Salvation Nine

Posted in Audio by - August 20, 2022
Salvation Nine

Released August 2022


After a successful introduction of the Cybermen into the Ninth Doctor era, The Ninth Doctor Adventures now turns to the Sontarans in Timothy X Atack’s opener to Into the Stars, ‘Salvation Nine.’ Arriving at a most unusual outpost and finding that it is about to be completely obliterated, the Doctor shockingly finds himself in a race against time to protect some of his oldest adversaries and the very future of the Sontaran race.

Doctor Who is no stranger to painting individuals of aggressive and violent races as atypically peaceful, but it’s incredibly rare to find an entire sect of society that so completely goes against the race standard. For the Sontaran race that is literally built upon the foundation of ever-continuing war and brutality, the Doctor is understandably reticent to accept at face value the agrarian and peaceful Sontarans upon Salvation Nine who have been isolated for so long that they have forgotten the very concept of war. This is a scarred Doctor fresh out of the Time War in which he lost so very much, and while he can’t help but hope beyond hope that what he sees is true because of what the notion of Sontarans living peacefully could potentially mean for the universe as a whole, his previous experiences have taught him to be wary of a trap at every turn. The simmering hope and optimism that gradually become more pronounced as the Doctor must convince an oncoming force not to destroy these Sontarans by furtively enlisting the help of battle-hardened Sontarans from afar brings out the very best of the Ninth Doctor’s character, and Christopher Eccleston is absolutely magnificent as his incarnation finds a worthy cause and fully commits himself to doing everything he can to save this most unexpected beacon of hope and change.

Of course, ‘Salvation Nine’ purposefully strays from the intrinsic horror and ruthlessness that the Sontarans can bring and for portions treads more along the line of something like ‘The Moonrakers’ with the Fifth Doctor, and while it is eventually discovered that this outpost is built upon the remains of an indigenous population slaughtered so very long ago, this isolated and agrarian setting allows elements of the Sontarans as a whole to develop better than ever before. Sontarans have always been defined by their cloning abilities with strength and weakness coming via their probic vents, but this group has made a ritual of sharing resources to ensure continued vitality and fairness, allowing individuals to live to an old age that brings with it a resurgence of the female characteristics that are selected against for the height of war. With even children being carefully grown in fields, ‘Salvation Nine’ allows for a new angle and understanding of these classic foes, and the Doctor misunderstanding seemingly aggressive statements from these Sontarans who are looking out for his own safety and best interest as well is a brilliant merging of the expected and unexpected within this setting. The Doctor even has the privilege of experiencing Sontaran music for the first time, something he is rather keen to avoid at any costs in the future.

Dan Starkey and Josie Lawrence are wonderful at portraying Sontarans devoid of aggression who know absolutely nothing of their race’s typical ways and brutal past, and this mindset is brought even more to the forefront when the Doctor realizes that only condemnations coming from a known Sontaran antagonist will carry any weight for the oncoming destructive force. The Doctor’s plan is fraught with danger and relies on Lobbs and Gaznak blending in with a Sontaran force despite their obvious differences, and the lengths they must go to in order to acquire the testimony they need balance danger and humour well to make the journey both rewarding and satisfying. Although there is hardly any substantive reckoning or reflection about the Sontarans’ past actions upon Salvation Nine that could have added even more depth and emotion, ‘Salvation Nine’ as a whole is a brilliant piece of drama that plays with a constant subversion of expectations to bring out the eternal optimism and determination that fuel the hardened Ninth Doctor, creating a brilliant opener to this latest set that covers both familiar and completely uncharted territory with some of the Doctor’s oldest enemies.

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