After the complexities of the two other releases this month (Protect and Survive and The Time Museum), it’s rather refreshing to listen to a story that is straightforward in its telling, but nonetheless effective for that.
Unlike Genesis of the Daleks, Spare Parts or The Judgement of Isskar, this isn’t a story that sees the Doctor play a fundamental role in the creation of the Sontaran race, which comes as something of a relief. Instead the story of their original creation is simply one of the issues that affects the main characters – and indeed there’s a good argument that the First Sontarans referred to in the title might not even be the potato-headed militarists who strut through the adventure.
As is pointed out in the CD extras, we’ve had Daleks battling Cybermen on screen now – fulfilling many fans’ dreams – but we’ve yet to see a Sontaran/Rutan battle. Shakedown and other stories have seen Sontarans dealing with a single Rutan scout, but this time it’s not really giving anything away to say that their conflict is central to this story and we get more of an insight into the two races than we’ve had heretofore.
Andrew Smith’s original script – suitably reworked for audio – is one of the strongest of this season of Lost Stories, and it’s evident that both Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant have enjoyed getting their teeth into it. That’s partly because Smith gives them the sort of scenes that characterised the Russell T Davies era, as well as the more bombastic moments at which Baker excels. The supporting cast are uniformly good – kudos to director Ken Bentley for a well-polished production all round (and I grinned at the G minor march reappearing for the Sontarans after its appearance in Heroes of Sontar).
Verdict: Proving that Full Circle, all those years ago, wasn’t a one-off, let’s hope that Big Finish commission Smith for more adventures, because this one was great fun. 8/10