to be heroic and climbs up lots of cliffs. I enjoyed his scenes with Sarah Jane when they wind each other up. By this point, Sarah Jane and Harry do like each other and it shows in the working relationship between Lis Sladen and Ian Marter.
The story’s guest cast include some human survivors on the planet Earth. They are Donald Douglas as Vural; Glyn Jones (who wrote the First Doctor story ‘The Space Museum’) as Krans; Peter Walshe as Erak; Peter Rutherford as Roth and Terry Walsh as Zake (who doubled for Tom Baker on location).
The DVD special features are as follows. The highlight for me is the ‘Built For War – The Sontaran Story’ focusing on the development of the Sontarans in the original TV series. I wish they could update this documentary with the recent TV episodes from the new series and the Big Finish audio dramas.
There’s also an enjoyable commentary with Elisabeth Sladen, producer Phillip Hinchcliffe and co-writer Bob Baker. There’s an info-text commentary option to enjoy and a photo gallery of the story.
As I said before, ‘The Sontaran Experiment’ doesn’t rank as one of my favourites, but it’s still an enjoyable adventure. I would recommend this to add to your ‘Doctor Who’ DVD collection as the ‘Built for War’ documentary is excellent and the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry are really good in this.
‘The Sontaran Experiment’ rating – 5/10
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