AUDIO REVIEW: Terror of the Sontarans

Terror of the Sontarans
by John Dorney and Dan Starkey

Starring Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford

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Review by Nick Fraser

Terror features a lot in Doctor Who: it’s as vital an ingredient to the mix as eggs in a cake. Over the years it’s been linked specifically with Macra, Autons, Zygons and Vervoids. It’s about time then that armoured egg-headed clone troopers from Sontar had a go. On this occasion though, the Sontarans are the recipients rather than the purveyors of terror, in John Dorney and Dan Starkey’s slow burning mystery.

The Doctor and Mel arrive in an abandoned base on a barren planet, no sign of its crew, drawn by a distress message. They set about trying to discover who sent the message and, with some trepidation, why. Well at least Mel shows some sign of concern for their surroundings; the Doctor takes a more laid back, cheery approach to the exploration of the confines of the base.

Mel suspects there’s something creeping around in the shadows and then, in the finest of Whovian traditions, companion and Time Lord are separated by events and cut off from the TARDIS. At which point…on with the motley, as Mel encounters a group of prisoners, unwittingly released by the Doctor. Being well accustomed to coping with the Doctor’s occasional blunders, Mel makes the best of being suddenly faced with a derring-do adventurer, a half-human contortionist, a meditating Mother Superior and a giant, raving lobster.

Meanwhile the Doctor is horrified to discover that the IMC mining station has had certain modifications carried out to it, showing clear signs of being made to suit short-statured, three-digited operators, shortly before a fresh batch of Sontar’s finest arrive on the scene. Led by Field Major Kayste, they’re a step ahead of the TARDIS adventurers, knowing at least that the distress beacon was launched by one of their own, Commander Skegg, who’d been leading a small team carrying out typically gruesome Sontaran field experimentation on the base. That Skegg considered it necessary to admit to a state of distress and then broadcast that fact…well it’s fair to say that Kayste is in a stompingly bad mood about it.

Dorney and Strax – whoops! Starkey – capture the listener’s attention early on in this audio adventure, gradually revealing the deadly dangers below, above and within the mining station. Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford exude the warmth of well-travelled friends who enjoy each other’s company, much needed in the midst of a story which uncovers the steady, spiralling descent of mining crew and Skegg’s Sontaran Experimentation Team into madness and death.

Starkey lends strong, authentic support in the role of the cantankerous Field Major Kayste, whose investigative efforts provide a militaristic contrast to the chatty, improvisational efforts of the Doctor. Given previous history it’s not surprising that the former very soon becomes convinced that the blame for events lies squarely at the TARDIS doorstep.

Terror of the Sontarans is populated with a strong supporting cast of characters, in the form of Ketch the contortionist clown, the brash Colonel Anvil Jackson, the mysterious Tethneka and the ranting crustacean Archon Stettimer, and an array of Sontarans.

The cause of this particular Reign of Terror is eventually revealed as being The Bloom, a crystalline entity which perhaps unintentionally, but certainly uncaringly, unleashes merry hell upon the occupants of the mining base. Ultimately the methods of Time Lord and Sontaran officer for dealing with the creeping threat are startling similar and direct, and not everyone is going to survive the experience.

In an adventure featuring the armed might of Sontar (and a ranting lobster), there’s a lot of shouting and fighting going on, which at times made it a little difficult to work out exactly what was going on. A small gripe however, against what is otherwise an engrossing listen.

Thanks to Big Finish

Review by Nick Fraser

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