Friday, 2 August 2013

The Sontaran Experiment

Tom Baker fixes the transmat.
‘The Sontaran Experiment’, to be fair, is a largely forgettable 2-part filler between two great stories. Interesting that for the first time in its history, the Doctor is separated from the TARDIS. It follows on straight from ‘The Ark in Space’, and so it’s interesting because they were talking about going to Earth and starting anew, and then we get to see what awaits them down on Earth. Question though, presumably the beacon/ark was nowhere near Earth – I mean solar flares and the like.
Sarah and Harry decide to have a look around.
Why they did a two-parter, I’m not sure, I guess they had two episodes to fill. Like ‘Robot’, all location shooting was done on video, and in this case that’s the whole show. Not a single studio scene. Small cast, little in the way of props too, it comes across as a money-saver. Season 12 is odd because it’s only 20 episodes, after 26 had been the norm for the last 3 Pertwee years. I am unaware of any strikes or action which might have seen six episodes disappear, and indeed I believe season 13 is back to 26 episodes.
Sontaran Space Ship.
The story is about a Sontaran, again played by Kevin Lindsay who was Linx in ‘The Time Warrior’, experimenting on some humans, from colony planets, who he lured to Earth to do the experiments. It’s a bit of a stretch. Then he is wasting time seeing how long they can hold a heavy metal bar, or how they deal with hallucinations.
Bob Baker and Dave Martin got the writing job, presumably with the Sontaran brief and the location brief too. It was a hard task I think and the viewers can’t expect a brilliant show. The Sontaran mask doesn’t seem quite so good, and the monitor link with the Sontaran fleet looks very much like something from the 70s.
Vural lies under a piece of metal getting heavier as his mates try to hold it.
We have a guest cast all with South African accents. Ok, it’s all uniform but an interesting choice with no relevance to the story at all. In all we have 10 character including the three regulars. Kevin Lindsay actually plays two Sontarans, and has a video call with himself! Donald Douglas plays the leader of the humans, Vural, who has in fact betrayed them to the Sontarans.
It really comes across as filler. It’s not bad per se, but just pointless. They had an opportunity to explore and create an Earth after fire, and it could have been really interesting. Somethings might have survived here and there. Underground passages, metro systems, bomb shelters etc. New types of animal life might have evolved, sadly we didn’t get any of that. They had two episodes to fill and this is what they did.
Kevin Lindsay returned as not one but two Sontarans.

The regulars are all good value as always, wonderful bits between Ian Marter and Liz Sladen especially. The Doctor doesn’t get a heck of a lot to do, we have Terry Walsh the stuntman filling in wherever possible as Tom Baker broke his collarbone during the filming. The effect of using video instead of film is a bit disappointing, a bit plain to be fair. With a full two episodes though on location, I guess the editing time couldn’t be spare. Still, they did it for ‘Spearhead from Space’.


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