The King of Sontar
By John Dorney
Starring Tom Baker & Louise Jameson
The Doctor and Leela are pulled into events on Dowcra base by the Time Lords, where they find a Sontaran War Criminal General Strang… He’s an elite Sontaran like no other… An entire battle fleet in one body! Strang is using the base to hatch a whole army of Sontaran clones made in his mould, and plans to use a unique space/time portal to conquer the universe, crushing Sontar in his wake…
This story grabs the listener from the very start by throwing them straight into the middle of battle on Dowcra. We witness the arrival of the third elite Sontaran Assassination Squad, determined to bring down the invincible General Strang. But Strang is no ordinary Sontaran.
The idea of a Sontaran War Criminal, who stands over seven-foot tall and is the amalgamation of entire legion of cloned warriors, is superb. With The Time Warrior being one of my earliest memories of Who, I was becoming a little dismayed by their portrayal in recent years. So, I have to thank John Dorney for pulling away from the comic asides or slightly pompous and ridiculous Sontarans of late. Instead, he helps re-establish them as the cruel, violent and informidable race they once were. I only hope this catches on!
Dan Starkey plays Strang. Naturally, he feels a world away from Strax, giving him a deeper harsher tone, which both echoes the past and gives him the grandeur he deserves. The other Sontarans in the piece match the vocal tone so well I initially thought Dan was playing numerous roles. So, credit to them for capturing the same demeanor and sense of the creatures.
I especially liked John Banks turn as Vinhol, a Sontaran who is paired with Leela, after she and The Doctor are separated early on in the story. The relationship that grows between them is lovely. Vinhol’s early indignation of his treatment and near death to being saved by Leela, is eventually forgotten. By the close of the story, you really do believe that there is a rather touching mutual respect between the two warriors from Sontar and the Sevateem.
On listening to these audios, I am still amazed by just how well Tom Baker and Louise Jameson expertly recreate their characters. You truly are transported back to that TARDIS team from 1977 and yet the depth, truth and growth of the characters beyond the screen is apparent and never more so than here.
Whilst the story certainly whips along at a pace, it remains brutally honest and truthful to the themes and characters we meet. From the death of the Trell at the top of the piece, to Strang’s merciless disposal of the humans who helped him, it builds to a violent and powerful conclusion.
Acting for the Time Lords, The Doctor is intent on stopping Strang and destroying the space-time portal created by Rotaro (which is an excellent return by the wonderful David Collings). His mission once again forces The Doctor to question the need for destruction, when he may be able to alter the hatching Sontaran’s genetics. But the familiar argument we saw in Genesis
is played out and taken to a very different place. This allows for a really wonderful scene between The Doctor and Leela in the stories closing moments, which offers a very interesting and honest exploration of the options offered, and the two characters themselves.