Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Doctor Who: The Sontaran Experiment

Part One
“I feel a bit like a Morse message- slightly scrambled.”

Hmmm. So there’s been no life on Earth for ten thousand years. How come we can see an awful lot of grass and moorland then, eh?

This is another nice little character piece for our three regulars, with the all location filming giving us a nicely atmospheric location. The TARDISeers are soon split up, just like old times, and the mystery is soon set up- who are all these Sith Efrican voortrekkers from space, and what’s this odd looking robot?

The reveal of the creature’s hand, via the camera on Vural’s chest, is nicely done, a very good bit of directing. There’s also some nice world-building, with the Galsec contingent clearly having a chip on their shoulder about Earth.

The Sontaran ship is the moment of the big reveal, and it’s good to see the Sontarans again. Although, bizarrely, we get exactly the same cliffhanger ending as for part one of The Time Warrior.

Part Two

“I’ll get you out of there if I have to knock his bally head of and grab his keys.”

I’m not entirely sure why Styre’s come to earth to “test” humans if it’s empty and he has to lure humans here from elsewhere. Perhaps to avoid interruption? I suppose it just about passes muster.

Styre’s not very popular; the Marshal’s getting impatient with him while the Doctor is morally outraged- the first real show of great moral indignation from this Doctor, and something Tom Baker does very well. It’s implied in both cases that Styre is enjoying his “experiments” too much- again, something much darker than anything we would have seen under Barry Letts.

The two episode format enables the story to rattle along at a furious pace, with no padding whatsoever. We only met Vural an episode ago, but now we discover that he’s a traitor.

There’s a great exchange between the Doctor and Harry where the Doctor says “Never throw anything away, Harry”, swiftly followed by “It’s a mistake to clutter one’s pockets, Harry.” The performance is very difference, but this new Doctor owes a fair bit to Troughton- he even has a 500 year diary.

There’s an awkward moment where, in a blatant outbreak of as-you-know-Bobbery, the Marshal and Styre tell each other things both already know while being overheard by the Doctor. This sort of thing can be done far more subtly.

Unusually, the Doctor saves the day by engaging in fisticuffs, and Vural, inevitably, redeems himself at the end. It’s not an entirely satisfying ending, what with Styre’s deflating head being something of an embarrassment and the Marshal giving up rather too easily.

Not a bad runaround, in spite of some niggles with the plot, and too formulaic to stand out from the crowd, so a 3/5. All the same, a nice little interlude, and another sign of the darker themes we can expect from Hinchcliffe and Holmes.

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