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Sontaran Fact File & Rutan Info
Not to be confused with the deoderant, this page talks about Linx and all his potato-headed chums who followed. Kevin Lindsay contributed endlessly to this great alien race which was ressurrected for the new series.

The Spud-Topped Militant Sontarans and their History


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We Love Sontarans

Sontaran Fact File


I've always loved Sontarans. Or rather it's probably fair to say that I loved Linx in The Time Warrior. Everything about him was interesting. He wasn't especially evil or sadistic. He was a practical kind of alien who got so narked with the planet he was stuck on that by the end of his little visit he was ready to empower some childish rouge to be world dictator.

When the Sontarans (or one of them) returned in The Sontaran Experiment, the impact was diluted by the mask redesign, and when they returned again in The Invasion of Time their lisping incompetent cockney leader pretty much finished off any credibility they might have had. Their final full TV appearance in The Two Doctors saw them back in the hands of their creator, the great Robert Holmes but for one reason and another this wasn't exactly their finest hour.

Mouse-over to take Sontaran Helmet off! What's interesting is that the Sontarans have been recycled more than any other villain after the Daleks and Cybermen, and despite being loved by fans, never really had the main stream impact to become the third "famous" baddie. They do have some imprint on the public at large, as Billie Piper famously described them as looking like a poo in a spacesuit - which is fair enough really - and Christopher Eccleston rather unconvincingly listed them as one of his childhood favourites when he was interviewed on daytime TV soon after being cast as the ninth Doctor, however he later revealed he had never watched the show as a child.

Beyond their four canon appearances, they also appeared in a Jim'll Fix It programme in a mini adventure called A Fix with the Sontarans and they also featured in the impressive Dreamwatch/Reeltime fan releases called Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans and Mindgame. They also appear in the spoof video Do You Have A License To Save This Planet?

The Sontarans were created by Robert Holmes in 1972 in a story format which was then quite rare - the pseudo-historical story, whereby a realistic historical setting was intertwined with a futuristic alien presence. Their next story was by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, their third by Graham Williams and Anthony Read before finally Robert Holmes returned to writing for his creations.

The Time Warrior

Cast of
The Time Warrior
Doctor Who
Sarah Jane Smith
The Brigadier
Commander Linx
Edward of Wessex
Lady Eleanor
Hal the Archer
Professor Rubeish
Robot Knight
Jon Pertwee
Elisabeth Sladen
Nicholas Courtney
Kevin Lindsay
David Daker
John J. Carney
Alan Rowe
June Brown
Jeremy Bulloch
Donald Pelmear
Sheila Fay
Gordon Pitt
Steve Brunswick
Dudley Long

Sontaran Sphere SpaceshipWe first meet the Sontarans in the middle ages, somewhere been the year 1189 and 1199. The Sontaran Linx arrives on Earth in his distinctive three-quarter sphere spaceship as a Commander of the Fifth Army Space Fleet of the Sontaran Army Space Corps. He plants his white S-branded flag and claims Earth for his own people.

The third Doctor only seems to recognise the Sontarans indirectly - he remarks that Linx's attitudes seem Sontaran, but he wasn't sure until Linx identified himself. It is as if the third Doctor had only read about Sontarans but never even seen them, but when Linx asks if the Doctor has met his race before, he does reply "Unfortunately," so the Doctor's other remarks are very out of place. When and where the Doctor first meets a Sontaran only becomes further complicated in the sixth Doctor story The Two Doctors (see below).

Sontaran Technology

Although Linx has access to crude time-travel technology in his ship, it is never suggested that Linx has traveled through time to reach 12th century Earth, hence we discover that the Sontaran race is far more advanced than the human race and has been at war with their sworn enemy the Rutans for millennia. The first piece of their advanced technology we see is a translator which allows Sontaran Linx to speak in English. Inside a Sontaran ShipHis second useful technological tool is his weapon which can be used as a cutting torch, stun gun and mind control device. Linx also has a chair with skull cap whichSontaran Wand Gun allows him to keep a prisoner at a work place which will deliver an electric shock should he try to escape. The inside of Linx's Sontaran Spaceship is pictured on the right.

We learn all the key facts about the Sontaran race during the story. Their bodies are short and powerful, with muscles designed for load bearing on a planet with a very high gravity. If we were to guess Linx might weigh an unlikely maximum of 20 stones then for him to weigh the 'several' tons which the Doctor estimates, then his homeworld must have a gravity of around 20 times that of Earth! Perhaps the Doctor is exaggerating somewhat as a planet of 20G is unlikely to allow the evolution of anything upright like a human, although it might account for an evolutionary path without the luxury of a slender neck! Linx is also disparaging of the human race's two genders, and he suggests that the system be changed.

Linx the Sontaran The Sontarans are a militaristic race, reveling in glory and relishing confrontations. Linx is intelligent and although slightly manipulative in his eagerness to get the job done, he is honourable and not needlessly sadistic or murderous. In fact, Linx is one of the least violent villains in Doctor Who history as he arrives quite peacefully, strikes up an alliance with the local humans and ultimately he only kills one person in the whole story, and even that is only when attacked. Naturally he attempts to kill the Doctor a couple of times, but thankfully he doesn't try especially hard.

Earth is considered strategically significant to the Sontarans and Commander Linx is on a reconnaissance mission in their long conflict with the Rutans.

Sontaran Probic VentSontarans are susceptible to an attack on their Probic Vent (pictured right), which is a small tube on the back of their necks. It is not explicitly stated at this stage that Sontarans are clones, however we learn that at their military academy there are hatchings of a million cadets at each muster parade.

As mentioned, Linx is not especially evil, and although he doesn't treat his slaves particularly well, his worst crime is damaging the time line by providing Irongron with more sophisticated weapons than the period should have. However there have been numerous instances where human evolution has been spurred on specifically by alien intervention - not least in The Daemons, but also with the meddling of The Monk who amongst other things allowed Stonehenge to be built using an anti-gravity lift. So whereas the Doctor once insisted to Barbara in The Aztecs that the course of history was already set in stone, we are now presented with the idea that history is fluid and any messing about in the past will create a different future. It's an inconsistent rule in Doctor Who because you have the likes of Pyramids of Mars where the Doctor flits forward to 1980 to show the consequences of them abandoning their battle, and on the other hand, there's The Visitation which shows that if aliens hadn't landed on Earth, key events such as the Great Fire of London would never have happened.

Linx the Sontaran

Inside a Sontaran ShipThe Sontaran Experiment

The next time the Doctor meets the Sontarans is in the far distant future after solar flares had cleansed the surface of the Earth. In The Sontaran Experiment the Doctor finds his old enemy trying to determine the weaknesses of the human race so that an invasion can be effective.

Styre the SontaranThe distinctive small three-quarter sphere ship appears once more but the Sontaran within, this time named Styre, has a number of differences to their previous appearance. It is made all the more odd that Sarah seemed to consider this second alien totally identical to the first one that she met. However Sontaran Styre had much lighter skin, thicker lips on a very broad mouth, a wider nose, and more pronounced forehead and cheek bones. He also had five fingers instead of the distinctive three which Linx had had and is lacking whiskers.

Inside a Sontaran ShipHis costume too was slightly different, with the helmet having undergone a slight redesign with narrower but taller eye-slits and a dappled finish, instead of the brushed metal of the previous style.

Field Major Styre is a member of the Sontaran G3 Military Assessment Survey and is answerable to his direct superior The Marshall and ultimately the Grand Strategic Council who rules the Sontaran military system - which could arguably mean they rule the entire Sontaran race.

We learn a little more about the probic vent on the back of the neck as Harry goes into Styre's ship to remove part of the Sontaran's body-recharging system (called a terrulian diode bypass transformer). It is revealed that Sontarans can feed on pure energy. Being a cloned race, we also get to see that Styre's superior, The Marshal, is identical in appearance, except for two large discs which appear on his collar (above right).

Styre - The Sontaran Experiment

The Invasion of Time

When the Sontarans returned for the season fifteen finale they were taking on the ultimate challenge - invading the homeworld of the Time Lords, Gallifrey. It's an interesting fact that the Doctor's homeworld wasn't named as "Gallifrey" until the first Sontaran encounter in The Time Warrior, and they remain the only alien aside from the Daleks to even consider mounting an assault on the Doctor's native planet.

Stor - Sontarans in The Invasion of Time

We learn no new information about the Sontarans in their third outing except the size of their army numbers in hundreds of millions and they can clone a million new soldiers every four minutes. In this story we finally see more than one Sontaran on screen at the same time, and they have three fingers on each hand as they did in their debut story. The leader of this group, called Stor, has a helmet which bears a bold version of the insignia first seen on Linx's helmet where it was made up of dots. Stor's helmet has the largest eye-holes so far seen, and bears a very thick rim which differs to his troops. Sontaran Stor - The Invasion of Time

Sontaran Probic Vent The probic vent has changed slightly, becoming a larger fixture with a wide slit conveniently just wide enough to accommodate a well-aimed knife from Leela.

The physical form of the sontarans in this story is once again different to their previous appearance, showing that although they may breed by cloning, this does not make them all identical. Perhaps their genetics technology is sophisticated enough for them to make modifications to their bodies for different environments, or perhaps there is a core of ethnically diverse Sontarans back on their homeworld which acts as a template for the rest of the race. In this form, some bristles are present on their eyebrows, but their mouths are narrow like a human's.

Stor who leads the attack on Gallifrey is not the most fear-inducing of aliens. Lumbering, slow-speaking, gullible, possessing a lisp and drifting into an odd cockney accent from time to time, he leads a bunch of the most stupid aliens ever to attempt an invasion, one of whom famously falls over a sun lounger. Not the finest hour of these monsters.

The Two Doctors

Sontaran SpaceshipThe Sontarans' final appearance in the classic Doctor Who series was in The Two Doctors, a story which featured both Patrick Troughton and Colin Baker. This is an added complication to the fact that Jon Pertwee's third Doctor seemed never to have directly Sontaran Varl - The Two Doctorsencountered Sontarans before however in The Two Doctors, the second Doctor meets them, and what's more he still recognises them! Therefore we can only assume he has read about them, or encountered them in either his first or second incarnation.

Sontaran ships are seen flying in space and unlike earlier stories these ships are fully spherical, rather than having a flat base. Maybe the lower sections can retract into a flat surface for landing?

The Sontarans in this story are represented by Group Marshal Stike of the 9th Sontaran Battle Group and Varl, a somewhat farcical double-act who come across like stuffy colonial British army men, rather than the tough, no-nonsense warrior first seen in Linx. Their heads, although domed, wobble as if there is a normal neck under their loose metal collar. Combined with their tall stature, these are the Sontarans arguably at their most disappointing, and furthest from Robert Holmes' original vision, despite them being back in the hands of their creator.

Their eye-bristles have gone and this time their only hair is on their chin. Their mouths are once again wide as in their second appearance. They carry the normal trademark wand as well as large cumbersome assault rifles.

Sontarans - The Two Doctors

As well as their "Achilles Heel" of their probic vent, this story also demonstrates that Sontarans are vulnerable to coronic acid, however there can't be many organic creatures who can happily survive a bucket of acid being thrown over them so this isn't really a weakness specific to Sontarans. We discover that Sontarans have green blood.

War with the Rutans

Rutan - Horror of Fang RockThe Sontarans are defined almost entirely by their endless war with a race called the Rutans, also known as the Rutan Host who hail from the planet Ruta III. The conflict has raged for so long that neither side can remember how it started however Linx calls the war a "struggle for freedom" so there is the suggestion that the Rutans started out as oppressors and it spiraled from there, but this could just be Sontaran propaganda.

We know that between the 12th century and the 20th century the solar system went from being an area of little interest in the war, to encompassing the domination of the Rutans which is said to include the whole of our Milky Way, however the Rutans were starting to lose the war. This was the information given in the Rutans' only appearance in the TV show, in Horror of Fang Rock.

A Rutan We learn that they are shape-shifting creatures whose natural form resembles a large, green, luminous jellyfish. They are intelligent and although amphibious are capable of considerable movement out of water including the ability to climb walls. They generate a lot of bio-electrical power and, similarly to their warring counterparts, they can feed off pure energy.

The war with the Rutans showed no sign of abating in the year 13,000 which was the setting of The Sontaran Experiment.

Although Robert Holmes created the notion of the Rutans when he created The Sontarans, it was Terrance Dicks who fleshed out these foes both in Horror of Fang Rock and the spinoff Shakedown. In his own novelisations he added supplementary information about The Great Mother being the repository of the Rutan gestalt intelligence without whom "the Host" i.e. all other Rutans would collapse.

Shakedown SontaransFurther Adventures of the Sontarans

The Sontarans and Rutans appear together for the first time in the Dreamwatch/Reeltime fan video Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans, written by Rutan aficionado Terrance Dicks. Both aliens were used under license of the estate of Robert Holmes who is down as the creator of the Rutans, even though Terrance Dicks was the man responsible for establishing almost everything we know about them.

The Sontarans in Shakedown are led by commander Commander Steg and this time the overhaul in their design was due to copyright reasons.

Sontarans The potato-head creations appear again in a spinoff once again penned by Terrance Dicks, called Mindgame. In this simple set-piece a Sontaran is imprisoned with a Draconian and a human. The Sontaran looks very much like Linx from their debut story, with a lot of extra wiring around his metal collar.

Sontaran in New SeriesThe Sontaran Stratagem

These popular aliens return in series four of the new series of Doctor Who with Christopher Ryan (who previously appeared in The Trial of a Timelord) playing their leader General Staal in episode four, The Sontaran Stratagem. His diminutive stature suits these monsters who were originally supposed to be short, unlike their later portrayals.

The new series Sontarans present quite a departure from the previous design but still remaining faithful to their stocky, militaristic concept. Their uniforms have taken on a graphite blue hue with giant shoulder pads and accentuated muscles. They carry gigantic weapons similar to in their final TV apperance The Two Doctors.