Sunday 18 December 2011

391 The Sontaran Experiment Part Two

EPISODE: The Sontaran Experiment Part Two
TRANSMITTED: 01 March 1975
WRITER: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
DIRECTOR: Rodney Bennett
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Sontaran Experiment

The Sontaran identifies himself as Field Major Styre and he kills Roth declaring his intention to test Sarah. Vural, Krans & Erak pull the Doctor out the pit but as they do the robot attacks capturing them. Harry finds a fourth human chained to the cliff. The prisoner has been put there so the Sontaran can see how long it takes for him to die. Styre interrogates Sarah not believing her story. The Doctor finds Harry's escape route from the pit. Harry tries to free Sarah but finds her protected by a forcefield. Styre communicates with his Marshall reporting that the humans are weak. He induces fear in Sarah but the Doctor arrives and breaks the forcefield, removing the fear inducer. Styre attacks the Doctor and renders him unconscious. The robot arrives with the human prisoners. Vural is angry he has been captured because he has served Linx. Harry finds Sarah, then the Doctor and finally the prisoner who has now died. Styre records that the subject took nine days to die when deprived of fluid. The recovered Doctor finds Harry and leaves him to look after Sarah. Vural is subjected to an experiment where Krans & Erak must hold a gravity bar away from his chest. The robot attacks the Doctor who destroys it with his sonic screwdriver. The Doctor engages Styre in combat while Harry sabotages his ship and Sarah frees the three humans. Vural is killed rescuing the Doctor. The weakened Styre returns to his ship, to recharge, which drains the remainder of Styre's energy and explodes due to Harry's sabotage. The Doctor speaks with the Marshall telling him Styre is dead and his plans are ruined. Krans & Erak wait for the Nerva colonists to arrive as the Doctor, Harry & Sarah vanish in the transmat bound for the Ark.....

... or so they think, but we'll get there tomorrow. My wife Liz has big problems with this episode and to be honest I can see her point: Styre's experiments are pretty nasty for Saturday teatime, as was the idea of a human being eaten from the inside in the previous story. Looking at it now it seems odd that it took till the fourth story this season for the show to fall foul of Mary Whitehouse and the Nation Viewers & Listeners Association.

This is the first 2 part Doctor who story since the Rescue the Rescue in January 1965 and the shortest story since the single part Mission to the Unknown in October that year. The format would have a revival in the Fifth Doctor's era as it's used to push a season purely made of four part stories up to the 26 episode length required. As it is two 25 minute episodes of Doctor Who, when you remove one set of titles and a recap are almost the same length as modern single episodes. Oddly despite the short length of the story there's still time for some time wasting as first Harry then the Doctor fall into the pit dug by Roth. And if you've got a 2 part story why wait till the end of episode 1 to reveal your monster thus limiting it's appearance to just the second episode? (watch later as King's Demons makes nearly exactly the same error!) I'm also forced to wonder why Krans & Erak don't just put the gravity bar down when Styre's back is turned... I guess the bonds round their hands are tied to it. And I did giggle at Styre's "I shall kill you all now .....but first I have more important tasks to perform." Head in hands. No wonder this species has been getting nowhere fighting the Rutans for thousands of years.

While I liked Ark In Space I can't really show much enthusiasm for this story I'm afraid. Possibly because I know what's coming next.... But one element that does work in the story's favour is it's all location filming on Dartmooor at Headland Warren and Hound Tor. On the first day at the later location Tom Baker, recording his second story as Doctor Who, slipped while performing a fight scene with Styre and broke his collar bone. He was taken to Torquay hospital while filming continued with stuntman Terry Walsh disguised as the Doctor. Fitted with a neck brace all of Baker's remaining front on shots were done with the scarf disguising the support. The incident was something of a baptism of fire for the show's still new leading actor and it's new producer, Philip Hinchcliffe, who was recording his first story. (Ark in Space was recorded after it's onscreen successor The Sontaran Experiment)

The Sontaran Experiment was novelised by Ian Marter. It was repeated on Friday 9th July 1976 as a compilation edition. Sontaran Experiment was released on video in a 2 pack with Genesis of the Daleks during October 1991 on the same day as The Deadly Assassin. I'm pretty sure I picked these up in advance of the official release at a London comic mart, then being held at the TUC building in central London. The Sontaran Experiment was released on DVD on the 9th October 2006 as a budget release at a cheaper price. It was also included in the Doctor Who : Bred for War Boxset which collects Sontaran Experiment with the other three Sontaran stories: The Time Warrior, The Invasion Of Time & The Two Doctors. Bred for War was released on 5th May 2008 to tie in with their return in the fourth series of the new Doctor Who.

Come back tomorrow as we start the Doctor who story that's probably been seen by more people than any other...... It's time for Genesis of the Daleks!

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