Human reader! You are permitted to witness the glory of the Sontaran Empire! Our warrior might is revealed at last! Be amazed, now! 5* (4 episodes, 2 CDs, 120 min)
Andrew Smith's `The First Sontarans' is the Sontaran story I've waited years for. Not this specific story, because until recently I didn't know it had ever existed, but a story like this that would finally give Robert Holmes' warrior creations the blockbuster adventure they always deserved.
And this is IT! It's a terrific, epic four-parter that gives us the Sontarans' creation story in a very clever way, and much, much more. For every classic-series fan who has winced a bit at the new series' Sontarans (although I must admit Strax is funny!), this is payback time. As a serious, classic-series Sontaran story, this one is the finest and shows them at their most militaristic and dominating. Linx and Styre would have been proud!
It begins, in the best traditions of `The Time Warrior', as a history-meets-the-aliens story when the Doctor and Peri track a coded radio message from Earth being relayed via the moon - in 1872. Somebody advanced and obviously not human is on Earth and they're expecting company...
In some ways this has the completely authentic `feel' of a mid-80s televised story; it's firmly centred on the Doctor and Peri and Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are excellent as usual and their characters are perfectly tuned for the era. The Doctor displays his television-era tetchiness, but also compassion for the Sontarans' victims, while Peri has a particularly adventurous story with excellent scenes where she leads the way and turns the tables on formidable enemies.
The `Earth' scenes early in the story feel exactly right for the 1980s era, the dialogue, the humour, the `sets' and supporting characters could be direct from a television soundtrack - but then the scale begins to grow... Without giving spoilers, there was a point near the end of episode 2 when I finally, definitely `got it' and the back of my neck tingled a bit in excitement! (Daft, but true!) I wasn't alone in this; Andrew Smith, Ken Bentley (director) and John Dorney (script editor) discuss it on the documentary tracks at the end of disc 1 and describe exactly how I felt too.
The second half of the story leaves the possibilities of mid-80s television production far behind and becomes a space epic on a massive scale. No longer limited to a maximum of four visible at a time (!), the Sontarans are "legion" and the extent of their imperial force under Fleet Marshal Jaka sounds most impressive. Dan Starkey plays a superb classic-series Sontaran, with a strict code of brutal military logic and merciless efficiency. The Sontarans in this story are more violent and more ruthless than they ever were on screen and (very surprisingly) more `paternal' too (in a way, and only for the glory of the Empire of course).
Jamie Robertson's sound design and music creates audio landscapes that at first sound just right for a 1980s television-scale story on Victorian Earth, then later expand and shock as the alien elements are introduced and the tale shifts into blockbuster mode. The original story was not produced for television because `The Two Doctors' was chosen instead; I'm a great fan of Robert Holmes' writing, but for the Sontarans, this story is much better. However, the cost of filming `The Two Doctors' around Seville was nothing compared with what it would have taken to do this script justice; even now the CGI would be major, back then, it would have needed Hollywood to make it.
Woven within the epic tale of war and the dawn of the Sontarans is a moving and very `human' husband-and-wife story of love, desperation, desertion and revenge played perfectly by Anthony Howell and Lizzie Roper. The Sontarans are not the only aliens around England in 1872, there are also the last of the Kaveetch - and strangely, not even the Doctor has ever heard of them or their battle for survival against terrible odds.
Cameron Stewart and John Banks complete the small, excellent cast (though it never sounds small, because several actors are convincingly performing multiple roles) playing two Victorian `gentlemen' whose behaviour is not always gentlemanly. One is a gambler and an ex-soldier of doubtful past, one is a killer - but how are they involved with the Sontarans and the Kaveetch...?
There's only one way to find out...
This order comes direct from Sontaran High Command! Purchase this legend now! Listen in awe! And give it five stars! "Glory awaits!" 5*
(The CD booklet has production notes and cast photos and documentary tracks are as usual at the end of both CDs, but it's probably best to listen to these after enjoying the complete story. I very much enjoyed the interview tracks on this release, especially those on disc 1 giving the history of the long campaign of this Sontaran `Lost Story' and its final, glorious audio victory!)
Down the years, many stories have been written for Doctor Who that never got to the tv screen. Now, thanks to Big Finish adapting some of them into audio plays, we can hear what might have been.
This is a story written by Andrew Smith [author of the fourth doctor story 'Full Circle'] and one that features the Sixth Doctor and Peri.
Plus the Sontarans.
It runs for four episodes of twenty six to thirty minutes each [approx] and is spread over two cd's.
The story sees the TARDIS crew discover a signalling device on the moon. Which leads them to rural England in the nineteenth century.
But in attempting to find what's going on here, they've walked into something bigger. This quiet bit of countryside holds a deadly secret that old enemies of the Doctor's are desperate to get their hands on. And it will reveal some surprising truths about them....
The main delight of this range is usually the way in which they flawelessly recreate the style of the tv show at the time, in terms of the way the story is structured plus the sound design and the music. All that is true once again here. But there are many other delights as well. Some things were known in advance of the audio versions about many of the other lost stories, thanks to them having been written up in magazines or novelised, but this one will be a fresh beast to many, so there's lots to discover here and you will be hooked waiting to see how the story unfolds.
It has a lot going on and doesn't constrain itself to a small cast or setting [which might be why it never got to the screen as it would have required a fair bit of a budget]. The supporting characters are well detailed and brought excellenty to life by the cast.
It does things with the Sontarans that the show hasn't done before.
There are some superbly understated emotional moments.
And some excellent action set pieces also.
Added to which it does do one thing that every fan has hoped for from a Sontaran story.
This is an excellent story brought superbly to life and it's an engrossing, exciting and entertaining listen. It's one of the best of this range and highly recommended.
There is a trailer for the next of the lost stories right after part four of the story on disc two.
Plus thirteen or so minutes of interviews with cast and crew on the track at the end of disc one.
And just over fifteen minutes more of those on the final track of disc two.
on 11 October 2015
This has good pace and zips along nicely. The production values are good, and the Sontarans sound more menacing here than they ever looked on TV. The triumvirate of great sound, writing and acting creates strong imagery and is easily as good as anything produced in the eighties. There are some genuinely intriguing elements, including double crosses, betrayal and cliff hangers that are genuinely exciting. The balance between action, drama and exposition is finely tuned; the acting is great, it never feels predictable and genuinely leaves you wanting more. It even has Rutans!
Only slight niggle I had was that the reveal of the origins of the Sontarans felt a little underwhelming at first, but then again the fact it was so underplayed was kind of novel in its self and made a refreshing change. I actually think that is the secret to the success behind this. It brings together all the right elements but it’s the timing that gives it that boost rather than just being a collection of nice ideas. The action is quick and you are never left to dwell on things too long, so full credit to the writer there. The final part feels positively epic.