Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Doctor Who - The Sontaran Experiment

As is now regular, following my previous postings for Inferno, The Hand of Fear and The Mark of the Rani, here is my review from the Doctor Who Ratings Guide of this week's DVD release, The Sontaran Experiment:

A Time Filler

This story is a rarity in that it is set entirely on location but unfortunately it becomes all too obvious that virtually everything takes place in an immediate vicinity and so there's little sense of scale about the events. Furthermore the absence of shots of either the GalSec colonist's ship or the Sontaran battle fleet results in little sense of just how important matters are.

A strong attempt is made to give both Sarah and Harry something to do in this story but it is clear that Harry is there to perform an action role in the mould of Jamie, Ben, Steven or Ian and that this role is redundant given that the Doctor himself can perform such a role.

Part One foolishly spends all its time building up a sense of mystery that can only be resolved hurriedly in Part Two. This story is extremely light on character or incident and is wisely confined to only being a two-parter since it could never have supported anything longer. The plot is at least original but given that the story is set in the far future it is extremely difficult to accept that the Sontarans require such basic information about the human physical form. The use of the Sontarans is a good idea, since it provides a link with the last Jon Pertwee season and thus shows to the viewer that even though the Doctor has recently changed appearance, the adventures and adversaries remain the same. But given the length of time that has passed since the 11th century one has to wonder how the human race can have escaped the attention of the Sontarans for so long.

In contrast to his direction on the previous story, The Ark in Space, Rodney Bennett's direction is far less inspired on location and so there's very little suspense or terror. The effects are also weak, with Styre's robot best forgotten. Styre makes a strong physical impression but otherwise there's extremely little in this story that's visually memorable.

On the acting side none of the guest cast stand out in any particular way, though Kevin Lindsay brings a strong sadistic streak to Styre. Ultimately it is difficult to find very much in The Sontaran Experiment that stands out in any particular way. This is a story that at best fills up a gap and is fortunately over far sooner than many other time fillers. 4/10
The Sontaran Experiment can be purchased from here.


Anonymous said...

Tim , I don't agree with your assessment vis a vis the sontaran experiment.
I enjoyed it as a lad and its still good as a way to see the cast with more time to linger in seemingly empty situations.
The rugged country is an unmentioned 'cast'member and adds to an air of foreboding.
A pleasantly odd story in plot and context, but still enjoyable as a chance to see the TARDIS crew
in 'ordinary' situations in the country.
Compared to dry Australia, its a pleasant vista to dwell on.

Enjoy your thoughts.
An Australian wellwisher

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

Hmm - maybe I'd give it a more positive review nowadays than nearly five years ago when I wrote that. But I have to say it's not the strongest story in that period, especially considering those surrounding it.

Anonymous said...

Yes its a little spare in volume, but I found it a good tight story full of mystery .
Perhaps a touch of nostalgia as I recall this story in a rainy winter Tasmanian evening.
Besides today the Sontaran with his torture on the humans remind us presciently of the Americans and their systemic abuses torturing people.
Funny what goes around, comes around.

Basically a good short story, that is pregnant with mystery and difference combined with lessons for today.
See you down in Dartmoor..
An Australian wellwisher.


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