Released September 2016
The Doctor and Mel arrive in a seemingly deserted base once home to monstrous military experiments, its halls once filled with chilling screams. Once the Sontarans arrive to search for any remnants of their research team, though, terror gains an entirely new meaning for the warlike beings as very peculiar occurrences on the planet become known.
Sylvester McCoy again excels as the lighter Seventh Doctor that was paired with Mel. As with the previous two releases, it’s a refreshing change of pace to again experience such levity and an overall smaller and more individualized perspective after the incredible burden of continuity that overtook the Seventh Doctor audios during the end of Hex’s tenure in the TARDIS. The Doctor here is a bit more reckless but just as cunning, exclaiming that individuals that had the time to launch a distress beacon can’t have been in too much danger in the first place and that it’s unfair of Mel to suggest that those held in cells are dangerous given his own propensity for ending up in them himself. Fittingly, though, there are undercurrents of the darker side of the Seventh Doctor as he suggests that there are parts of him that the psychic creature upon the planet dare not see. Although this story does not bring Mel’s own past experiences to the forefront, it does at the very least showcase how incredibly brave the character is no matter the situation and potential danger.
The Sontarans are obviously one of the iconic foes of the Doctor Who franchise, but ‘Terror of the Sontarans’ takes the rather novel approach of not featuring the cloned warriors as the primary menace, instead forcing them to team up with the humans to survive something altogether more frightening. Given how bombastic and proud the Sontarans normally are with or without just cause, portraying them as equals to the humans as both races become the victims of a psychic force that leeches on emotions works to magnificent effect. Although the creature itself may not be the most innovative creation, it does provide some wonderful imagery and emotion throughout the story, neatly tying together all of the disparate plot threads.
The Sontarans themselves have undergone something of a renaissance in recent years because of the popularity of the modern television series, but at the same time there has been an increasing focus on exploring the individuality of each individual Sontaran rather than treating them as one cloned whole. This in itself is not egregious, but there has been a lighter and sometimes even comedic element added to the race that once was and still has the potential to be one of the most overtly terrifying. The individualistic stylings are, of course, essential for an audio drama to succeed, but they also continue to make the Sontarans the most redefined race in Doctor Who lore compared to how they were initially presented.
As strong as Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford are in their starring roles, and as strong as Dan Starkey is voicing the variety of Sontaran soldiers, the story itself fails to do anything truly unique or unexpected, instead relying on familiar plot points and actions. Nonetheless, the Sontarans in all of their different forms always provide an enjoyable experience, and all of the characters and beings in play help to round out the latest Seventh Doctor audio trilogy in a solid fashion.