David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 6 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all.
We are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points. Just for fun!
We would like to thank everyone who nominated our “New Who in Conversation” series for the William Atheling Jr Award again this year – it’s a great honour to be on the ballot! Voting for the annual Ditmar Awards (which the Atheling is included in) is open to all members of Craftinomicon (2012 Natcon – Melbourne) and Conflux 9 (2013 Natcon – Canberra), and can be done online.
“The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky” – Season four, episodes five and six
The Doctor – David Tennant
Donna Noble – Catherine Tate
Martha Jones – Freema Agyeman
Righto, so we’ve skipped over “The Fires of Pompeii” and “Planet of the Ood”, moving along to “The Sontaran Strategem/Poison Sky” double episode (not Hugo nominated, but Tansy felt they were important to talk about – we agreed!). I would like to mention a couple of things about the preceding two episodes though. In “The Fires of Pompeii”, we saw Donna make the Doctor to rescue just one family from the eruption, effectively forcing him to remember that EVERYONE MATTERS, and clearly setting her up as his conscience and moral compass. This is interesting when followed by “Planet of the Ood”, when his compassion is demonstrated in his fight to save the Ood despite their apparently murderous tendencies. Donna’s impact is swift and cannot be overstated, as it becomes so important later on!
“Planet of the Ood” is an excellent episode, because it highlights the idea of the Doctor as an outsider who challenges the status quo of the times and places that he and his companions arrive in. The episode manages to ask some important moral questions and has some genuinely creepy and shocking moments, like when we find out what their translation sphere has actually replaced.
And, I always enjoy a good historical episode, especially one where we know exactly what *has* to happen to fit into history as we know it, and wonder how the Doctor is going to save the day (or the people in the episode that we care about) given that catastrophe is going to strike, no matter what.
“The Fires of Pompeii” is one of my favourites. Not only did they use some of the very authentic sets from HBO’s Rome, but they also used some really delicious snippets of real Roman social history. And Donna is wonderful in it. He needs her so much … and it’s wonderful to see how much she blossoms and grows in confidence as she realises that.
Two good episodes to set us on the right path for the Donna/Doctor relationship. And then we come to “The Sontaran Strategem/Poison Sky” duo!
Given the title, it is hardly a spoiler to talk about how excited I was to see the return of one of my favourite alien races from Classic Who. I always loved the concept of the Sontarans and their endless war with the Rutans, so this was a bit of a fanboy moment. We’ve noted how there has been a concerted effort to show the New Who is a continuation of what has gone before, and it always thrills me to see one of the familiar foes of the Doctor. They may not be the Daleks, but the Sontarans have certainly given the Doctor some trouble. In fact, they are one of the few races to successfully attack Gallifrey itself, IIRC.
Oh, Sontarans. I love them. I may love them more that Cybermen and Daleks, even if mostly when I think of them it’s of the first appearance of one Sontaran in “The Time Warrior”, a wonderful Pertwee story which was also Sarah Jane Smith’s debut.
I really like what the new series has done with this classic monster, and this story by Helen Rayner (the only female writer of the new series!) is a really good reintroduction to them. The premise of the Sontarans as a ruthless clone race eternally at war, and their motives for what they are doing to the Earth in this particular strategem of theirs, all comes together really nicely. The clone aspect was not overly significant in the old series, so I like the way that is emphasised here along with the military obsessions.
They’re short but feisty! I know some fans winced a bit at the Sontar haka, but I loved it as a pointed, effective way to show what the Sontarans are like to a modern audience. It’s also great to see Christopher Ryan back in Doctor Who playing the leader, and oh I did spot Dan Starkey and the gap between his teeth as one (or many?) of the less high ranked Sontarans. I WONDER IF HE’LL BE IMPORTANT TO US IN THE FUTURE. Continue reading