> Series 4 Reviews > The
Sontaran Stratagem Guest reviewed
An old friend calls the Doctor back to Earth where
she is now working with some even older friends to defeat a very old enemy...
I was really
looking forward to this story. The Sontarans are one of my favourite monsters
in terms of concept and design but I've always felt they haven't been
best used in the classic show, except their first story "The Time
Warrior". So I was greatly enthused to hear they would be this seasons
"classic monster" return.
look fantastic and modern make-up techniques have only improved the already
classic and well remembered design. Interestingly they were revealed slowly
and dramatically despite having been openly shown in promo pictures for
months, and having a recent Radio Times cover. The fact that the slow
reveal still worked is a great tribute to some very good direction, which
kept the action generally pacey, only stopping for a couple of obligatory
"New Series" emotional breaks.
is unusual for a Sontaran story, showing them deviously trying to destroy
the Earth from behind the scenes. I was expecting the usual barge in and
fight character to be the main idea. However, it is a two part story so
the reason behind this may become more clear in the next episode.
of TV these days seems to require that the viewer has some common ground
with the characters, and each of the Doctors companions has had their
family dragging along behind to do this. Generally this hasn't bothered
me too much as long as they are used sparingly and the characters are
worthwhile. In Donna's case I find her Mother to be an irritating watered
down version of Jackie Tyler. Wilfred though seems like he will be one
of the better family characters.
So all in
all a fine opening episode, with one small niggle... the Sontaran jig...
I'm not convinced that worked. I'm really looking forward to the second
episode, with less jigs!
Jay from Bristol
Best Linx to the Past
as The Fires of Pompeii
was everything I’d hope to get from a pseudo-historical, The Sontaran
Stratagem was everything I’d want from an Earth invasion type story.
I was nervous about the return of Martha, but aside from her very smug
opening line before the titles, she provided a warm presence and was quite
enjoyable. One minor criticism is that she wasn’t terrible convincing
as a doctor, and she’s less convincing as a soldier, however her
placement in the story works perfectly because she’s just distant
enough from the Doctor now that we have mixed emotions when she falls
into enemy hands.
are handled brilliantly, with lovely homages to The Sontaran Experiment
at the start where just a three-fingered hand is shown over the controls.
Seeing huge numbers of the clone troops is lots of fun, and the makeup
is brilliant. I take back the misgivings I had about Christopher Ryan,
as he gives a sterling performance with appropriately husky voice, and
makes very much the believable alien war hero. I’m disappointed
that the other Sontaran we see (Score!) is not only played by a different
actor, but he didn’t make the remotest effort to do "the voice".
Even the awful commander Stor in The Invasion of Time made the
effort to do a whispery-rasping voice. Which makes Rattigen’s line
about “How do you tell each other apart?” totally pointless.
They sound totally different for one thing. And if that fails, try looking
at the face. Or the teeth. The shape of the head. Ignoring that, they
look great in their costumes, and the striking blue doesn’t bother
me as much as I thought it would. Most importantly they have a strong
identity which differentiates them from the black and silver Judoon.
from the minor gripe about "Score!", the episode was a joyful
triumph. Full of charm and soldier-boy fun, plus fun references to the
classic series. The dialogue had lots of flare, and plenty of very funny
moments. The tenth Doctor slipped back into his UNIT role perfectly, working
alongside and bickering with the military men around him. It’s amusing
to see that UNIT continue their top secret tradition (and now Torchwood’s),
of writing their top secret organisation’s name on their vehicles.
It was nice
to see the Sontarans' cloning technology extended to a previously unseen
purpose allowing Martha to join the ranks of the doppelganger companions,
and resurrecting the always disturbing scenario of one of the main characters
going bad, which we saw with Mickey four years ago, way back Rose.
My only other
slight grumble is the now tedious emotional family moment. In this episode
we have Donna meeting her granddad again after a whole three days apart.
We get flash-backs. They wave, they hug, they cry. My attention begins
to wander. But back to the action as Martha is tricked into going into
the cloning chamber (and for people like me still hung up on the old 25-minute
episode format, our cliff-hanger for episode one is where the guards stop
Martha escaping, she screams and the lights go out). But then we’re
back to the domestics. They chat at the kitchen table. I sigh loudly to
let my houseplants know how bored I am.
these ubiquitous family scenes, the episode was gripping, and rattled
along at a great pace. Throw in some utterly spectacular spaceship shots
as the episode reaches a crescendo, plus a horrifying cliff-hanger, complete
with companion-turned-bad, and all-in-all you have a brilliant part-one
of a very traditional, thoroughly enjoyable Doctor Who story.
Four episodes in and this season is easily the strongest of the new series
by a country mile, and well on course to be one of the greatest seasons
in the history of the show. With a very excting story title in two weeks,
plus a Stephen Moffat two-parter and a season finale with a cast the size
of Ben Hur, it promises to be a memorable year.
Review by Murphy from Staines
Next episode - The
Learn all about the potato-headed aliens in the Sontaran