The Sontarans was the fourth and final story of the third series of The Early Adventures, produced by Big Finish Productions. It was written by Simon Guerrier, narrated by Peter Purves and Jean Marsh and featured the First Doctor, Steven Taylor and Sara Kingdom.
Producer David Richardson briefed Guerrier with writing another story involving Steven and Sara. Among Guerrier's initial ideas, he considered attempting a Dalek story still set within The Daleks' Master Plan. These ideas were eventually dropped in favour of utilising the Sontarans in a tale inspired by The Guns of Navarone. (VOR 91)
This was part of the series of stories which take place between Episodes 7 and 8 of The Daleks' Master Plan, a narrative gap opened by The Mutation of Time and filled by The Little Drummer Boy, The Anachronauts, Home Truths, The Drowned World, The Guardian of the Solar System, and An Ordinary Life. While later stories would add to this series of adventures with the release of Men of War, The Sontarans is the final story to occur within this narrative gap from a chronological standpoint. The ending leads back into Episode 8 of Master Plan, "Volcano", with another time machine pursuing the TARDIS, while the Daleks make a cameo appearance, preparing to test the Time Destructor back on Kembel.
Narratively, this is the Doctor's first encounter with the Sontarans, as both the Third Doctor and Fourth Doctor already knew of them and the Rutan Host in their respective television adventures.
But they quickly find themselves in the midst of battle — on one side: a familiar group of space-suited soldiers — members of the Space Security Service. On the other: strange, squat aliens in body armour.
Surviving the initial hostilities, the Doctor and his friends discover that the SSS squad is on a terrifying mission. With many lives at stake, they have to venture deep inside the asteroid in search of a hideous weapon. But who can they trust in the battle against these Sontarans?
The Sontarans (1)
The TARDIS lands on an asteroid whose soil is completely covered in flowers for miles. The Doctor, Steven, and Sara come out from the TARDIS and wonder at the view. Sara recognises the asteroid as part of the Sulgrave Asteroid Belt, an asteroid loop of eight circles going around two giant gas planets. Excited at the discovery, she runs away to climb a nearby ridge, to see if she can have a better look at the two planets.
As the Doctor and Steven comment on how much Sara has changed from when they first met her, seven men dressed in black uniform (which the Doctor and Steven recognise as Space Security Service, Sara's colleagues) surround them, and their leader, Captain Daphne Papas, orders them to be shot. The Doctor though points out to Papas that, if they do so, they won't be able to interrogate them, and the secret mission they are involved with (which the Doctor deduced by observing the way their behaviour) could be compromised. Papas agrees to spare their life for the moment, but as she is about to tell them about their mission, the group is attacked by a hostile alien force, which Steven recognises as Sontarans.
As a fight ensues between the agents and the Sontarans, Steven and the Doctor try to crawl away undetected. The pilot tells the Doctor about the Sontarans and their reputation of remorselessness and cruelty; upon knowing that, the Doctor comes back and offers help to Papas and their men, by taking them to the TARDIS. Papas orders two of her men, Corporal Gage and Ellis, to hide in a special tent while she and the others retreat to the TARDIS. When they reach the ship, though, they see the Sontarans preceded them and took it; the group tries to win it back but is eventually subdued. The Sontaran commander of the squad, Captain Stack, asks them if they are spies or military force; Papas answers negatively, and pretend they are survivors of a shipwreck. Stack does not believe her, but still considers them of no military value and therefore orders their immediate execution. But before he can manage that, Ellis, Gage and Sara attack and kill him and his men, releasing the prisoners.
Sara reveals that she knew that shooting the Sontarans in the probic vent would kill them, and Gage notes that he thinks this is unsporting. Papas then reveals that their mission is to destroy a space canon on the asteroid, allowing incoming human people carriers to get through the star system unharmed. Sara convinces the Doctor that the SSS would not be able to complete the mission by themselves and they need the Doctor's help; he agrees as the Sontarans also have the TARDIS. They find a crater that leads into the asteroid and start to climb down it, every member of the group connected to each other.
When they are a small way down the crater, some more sontarans appear at the surface. Commander Slite instructs his squad to remove their helmets, revealing that the Sontarans are a clone race. He tells the group that they may take the first shot, Papas instructs Ellis to take this shot and he missed. Slite fires back, shooting the Doctor.
The Descent (2)
The Doctor feigns being unconscious and Steven secures him on the rockface, the Sontarans assuming him to be dead. The Doctor tells the SSS squad to pass him all their packs. Ellis shoots at the Sontarans again, killing one. Slite considers who to shoot next, however the Doctor put his plan into action: he has opened all the tents from the packs up and instructs all the squad to let go of the rockface, the tents acting as a parachute. The Sontarans shoot at them, but to no avail.
After floating down for a while, the Doctor notices that they are heading straight for a pool of lava, and they manage to maneuver themselves onto a piece of land. Steven is knocked out when they land. When he wakes up, Papas and Ellis are arguing about him losing the map they need. The group see a Sontaran jump down the crater they came down and plunge straight into the lava. They run, as they know the Sontaran will survive this. More Sontarans jump down.
A firefight ensues between the SSS and the Sontarans. The Doctor, Papas, Gage, and Sara escape down a tunnel, however Steven and Ellis are left behind. Ellis sacrifices himself using a grenade to allow Steven to escape, but Steven is captured by the Sontarans. Gage is revealed to have been injured by a shot from the Sontarans.
Steven is taken to the Sontaran command and assessed by the Sontarans. They reveal to him that Gage is actually a Sontaran in disguise as a human. They inform Steven that they believe all of the others to be dead. The Sontarans start to torture Steven, with him screaming in pain.
The Blind City (3)
The group follow the tunnel further, Gage being hindered by his injuries. They find a city in the caverns.
The Sontarans torture Steven further in the command base.
The group investigate the city and encounter an indigenous population, however they ignore the group and appear to act as if they are not there. They decide to go through the city.
Steven is tortured into revealing his experience in the military, introducing the Sontarans to concepts such as 'promotion'. He tells them about his time being locked up by the Mechanoids on Mechanus, however the Sontarans do not understand the idea of being locked up so torture him further.
The group venture through the city for a couple of hours, with Gage hindering their progress due to his injury.
Steven is fatigued by his torture, nearly passed out. They ask him if he has encountered Daleks, and the fact that he survived his encounter intrigues the Sontarans.
The group go into a shop, the owner ignoring them and leaving the shop. The Doctor treats Gage's injuries, telling Sara and Papas to search for alcohol solution. Papas asks Sara about what she knows about the future, having overheard her and the Doctor talking, Sara refuses to tell her but reminds Papas there is always hope.
The Sontarans further question Steven about his encounter with the Daleks. Steven tries his best to not tell the Sontarans about the Terranium core. The Sontarans then inform him that the others are actually alive, but are planned to be killed soon.
The group debates over whether to leave Gage behind due to his injuries potentially jeapordising the mission. They eventually agree that he will come to the edge of the city with them and then stay behind. They then encounter a girl of the indigenous population, who leads them to a secret unused tunnel. It is revealed that the species can actually see them, but ignore them as to not provoke the Sontarans by helping them. The girl, Tinder, tells them she wants to help the group as the Sontarans oppress the people: often randomly killing them.
The group follows Tinder to the secret path. The Doctor arises his suspicions about Gage to Sara, Gage overhears this conversation and reveals himself to be a Sontaran. They are then ambushed by a squad of Sontarans. The group is taken to the command base for interrogation.
The Sontarans mock the Doctor for running away from the Daleks, branding the group as deserters who are to be killed.
The Rule of War (4)
Gage stops the commander from shooting the group, telling him that the 'cabinet', the TARDIS, is important. They prepare to torture them for information about it, locking them in room. They talk, and the Doctor notes how Gage may teach the Sontarans some human qualities. He also informs them he has an escape plan.
Steven and the Doctor are taken back to the interrogation room. Steven is subjected to great pain in order to force the Doctor to tell them about the TARDIS.
The group still locked in the room take Steven's screaming to put their plan into motion, Tinder crawling through the ducting to get out. Sara and Papas talk about their time in the SSS, and Papas deduces Sara deserted. Tinder opens the door to the cell, letting Sara and Papas out. The Doctor convinces Gage that Steven needs to be alive to open the TARDIS. The Doctor talks with Gage about him understanding the motivations of humanity, with Gage expressing shame for being disguised as a human. Gage agrees to do as the Doctor says, however Slite comes into the room and orders Gage to step away from the Doctor. Gage protests and Slite shoots him for questioning orders. Slite continues torturing Steven.
Escaping, Sara, Papas, and Tinder encounter a hoard of sleeping Sontarans. Tinder leads the Sontarans out of the room, lying and saying she saw a Rutan. They find a computer showing the people carrier ships approaching range and discover that the canon is programmed to automatically fire on them. They vow to destroy it before it fires.
Steven is tortured more, however this stops when the 'attack' by the Rutans distracts the Sontarans. The Doctor is informed of the Sontaran-Rutan war. The Sontarans assume the approaching people carriers to be a Rutan fleet and start firing upon it with the canon. The Doctor convinces Slite to stop firing, making him realize that it is not a Rutan invasion fleet and instead a defenseless fleet of people carriers that it would be dishonorable to fire on.
A Sontaran discovers Sara and Papas and takes them back to the interrogation room. They torture Sara until the Doctor allows them access to the TARDIS. However this is revealed to be a trick by the Doctor to get the Sontarans in the room to turn their backs, allowing a hiding Tinder to shoot them.
The Nil, the indiginous people of the asteroid, stage a revolution against their Sontaran oppressors and eventually overthrow them, using the probic vent trick. Sara and Papas blow up the space canon.
Sara tells Tinder that the Sontarans will be back so her people must leave the asteroid. Papas decides to stay behind and help the Nil with this, deciding on this after Sara tells her all of the SSS squad sent were assumed dead. The Doctor, Sara, and Steven leave in the TARDIS. The TARDIS detects a time vessel following them.
Across the universe, the Daleks plan to test the time destructor, proclaiming they will have power over all of space and time.
- Steven/The Doctor/Narrator - Peter Purves
- Sara Kingdom - Jean Marsh
- Corporal Ellis/Slite/Shrok/Stack/Commander - Dan Starkey
- Captain Daphne Papas - Jemma Churchill
- Corporal Gage - John Banks
- Tinder/Human Soldier - Rosanna Miles
- Daleks - Nicholas Briggs
to be added
- The simple title, The Sontarans, is in the style of others such as The Daleks, The Ice Warriors, The Dæmons and The Sea Devils, to give a few examples. Each story is named after the titular alien foe which made their debut appearance. Although the Sontarans did not debut in this story, the title serves to emulate other such stories by indicating the story to be the Doctor's first chronological encounter with them. Taking note of the Third Doctor's familiarity with the Sontarans in The Time Warrior, Simon Guerrier pitched the idea of the Doctor meeting the Sontarans for the first time, though he was also keen for both Steven and Sara (VOR 91)
- David Richardson suggested Guerrier model the story off a classic war film to help better portray the Sontarans as an all-conquering invasion force. Guerrier consulted his brother-in-law, a huge war film enthusiast, who recommended The Guns of Navarone as an ideal fit. Guerrier based Sara's attitude towards the Sontarans after Gregory Peck's character, Captain Keith Mallory, who risks compromising his morality in the belief that "We’ve got to be worse than the Nazis to beat them". (VOR 91) Guerrier later described the film as a "hook" for the story. (BFX: The Outliers)
- The story was recorded on 15 October and 16 October 2013 at Moat Studios.
- A trailer for this story was released with visual elements.
The Dalek cameo
The cameo makes this the fifth audio story to feature both the Daleks and the Sontarans, after The Five Companions, Starlight Robbery, Master of the Daleks and The Eternity Cage. Starlight Robbery is especially comparable, as it is also primarily a Sontaran story in which the Daleks show up at the end (though in a non-speaking capacity), setting up the events of Daleks Among Us.
Guerrier had originally toyed with the idea of a Dalek story before settling on the Sontarans. (VOR 91) Interestingly, the inspiration taken from The Guns of Navarone means the Sontarans become stand-ins for the Nazis, rather than the Daleks who were directly inspired by them.
The Dalek scene slots in between the first two scenes of "Volcano". The opening scene of "Volcano" has one Dalek instruct another to inform the Dalek Supreme that the Time Destructor is ready for testing; The Sontarans depicts the Dalek Supreme receiving and responding to this news. This marks another appearance by the Black Dalek Leader, who also reappears in Daughter of the Gods.
- Steven mentions Natalie Lang. (AUDIO: The Anachronauts)
- Steven explains how he was a prisoner of the Mechonoids (TV: The Chase) after he was shot down by the Krayt. (PROSE: The Empire of Glass)
- The Sontarans also made cameo appearances in The Empire of Glass, although it was not made entirely clear whether the Doctor or Steven were aware of or encountered them.
- Sara recalls her time in 1950s London with Michael and Audrey Newman. (AUDIO: An Ordinary Life)
- The Sontarans come across the Daleks when cross referencing the Mechonoids. (TV: The Chase, COMIC: Eve of War, Impasse, The World That Waits, PROSE: War of the Daleks, Birth of a Legend)
- Later Doctors showed their familiarity with the Sontarans, Rutans and their war. (TV: The Time Warrior, The Two Doctors)
- While talking to the others about war, the First Doctor recalls his adventure to the year 100,000 BC. According to the Doctor, Ian Chesterton had stopped him from murdering a caveman that was slowing them down. (TV: An Unearthly Child) According to another source, it was in fact the Eighth Doctor who dissuaded him from doing so. (PROSE: The Eight Doctors)
- Several references are made to the Doctor's ongoing struggle against the Daleks: (TV: The Daleks' Master Plan)
- Sara tells Papas that in the future there will be peace "for a time." This period lasts from 3975 until 4000. (TV: "The Nightmare Begins")
- Upon being captured, the Doctor warns the SSS that, if they shoot them, they will not retrieve the stolen taranium core. (TV: "Day of Armageddon")
- The Doctor dares not let Steven or Sarah die as he has "lost too much already." (TV: "The Traitors")
- Steven and the Doctor recall Sara was trying to shoot them when they first met. (TV: "Counter Plot")
- While interrogated by Slite, Steven details his escape from the Daleks by running into the TARDIS while protected from Dalek fire by a force field. (TV: "Coronas of the Sun")
- An unidentified time machine, presumed to be a Dalek one, is detected by the TARDIS. Meanwhile, Dalek Supreme on Kembel is informed the Time Destructor is ready for testing. (TV: "Volcano")