Big Finish 203: Terror of the Sontarans
Written By: John Dorney and Dan Starkey
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Melanie Bush), Daniel O'Meara (Ketch), Jon Edgley Bond (Anvil Jackson/Technician Gyte), Andree Bernard (Tethneka/Carter/Thing #1 and #2), Dan Starkey (Field-Major Kayste/Skegg/Stodd), John Banks (Adjutant Commander Klath/Stettimer), John Dorney (Glarr). Other parts played by the cast.
The Doctor and Mel land aboard an old mining establishment which had been taken over by the Sontarans and used as a place of experimentation. The Sontarans, true to their tradition, tested its occupants, human and non-human alike, for their strengths and weaknesses. In between tests, they were locked up, often ending up fighting amongst themselves.
But something went wrong.
Very. Very wrong.
The Sontarans in charge experienced the gravest of humiliation as they became afraid, very, very afraid, of something which lived on the planet that the mining establishment was at.
When other Sontarans come to take charge, to find out what happened, they find out they have to deal with the worst form of humiliation as the former Sontaran leader experienced what no other Sontaran had ever experienced: fear.
When they find the Doctor is around, the Sontarans come to the conclusion that what s going on is all the working of the Doctor. The Doctor, they believe, with his Gallifreyan technology has done something to cause such panic, to destroy the sanity of the Sontaran leader.
But the Doctor and Mel know otherwise. They came aboard soon before the other Sontarans arrived, and found the former inhabitants of the mining base imprisoned, and needing help. The Doctor goes to investigate what really is up with the planet, causing so much insanity, while Mel finds herself working with the a rag-tag band of survivors, including the former Sontaran commander who is many things which are quite unSontaran like – including knitting.
The story tries to combine elements of the humor of New Who Sontarans with classical Old Who warriors, and so we get a mix of Sontaran types here. At times, I almost wondered if we were seeing the beginnings of Straxx, explaining the Doctor’s relationship with him, but by the end of the story, it didn’t happen. Other apparent nods to New Who are scattered throughout the story, as should be expected since Dan Starkey is famous in New Who for playing Straxx. These nods may or may not be what they seem – though clearly, they are made for us to think “What if…” And even by the end of the story, I still have a slight “What if…”feeling about them (is this a kind of origin story for the blanking blanks?).
Sylvester and Bonnie are both good here, but they also have a lot of great interplay with the rest of the cast. I enjoyed the humor around “Anvil” Jackson, a would be heroic figure who, nonetheless, had a misunderstanding what his nickname meant.
The Sontarans embrace more of the classical Who elements than New Who Sontarans, but, as even the writers point out, there are “silly” Sontaran scenes which embrace more of their engagement in New Who than Classic Who. Dan I expected enjoyed writing this, able to use his inside knowledge of the Sontarans – however, I do wish Straxx had been able to be put into it (or at least, one of the Straxx clone batch) – his early stories need to be told.
While this is an enjoyable story, it is not as classic (on first listen) to Heroes of Sontar, which is my favorite Sontaran story to date. For, though the Sontarans are the star, and they have to deal with experiences they are not accustomed to, when it is revealed, it actually turns out to be more reminiscent to Lem’s Solaris than anything else I could think of. Not that it is entirely the same – there is a story there, but the solution, once the actual “threat” is determined, almost feels too simple; but that perhaps is why there is room for this to be the start of something else. This in the end had the ending feel as if it were a let down, dropping half a star off my rating.
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