John Dorney and Dan Starkey’s conclusion to this trilogy of Season 24 stories continues the deliberate evocation of the McCoy era from the two previous tales, with elements that feel very familiar – the first episode, in particular, reminded me of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, while the repetition of certain tropes is very much in keeping with a period of the show that could give us two stories in the same season with pretty much identical plots.
As the writers admit in the extras, they come at the Sontarans in rather different ways – Dorney preferring the vicious race we saw in the classic series, Starkey the more comedic versions that have turned up, particularly under Steven Moffat’s tenure. This doesn’t lead to as many tonal shifts as you might expect – there are some laugh aloud moments with the creatures, but they’re juxtaposed with the serious element in such a way that you never fail to be aware of the inherent danger.
Dorney and Starkey have created a motley group of other characters for the Doctor and Mel to encounter, including a take on a certain Marvel superhero that works surprisingly well on audio, and a particularly tunnel-visioned Sontaran leader who – like everyone on the base – has his traits magnified. Director Ken Bentley has assembled a cast of new and familiar voices – Jon Edgley Bond keeps “Anvil” Jackson from becoming too irritating while Starkey and John Banks provide Sontaran voices that are sufficiently different to be distinctive, but yet still credibly part of a clone race.
It’s been good to have a set of stories featuring the not-quite-so-manipulative side of the seventh Doctor (and which manages to pretty much avoid both Spoonerisms and spoons) and Bonnie Langford and Sylvester McCoy have a good chemistry that is often overlooked.
Verdict: A strong blend of melodrama, humour and terror. 8/10