Sontarans vs Rutans: The Battle of Giant’s Causeway

Posted in Audio by - January 13, 2024
Sontarans vs Rutans: The Battle of Giant’s Causeway

Released January 2024


To mark fifty years since ‘The Time Warrior’ introduced the Sontarans to the Doctor Who universe, Big Finish has released the first story in a special series set to explore the honourable and militaristic race as well as its oft-discussed but rarely-seen war against the shape-shifting Rutans that has resulted in billions of deaths with no end ever in sight. Aptly titled Sontarans vs Rutans, these stories are set to take place throughout the Doctor’s many lives non-sequentially, and Lizzie Hopley’s “The Battle of Giant’s Causeway” takes the Eighth Doctor, Charley, and C’rizz to 55BC Ireland where the TARDIS is drained of its power and Sontarans are shockingly acting like Roman Legionnaires.

An area of tens of thousands of interlocking, mostly hexagonal basalt columns resulting from a volcanic fissure eruption, Giant’s Causeway is a geologic wonder that has long been the source of legendary tales and that forms a natural backdrop for a science fiction story. Here, the mystery of the drained TARDIS is all the more pronounced given the group of Sontarans that genuinely believes itself to be Roman soldiers fighting against the Celts. It’s clear from the start that the battles that unfolded here are not human in nature, however, but as the Sontarans- or Sonturions as the Doctor comes to nickname them- go through the motions of eating and bathing before taking on certain characteristics of Charley and even the Doctor as they interact, it’s clear that something far more nefarious is driving these affairs which John Banks and Dan Starkey help to portray so vividly through these unique Sontaran iterations.

Surprisingly, the Rutans have remained one of the least-explored races in Doctor Who, featuring in only a handful of adventures across various media. While it’s certainly no surprise that they feature here given the title, Hopley presents a rather terrifying version of the creatures here that more than capably positions them as a worthy foe. Indeed, the return of Conrad Westmaas as the divergent universe Eutermasan C’rizz for the first time since 2007’s ‘Absolution’ provides a wonderful entry point and contrast for the Rutans, the companion’s optimism and selflessness allowing him to act under the assumption that stated good intentions within such dire circumstances are exactly that. It’s something of a shame that he doesn’t have a more heroic or defining moment in this long-awaited return, but he nonetheless showcases his empathy and compassion wonderfully while also reinforcing his uniquely changing physiognomy.

While “The Battle of Giant’s Causeway” somewhat disappointingly does not answer all of the mysteries it presents in order to set up a larger arc, the strong Rutan ploy to swell their ranks and the drastic action the Doctor is forced to take coupled with the unintended but dramatic consequences that seemingly result make for a strong finale nonetheless. The downside to the duplicitous nature of the Rutans and the confused nature of the Sontarans is that neither race receives genuine and deep development as a result, but as a singular look into the many facets of the unending war between these races, this story still presents a strong foundation upon which subsequent stories can build. Of course, Paul McGann and India Fisher are superb in their roles as expected as Charley’s determination and implicit trust in the Doctor are showcased while the Doctor must use all of his cunning to discover at least a portion of the truth and a solution, and while the variability of the TARDIS’s power stores detracts from the some of the drama at least initially set up, hopefully this is a story that marks the beginning of a more in-depth return to a brilliant era of the Eighth Doctor’s audio tenure as well as a springboard for even more ambitious Sontarans vs Rutans storylines.

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