The Sontaran Experiment

Hello again. That was a short one. Like the Sontarans, ahaha. I quite liked having this as a little palate-cleanser before the mouthwatering main course of the next serial. I think I prefer a season to have a nice mix of serial lengths, although I’m also looking forward to seeing how the regimented consistency works out for the rest of the Tom Baker era.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This was a very entertaining little story in its own right. The slow-building mystery first half is better than the action-packed second, despite another strong showing from a Sontaran. I love how uncomplicated their philosophy is – they simply do not give a fuck about any other species. They’re not killing people for the sake of being evil, it’s just that they see no reason why they shouldn’t.

I was on board right from the start when, knowing that this would be entirely shot on location, I saw that they’d plumped for video tape instead of film. One of the things I love about watching classic Who, and a lot of archive television in general, is the intimacy that analogue interlaced video implies, and I find that film sequences detract from this, adding a certain distance between the viewer and the actors. The vibrant colours (well, mostly Sarah’s coat) and crystal clear details really added to the appeal of this story.

That said, the direction is a bit off at times, particularly in the second episode, with a confusing sense of geography, and a lot of important-seeming things happening off-camera. There’s a lot of gaps that are left to the viewer to fill. This is probably partially down to the limitations of early portable video cameras, and can’t have been helped by Tom Baker breaking his collarbone halfway through filming, to be fair.

But when he’s not in agonising pain, he’s once again on top form here. His cheery playfulness when confronted by the South African buggers is a brilliant choice, and his rage against Styre after he discovered Sarah had been tortured was just superb. Even at this early stage, it’s easy to see why he became the definitive Doctor. I want to see all his serials RIGHT NOW.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, for the second year in a row (I watched ep 6 of Dalek Invasion of Earth on 25th December 2014), I’m going to spend my Christmas with a Dalek. Well, a few Daleks. And their dad.


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