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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Heroes of Sontar


Starring: Peter Davison
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 558 7
Available 30 April 2011

Planet Samur was once a peaceful haven. Pilgrims journeyed across space to meditate in the courtyards of the vast Citadel that spanned its equator. It was Samur’s misfortune, however, to find itself situated on the furthermost frontier in the eternal war between the amoeboid Rutan Host and the belligerent, troll-like Sontarans... Twenty years after detonating a bacteriological weapon over Samur, rendering it uninhabitable, the Sontarans are back: a select platoon of seven has landed here on a secret mission, carrying sealed orders from Fleet Marshal Stabb. The TARDIS has landed here, too, bringing the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and Nyssa into the second great Battle of Samur, fighting not only Sontarans, but mystical mercenaries - and a deadly, decades-old curse...


Incredibly, this is the first Big Finish release to feature the militaristic Sontarans. The warriors depicted here are clearly based upon the classic-series versions, with actors John Banks, Derek Carlyle, Andrew Fettes, Alex Lowe and Duncan Wisbey (who’s done a lot of work for the company lately) modelling their vocal performances on those of Kevin Lindsay in The Time Warrior and The Sontaran Experiment. However, the soldiers’ battle chant is more redolent of the Sontarans of the new series.

More contentiously, the production team have elected to send the monsters up. In scenes intentionally reminiscent of Dad’s Army and Blackadder Goes Forth, we encounter Sontarans handicapped by blundering, bureaucracy and cowardice. It’s true that the Doctor and his companions have often made jibes at the expense of these creatures during the television show, but I do feel that writer Alan Barnes goes a bit too far during the opening episodes of this four-part story. It’s true that we end up feeling sympathy for at least some of them, but the comic strip Pureblood achieved that without mockery back in 1992-3.

However, Barnes is going somewhere with this. It is revealed that each of the seven Sontarans dispatched to Samur is the runt of its litter, sent on what amounts to a suicide mission - not that they know it. This explanation may come too late in the day if this story is ever broadcast to radio listeners (as Big Finish’s previous trilogy of Fifth Doctor / Tegan / Turlough / Nyssa stories has been), but presumably those who purchase the CD or download will stick with the story to the end.

The revelation that there are seven houses of Sontarans, each descended from a different noble warrior from Sontar’s past, also goes some way towards rationalising why, despite being a cloned race, the Sontarans have varied so much in appearance and personality over the years. Indeed, as the writer explains in his sleeve notes, far from being homogenous, they have proven to be one of the series’ most individualistic species.

Meanwhile, the reunited Season 20 TARDIS crew continue to spark off one another very nicely. Tegan (Janet Fielding) is as mouthy as ever, Turlough (Mark Strickson) is back to being his craven old self, and Nyssa’s (Sarah Sutton) post-Winter origin puts her in real danger when she is infected by a biological agent.

This double CD also contains 9 minutes of Jamie Robertson’s incidental music at the end of Disc One and 13 minutes of interviews at the end of Disc Two.

Like the cowardly Turlough and Trooper Vend, Heroes of Sontar ultimately makes good, but I would have preferred it had the Sontarans’ first incursion into Big Finish territory been a more serious matter.


Richard McGinlay

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