Doctor Who: The Sontaran Experiment (1975) starring Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Ian Marter
In The Sontaran Experiment, the Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry return from the space station Nerva to Earth. But it’s 10,000 years in the future. The desolate landscape that once was the site of Piccadilly Circus has become a testing ground for the human race.
The Doctor, Harry, and Sarah arrive on Earth via transmat. It’s lonely and desolate, 10,000 years in the future (or so). Harry falls into what seems to be a trap. Meanwhile, the Doctor meets a group of stranded human colonists. They’re hostile, paranoid, or both. Speaking of which, they kidnap Sarah while she’s looking for Harry! Then, and odd-looking robot appears, that the humans are hiding from.
Sarah’s kidnapper explains that an alien has been kidnapping and torturing humans …. And he’s just trying to stay safe from the alien. And the Doctor’s kidnappers, though harsher, share the same information. Although they don’t believe he’s arrived from the “legendary” Space Station Nerva. Soon, Sarah’s rescuer runs away from the other humans, and Sarah uses the opportunity to rescue the Doctor. However, he’s fallen into the same trap that Harry fell into earlier, while Sarah and her new friend are captured by the drone, while Harry watches helplessly. At the end, the alien reveals himself — a Sontaran!
Sarah has been captured by the Sontaran, Styre, who is conducting experiments on the captured humans. And he coldheartedly murder’s Sarah’s human friend. Since he’s already tested him, and has no further use for him. Harry, however, finds and rescues another human. While the Doctor’ human captors are about to “rescue” him from the pit, when they’re recaptured by the robot drone. And one of them is traitor to the humans.
In the meanwhile, the Doctor rescues Sarah from Styre’s emotional torture, only to be shot unconscious. But Harry comes by in time to rescue them both. And Styre coldly reports that “Experiment 5” — the man that Harry rescued — has died of water deprivation. While Styre continues his experiments on the remaining human captives, the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver on Styre’s drone. Then, he goes to confront Styre to single combat. While Harry and Sarah use the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver on Styre’s ship. At a critical moment, the human Viral comes to the Doctor’s aid — and pays for it with his life. In the meanwhile, Styre needs to feed on energy. But, thanks to Harry’s sabotage, it dies instead. And the Doctor bluffs the invasion fleet into trying another day.
The Doctor, Sarah, and Harry leave via transmat, while the two humans wait for their rescue ship to arrive, ending the story.
A very short, but enjoyable, story arc for the Fourth Doctor.
Cast of characters
- Tom Baker (The Seeds of Doom, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad) … The Doctor. The Time Lord, traveling through time & space with his companions.
- Elisabeth Sladen (Genesis of the Daleks) … Sarah Jane Smith
- Ian Marter (The Ark in Space) … Harry Sullivan
- Donald Douglas … Vural
- Glyn Jones … Krans
- Peter Walshe (The Mask of Mandragora) … Erak
- Kevin Lindsay (The Time Warrior) … Styre. The heartless Sontaran. He’s performing multiple experiments on the captured humans. Some are physical, others emotional. All are in preparation for an imminent Sontaran invasion.
- Peter Rutherford … Roth
- Terry Walsh … Zake
Editorial review of The Sontaran Experiment courtesy of Amazon.com
One of the more suspenseful stories of the Tom Baker-era Doctor Who, 1975’s The Sontaran Experiment pits the Time Lord and his companions against a ruthless alien carrying out experiments on the survivors of a decimated Earth. The first Doctor Who serial to be shot entirely on location (in Dartmoor) and solely with video cameras, The Sontaran Experiment picks up where the previous serial, The Ark in Space, left off, with Baker’s Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter, who also wrote the serial’s novelization) visiting a future Earth abandoned by its inhabitants save for a small band of space colonists who are being hunted by an unseen force and its robot servant.
The alien a Sontaran warrior (the race was previously encountered in the Jon Pertwee serial The Time Warrior) is capturing the colonists and subjecting them to horrifying medical and psychological experiments, and the Doctor and friends soon find themselves among its new test subjects. A short (only two episodes) but gripping and effective story, The Sontaran Experiment has received its share of positive and negative reviews from the fan community, but remains an entertaining entry from the Baker years.
The single-disc DVD of The Sontaran Experiment offers surprisingly fewer extras than other recent Doctor Who releases; commentary is provided by Sladen, producer Philip Hinchcliffe, and co-writer Bob Baker, while a featurette, “Built for War,” traces the history of the Sontarans via interviews with Sladen, Baker, sixth Doctor Colin Baker, writer Terrance Dicks, and others. A brief photo gallery and the by-now standard production notes subtitle option round out the extras. — Paul Gaita