Sontarans vs Rutans: The Children of the Future

Posted in Audio by - February 13, 2024
Sontarans vs Rutans: The Children of the Future

Released February 2024


The Sontarans vs Rutans series of celebratory releases continues with a delve into the late Third Doctor era in Tim Foley’s ‘The Children of the Future.’ The Brigadier and Sarah Jane have both noticed that the Doctor is acting abnormally even by his standards, and a reported threat to humanity in the future may bring about the end of the Doctor’s UNIT friendships and of Earth itself.

Structurally, the initial premise of ‘The Children of the Earth’ is quite strong while revealing that the Doctor has free reign to do whatever he pleases outside of UNIT’s confines even in close proximity to the organization’s local base of operations. Despite all that the Doctor has done to help UNIT and Earth over the years, though, it’s only natural that the Brigadier and Sarah Jane want to know what he is doing that has brought about such strange behaviour, going so far as to trail his travels in Bessie while hoping unsuccessfully to go unnoticed. That the trail should lead them to Lindsay Castle where the Doctor and Sarah Jane first encountered and prevailed over the Sontaran Linx is a fitting nod to the Sontarans’ history being celebrated here, and the soldiers positioned here that are more keen to shoot on sight than to converse paints the Doctor’s secrecy in an altogether more questionable light given UNIT’s lack of involvement in or knowledge of whatever is occurring here.

Unfortunately, the story can’t quite maintain its initial momentum after a genuinely fascinating introduction of a future Sontaran invasion in 1994 that has left the world ravaged with a small group of people with enhanced strength and intelligence escaping through a time tunnel to this present via remnants of Linx’s technology. The Doctor’s apparent plan- or at least acquiescence- to use this group to breed with humans of this time in order to create a formidable force to fight back against the Sontarans in 1994 is both distasteful and utterly out of character, and while his friends do rightly question whether the Doctor is actually serious, even using this as a blatantly false pretense to justify his secrecy never rings even remotely true. With the Sontarans only featuring incidentally through exposition, the foundation of this story resides with the Rutans and their shape-shifting abilities; however, while the Doctor is apparently keen to keep his UNIT associates away, he continues to find ways to lead them ever closer to the truth. By revealing the Rutans’ abilities and leaving hints through newspaper articles that admittedly rely on the incredible memories of both Sarah Jane and her own journalistic acquaintances to find familiar faces in print, the imbalance of the script that both pushes away and draws in the Brigadier and Sarah Jane never quite cohesively meshes or gives the Doctor any sense of clear motivation. That the Doctor’s own attempts to uncover the Rutans’ true scheme are cut short due to the Brigadier’s own attempts to discover the truth likewise takes away from any dramatic fallout or sense of consequence. Instead, with only a brief flirtation with the dangers that the Runtans’ shape-shifting may pose when the Brigadier and the Doctor are duplicated in short order with the latter resolved through a simple verbal sparring, a genuine sense of danger never truly manifests.

Still, even with the resolution apparently centring around the Doctor still needing UNIT in his life as he adjusts to his newfound freedom with the TARDIS through declarations of friendship that are rather overt for the Third Doctor, the performances throughout ‘The Children of the Future’ are uniformly strong and the production as a whole perfectly captures the feel of the Third Doctor era as intended. Tim Treloar, Sadie Miller, and Jon Culshaw again brilliantly capture the intonations and emotions of their respective characters who have been through so much together, and Jeremy Ang Jones, Nicholas Boulton, and Lucy Goldie are strong in support even as the plot twists are telegraphed long before they arrive. This is far from a perfect story and does little to take advantage of the actual Sontaran part of the ‘versus’ part of the series title, but the tone and performances nonetheless make for an enjoyable enough listen even if it will ultimately leave little impact when it ends due to the relative lack of depth or true conflict offered.

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