Number : Season 12, serial 3 of 5.
Which One : A lone Sontaran warrior, experiments on captured humans; on an de-populated Earth.
Cast : The Doctor : Tom Baker
Sarah-Jane : Liz Sladen
Harry : Ian Marter
Styre / The Marshal : Kevin Lindsay
Vural : Donald Douglas
Krans : Glyn Jones
Erak : Peter Walshe
Roth : Peter Rutherford
Zake : Terry Walsh
Prisoner : Brian Ellis
Written By : Bob Baker, Dave Martin.
Produced By : Philip Hinchcliffe
First UK Broadcast : 22 February – 1 March 1975.
Length : 2 x 25 minute episodes.
Plot : The Doctor, Sarah and Harry; beam down to Earth from space-station Nerva. To fix the transmat relay but are captured, by a lone Sontaran Warrior.
What’s good : Return of the Sontarans.
What’s bad : Short. It could have easily been – a 4-episoder.
Review With Spoilers : The Sontaran Experiment was a short two-part episode, between the Doctor leaving space-station Nerva; at the end of The Ark In Space. Before getting sidetracked, in Genesis Of The Daleks and finally returning to Nerva; in a different time period, in Revenge Of The Cybermen.
As such, it should be treated as a short bridging-story; between these other three epic adventures. However, that’s not to say, that The Sonataran Experiment – is any less worthy, in it’s own right; because of this.
Also, the exclusive use of on-location shooting, with no studio-fills. Gives The Sonataran Experiment, a very organic feel; to any of it’s other counterparts. Apart from – say, previous fully on-location story; Spearhead From Space.
It features the return of the Sontarans, last seen in Pertwee’s; Time Warrior. To be specific, for budgetry reasons – it features the exact same costume and actor; Kevin Lindsay from Time Warrior aswell. Which helps support the notion that all Sontaran’s – are clones.
“As we knew, the Earth has not been repopulated. I have therefore carried out my instructions and lured a group of humans to the planet for testing. The results of my experiment indicate that they are puny beings with little resistance to physical stress, and are totally dependent on organic chemical intake for their energy supply!” Styre
The first thing, that really strikes you about The Sonataran Experiment – is; just how abruptly sadistic Styre is. Especially, when performing various tests on his human-captors. Including; water deprivation, hallucinatory phobias – and drowning experiments.
This makes Styre an uncompromisingly ruthless opponent, for the Doctor. So better realised, than some of the other pantomine villains that the Doctor has faced, over the years. This more pronounced undercurrent of gothic horror, was a facet and theme of new producer; Phillip Hinchcliffe’s tenure.
It ends surprisingly abruptly, with the Doctor managing to outwit Strye – and that’s down to the fact episode’s 1 and 2 – build quite nicely but end sharply. It feels like it could have – at least, managed a 3rd part; as there was definitely more mileage – in this story.
Indeed, the Doctor’s averting of a Sontaran invasion by telling the Sontaran fleet that; Styre’s plans have fell into the hands of the humans; is a little rushed and silly.
However, it’s an entertaining mini-episode distraction; from the space-station Nerva story-arc of season 12 – and it fits in well, with it’s other heavyweight season 12 linked-stories.
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