5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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THE SONTARAN EXPERIMENT
"What are you up to, you lump of filth?"
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Well, this is a weird one, isn't it? Only two parts, shot entirely on location, and set within a very small space. And despite some plot improbabilities, some recycled stuff and the odd cliche, The Sontaran Experiment works pretty well.
We love the novelty of getting from go to whoa in only two episodes - it rockets the story along and highlights the padding in the longer stories. The location work is a breath of fresh air after the claustrophobia of Nerva. And it's interesting to see a story worked out amongst a handful of characters rather than a bombastic cast of thousands - character really gets a chance to shine, which is a big plus as far as we're concerned.
Sontaran Experiment has its limitations, of course. First of all, there are some whacking great plot holes. Why are the Sontarans experimenting on humans prior to invading Earth when apart from a handful of accidental inhabitants the planet's uninhabited? And if they insist on torturing humans, isn't it well lucky that Styre lands his golf ball on the only place where there are some? Coincidence 1, Sontaran intelligence gathering nil.
As for the rest of it, there are some overused elements (traitor betrays comrades, redeems himself before dying) and they rely too heavily on the bloody sonic screwdriver. There's also some wretched, although unavoidable, stunt work in the post-broken-collarbone scenes. The whole torture thing is enjoyably dark, and we like the character who's got a roo loose in the top paddock as a result, but the other humans are pretty routine and interchangeable. The robot thing's pretty cool, although not particularly well adapted to the terrain, we'd have thought. Another nil score for Sontaran recce-ing.
Despite not being able to wave his left arm around for much of the time, it's a nice story for the Doctor. We see his pleasant, affable and reasonable persona as he responds to the threats of the humans (interesting idea casting mostly South Africans, by the way), but we also see through to his true emotions at times, such as his anger when Sarah is hurt. We all know that Tom's Doctor is complex and many-layered, of course, but it's remarkable how early in his portrayal Tom achieves this.
Sarah starts the story well, rescuing the Doctor, not to mention the sonic screwdriver, but the rot begins to set in when she's captured by Styre and left to scream helplessly whereas Harry manages to rescue himself. Later, the Doctor instructs Harry, not Sarah, to do the vandalism stuff in Styre's spaceship, leaving Sarah to stand around looking pretty. Grrrr. Sarah had so many more opportunities before bloody Harry turned up, and we're disappointed that as soon as a male companion was on the scene the writers took the line of least resistance.
MORAL: Before you set out to conquer the galaxy, at least make sure someone’s home.
THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME
Sarah says that Styre and Linx are identical, whereas in fact there are number of differences between them.
TEACH YOURSELF SONTARAN
We know why the Doctor and his companions can understand Styre, but how come the humans can too?
Harry's trousers are clean when he falls down the cliff, dirty when he finishes climbing up, clean again as he climbs through the rocks, dirty again later, and then the stains are sort of faded-looking.
OR DID HE MEAN CROUTONS?
Correct us if we're wrong, but doesn't Styre say Rutons, not Rutans?
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