The next chapter of the season-long arc arrived Sunday. It has an intriguing premise, but the results are not promising.
Title: “War of the Sontarans”
Directed by Jamie Magnus Stone
Written by Chris Chibnall
Sontarans created by Robert Holmes
Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor
Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan
John Bishop as Dan Lewis
Sara Powell as Mary Seacole
Jonathan Watson as Skaak, Ritskaw
Craige Els as Karnavista
Jacob Anderson as Vinder
Sue Jenkins as Eileen
Paul Broughton as Neville
Gerald Kyd as General Logan
Dan Starkey as Svild
Steve Orama as Joseph Williamson
Nadia Albina as Diane
Sam Spruell as Swarm
Rochenda Sandall as Azure
Nigel Lambert as voice of Priest Triangle
Dan Starkey as various Sontarans
The Doctor and Yasmin find themselves in the Crimean War (the second time a Doctor has turned up on those battlefields). The Russians, however, are nowhere to be seen. In their place, the conflict-loving Sontarans have taken up mounts and the English have less than half a league of a chance.
Dan, meanwhile finds himself creeping around the alien Temple of Atropos and becoming involved with events he can barely comprehend. Fortunately, he receives some aid from his parents and, of course, his dogged associate from the previous episode.
The premise of the Doctor, without access to the Tardis, facing old foes in a historical setting, initially works well. The references to the larger story arc also introduce us to some interesting characters, weirdly reminiscent (see production) of the show’s earlier incarnations.
Of course, more of John Bishop (Dan) exchanging quips– especially with Craige Els (Karnavista), is always entertaining.
The Sontarans have always been problematic aliens: aggressive, warlike, and saddled with a ludicrous weakness. The “Achilles’ Neck” made sense when they first appeared in what most people regarded as a children’s show. The fact that they haven’t addressed the obvious flaw seems ridiculous. The fact that it gets so easily exploited here, and the fact that the overall plan has yet another easily-exploited weakness, reduces the much-feared adversaries into a blustering inconvenience. If you’re going to make a war episode, show us a war and a credible threat.
Story: 3/6 I’ll give them some points for the broader story arc, which still looks interesting.
Acting: 4/6 The leads remain strong, and I can only hope John Bishop stays on for a couple of seasons as Dan. I would not call the supporting cast weak, so much as unable to fully meet the expectations of some rather sketched and cliched characters. I do like that they have included Mary Seacole, the Jamaican/English nurse who, separate of Florence Nightingale, worked with the British forces in the Crimean War. History for many years overlooked her story.
Emotional Response: 3/6
Effects: 4/6 We have a strange episode from the point of view of effects and production. The war scenes and the battlefield CGI look quite impressive. The main “Flux” adversaries wear Halloween make-up, while the cool new floating aliens harken back to the original series. The concept is great; the execution is almost charmingly cheap.
Where episodes have more of a stand-alone feel, they will be reviewed individually. When they focus more on the larger story arc, reviews may be combined.
In total, “War of the Sontarans” receives 25/42