Number : Season 12, episode 3 of 5.
Which One : A lone Sontaran, experiments on 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 parts.
Plot : The Doctor, Sarah and Harry beam down to Earth from Nerva; to fix the transmat relay but are captured by a lone Sontaran scout.
What’s good : Return of the Sontarans.
What’s bad : Short. It could have easily been a 4-parter.
Review With Spoilers : The Sontaran Experiment was a short 2-part episode, between the Doctor leaving space station Nerva at the end of The Ark In Space, 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 treat as a bridging episode; between these other three epic adventures. Thats not say – though, that The Sonataran Experiment is any less worthy in its own right becaue of this, though.
Also, the exclusive use of on-location shooting with no studio-fills, gives The Sonataran Experiment a very organic feel; to any of its other counterparts. Apart from – say, previous fully on-location episode – 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 clarify the “all Sontaran’s are clones”-angle.
“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 Sontaran 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 the Doctor has faced, over the years. This more pronounced undercurrent of gothic horror, was a facet and theme of 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 definately 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 co-season stories.
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