March 30, 2023

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Doctor Who “The Sontaran Stratagem”

Martha, now working for UNIT, gets the Doctor's help to look into a mysterious car exhaust system that seems to kill people.

The new Doctor Who has revamped and revived in a more modern way the Daleks, the Master, and the Cybermen.  Obviously, there are a couple bad guys from the classic era that can still be brought back.

Like, say, the Sontarans.

The Sontarans are probably one of the more interesting concepts the old show produced, even if it isn’t quite as effective given the old show’s budget limitations.  Essentially, they were a short slab of muscle bred to fight a never-ending war, massively strong for their size, with the only real weakness being a pressure point on the back of their necks.  A race that was bred in a lab and didn’t even know what  a female was the first time they appeared on the show, they were supposed to be all the same, so the old show rarely showed more than one at a time unmasked.  The biggest obstacle was probably their giant potato heads that seemed to join right to the torso.

Worth noting that this incarnation of the Doctor, almost certainly a result of the Time War, is even more adverse to military actions and figures than he used to be.  He just doesn’t like people who carry guns everywhere.

But the Sontarans are only ever interested in fighting their one enemy and don’t really have much business coming to Earth unless it somehow benefits their war effort.  There’s no talk in this episode of their great shapeshifting foes, but that doesn’t mean the Sontarans aren’t up to no good on the planet.  Fortunately, the Earth still has UNIT to look after the place.

And that would be about where this one starts:  Martha calls the Doctor, he drops the TARDIS down nearby, and after he and Martha reconnect and she and Donna become fast friends over complaints about their mutual associate, the truth comes out that UNIT is raiding the ATMOS factory.  ATMOS is some kind of gadget that actually cleans the carbon out of car exhaust, invented by billionaire genius and creepy kid Luke Rattigan, but 52 or so people died around the world at the exact same moment, so UNIT is looking into it.

And this Doctor…does not care much for UNIT.  The Colonel in charge wants to salute him.  The Doctor hates that.  The Doctor never really resigned his commission, and he’s being very rude to the Colonel in a way that is bound to make someone really mad eventually.  The Brigadier at least knew how to handle various Time Lords, especially since it was always the same guy.  The Doctor does approve of Martha being there since she figures she can reform them from the inside to being less quick to shoot things.

Plus, she’s now a doctor herself.

Alright, what can go wrong and what can go right?  The Martin Shkreli lookalike punk is working with the Sontarans, something the Doctor figures out by accident when he and a soldier go over to talk to him.  He just had to have a teleporter in his office, and the Doctor sees the Sontarans himself when he zaps up to their orbital spaceship.  Fortunately, between the sonic screwdriver and a paddle ball, he’s able to knock the Sontaran general in charge for a loop.  He and the soldier escape, manage to get out of the ATMOS-triggered car that tries to kill them both, and they put a call to Martha to warn UNIT.

OK, that sounds good.

Except the Sontarans, having hypnotized the factory workers and a couple UNIT personnel, captured Martha, cloned her, and gave the clone her memories, so the person the Doctor spoke to wasn’t actually Martha.

Donna, meanwhile, visits family.  Grandpa Wilfred is pleased Donna met aliens.  Mother Sylvia doesn’t know because it’s probably better that way.  The Doctor, knowing the ATMOS made a few hundred million cars is basically a few hundred million weapons for the Sontarans, checks the Noble family car and learns it gives off a fast-dissipating gas.  He can’t get the thing off, and the Sontarans decide to turn the things on, leaving Wilfred trapped in the car with gas inside as every other car in the neighborhood starts spewing a cloud of the stuff.

Also, it’s happening everywhere.

Man, what did the Earth ever do to the Sontarans?  The planet has enough trouble with General Potato Head showing up and causing problems…

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