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Audio Drama Review
Once it was a mining facility. Then later its corridors rang with screams generated by grotesque military experiments. However, when the Doctor and Mel arrive on a hostile alien world after detecting a distress signal, the base they find themselves in is almost deserted. But not for long. Soon the Doctor’s old enemies, the Sontarans, have landed, and are searching for the remnants of their previous research team. Before long they uncover evidence of strange occurrences on the planet – of madness and death. They are warriors bred for war, strong of spirit and unafraid of death. To fear the enemy is an act of betrayal. Nothing holds terror for the Sontarans – until now...
Terror of the Sontarans is a peculiar cocktail of ingredients, cramming in such diverse and attention-grabbing elements as a squad of Sontarans (led by Dan Starkey, with John Banks, John Dorney and Jon Edgley Bond bringing up the rear), a half-human contortionist (Daniel O’Meara), a space adventurer who’s rather too full of himself (Jon Edgley Bond), and a violent crustacean (John Banks) – imagine Brian Blessed playing a giant lobster, and you’ll get the general idea! There’s also a mind-altering threat, and hints of a haunting.
However, is the terror in the title caused by the Sontarans, or experienced by them? Well, both, actually. Co-writers John Dorney and Dan Starkey approach these recurring foes from different angles – ensnaring them in a pincer movement, as the warriors themselves might have put it. This reflects the varying ways in which the Sontarans have been depicted over the years, both on screen and in other media, from sadistic monsters to comical buffoons. Starkey effectively sums them up during the 16 minutes of interviews at the end of Disc Two (it should come as no surprise that he understands them so well, having portrayed them on and off for seven years now), explaining how their militarism represents the worst excesses of human nature, making them equally worthy of our horror and our derision. Post-traumatic stress disorder and the unethical treatment of prisoners are both themes that are touched upon here.
The cast give it their all, especially the Sontaran actors and the regulars, Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford – who fall comfortably back into companionship, despite not having worked together prior to the current trilogy for almost a decade. If I have a criticism, it is that John Banks has got a bit too good at ‘being’ Dan Starkey as a Sontaran, sounding very much like him at times, which is surely the opposite of the intended effect of swelling the ranks of distinctive-sounding voices. Like me, Bonnie Langford thought it was Starkey playing Stettimer the bloodthirsty lobster – but it’s not, it’s Banks.
I found that I had to rewind the occasional scene, as some of the action (such as who is falling victim to what, or whom) can be confusing if you let your attention wander for even a second. Generally, though, Terror of the Sontarans does a good job of telling a very visual story on audio.
As I said at the top of this review, this audio drama is a peculiar cocktail – but a potent one.
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