‘THE SONTARAN STRATAGEM/THE POISON SKY’
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‘Sontar-Ha!’ – The Sontarans return to attack the Earth
The second phase of ‘Doctor Who’ episodes from Series 4 features the return of the Sontarans!
For this Sontaran two-parter, I’ve had the original DVD cover of ‘Doctor Who – Series 4 – Volume 2’ signed by Dan Starkey, who played Commander Skorr in the story, at the ‘Big Blue Box 2’ event in Tunbridge Wells, March 2013. I’ve also had the DVD cover signed by Jacqueline King, who played Sylvia Noble during the new series at the ‘Dimensions 2015’ convention in Newcastle, October 2015.
‘THE SONTARAN STRATAGEM’ (Part 1)
This two-part story has many returns to ‘Doctor Who’. Firstly there’s the return of Freema Agueman as Martha Jones. She’s now a qualified doctor for U.N.I.T., since she’d finished her TARDIS travelling.
I remember being thrilled with delight when Martha Jones came back to ‘Doctor Who’. It seemed a shame she left at the end of Series 3 and it was so nice to have that final pay-off for the Doctor here.
Martha meets Donna Noble for the first time. The two get on well, which I was pleased about. There isn’t a cat-fight between Donna and Martha, compared to Rose and Sarah Jane for ‘School Reunion’.
Secondly there’s the return of U.N.I.T. (the Unified Intelligence Taskforce) that the Doctor worked for long ago back in the 70s – or was it the 80s (reference to the U.N.I.T. Dating Controversy for fans).
The Doctor is uncomfortable with U.N.I.T., as he doesn’t like people with guns. This UK branch of U.N.I.T. is led by Rupert Holliday-Evans as Colonel Mace and Bridget Hodson as Captain Marian Price.
The Doctor initially doesn’t take a liking to them, even though they admire him for what he did back in the old days. Also the Doctor doesn’t like the U.N.I.T. people saluting him whenever he is around.
Like the Doctor, I wished Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier returned to ‘Doctor Who’. I’m glad a reference is made to the Brigadier, even though he was stranded in Peru which was pretty annoying.
The Doctor gets on well with Christian Cooke as Private Ross Jenkins which I was glad about. There’s at least someone in U.N.I.T. the Doctor likes, even when Luke Rattigan names Ross a U.N.I.T. ‘grunt’.
Most importantly, this story features the return of the Doctor’s oldest foes – the potato-headed Sontarans. I first came across the Sontarans in the TV story called ‘The Two Doctors’ with Colin Baker.
I eventually saw ‘The Time Warrior’ with Jon Pertwee. Here, the Sontarans are played by Christopher Ryan and Dan Starkey. Christopher Ryan appears as General Staal of the Tenth Sontaran Battle Fleet.
Chris Ryan is superb as the Sontaran general, since he manages to get the militaristic and bombastic nature of the Sontarans spot on, especially with their love of war and their code of conduct in battle.
The same is said for Dan Starkey who enjoys playing the Sontaran – Commander Skorr. Dan seems a nice chap and he has had the opportunity to play more Sontarans on TV and in the Big Finish audios.
This story also features Bernard Cribbins return as Wilfred Mott, Donna’s granddad with Jacqueline King as Sylvia Noble. I love it when Wilfred’s reunited with Donna and she tells him about the Doctor.
I was thrilled when Wilfred meets the Doctor for the first time and recognizes him from ‘Voyage of the Damned’. I also did find it amusing when Sylvia recognises the Doctor from ‘The Runaway Bride’.
This story of course is about U.N.I.T. investigating the mysterious deaths connected to the Atmospheric Omission Systems (ATMOS) in people’s cars. Martha calls the Doctor and Donna’s help.
They eventually come across Luke Rattigan, who is inventor of ATMOS and is working with the Sontarans. Pretty soon, the ATMOs systems in the cars get turned on and poisonous gases exhume.
These gases choke the Earth by polluting its atmosphere. It all goes crazy and deadly serious when the world gets poisoned by the end of the first episode. I found that cliff-hanger ending so gripping.
The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 3 of ‘The Complete Series 4’, there’s a commentary with Dan Starkey, make-up artist Neill Gorton and executive producer Julie Gardner. On Disc 6, there’s the ‘Doctor Who Confidential’ episode ‘Send in the Clones’.
‘THE POISON SKY’ (Part 2)
I found it extremely funny when it’s Sylvia who saves Wilfred at the beginning of ‘The Poison Sky’. She uses an axe to smash the car window when he was trapped inside, which is so brilliant to watch.
By the second episode of this story, the Doctor has to find a way to stop the Earth being choked to death. He also needs to discover why the Sontarans are doing this to change the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Doctor soon learns that the Sontarans intend to use the Earth as their ground for cloning troops in the war against their enemies, the Rutans. They have to change Earth’s atmosphere to achieve it.
The Doctor has to enlist Donna’s help in order to stop the Sontaran as well as save Martha after she’s been cloned to serve their cause. I like the scenes where the Doctor is on the phone to Donna.
This story features Ryan Sampson as Luke Rattigan, who’s working with the Sontarans. Luke is an opposite of the Doctor. He’s a genius and is frustrated with the whole world not being clever as he is.
When he works with the Sontarans, Luke hopes to take his academy of youths to a new planet to start afresh as the world chokes to death. Luke then finds he’s been backstabbed by the Sontarans.
Luke is agonisingly upset and betrayed. I wondered where Luke’s journey was going to go in this story. Luke soon redeems himself when he takes the Doctor’s place in order to stop those Sontarans.
Ryan Sampson is good as Luke. He seems to enjoy playing egotistical youths with mad obsessions for a glorious future. Ryan has played alongside Peter Davison as the Doctor and Sarah Sutton as Nyssa.
These are in the Big Finish audios, with him playing the same sort of character in ‘1963: Fanfare for the Common Men’ and ‘The Elite’. One wonders if he’s played nice characters aside from the villains.
Donna’s very good in this story, as she gets to work on her own without the Doctor. This is when she’s visiting her family and when she gets teleported by mistake in the TARDIS to the Sontaran ship.
She uses Martha’s mobile to keep in touch with her family as well as with the Doctor, who gives her instructions to help him to defeat the Sontarans. She gets to use a mallet to knock one Sontaran out.
Donna shows her mettle in being a companion. This is particularly when she discovers people working in the ATMOS factory don’t take sick days and this raises some clues to solving the mystery.
This story allows Donna to put her temping skills to good use. Even when she doubts herself and the Doctor reassures her, she still manages to do the things she wouldn’t ordinary do in a hard situation.
‘The Sontaran Stratagem’/’The Poison Sky’ is a very good comeback for the Sontarans and a lovely return for Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones. It’s well-written by former script-editor Helen Raynor.
This two-parter is definitely an action-packed and fun-filled adventure worthy to enjoy. I also find it very difficult to get the Sontarans’ war-chant/catchphrase out of my head – “Sontar-Ha! Sonta-Ha!”
At the end of ‘The Poison Sky’, the Doctor and Donna are ready to set off for new adventures and Martha is ready to settle on Earth with her new fiancée. This is until the TARDIS doors shut on them.
The TARDIS goes out of control and takes off. The Doctor, Donna and Martha have no idea where they’re going. But we as the audience know that the TARDIS is taking them on some new adventure.
The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 3 of ‘The Complete Series 4’, there’s a commentary with David Tennant, executive producer Russell T. Davies and producer Susie Liggat. On Disc 6, there’s the ‘Doctor Who Confidential’ episode ‘Sonta-Ha!’
‘The Sontaran Stratagem’/’The Poison Sky’ rating – 9/10
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