Monday, 3 June 2013

Review: Doctor Who 4.4-5: The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky Who - Season 30, Episodes Four and Five - The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky
Written between 25th and 30th March 2013

Helen Raynor, the woman who brought us Dalek mutants with penises on their faces, delivers another early-season two-parter that begins a trilogy of episodes featuring the temporary return of my favourite RTD companion, Martha Jones. It also follows a NuWho trend of reintroducing one Classic Monster per season, this time reinventing the war-like Sontarans into much shorter, modern versions with a penchant for the colour blue and rugby chanting.
     I want to like the story; I really do. It's the first UNIT story for 19 years, it reinvents the Sontarans in a way that's half-decent, and it sees Martha' return. However, it also has a great number of elements that I find less appetising. The main one is the Sontaran redesign - not aesthetically, but in their attitudes. It's almost as if they're overcompensating - every element of their personality, of their backstory, is ramped up to its logical maximum and the result is a story whose villains fail to feel intimidating. I mean, invading the Earth and turning it into a hatchery? It just doesn't feel very Sontaran.
     That and the few other elements that irk me. Sorry to be so overly negative, but I need to get them out of the way. First we have annoying American mega-genius Luke Rattigan (Ryan Sampson) who spends the entire story acting like a spoilt child in the most annoying ways, with a "twist" resolution where he settles a petty score by blowing up the Sontaran ship. Then there's the attempt at an environmental message, which is shoehorned in and feels totally confused. Then there's the clone subplot - clone subplots are always silly, and this one was even worse for the fact that it went nowhere.
Although I do like the NuWho Sontaran design.
     So yeah, it didn't really work for me on the plot levels. More mediocre than outwardly bad, I suppose. What startled me was The Doctor's personality, which has gained a much more dickish undertone. I'm probably just reacting to him going back to normal after a season of being cautious around Martha, but in this episode both his stark egotism and his hypocrisy around guns came to a fore. His dismissal of the UNIT soldiers and his willingness to stand by as they were massacred, blaming their deaths on their own incompetence, made me feel rather unsettled.
     The Sontaran two-parter is fatally uninspired, and its mishmash of plot elements is not redeemed by a couple of good lines here or there. I suppose it could be standard Who fare if viewed on a surface level, but otherwise it is steeped in a quiet mediocrity underlined by a lot of ugliness on the part of The Doctor's characterisation. It is such a shame that Helen Raynor's Who work isn't as strong as her work on Torchwood, and that this, her last story to date (and the last Who story to be written by a woman to date) is so offensively bland.


NEXT WEEK: Sensationalist titles and terrible scriptwriting in The Doctor's Daughter.

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