The Sontaran Experiment

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The Sontaran Experiment
It’s nasty, brutish and very, very short…
 

Part One

When Sue claps her eyes on the DVD’s Episode Selection screen, she doesn’t even try to hide her excitement.

Sue: Only two episodes? I’m in heaven!

Me: I’ll tell you what – if you can correctly guess what makes this story interesting from a production point of view, I’ll give you a nice foot rub during the next story.

And with that deal struck, I successfully distract her during the title sequence (“Could you pass me the lighter, please?” works every time), and then we’re away…

Sue: Ooh, it’s on location. I like it already. Are we in the Lake District?

Me: Dartmoor.

Sue: Very nice. I wish they could all be on location. It makes all the difference.

The Sontaran ExperimentOur story begins in a circle of silver spheres…

Sue: Is it the Yeti?

When the Doctor, Harry and Sarah arrive, Sue is drawn to their choice of outdoor clothing.

Sue: I love Harry’s duffle coat. It’s a classic. And, believe it or not, I once had an anorak just like Sarah Jane’s but mine was bright orange.

Me: Lovely.

The Doctor begins to repair the T-Mat terminal while Harry and Sarah decide to explore a desolate and uninhabited Earth. The Doctor tells them, “Trafalgar Square should be that way”.

Sue: They should have gone for a Planet of the Apes moment here. They could have bought a cheap model of Nelson’s Column and they should have buried in some mud and filmed it with forced perspective – it would have looked great. They really missed a trick there. Barry would have CSO-ed it in, I’m sure.

The Sontaran ExperimentWhen Harry goes careering down a ravine, Sue is only worried about one thing.

Sue: I hope he doesn’t ruin his coat.

Meanwhile, a group of human astronauts from the Galsec colony are also wandering around on the planet…

Sue: Are they South African? If this was made in the 1970s then I guess these must be the bad guys.

About six years ago, when we lived in a caravan, I used to record episode commentaries for Tachyon TV with a few friends (we were young and foolish) and when it came to record the podcast to The Sontaran Experiment, we found ourselves singing Spitting Image’s classic ‘I’ve Never Met A Nice South African’ at the top of our lungs. There was only one problem: it was a hot, summer’s day and we had to open all the windows in the caravan. Also, unbeknownst to us, a group of builders were working on site within earshot of our cacophonous singing. This would have been embarrassing enough but the builders in question were also South African. Oh, how we laughed!

Sue: No wonder they did such a bad job. What a bunch of cowboys.

Meanwhile, a Galsec astronaut is being hunted down by a strange robotic contraption.

The Sontaran ExperimentSue: What the hell is that supposed to be? Is this yet another replacement for the Daleks? They haven’t got a clue, have they? And it’s not a very practical design for knocking about on the moors and zipping between rocks, is it?

We are expected to believe that this robot is so dangerous, a man will risk his own life before he’ll allow himself to be captured by it; a fact hammered home to us when the poor astronaut falls down a cliff in an effort to escape it.

Sue: Is the robot that scary? It’s a bit of a leap. No pun intended.

Meanwhile, Harry is still stuck in his hole.

Sue: Harry is useless. He could at least try to climb back up. That slope doesn’t look that steep to me. Is he always this pathetic? And he’s completely ruined his coat. He’ll never get those grass stains out. What a waste.

The Galsec astronauts capture and interrogate the Doctor. I notice that Sue always tends to shut up whenever Tom is in full flow. If only Tom were in every scene.

The Sontaran ExperimentMeanwhile, an alien with stubby fingers monitors the situation from afar…

Sue: Am I expected to recognise who that is just from the hand?

Me: Well, technically, that hand should be no help to you whatsoever.

Sue: What’s this story called?

Me: Er… The Rocks of Doom.

As Harry tries to find his way back to his friends, Sue finds herself transfixed by Dartmoor’s scenery.

Sue: What a lovely place to go for a walk. Did they run Doctor Who tours up on the moors in the 1970s?

The Sontaran ExperimentMe: No. And have you noticed anything remarkable about this story yet?

Pause.

Sue: Is it shot entirely on location? On video?

Me: That’s right. Well done. They shot it with an Outside Broadcast unit.

Sue: Did they really? That is interesting.

She is not being sarcastic.

Sue: It looks great. They should make them all like this. It feels very modern.

And then we encounter a spaceship with a very familiar design.

Sue: Oh, yes! I know this! Don’t tell me! I definitely know this…

Me: Oh, for God’s sake, we only saw it a few weeks ago.

Sue: I know this! Don’t tell me!

The Sontaran ExperimentThere is a very long pause.

Sue: What does it begin with?

Me: S.

Sue: Silurians? No, that’s not right…

By this time, the occupant of the ship has emerged, and he is about to remove his helmet when -

Sue: Sontarans! I love the Sontarans.

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Part Two

The Sontaran ExperimentSarah mistakenly believes that this Sontaran is Linx from The Time Warrior. In fact, she claims they are identical.

Sue: They aren’t identical at all. This one doesn’t look half as good as the one we saw last time. The mask looks cheaper and less detailed.

Me: They don’t even have the same number of fingers! You’d have thought that a script that included references to the Sontarans being identical clones would have resulted in costumes and masks that were, er, identical. But, no. Well, that’s Doctor Who for you.

Sue: I do like the Sontarans, though. They are a great idea – very iconic. Some of them are capable of being good guys, you know.

Aside from commenting on how everything looks great when it’s shot outside, Sue also notices a problem with the show’s star.

Sue: Is it just me or does Tom Baker look a bit pale?

The Sontaran ExperimentMe: He’s isn’t feeling very well.

Sue: Is he hungover?

Me: He’s probably in agony; he broke his collarbone during the making of this episode. The drugs probably haven’t kicked in yet.

Sue: The poor thing.

Sue will wince in sympathy every time Tom Baker moves from now on.

Sue: It must have been quite cheap to film this. No sets at all, really. Just found locations, a couple of props and some costumes. It’s the sort of thing a bunch of fans could make in a spare weekend.

Me: Oh, believe me, they have.

This particular Sontaran, whose name is Styre, decides to subject Sarah to a series of horrific hallucinations.

The Sontaran ExperimentSue: Elizabeth Sladen is great when it comes to being terrified. I’m not sure what this does for Sarah Jane’s feminist agenda but she has the ‘rabbit caught in headlights’ look down to a fine art.

Harry tries to rescue a Galsec captive who has been tied to a rock.

Sue: I’m beginning to warm to Harry a little. He’s not as useless as I first thought. At least he’s trying to be brave and resourceful. It’s just the stupid dialogue they give him that lets him down.

We discover that Styre has been experimenting on the humans to analyse their weaknesses, and this poor sod has spent nine whole days chained to a rock without any water.

Sue: This is a bit grim, isn’t it?

Me: If I remember correctly, the book is even more extreme. The actor who plays Harry, Ian Marter, novelised this story, and because the episode was so short, he padded it out with endless scenes of pain and torture. Perfect reading material for young children if you ask me.

Styre’s latest wheeze involves seeing how long it will take for two men to hold a weight over a colleague’s rib cage without dropping it, even though the colleague in question betrayed them. It’s very intense.

Sue: He’s trying out new game show formats for Endemol.

Meanwhile, the Doctor faces off against the Sontaran’s robot sentry with his sonic screwdriver.

Sue: I still don’t like the Sontaran’s sidekick. I guess he must have come flat-packed in the ship? I bet it must have taken him ages to assemble it. It looks like a cross between the Martians from ‘War of the Worlds’ and the robots from the Smash potato adverts.

The Sontaran ExperimentWe learn that a massive invasion fleet is waiting for Styre to file his report.

Sue: This is bit far-fetched. There’s no one left on Earth to invade! Who cares if the humans are frightened of snakes if there’s only five of them and thousands of you? This makes no sense whatsoever.

After receiving a bollocking from his superior for arseing about, Styre goes back to his fiendish experiments.

Sue: This isn’t really an experiment at all – it’s just torture for the sake of it. If he really wanted to know how resilient a human’s ribcage was, he could just drop the bloody thing on him. He’s just pissing around.

The Doctor challenges Styre to single combat and the resultant fight scene isn’t what it could or should have been.

Sue: This is a shame. It’s clearly not Tom Baker but they are making the best of a bad situation, I suppose. It would be easy fight to replicate in a school playground as well – you just have to flail around a bit.

Exhausted, Styre claims he will finish the Doctor off after he returns to his ship to take care of some urgent business.

Sue: He desperately needs a poo.

The Sontaran ExperimentA few seconds later, Styre emerges from his ship in great pain. He slumps against some rocks and slowly deflates.

Sue: We didn’t need to see that. That looked silly and now I’ll always think that the Sontarans are made of balloons.

Incredibly, it was Harry who saved the day.

Sue: OK, fair enough. He’s definitely getting better.

The episode concludes with the Doctor telling the Sontaran war fleet to sod off.

Sue: That is either a satire about red tape or it’s a really stupid conclusion to the story. What if they call the Doctor’s bluff? They’ll kill everyone! Who’s going to stop them? I don’t buy it.

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The Final Score

Sue: I can’t believe I’m going to say this but it was too short.

Me: You have got to be kidding me!

Sue: It was over before I could get into it. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot that I liked about it – the pace, the location, Tom Baker – but there was a lot that I didn’t like as well. The plot was terrible, it was impossible for me to care about the guest characters, and it felt very cheap. The set-up in Part One was very effective but the second-half didn’t deliver. I bet I won’t even remember it tomorrow.

5/10

Sue: Do they ever make Doctor Who stories with three episodes? That would be perfect.

The experiment continues…
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Discussion

  1. Neowhovian  March 23, 2012

    I really like Sue’s take on this. It is too short to make sense. It’s got a solid premise, but somehow it never feels quite like it comes to fruition.

    And “The Rocks of Doom“? Nice one. :)

    • Dave Sanders  March 23, 2012

      Two-parters are a lose/lose proposition unless they’re really done well, which is awfully difficult to strike a good balance with and not end up with an inconsequental story. If they spend enough time setting the scenario up and exploring it, as the old series ones do, then the rest in episode seems rushed to the level where the setup comes across as so much pointless fannying about. And if it doesn’t, then you’re not left with any personal investment in the story, which is where the weaker filler episodes in the new series fall down.

      • encyclops  March 24, 2012

        I usually imagine that this is one of the biggest reasons I don’t love NuWho as much as I’d like to. A 45-50 minute story just isn’t the same as a good solid 4-parter. Padding is sometimes just padding, but other times it delays gratification and helps create atmosphere, and that’s more important than just rushing frantically from plot point to plot point (or contrivance to contrivance).

        And yet it’s not as if the new 2-parters succeed all the time, either. In fact, it’s easier to list the ones that generally work: “Are you my mummy?,” “I’ll play teacher, you play maid,” “So that’s what all that Bad Wolf stuff was about,” and “I’m already dead in this suit!” The ones about the Slitheen, the Cybermen, the “evolving” Daleks, the Sontarans, the Silurians, and the living cornstarch were all…not favorites of mine, let’s be polite. (And I’m very much on the fence about “I’m the devil!”)

        So maybe it’s more complicated than duration; maybe it’s the episode breaks themselves that help set the proper mood. Maybe a cliffhanger every 25 minutes, even a bad one, keeps things moving in the way that a cliffhanger every 50 minutes might not.

        • Dave Sanders  March 24, 2012

          This is also a significant factor in the number of earthbound stories penned by RTD; you can shift the timeline and add a few sci-fi trappings but it’s still a world the audience already knows and feels part of, thus saving on setup time. Even in extreme cases like the year five billion, the scenario can be summed up just the once and then revisited again and again.

  2. John S. Hall  March 23, 2012

    FWIW, Styre’s robot used to scare me as a wee ‘un when I saw this story! I think it was more the noise and the wavy mandibles than anything else.

    Sue’s already seen one three-parter, and there are quite a few to come once you reach Sylvester McCoy’s era!

    Oh, and there’s “The Two Doctors” as well.

  3. Wholahoop  March 23, 2012

    3 episodes? Yes, Delta and the Bananamen – be careful what you wish for

  4. Luke Harrison  March 23, 2012

    ” Do they ever make Doctor Who stories with three episodes? That would be perfect.”

    Oh dear, you’re going to regret saying that.

  5. CJJC  March 23, 2012

    Sue’s definitely seen at least one three-episoder thus far.

    I’ve never really gone for the T-shirt slogans, but “He desperately needs a poo” accompanied by a Sontaran and his open-doored sphere would do it for me.

    Also, “I’ve Never Met a Nice South African” is going to be stuck in my head all night, now. Cheers.

  6. John S. Hall  March 23, 2012

    And the reason why Styre’s mask and costume are noticeably different than Linx’s is that the actor Kevin Lindsay (who played both Sontarans) had breathing difficulties in the Linx makeup and outfit, plus he suffered from a heart condition, so both things were modified to make the job easier for him.

    Unfortunately, he passed away from his heart condition just after his 51st birthday in April 1975 (about six weeks after part two of this story originally aired)… :-/

    • Richard Lyth  March 23, 2012

      I actually prefer the Styre makeup to Linx – it might be less detailed but it fits him a lot better, not far off the Sontaran masks they use nowadays. Linx is a much better character though, Styre is just a psychopath.

    • John G  March 24, 2012

      He actually died just three days after William Hartnell, making April ’75 a rather grim month in the show’s history.

  7. Daniel Blythe  March 23, 2012

    You need to show her the DVD extra with the home-made Sontaran and the model Nelson’s Column!

    • Matthew Kilburn  March 23, 2012

      “You need to show her the DVD extra with the home-made Sontaran and the model Nelson’s Column!”

      The what…? I need to buy this sooner rather than later…

  8. Leo  March 23, 2012

    Regarding Sue’s comment…

    “They should have gone for a Planet of the Apes moment here. They could have bought a cheap model of Nelson’s Column and they should have buried in some mud and filmed it with forced perspective – it would have looked great. They really missed a trick there. Barry would have CSO-ed it in, I’m sure.”

    Sue is actually thinking along the same lines as the production team here, because they did plan something like this when they were making the story, but the budget wasn’t up to it apparently. You could maybe tell her that she got it right!

  9. Alex Wilcock  March 23, 2012

    Blimey! Fastest turnover ever. I can see why, but still…

    Neil gets the funniest moment this week – the foot rub. There’ll be cushions before bedtime, I tell you (and quite right to cover up the title: worst giveaway until six stories from now! What’s wrong with ‘The Human Experiment’?). But, you know, the scenery is very striking. It’s like an extra character. Unlike most, I prefer Styre’s design, too – that grey dome fits right in with the rugged rocks around which the stuntman ran.

    Sue moments for me:
    “Is the robot that scary? It’s a bit of a leap. No pun intended.”
    “I guess he must have come flat-packed in the ship? I bet it must have taken him ages to assemble it.”
    Which actually makes sense.

    “Sue will wince in sympathy every time Tom Baker moves from now on.”
    That might be cheating – will it get her on Tom’s side? Not that I’m complaining.

    Hinchcliffe / Holmes watch:
    “This is a bit grim, isn’t it?”

    I can’t disagree about the conclusion being rushed and lightweight, though. They cover it up better when they do the same story at twice the length in a couple of years’ time on F*** R***. On the bright side, it’s also pretty much the same story as The Dominators, and not only does it better (though with less fabulous robotery) but at 40% the length. So, I still love it, and after the last story made the sleepers vital, it’s a great twist that they’re as irrelevant a legend as Atlantis to the humans who’ve come back from out among the stars and aren’t taking any of “that ‘Mother Earth’ rubbish.” You can see that there’s going to be a clash when Earth is resettled between the pioneers who got their hands dirty and the rigidly pure sleepers who’ll see them as deviant scum.

    Oh, and I’m with Daniel. Did you show her the extra? I bet she thought the Sontarans looked even cheaper.

  10. Ben Gilbert  March 23, 2012

    Before I turn all pedantic, this is by far my favourite blog and you’re all brilliant – not a word of a lie.

    But, a slight pet peeve – clones are *genetically* identical, not necessarily *physically* identical, for at least two reasons – genes aren’t always precise in their coding (two cloned tortoiseshell cats would almost certainly have different coat patterns) and clones are still subject to environment influence – a well-fed Sontaran is likely to be taller than a less well-fed one!

    Plus, of course, just because they’re all clones doesn’t mean to say they’re all cloned from the same template (indeed there would be good strategic reasons for having at least a few different batches in case of genetic disease or for different skills).

    That said, it still doesn’t really defend the Sontaran design here – they really should have checked the fingers – and the fact the Sarah thinks it’s Linx suggests these two are intended to be physically identical, when they plainly aren’t…

    Having successfully over-thought that – I rather like the 2-parters – it’s quite nice to have a bite-size Hartnell/Tom/Davison to watch. Though I entirely agree with Sue that Styre’s reason for being on Earth doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense, and does seem to have been cooked up to let him partake of his unsavoury hobbies!

    • Chris Too-old-to-watch  March 24, 2012

      Just look at “identical” twins: usually they end up with having different builds/heightetc. It’s the old nurture vs. nature arguement I’m afraid

      • Neowhovian  March 24, 2012

        Yes, “identical” twins (or monozygotic twins, to be more accurate) are, in one sense, clones. I know that my monozygotic daughters are similar but not indistinguishable. The difference in “nurture” begins in utero, so the same is undoubtedly true for Sontaran cloning colonies. :)

        Oh! And this recent article (02 Mar 2012) shows that you can’t clone a tortoiseshell cat and get another tortoiseshell cat. (Sorry to be so nerdly, but I couldn’t help but think of this!)
        How Tortoiseshell Cats Show the Limits of Cloning

        • Ben Gilbert  March 24, 2012

          Oh, good link! Thanks for that – me likey!

          • Neowhovian  March 24, 2012

            :D

            Glad to be of service!

        • Daru  March 24, 2012

          “Nerdly”?

          Is that a veteran geek?

          …just checking…

          • Neowhovian  March 24, 2012

            I’m far from a veteran in terms of being a Who-geek (thus the handle)!

            I don’t know how most people think of the difference between “geek” and “nerd,” but to me, geek has more of a fandom connotation and nerd a slightly more academic one. I proudly wear both labels, but apologized there because I thought perhaps I was getting overly science-y for the science fiction context. :)

            If no one thought that was out of place, then I apologize for apologizing. ;)

          • Jazza1971  March 24, 2012

            I think you’re pretty safe here – we know what we are! :D

          • Neowhovian  March 25, 2012

            Good point, Jazza! :D

        • PolarityReversed  March 24, 2012

          Interesting thing about the tortoiseshells.
          Just had a weird little fugue about “rescue Sontarans” and whether it’s responsible to spay/neuter them, particularly if they exhibit sadistic tendencies and collapsible heads…
          NeoHu: care to apply that fine scientific nerdiness to my bugbear about the “pooheads”: ie they evolved in a greater gravity environment than Earth, yet they’re supposed to tire quicker than a native in an Earth environment?

          • Chris Too-old-to-watch  March 25, 2012

            Along the lines of Battersea Sontarans Home or indeed the RSPCS (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cloning to Sontarans)?

          • Neowhovian  March 25, 2012

            Well, I’m not an astrobiologist (my degree is in astrophysics), but to my mind, you’re right. If they evolved on a high-gravity planet, they should have stronger musculature (aren’t they supposed to be quite strong?). I’m sure I could come up with some sort of rationalization if I tried hard enough :) like that the lower-gravity environment wreaks havoc with the way their lungs naturally expand or…

            We really need a biologist for this one. I’m out of my depth. :)

          • PolarityReversed  March 25, 2012

            Yeah, I reckon it’s probably explainable by examining the ratio of surface technobollocks to plot density.
            Remember: a Sontaran is not just for the Invasion, it’s for life…

          • Frankymole  March 26, 2012

            Their muscles are designed for loadbearing not leverage. Have we forgotten “The Time Warrior” already? All that leaping about is like spending hours on a bouncy castle to humans.

            Mind you, in Ian Marter’s novelisation the Doctor merely tips a flask of brandy down Styre’s probic vent for much the same effect!

          • Chris Too-old-to-watch  March 26, 2012

            Presumably the higher the gravity, the faster things fall. Therefore if an organism evolved on a planet where falling things were an important influence on natual selection, it would be advantageous to be able to move out of the way of falling things. If these organisms then moved to a lower gravity planet, they would be faster than organisms on that planet.
            This is fine as far as it goes, but we are left with the problem of imaging what sort of planet produces enough “falling things” for it to be evolutionary advantageous to be able to dodge them. Perhaps the home planet of the Sontarans has lots of giant coconut trees?

          • PolarityReversed  March 26, 2012

            re load bearing vs leverage:
            Fine as far as it goes.
            I suppoes that would mean they could carry heavier equipment or wear heavier armour without tiring, but wouldn’t be very mobile. This makes them, in military terms, an army completely composed of heavy infantry. Again fine, but the lack of mobility would still be greatly mitigated by operating in a lower gravity environment. They would be expending considerably less energy just to support their body mass.

            Sorry to drone on about it, but I find this rather interesting. It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day (I think the Sontarans are a great creation). But I prefer it when Who’s use of scientific principles is based in credibility. The alternative is Adams-style cop-out technopish.

  11. Matthew Kilburn  March 23, 2012

    “I wish they could all be on location. It makes all the difference.”

    There are a lot of very unhappy 1970s BBC studio technicians now… though probably actually they are very happy at the thought of still being paid while the studios stand empty.

  12. Jazza1971  March 23, 2012

    “He’s trying out new game show formats for Endemol” does it for me!

  13. encyclops  March 23, 2012

    For whatever reason the phrase “Styre’s latest wheeze” in this context nearly made me do a spit-take all over the monitor.

    I love Sontarans, too, at least the ones in the classic series. And I love seeing two updates in such rapid succession!

  14. Christopher Pittard  March 23, 2012

    This was one of the few Target novelisations I didn’t read in my childhood, and there’s a semi-intriguing reason for it. A while ago, there was a remaindered bookshop in Cornwall which seemed to specialise in Target novelisations (“Yes, I see no problem with a print run of 2 million for *The Twin Dilemma*”). I picked up The Sontaran Experiment on holiday one year; a quick flick though, however, threw up some baffling references to Romana and the like. It was only when I came to read the thing a few days later that I realised that what I had was actually The Armageddon Factor bound into the cover of The Sontaran Experiment. I wanted to take it back but my dad rather astutely pointed out that this anomaly might be worth something someday. So… is it?

    Probably not. But I never did get round to the real Sontaran Experiment.

    • PolarityReversed  March 24, 2012

      I recall that one being so thin they could barely fit the title on the spine.
      Never quite got the physics of Sontarans coming from a planet with a gravity several times that of earth, therefore they tire quicker. All else being equal, isn’t that exactly wrong?

      Can’t wait for the next f****ing one…

    • Professor Thascales  March 28, 2012

      “a remaindered bookshop in Cornwall” — Reminds me of the time I bought “The Celestial Toymaker” at a used bookstore in Mt. Shasta, California–a similarly rural area with lots of tourists.

  15. Dave Sanders  March 23, 2012

    Observe the next test closely, my friends. This will be a moment that will live… in… HISTORY.

  16. DPC  March 23, 2012

    Definitely 100% agreed with Sue on this story. The Sontarans’ desire to “conquer” Earth, which is barren, is ludicrous.

    “Torture for the sake of it” sums it up succinctly and perfectly.

    The torture tests feel as hollow as they come. The late-1980s and 1990s would become the golden age of “torture with shallow excuses” in terms of sci-fi/horror television shows, but “The Sontaran Experiment” definitely sets the groundwork. In ways it’s even more gratuitous than some of WHO’s more violence-steeped seasons (Tom’s (13, 14) or others), and the episode’s context for the violence doesn’t withstand any scrutiny, rendering all of it wholly pointless and obscene. Even the worst violence in seasons 13 and 14 don’t come across as bad as TSE does, because there are actual coherent reasons for people being nasty and there are coherent repercussions. TSE has some throwaway scribble lines, but they don’t work.

    3-parters do make their way, in about 12 seasons’ time… :)

  17. Terry Francis  March 23, 2012

    I’ve visited that ravine Harry falls down (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4CES0CWwmk&feature=plcp&context=C455e42bVDvjVQa1PpcFNbpZDF4RNNP7mAFPQA0sPEbktcYvmdDJ0=), believe me – you would not like to fall down it.

    • Cracked Polystyrene Man  March 24, 2012

      When Tom passes away me and a few mates are all going up to that ravine. We’re going to throw ourselves in and break our collarbones in tribute to the great man. We might drink alot of beer first.

      I think Tom would be touched by our dedication.

    • Terry Francis  March 24, 2012

      The ravine stuff and the Galsec Colony area appear about 4 minutes into the film, just to save you sitting through the first few minutes of the general area and the nearby public house (it is a pub worth visiting though if you like your real ales).

  18. Frankymole  March 24, 2012

    “There’s no one left on Earth to invade!”

    Technically, the invasion is of Earth’s galaxy, the “Milky Way” – which, as Galsec claims to have a vast empire, could be gilled with millions of inhabited planets. Earth is just the convenient abandoned backwater for Styre’s sadistic experiment.

    To cross into another series briefly (with a script by Chris f***in’ Boucher) you could equally claim that in Blakes 7, the Andromedans in “Star One” find “no one left to invade” when they’ve taken over Star One.

    • Frankymole  March 24, 2012

      ^”filled” not “gilled”. Argh. However often you re-read one always slips through. Still, maybe Colin Jeavons got busy.

  19. Frankymole  March 24, 2012

    Here’s a new bit of trivia I just found out: duffel coats are actually called “convoy coats” by the Navy. They were issued in World Wars I and II. (Probably only called “convoy coats” after WWI though.)

    I wonder if Sylvester McCoy’s duffle/convoy coat (in another story with a Naval bent) is meant to be Harry’s – or does Harry leave his on Skaro? Maybe it kept rematerialising like the Doctor’s strange shapeless overcoat.

    • PolarityReversed  March 24, 2012

      On a similar tack, you might also be interested in the history of the pea coat (nothing to do with vegetables).

  20. Terry Francis  March 24, 2012

    While I’m here, I might as well post this video I made as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CCPiMJWPBI

  21. Chris Too-old-to-watch  March 24, 2012

    This always felt like the episode 3 in the season. Not a lot happens, lots of running around, and a bit of a filler. Nothing is actually bad with it, it just isn’t very exciting.
    Once again, I think it earned it’s status from the novelisation, which was tremendous. After reading it, I’m sure my memory went into overload, and replaced the Ikea robot on TV with the semi-spherical domed robot in the book. When I re-watched it years later on video, the wobbly shopping trolley came as a real shock.

  22. BWT  March 24, 2012

    Yes, you know – there’s something strangely appealing about Tom’s strange, shapeless overcoat: it appears in some of the very best of early Tom serials. Anyway…

    I’ve always bluddy loved “The Sontaran Experiment” – it’s one of the earliest memories I have of the toothy, curled one – and after I swore blind that I’d never like him after seeing off “my” Doctor (Pertwee). But this li’l two-parter won me over and has remained my favourite Tom ever since. So…

    I’ve got the hump with Sue.

    Nevermind, her comments will earn her forgiveness and quips like, “He desperately needs a poo”, “Ooh, it’s on location. I like it already. Are we in the Lake District?” (if only!) and “Sontarans! I love the Sontarans” are bound to do it. So who cares about flat-packed robots, broken collar-bones or Terry Walsh in a dodgy scarf & shapeless overcoat? At least it wasn’t the Yeti after all…

    • BWT  March 24, 2012

      Oh, and how very dare anyone liken this early Tom to “The Dominators”…! Pfft!

  23. John G  March 24, 2012

    Season 12 isn’t going down all that well so far, is it? Mind you, I think Sue is pretty much right about this one. It is very atmospheric, the set-up is great and Kevin Lindsay delivers another fine performance, but the conclusion is a bit rushed (would the Sontarans really be put off that easily?) and I don’t think the Sontarans’ plans are entirely coherent. Why bother with all these tests if Earth is abandoned anyway? In fairness, they might be anticipating a human counter-invasion if they did take over.

    Still, it’s good to see that Sue has warmed to Tom so quickly, and is beginning to appreciate Harry a bit more. It will be very interesting to find out if Terry F****** Nation’s next effort meets with more favour than Tom’s previous stories…

  24. Lewis  March 24, 2012

    I love this one. It’s too short but it’s a great little break in the series, and splits it up nicely.

  25. Jazza1971  March 24, 2012

    Incidentally, did you mention to Sue that the writer of “The Space Museum” plays Krans?

    • Neil Perryman  March 24, 2012

      No. I want to stay married.

      • Jazza1971  March 24, 2012

        Good point, well made!

  26. Professor Thascales  March 28, 2012

    I always liked About Time 4′s comment that “It’s a good thing there are no Sontaran taxpayers to complain” about this waste of their government’s resources.

  27. Farsighted99  April 29, 2012

    Wow, that was over quick. I liked this one too, even though it was just a Sontaran torturing the hell out of a group of humans. He killed 7 of them, the nasty bugger (well, one fell down a cliff). And another wonky robot! Funny that no natives are alive on earth even though it looked totally livable. Plus after only 10,000 years there should have been something left of London (like in Battlestar Galactica – with it’s depiction of NYC). The Sontaran deflating like a balloon looked silly, but we’ve seen worse. How come someone didn’t knock him out by throwing a rock at his probic vent? Anyway, liked the mystery of the first episode even though the conclusion was a bit weak.