Blu-ray Review – Doctor Who, The Collection: Season 12 box set, Part 4: The Sontaran Experiment

Tom Baker’s first season as the Doctor in Doctor Who has been released as a Blu-ray box set. Season 12 comprises 5 stories made up of 20 episodes. Rather than trying to review the whole thing all at once, I’m dividing things up over a number of reviews. In this review, I’m looking at the third story, “The Sontaran Experiment”.

At the end of their last adventure (“The Ark in Space”), the Doctor, Sarah and Harry transmatted down to Earth from the Nerva space station. Their mission: to check over the transmat equipment prior to the recently thawed Nerva crowd following them down. But they arrive to find a Sontaran warrior experimenting on some humans he lured there, to assess the species for its conquer-ability. The Doctor and Co., of course, intervene.

There’s not much to this two-part story, really. A bit thin on plot, it’s not bad… but it’s not great either. Mediocre is the word. It certainly suffers more from comparison to the story either side of it.

The episodes are entirely shot on location, and good use is made of that. The guest cast all do well, but Aussie Kevin Lindsay as Commander Styre, the Sontaran, is the only real standout. This is the second appearance of the Sontarans in the series, and Lindsay played Linx in their first outing, “The Time Warrior”, in the previous season. The difficult make up was changed this time to make things easier for him. Sadly, it’s not as effective. (Interestingly, the Sontaran masks/makeup continued to get worse in subsequent appearances.)

The regulars are in fine form. Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter really did work so well together. Baker broke his collarbone during the shoot, but managed to finish his scenes, albeit with a stunt double filling in more than would otherwise have been required. So, it’s fun playing spot the double.

This is the only story from this set that I didn’t previously own on DVD, so I’m coming to the extras for the first time. The making-of doco is great, giving wonderful insight into the planning and shooting. The “Behind the Sofa” instalment is pretty much equivalent to its counterparts on the previous discs. “On Target” about the novelisations written by Ian Marter is a standout. “Built For War”, a history of the Sontarans in Classic Who, is quite good, although suffers from some rather weak specially shot scenes. And then there’s “The Tom Baker Years”. This is an old VHS release that has been reproduced in its entirety, including all the scrolling text/warnings at the start.  🙂  Baker hosts this programme in which he watches and then comments on a whole bunch of scenes from his era. His reactions/insights are really quite a delight, despite having to sit through all those scenes.Everything is rounded out with a few other bits and pieces, and a commentary from Elisabeth Sladen, Philip Hinchcliffe and Bob Baker. It’s a really great bunch of extras.

“The Sontaran Experiment” is not a season highlight, but it makes sense in the context of the stories as a whole. And that’s the beauty of a box set like this… having a complete season to watch in its entirety.

You can also read my previous reviews in this series…

Doctor Who, The Collection: Season 12 is released on Blu-ray in Australia by Roadshow Entertainment.

Catch ya later, George

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