This Docback is late.
Spent the day yesterday in the ER - where my five year old son was treated for a head injury.
A major wound which went straight down to his skull...a wound sustained on an ill-kept elementary school playground.
All seems on the upswing now, but apologies for not getting this online yesterday.
Back to business as usual...
With a quick look at The Sontaran Experiment, a two part Tom baker-era DOCTOR WHO adventure initially transmitted February/March 1975. I’ve seen many clips from (and references to) this story during my journey through classic WHO...this felt like the right week to give it a shot.
While I love the Sontatans as a whole...their often inefficient officiousness repeatedly cracks me up...no Sontaran can equal my most favorite Sontaran of all...Strax...who we recently learned has “declared war on the moon...”
Which reminds me...
BBC ISSUES PROMO IMAGES FROM THE FORTHCOMING CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
The Snowmen, transmitting Christmas Day. Yes, there will be a Docback for The Snowmen - launching the night before transmission (Christmas Eve)!!
The Sontaran Experiment
“I can’t say I’m delighted...there’s no use pretending...”
- The Doctor, The Sontaran Experiment - Episode Two
10,000 years after the (supposed) extinction of intelligent life on Earth, all is not as it seems on the remnants of our quiet little world. A truth which becomes dangerously evident when the Doctor (Tom Baker) and companions Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) find trouble and challenges they could not have anticipated...including belligerent and stranded human space travelers, and Sontaran Field Major Styre (Kevin Lindsay)...who patrols the region via a troubling hunter/enforcer robot.
In The Sontaran Experiment, scripters Bob Baker and Dave Martin (The Claws of Axos - Pertwee, Story #57 and The Three Doctors - Pertwee, Story #65) have brought us breezy and compact adventure shot predominantly on stark-but-effective locations.
Told in only two parts (as opposed to the show’s customary 4 or 4+ episode serialized format), TSE still manages to zing a few uncomfortable conceits, a tendency most notable when it becomes an allegory to Nazi experiments on living persons during World War II.
In one particularly unnerving movement, Sontaran Field Major Styre more or less forces two unwitting humans to (potentially) torture to death one of their companions by making them hold a “gravity bar” over his chest - while Styre increases its weight exponentially via remote control. That’s pretty mean spirited in both concept and execution. But, like much good science fiction, the gag does evoke certain truths about “real life” human history...and thus the moments “matters” in the grand scheme of things, despite its uneasy nature. The Powers That Be should be commended for “going there” in regards to such subject matter, when it would’ve been easier (or even tempting?) to tiptoe or sidestep around such disquieting plot mechanisms.
T. Baker's Doctor as seen through Sontaran cameras.
The concluding moments of The Sontaran Experiment find the Doctor bringing down vengeful (and fatal) justice upon an intellectually outmatched Styre. Viewers of contemporary WHO may recall a similar sleight-of-hand at the end of Season/Series 7’s Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. I still find it a bit odd that the Doctor often sidesteps accountability for the deaths of others by more or less tricking victims into dispensing with themselves...or engineering events so that others do such deeds for him. But the more I think about it, the more I’m sensing that this trait an invaluable component of his character.
As I’ve said over and over again, I very much see DOCTOR WHO on the whole as being about the choices we make...or dont’ make...and the ramifications of both. The Doctor’s refusal to simply grab a ray gun or blaster and take of of matters directly reveals a great deal about him, and might even be considered dodgy or questionable in terms of his own moral compass and accountability. I strongly suspect we’ll be plunging deeper into this territory later in Season/Series 7, when it seems Matt Smith’s ever-darkening Doctor may be revealing some newer, truer(?) colors.
At the end of the day, The Sontaran Experiment doesn’t do a great deal to expand the breadth of WHO mythology, but it’s fast enough and well-rounded enough in its essence to emerge as imminenetly discussion worthy. TSE is an unremarkable-but-solid affair, which once again illustrates you just can't go wrong with Sontarans. Of course, I haven't seen all DW epoisodes yet...so we'll see if that assertion ultimately sticks.
[Season / Series Seven Docbacks - MOST RECENT DOCBACK IS HIGHLIGHTED]
[SEASON / SERIES SIX DOCBACKS]
"The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe" (2011 Christmas Special)
[RETRO-WHO DOCBACKS ]
"An Unearthly Child" (Story #1)
"The Daleks" (Story #2)
"The Edge of Destruction" (Story #3)
"Marco Polo" (Story #4)
"The Keys of Marinus" (Story #5)
"The Aztecs" (Story #6)
"The Sensorites" (Story #7)
"The Sensorites" (Story #7 - full DVD release)
"The Reign of Terror" (Story #8)
"Planet of Giants" (Story #9)
"Planet of Giants" (Story #9, full DVD release)
"The Dalek Invasion of Earth" (Story #10)
"The Rescue" (Story #11)
"The Romans" (Story #12)
"The Crusade" (Story #14)
"The Space Museum" (Story #15)
"The Chase" (Story #16)
"The Time Meddler" (Story #17)
"Galaxy 4" (Story #18)
"Mission to the Unkonwn" (Story #19)
"The Myth Makers" (Story #20)
"The Gunfighters" (Story #25)
"The Tomb of the Cybermen" (Story #37)
"The Mind Robber" (Story #45)
"The Krotons" (Story #47)
"The Seeds of Death" (Story #48)
"Spearhead from Space" (Story #51)
"The Abassadors of Death" (Story #53)
"The Claws of Axos" (Story #57)
"The Colony in Space" (Story #58)
"The Daemons" (Story #59)
"Day of the Daleks" (Story #60) + Preview of the DotD Special Edition
"The Three Doctors" (Story #65)
"Carnival of Monsters" (Story #66)
"Death to the Daleks" (Story #72)
"The Robots of Death" (Story #90)
"The Talons of Weng-Chiang" (Story #91)
"The Sun Makers" (Story #95)
"The City of Death" (Story #105)
"Nightmare of Eden" (Story #107)
"Kinda" (Story #118)
"Snakedance" (Story #125)
"The Five Doctors" (Story #129)
"The Awakening" (Story #131)
"Frontios" (Story #132)
"Resurrection of the Daleks" (Story #134)
"The Caves of Androzani" (Story #136)
"Vengeance on Varos" (Story #138)
"Time and the Rani" (Story #144)
"Paradise Towers" (Story #145) + New WHOvian Documentary / Newsbits
"Dragonfire" (Story #147)
"The Happiness Patrol" (Story #149)
"The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" (Story #151)
"Doctor Who: The Movie" (aka TVM) - McGann)
Merrick's Personal Journey With The Doctor (How Merrick Got Hooked On DOCTOR WHO)
"The Crash of the Elysium" (Manchester version - interactive DOCTOR WHO adventure)
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