Thursday, October 20, 2005

'The Sontaran Experiment'

2 episodes

A real oddity, this - the first two-parter for many years (and last for many more), 'The Sontaran Experiment' is so lean and efficient it in some ways makes a mockery of the adventures that take two, three or more times as long to get their story told. Shot, uniquely, entirely on location in Dartmoor using outside-broadcast videotape, the serial's look bridges the divide between traditional studio video and location film footage; the locations are excellently used and terrifically atmospheric. In a sense, this sequence of stories is a nod to the programme's early years, presented as a linked chain of adventures that follow on directly one from another, and it is a nice throwback to find that the end of 'The Ark In Space' segues straight into this new story. The group of human settlers look convincingly ragged and hunted, with Glyn Jones' (writer some years earlier of 'The Space Museum', peculiarly enough) South African accent lending a nice multi-national touch. The patrolling robot even looks properly threatening, and the loathesome Sontaran Styre makes for a great baddie... shame the title so gives the game away, much to the writers' understandable displeasure. It's another nice touch that Sarah mistakes him for Linx, the Sontaran of 'The Time Warrior', and Kevin Lindsay indeed makes a welcome return inside the costume - although the two are not in fact identical like she says they are. Styre's horrible experiments are some of the nastiest things yet seen (or referred to) in Doctor Who, and his equally nasty comeuppance is greatly satisfying! It's a pity the Sontarans don't return to the programme after this, I have to say, as I'm rather fond of the potato-headed brutes actually...!

A swift but highly enjoyable diversion, then - but in context of this season, it's an appetiser for the huge main course to follow...


Episodes watched: 283
Episodes still to watch: 439

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