Hello, and welcome back to Big Finishing Move here on One Of Us! if you’re just joining us, this feature is where I review Doctor Who audio dramas from Big Finish and tell you if they are worth your time and money. As I explained last time, to kick of 2014 and running all the way until August, we will be covering each episode of the third season of the Fourth Doctor Adventures as they are released. So with a new year and new adventures to explore, let’s take on Doctor Who: The King of Sontar, and see what it’s made of!
TARDIS Team: Fourth Doctor and Leela
Everybody has their favorite Doctor and for me, that’s Tom Baker. Kooky, absent-minded, oddball, melancholic, and mercurial, his interpretation of the Time Lord is on one level entirely the Doctor and yet on another is entirely is his own unique thing. Serving on screen as the Doctor longer than anybody else and with a list of classics a mile long, there is a part of Baker’s run for everybody. I should also point out that Leela is my favorite Fourth Doctor companion, fearsome, perceptive, and unapologetic about who and what she was, her relationship with the Doctor was very akin to Prof. Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle and I just eat that sort of stuff up.
It saddens me to no end then how much of a mixed bag the past two seasons of the Fourth Doctor Adventures have been. Season 2 is all the more heartbreaking as it was the last time Mary Tamm got to play Romana I before she lost her battle with cancer. The range isn’t bad, it just has much fewer standouts each season then one would hope for.
Our story begins with Sontarans doing what Sontarans do, fighting and performing military operations as they succeed in conquering a mercenary controlled base on a little mudhole planet in the middle of nowhere. Their victory is short lived as the leader of the base Strang, who is also a Sontaran makes short work of them. This is odd of course because Sontarans, warlike as they are, are supposed to all be on the same side.
The Doctor, once again dragged off course by the work of the Time Lords lands in the middle of all this craziness and he and Leela end up separated. While the Doctor is captured and put to work helping achieve Strang’s goals, a goal that the Doctor takes great pleasure in slowing down and meddling as best as he can Leela along with another Sontaran seek to free the Doctor and all the other slaves being held to do Strang’s bidding. What is Strang planning that has the Time Lords so rattled that they needed to send the Doctor in?
Dan Starkey (who plays the Sontaran Strax on the Doctor Who TV show) plays Strang. While Strax is a comedic character, Strang is most defiantly not. He is cold and ruthless and I wish we could have spent more time with this character. I have to tip my hat to the other people playing Sontarans as I initially thought they were all played by Starkey. All the Sontarans sound very much alike, as a race of clones should. Given only so much wiggle room to work with I have to commend all as they managed to make each Sontaran feel like one of the masses and yet still their own person.
The score here is also worthy of note in that it almost oversells itself, it is so 70’s that borderlines on parody at points. I can understand and appreciate wanting to try and keep things authentic, but this score is trying so hard to prove that it belongs with the period Tom Baker and Louise Jameson would have been running around on the small screen that it actually starts to become a distraction.
My biggest complaint here is that this should have been a two-parter. John Dorney’s script has so many interesting things to explore but I feel that nothing is given enough time to become fully grown and explored. Had the story been spread out over two months the story would have had time enough to slow down and let us really get into the heads of these interesting new characters and see what makes them tick. What is there is clear and you will never be lost as to what is going on or why, but the story seems to sacrifice so much trying and ramp itself towards the end, but oh what a treat the ending is!
What really elevates this one for me is the climax and the denouement. I try to keep these things mostly spoiler free but I will say that the story especially at the climax hearkens back to one of the Doctor’s most renowned stories ever, but with a twist. The denouement is then spent looking at the consequences of the choices made in this story and seems like the decisions here will carry some weight throughout the season. The main story never had a chance to really come into its own, but the fallout from it has me very excited to see what happens next. If they fail to have any follow through on this story it will be a huge mistake. It is the strongest opener Big Finish’s Fourth Doctor Adventures has ever had and that makes it at least worth the $8.99 to download the sucker and give it a listen.
Purchase Doctor Who: The King of Sontar Here:
Be sure to check out our own audio drama series called Infinite Variations, which stars many a familiar voice, and is just great fun to listen to. Next time, we take it to the edge with:
Check out previous reviews of Doctor Who releases from Big Finish: