CRRRaSh! 329 Doctor Who: The Sontaran Experiment

By Roy Mathur, on 2020-08-17, at 2020-08-17 23:00:00--23:41:56 BST, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen

The State of the Rewatch

Hopefully, after 8 years of doing the show, I've finally got a workable schedule. Hopefully. But we've been down this road before. Vintage media chats taped on Monday, edited Tuesday, and uploaded either the same day or Wednesday. Then the regular geek episode taped Wednesday, edited Thursday, uploaded Thursday or Friday. I'm slightly unsure of the release date because there's no reason not to upload as soon the edit is done, but there's also when most people will respond to seeing a new episode to consider.

The unfortunate haircut is growing, but it is currently shorter than my beard. Is this a mistake I'll make again? Maybe, but like I said, if I ever ponder on the pod the need for another crop, shout at me please!

Cast and Production Notes

Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker
Sarah Jane Smith: Elisabeth Sladen
Harry Sullivan: Ian Marter
Director: Rodney Bennett
Writer: Bob Baker and Dave Martin
Producer: Philip Hinchcliffe
Third story of the 12th season, following The Ark in Space covered in 327, 2 x 25 minute episodes, first broadcast from 22 February to 1 March 1975.

On this Day in the UK

No. 1 in the UK was Make Me Smile by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel.

Make Me Smile is a song I can just about play on my banjolele.

A friend frequently tells me that as a child he spoke to Harley, because his dad knew the singer.

What Happens

The Doctor beam down to the Earth to check if conditions are the favourable for the evacuees aboard the ark. There's a problem with the matter transporter as Harry fades in and out. The Doctor begins to repair the machinery, while Sarah and Harry go off to explore.

The Earth is not quite as deserted as expected. There is a group of stranded spacemen from GalSec. They have been lured by a fake distress signal transmitted from Sontaran Field Major Styre, who requires humans on which to conduct cruel experiments to determine their tactical capabilities.

Sarah is later captured and subjected to nightmarish hallucinations, until rescued by Harry and the Doctor.

The Doctor eventually challenges Styre to personal combat and while the Sontaran is distracted, Harry sneaks aboard his ship and sabotages it according to the Doctor's instructions. The exhausted Sontaran returns to the ship to recover, but instead emerges, falls down and shrivels.

The Doctor uses Styre's communication device to contact the Sontaran Marshal and tell him that his plans have come to nothing, threatens them with destruction should they approach Earth, then hangs up.

The GalSec crew refuse a lift back to the ark by transmat and instead await the evacuees.

What I Thought

I was annoyed that for most of the adventure Sarah was there only as a damsel to be rescued, and Harry as the clumsy court jester.

Dartmoor as a stand-in for London's West End? What the hell happened to the landscape in 10,000 years? Still, it's a nice change, though with the sloops and rocks, I'm not surprised Baker broke his collarbone.

One of the few stories involving Sontarans that does not mention or use the probic vent (the one physical vulnerability of Sontarans) as a plot point.

"GalSec" colony? Originally, Galactic Security HQ? Like Leela's tribe is the Sevateem, originally from "Survey Team"?

The GalSec men have odd, vaguely South African, accents.


As we discussed in 327, Tom Baker broke his collarbone filming this story. He was doubled in more active scenes by actor Terry Walsh, who also played GalSec crewman Zake, who, we are told in the special features, looked like Baker. Maybe they mean his build, because I could see no similarity whatsoever. In the scenes with Baker, the scarf is used to hide and support his injury, as is confirmed by Sladen in the special features. Acting with that kind of injury sounds brave to me.

Major Styre is so named, because they wanted to give the Sontaran a Germanic sounding name to go with his Nazi-like callousness in experimenting on the humans.

A two part story in Old Who is an oddity. Traditionally, since this is clearly is only a short continuation of The Ark in Space, the whole would normally be a six episode story, but Hinchcliffe sought to save money by filming the two separately. I'm not sure how moving the production to Dartmoor for location filming saved money. Was it just a ploy by Hinchcliffe to go to a novel setting? I also read that it is the only story to be filmed entirely on location.

Many years ago, I visited Dartmoor on a terrible A-Level geography field trip. Although I enjoyed the dramatic landscape, I hated everyone, was savaged by an enormous invisible pig, and suffered terrible food poisoning. I also remember the bemused residents of Exeter answering boring questions about their shopping habits by a bunch of equally bored teenage/YA Londoners.

GalSec is the now also name of a security firm and there is a band called The Sevateem.

Next Time

Genesis of the Daleks.