Doctor Who – The Sontaran Stratagem

It’s nice to see the Sontarans back. The fan in me is always pleased to see a returning monster, especially the iconic ones. All Doctor Who fans have their personal favourites, and the clone-potatoes in space suits have always had a militaristic place in my heart. In fact, I think the special whovian places in my heart all burst at once with this episode. I liked Martha and was overjoyed to see her in action with the Doctor again, and I live for UNIT adventures. Three of my favourite things, and they were given two whole episodes to play in! How lucky have I felt these last two weeks?

I really did enjoy the new spins on old themes. The Sontarans came across as more militaristic, UNIT had an air of paramilitary black ops that had only really been hinted at in the old series, and writer Helen Raynor gets the prize for best use of a probic vent ever.

Even the boy genius at the tip of the spearhead felt right – very Doctor Who, in fact. His relationship with the alien gribblies was reminiscent of the Master and his ill-thought-out deals-with-the-devil of the seventies. And his scene of redemption somehow didn’t seem too sudden or out of character.

I have a lot of enthusiasm for the two-parters, it has to be said. Doctor Who has always explored deeper themes more subtly than Star Trek or Stargate (or any other 45-minute format show you care to name…), because the old serial format gave stories room to breathe. Having more screen time for a given tale allows moral discussion to take place within the action rather than as a contrived piece of exposition at the end. This is true of modern Doctor Who, as well. Where the single episodes tend to be filled with excessive frenetic action and not a lot of thought, the longer stories get to ask more questions and present more rounded characters. The Sontaran Stratagem took advantage of that by adding a nice twist in the Sontarans’ plot for world domination that didn’t come at the expense of the horror scenes.

The cliff-hanger deserves a mention, too. It’s very rare that the imminent demise of someone who isn’t a member of the TARDIS crew is enough of a wrench for a scene to be that dramatic, but Wilf is a fantastic character. Frankly, there’s a level on which I’d prefer him to be caroming round the universe with the Doctor, rather than Donna. Bernard Cribbins gives him a really empathic quality that gives me a real affection for Wilf.

I’d like to see more stories like this. More mystery, more horror, more complex story-lines. And, of course, more of my favourite things – like Martha, Wilf and UNIT.

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~ by Scary Rob on 16 May, 2008.

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