Did you honestly believe that the Fourth Doctor would never again battle the Sontarans?
No, neither did the rest of us.
Over thirty years ago now, we caught the last ferocious battle between the Fourth Doctor and Sontar’s finest on the playing fields of Gallifrey, with the Doctor winning. But whilst The Invasion of Time may not be the most adored Doctor Who adventure for many fans, Big Finish’s opening story for series 3 of The Fourth Doctor Adventures should put things right.
The King of Sontar has the Doctor and Leela thrown into the middle of a Sontaran conflict that has nothing to do with them, but the Time Lords have other ideas. Harkening back to stories such as Genesis of the Daleks and The Brain of Morbius, the Doctor is on a mission, something that he’s not terribly pleased about.
But the situation requires the hand of the Universes greatest hero and only the Doctor can stop the terrible and revered ‘King of Sontar’ General Strang from realising a plan that would put far too many lives in jeopardy.
John Dorney’s opening story delivers an excellent balance of romp and drama, taking into account that series 1 of The Fourth Doctor Adventures started with a straightforward drama in 2012 and series 2 began with a fairly lightweight adventure in 2013, The King of Sontar gives the listener a delightful mix of the two. Dorney also gets bonus points for his story by possibly addressing the height issue for Sontarans that first came about in 1985’s The Two Doctors, in which viewers were introduced to a very tall Sontaran. Seeing as they are a clone race, how can their height differentiate? The answer may well lie in The King of Sontar…
As performances go, we’re given some fantastic energy from the very start here, Tom Baker seems to be defying the natural order of the Universe by actually sounding younger and more energetic the older he gets. In a world where we know him as the Fourth Doctor and now also as the mysterious Curator in Doctor Who, it’s easy to envision him as both in these new stories, which is always fun for those that want to push the boundaries of canonicity. Louise Jameson is pitch perfect as the magnificent Leela and her alliance with a Sontaran as experienced in this play is not only natural and touching but also, surely, screaming out for a spin off series of its own.
Mentioning Sontarans, we have the magnificent Dan Starkey keeping up audio appearances in his now untouchable performance as a Sontaran. But whereas on screen we’ve seen him as part of a general Sontaran army (The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky) and, more recently, as the lovable and barmy Commander Strax (The Name of the Doctor), we have here an altogether different beast in the shape of General Strang, the greatest Sontaran ever cloned (perhaps). Starkey clearly relishes the chance to try something a little different here and by golly, does it ever work. Strang is a perfect mixture of psychotic, noble, tenacious and intelligent at the same time, in other words, a brilliant Sontaran for the Doctor to pitch up against.
David Collings also returns to the world of Doctor Who as misguided scientist Rosato. It’s wonderful to hear both him and Baker back together again but one feels that it’s only really in episode 2 where the two of them really battle it out for best performance. But considering their fellow cast members, it’s a fight that they have to work hard for.
If we can have stories of this quality for the rest of this year’s Fourth Doctor Adventures, we’re all in for a fantastic treat indeed.
The King of Sontar is available from www.bigfinish.com now on CD or via download.