Peter Purves (Steven/The Doctor/Narrator)
Jean Marsh (Sara Kingdom)
Dan Starkey (Corporal Ellis/Slite/Shrok/Stack/Commander)
Jemma Churchill (Captain Papas)
John Banks (Corporal Gage)
Rosanna Miles (Tinder/Human Soldier)
Written By: Simon GuerrierDirected By: Ken Bentley
Producer: David Richardson
Script Editor: John Dorney
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
So, here we are – the Doctor’s very first encounter with the formidable Sontarans, and for once he is at a disadvantage to his companions Steven Taylor and Sara Kingdom, as they have both encountered the vertically challenged clone race before….
The story is (for obvious reasons) set at some point during The Dalek’s Masterplan. The TARDIS crew land on a large asteroid that has an atmosphere clinging to it’s surface. Here they encounter a fellow troop from Sara’s Space Security Service, who it turns out are on a deadly mission to disable a massive weapon. The group are soon attacked by a squad of Sontarans, after which a tense game of cat and mouse begins.
Steven is of course voiced by Peter Purves, who seems to effortlessly slip back into his role. Purves also voices the First Doctor, and on the whole makes a very good job of it. However, at first I did find that the vocal ticks of the Purves’ interprettion of Hartnell as the Doctor could be a tad irritating (nearly every sentence is started with a stuttering “Ah-ah-ah”, or “Eh-eh-eh”), but you soon get used to it….although I couldn't shake the thought that it was far more Hurndall than Hartnell.
Jean Marsh is great as Sara Kingdom, she continues to plays the role in a very calculating and precise manner, a character that you could never really trust, or guess what her thought process was. A nice twist to the story is that Kingdom has a massive dilemma to wrestle with as the SSS that she, the Doctor and Steven encounter are from her past, and Sarah knows how this mission ends, but also knows that she can’t tell them for fear of corrupting the time line.
There is of course only one person who could play the Sontarans, and that is of course Dan Starkey, and he truly does excel. The Sontarans here aren’t cuddly like Strax, but ruthless super soldiers, who find themselves with a number of new subjects to study and torture. I would go so far as to say that in this story they are the most menacing version we have seen so far in Who history.
The rest of the cast are all excellent, with the notable stand out of John Banks as Corporal Gage, a character that has a lot more to him than at first appears.
The story itself is very engaging, the format is very much that of the era it is trying to evoke. Lots of chases through caves, and the wonder of encountering new things, but with the action and scale of the storytelling ramped up to 11.
The Sontarans is a great listen, and a fantastic example of what Big Finish excel at, and that is expanding on a much missed period of Who, and utilising characters that might not have achieved the screen time that they deserved. We also get to see one of the Doctors greatest foes, taken seriously again, which is something that New Who hasn't handled quite so well.
THE SONTARANS IS AVAILABLE NOW AS A CD OR DIGITAL DOWNLOAD FROM BIG FINISH.