Released April 2011
As the Sontarans finally make their Big Finish Main Range debut, it’s important to keep in mind that creator Robert Holmes always intended for there to be a sense of absurdity to the clone race. While the inherent humour they possess as they stick to a very regimented militaristic style has been significantly increased with Strax in the modern series, the extreme danger they pose was often meshed with a more light-hearted tone than other villains’ in the classic series as well. While ‘Heroes of Sontar’ will certainly not appeal to those looking for a hard-hitting story showcasing the Sontarans’ military prowess, it still does keep in line with how the race has been portrayed from the very beginning.
Under the premise of wanting to give Tegan a break after the harrowing events of ‘The Cradle of the Snake, the Doctor, Nyssa, Turlough, and Tegan arrive on the peaceful planet of Samur. However, the Sontarans arrived twenty years ago, and the world is no longer quite so peaceful. The group of Sontarans introduced- Field Major Thurr, Corporal Klun, Sergeant Mezz, and the troopers Venn, Nold, and Jorr- are all from different clone batches, explaining the visual and audio disparity of the classic series Sontarans, having penetrated deeper into Rutan space than any Sontarans before them and given a highly secretive mission. Yet after claiming the world as their own, they soon realized that something more sinister was keeping them from advancing further upon its surface.
While the script has a lot of fun with this particular group of Sontarans being rather useless as well as with the interactions between the TARDIS crew and the long-time foe, there are also some very clever ideas on display. In particular, the ominous symbiotic threatening to destroy the entire planet is effectively employed and heightens the tension in a distinctly non-audio manner. Likewise, giving each Sontaran a backstory helps to significantly flesh out the release and to keep the group from becoming a one-note exercise in a comedy of futility. Of course, as the truth of Samur reveals itself as Nyssa and Turlough team up with the Sontarans to save Nyssa from the moss while the Doctor heads back into space on a mission of his own, the reason that this particular group of Sontarans has been chosen for this mission reveals itself as well. Transitioning this faction to a more sympathetic state while xplaining the Witchguard’s corruption of the gene banks may not work completely effectively, but it does give a logical explanation for everything that has preceded it, giving much more meaning to the release as a whole.
As expected, the loud-mouthed and opinionated Tegan in the presence of Sontarans is superb, and Janet Fielding genuinely sounds like she is enjoying herself throughout. At the same time, the friendship of sorts between Turlough and trooper Vend is surprisingly effective as both empathize about fear in their respective positions. However, the lasting talking point belongs to Nyssa who reveals that she has a husband and two teenaged children back on Terminus, certainly a plot point that will have colossal ramifications in future releases.
‘Heroes of Sontar,’ then, will be a divisive release. The vast majority is played for laughs- some more effective than others- and it is unafraid to poke fun at the iconic foes. This will naturally turn off some fans of the Sontarans but, for those willing to listen to the end, there is certainly some genuine emotion and heart at the core to give added meaning to everything else.