Doctor Who – The Sontaran Experiment

Doctor Who Story 077 – The Sontaran Experiment

Styre intimidates Sarah
(Source: Tardis Index File. Copyright 1975 by BBC.)

Who Wrote It: Bob Baker and Dave Martin

What’s It About?: The Doctor, Sarah, and Harry transport to Earth to fix the planet-side controls of the transmat to Nerva. But they find that the dead planet isn’t quite as abandoned as they thought.

A two part story is a bit of a shock in classic Doctor Who because it is so rare. And, by classic series standards, this story is quite fast-paced. This places The Sontaran Experiment closer to a new series pace than an old series pace. Unfortunately, the story never gets fully fleshed out. The actual experiment seems rather un-scientific. The resolution is too quick and just a bit unbelievable (although, the new series is guilty of this as well). But where The Sontaran Experiment succeeds is with its tone. This is a bleak story. The world feels empty. The very idea of testing human survival is reminiscent of World War II and the holocaust. The paranoia of the captain turning on his crew is chilling. This era of Doctor Who is starting to show its cards: dark and horrific subtext. But this further emphasizes the strength of Tom Baker’s portrayal of The Doctor: he is upbeat and quirky. He is laugh-out-loud funny. The Doctor is charm and smiles in the face of a dark, cold universe. It puts me in mind of a quote from Talking With Gods, the documentary about comic writer Grant Morrison, in which one of Morrison’s friends says that the ultimate act of rebellion against a bleak, uncaring universe is to be happy.

So while The Sontaran Experiment isn’t the best that the Tom Baker era has to offer, at least it doesn’t stay around too long.

My Rating: 2.5/5

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