Sunday, 1 March 2015

391 The Sontaran Experiment: Part Two

EPISODE: The Sontaran Experiment: Part Two
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 01 March 1975
WRITER: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
DIRECTOR: Rodney Bennett
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 10.5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Sontaran Experiment

"Field Major Styre, I order you to report!"

The Sontaran identifies himself as Field Major Styre and he kills Roth declaring his intention to test Sarah. Vural, Krans & Erak pull the Doctor out the pit but as they do the robot attacks capturing them. Harry finds a fourth human chained to the cliff. The prisoner has been put there so the Sontaran can see how long it takes for him to die. Styre interrogates Sarah not believing her story. The Doctor finds Harry's escape route from the pit. Harry tries to free Sarah but finds her protected by a forcefield. Styre communicates with his Marshall reporting that the humans are weak. He induces fear in Sarah but the Doctor arrives and breaks the forcefield, removing the fear inducer. Styre attacks the Doctor and renders him unconscious. The robot arrives with the human prisoners. Vural is angry he has been captured because he has served Styre. Harry finds Sarah, then the Doctor and finally the prisoner who has now died. Styre records that the subject took nine days to die when deprived of fluid. The recovered Doctor finds Harry and leaves him to look after Sarah. Vural is subjected to an experiment where Krans & Erak must hold a gravity bar away from his chest. The robot attacks the Doctor who destroys it with his sonic screwdriver. The Doctor engages Styre in combat while Harry sabotages his ship and Sarah frees the three humans. Vural is killed rescuing the Doctor. The weakened Styre returns to his ship, to recharge, which drains the remainder of Styre's energy and explodes due to Harry's sabotage. The Doctor speaks with the Marshall telling him Styre is dead and his plans are ruined. Krans & Erak wait for the Nerva colonists to arrive as the Doctor, Harry & Sarah vanish in the transmat bound for the Ark.....

... or so they think, but we'll get there next episode.

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My wife Liz has big problems with this episode and to be honest I can see her point: Styre's experiments are pretty nasty for Saturday teatime with a human being crushed by an increasing weight that two of his friends are forced to bear, another being starved of water till he dies, Sarah being subjected to her worst nightmares and an off-screen drowning incident being reported.
STYRE: Field Major Styre, Sontaran G3 Military Assessment Survey. Experiment five, human resistance to fluid deprivation. Data, subject died after nine days, seven hours. Impairment of mental faculties, motor reflexes and physical coordination noted after only three days. Conclusion, dependence on fluid is a significant weakness which should be exploited in our attack. As a rider to the above, we should also like to take into account the successful conclusion of experiment four, where immersion in the fluid H2O produced asphyxiation in less than three minutes.

STYRE: Experiment seven. Subject, female. Project, resistance to fear.

STYRE: Experiment eight, resistance to pressure on the human breast cage and muscular strength. Are you prepared? ERAK: What are you up to, you lump of filth? STYRE: You are holding a gravity bar. At the moment it is a mere forty pounds Earth weight. I will increase that weight to Two hundred pounds.....Three hundred pounds.

We can now account for all nine of the GalSec crew members who survived the crash:

Vuralkilled by Styre saving the Doctor
Zakekilled in fall
Rothshot by Styre
Heathkilled by Styre
Splierkilled by Styre
Seen in Ep2dehydrated

Come to think of it the idea of a human being eaten from the inside in the previous story was a bit nasty too. Looking at it now it seems odd that it took till the fourth story this season for the show to fall foul of Mary Whitehouse and the Nation Viewers & Listeners Association.

I do think Styre may have underestimated Sarah:

STYRE: Female number one, first assessment. Would appear to have no military justification. Offensive value therefore nil.
I'm sure Sarah can be very offensive when she tries!
STYRE: You, as a female, are far more interesting. And soon I will have the rest of your companions.

The Doctor then gives Harry a piece of advice I've taken to heart:

HARRY: Doctor, I thought you were both dead.
DOCTOR: Not me. Piece of the synestic locking mechanism from Nerva's rocket. Popped it in my pocket.
HARRY: Fortuitous.
DOCTOR: Foresight. You never know when these bits and pieces will come in handy.
(He throws it away.)
DOCTOR: Never throw anything away, Harry.

Unfortunately what follows I'd very much disagree with.....

DOCTOR: Where's my five hundred year diary? I remember jotting some notes on the Sontarans. It's a mistake to clutter one's pockets, Harry.
And judging by what we see in subsequent stories the Doctor doesn't agree with either!

And this made me giggle

STYRE: I shall kill you all now .....but first I have more important tasks to perform.
vlcsnap-2014-12-05-19h30m37s215 Head in hands. No wonder this species has been getting nowhere fighting the Rutans for thousands of years.

The other thing that makes me laugh is the robot. Unfortunately it's in a deary deary me type way because it's so so rubbish, reminiscent of one of the Smash Martians!

Glyn Jones, playing Krans, is unique amongst the entire credited cast of the original series of Doctor Who: he's the only person to both act and write for the show, having previously penned The Space Museum for the First Doctor. You can hear him interviewed in Toby Hadoke's Who's Round #3. Jones died on 2nd April 2014 leaving Donald Tosh as the sole surviving Hartnell author. Vural you may recognise from elsewhere as the actor, Donald Douglas was in the 1980 Blake's 7 episode Rumours of Death as Major Grenleee.

vlcsnap-2014-12-05-12h48m47s86  Krans Vural

Both Peter Walshe, playing Erak, and Brian Ellis, playing the prisoner in the second episode, return in The Masque of Mandragora as a pikeman and a brother respectively.

vlcsnap-2014-12-05-12h53m28s70 Erak vlcsnap-2014-12-05-19h09m51s45

Returning to the show for his third and final appearance is Kevin Lindsay as Styre and, in this second episode, The Marshal.

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He previously played the Sontaran Linx in the The Time Warrior as well as Cho Je in Planet of the Spiders. Here' the Sontaran mask is modified to removed the breathing difficulties Lindsay suffered during the Time Warrior. He died of his heart condition on 26th April 1975 9 days after his forty ninth birthday.

While I liked Ark In Space I can't really show much enthusiasm for this story I'm afraid. Possibly because I know what's coming next.... But one element that does work in the story's favour is it's all location filming on Dartmooor at Headland Warren and Hound Tor.

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Sadly the visit there won't be remembered with any fondness by the new star of the show. On the first day at the later location Tom Baker, recording his second story as Doctor Who, slipped while performing a fight scene with Styre and broke his collar bone. He was taken to Torquay hospital while filming continued with stuntman Terry Walsh, on hand to play Zake in the first episode, disguised as the Doctor. Fitted with a neck brace all of Baker's remaining front on shots were done with the scarf disguising the support. The incident was something of a baptism of fire for the show's still new leading actor and it's new producer, Philip Hinchcliffe, who was recording his first story: Ark in Space was recorded after it's on-screen successor The Sontaran Experiment as their respective story codes 4C and 4B reflect. Both were helmed by first time Doctor Who director Rodney Bennett, pre-empting the pattern used by producer John Nathan-Turner for the pairs of three parters in the latter years of the show where one was shot on location while the other was filmed in the studio with the same teams responsible for both.

The Sontaran Experiment was novelised by Ian Marter, the actor who played Harry Sulivan in it and also adapted it's predecessor Ark in Space. It was repeated on Friday 9th July 1976 as a compilation edition. Sontaran Experiment was released on video in a 2 pack with Genesis of the Daleks during October 1991 on the same day as The Deadly Assassin. I'm pretty sure I picked these up in advance of the official release at a London comic mart, then being held at the TUC building in central London. The Sontaran Experiment was released on DVD on the 9th October 2006 as a budget release at a cheaper price. It was also included in the Doctor Who : Bred for War Boxset which collects Sontaran Experiment with the other three Sontaran stories: The Time Warrior, The Invasion Of Time & The Two Doctors. Bred for War was released on 5th May 2008 to tie in with their return in the fourth series of the new Doctor Who.

Come back next week as we start the Doctor who story that's probably been seen by more people than any other...... It's time for Genesis of the Daleks!

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