Doctor Who: Tin Dog Podcast
The Top Rated Doctor Who Podcast. One fan, One mic and an opinion. What more does anyone need? Daleks, TARDIS, Cybermen, Sontarans, Ood, Classic Series, Torchwood, Sarah Jane Smith and New Who. Home of Whostrology and the Big Finish Retrospective.




















The Sontaran Stratagem

196 – "The Sontaran Stratagem"
Doctor Who episode

A Sontaran introduces himself to the Doctor as General Staal, "the undefeated".
Cast
Doctor David Tennant (Tenth Doctor)
Companions Catherine Tate (Donna Noble)

Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones)
Guest stars
Production
Writer Helen Raynor
Director Douglas Mackinnon
Producer Susie Liggat
Executive producer(s) Russell T. Davies
Julie Gardner
Phil Collinson
Production code 4.4
Series Series 4
Length 45 mins
Originally broadcast 26 April 2008
Chronology
? Preceded by Followed by →
"Planet of the Ood" "The Poison Sky"
IMDb profile

"The Sontaran Stratagem" is the fourth episode of the fourth series of British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was broadcast on BBC One on 26 April 2008. The episode features the return of former companion Martha Jones, as well as the return of the alien Sontarans to the series. It is the first of a two part story, followed by "The Poison Sky". This is the Sontarans' first appearance since the 1985 Colin Baker story The Two Doctors.


Plot

Synopsis

Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) calls the Doctor (David Tennant) to ask for assistance during an investigation by UNIT. Minutes after the TARDIS materialises in contemporary Britain, Martha authorises the raid of an ATMOS (Atmospheric Omission System) factory. The Doctor introduces his companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) to Martha and UNIT; Donna instantly befriends Martha, but is concerned about UNIT's ethics and asks the Doctor why he is associated with them; the Doctor ambiguously replies he used to work for them in the late twentieth century.

ATMOS is marketing a satellite navigation system developed by child prodigy Luke Rattigan (Ryan Sampson). The system also reduces carbon dioxide emissions to zero; UNIT requested the Doctor's help because the technology is not contemporary and potentially alien. UNIT are also concerned about fifty-two deaths occurring spontaneously and contemporaneously several days before the narrative. The Doctor travels to Rattigan's private school to investigate the system, and discovers that the episode's events are being influenced by the Sontarans.

The Sontarans depicted in the episode are part of a battlegroup led by General Staal, "the undefeated" (Christopher Ryan). Instead of an instant invasion, they are tactically approaching an invasion with a combination of human clones, mind control, and ATMOS; Martha is captured by two of the controlled humans and cloned to provide a tactical advantage against UNIT.

A subplot depicts Donna returning to her home to warn her mother Sylvia (Jacqueline King) and grandfather Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins) about the Doctor. Concerned about the implications of telling the truth, Donna reneges from warning her mother. At the end of the episode, the Doctor investigates the ATMOS device attached to Donna's car and discovers a secondary function: the device can emit a poisonous gas. Wilfred attempts to take the car off the road, but is trapped when Staal activates all 400 million installed in cars worldwide. The episode's cliffhanger depicts Donna shouting for help while the Doctor stares helplessly at a street full of cars emitting the gas.

[edit] Production

The episode features the return of the Sontarans, who last appeared in the 1985 serial The Two Doctors, a centric appearance by UNIT, and Martha Jones, who had last appeared in "Last of the Time Lords" and made special guest appearances in the Torchwood episodes "Reset", "Dead Man Walking", and "A Day in the Death"; the brief executive producer Russell T Davies gave to writer Helen Raynor included the terms "Sontarans", "military", and "Martha's back".[1][2]

Martha's departure allowed Davies to change the character's personality. In her reappearance, she is more mature and equal to the Doctor in comparison to falling in love in the third series.[1] Several aspects of her character were debated: in particular, her status and reaction to Donna. Raynor elected to emphasise Martha's medical career over her military career, and avoided a "handbags at dawn" scenario because she felt it would rehash Rose Tyler's (Billie Piper) initial opinion of Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) from the second series episode "School Reunion".[2]

The episode is the first centric appearance of UNIT since the show's revival. Their name has changed from United Nations Intelligence Taskforce to Unified Intelligence Taskforce at the request of the United Nations, who cited the political climate and potential "brand confusion" as reasons for disassociation. The new acronym was coined by Davies after several meetings among the scriptwriters. The UNIT privates Gray and Wilson were specifically written as "alien fodder".[2][3] The episode refers to inconsistencies in dating UNIT stories when the Doctor is unsure whether he worked for UNIT in the 70s or 80s.[4]

This episode continues the pattern of having monsters from the classic series return in the new one. Davies commented that the Sontarans were "always on his list" of villains to resurrect.[5] The time and location of the episode was deliberately chosen because every Sontaran story except for The Invasion of Time was set on Earth.[5]

When interviewed on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, Catherine Tate stated that she had been filming alongside ten actors playing Sontarans for two weeks before she realised that there were actors inside the Sontaran costumes. She had assumed the Sontarans "ran on electricity". It was not until an actor removed his helmet to reveal his real face that she realised her mistake. She stated she was "freaked out" by this and said she "nearly died".[6]

Raynor initally envisioned the poisonous gas would be emitted by factories, but changed it in later drafts to cars for several reasons: the episode would provide social commentary and the idea of an "evil satnav system" was "much more engageable" and "irresistible"; Davies thought the concept was "so very Doctor Who".[5][2][1] Because the series was produced out of order, the "ATMOS" subplot was seeded in the episode "Partners in Crime".[7] In the episode, a system installed in a UNIT jeep undramatically explodes; originally, Raynor wanted it to be a large explosion, but reduced the explosion to several sparks to reduce costs and to lampoon an action movie cliché.[2] The opening scene, which depicts the system driving its occupant into a canal, was filmed at Cardiff's docks. The scene was the first time a car-cannon had been used since 2005, and was required to be completed in one shot. The car fired into the canal was removed immediately afterwards to clear the shipping route.[1]

The episode, like "Aliens of London" and "The Lazarus Experiment", properly introduces the lead companion's family. Unlike the Tyler or Jones families, both Sylvia Noble and Wilfred Mott had met the Doctor before (in "The Runaway Bride" and "Voyage of the Damned", respectively), providing Raynor with an additional subplot. Expository dialogue explains Mott's absence from "The Runaway Bride" as the character having Spanish flu. Wilfred's positive opinion of the Doctor is different to Sylvia, who "joined a long line of mothers that don't get the Doctor"; Davies had wanted a family member who trusted the Doctor since the show's revival.[1]

Despite the Sontaran's clone culture being asserted in the classic series, "The Sontaran Strategem" is the first episode to depict cloning. Originally, all of the factory workers were to be clones, but Raynor reduced it to only Martha to solve continuity problems with the second part. The template clone was portrayed by Ruari Mears, who wore a prosthetic mask which took longer to apply than any mask he had worn.[2] The scenes involving the cloning tank were filmed in a Welsh shampoo factory and reused a prop from "The Fires of Pompeii" as the tank which contained the clone. Davies and Agyeman enjoyed scenes set in the cloning room; Agyeman enjoyed playing an "evil companion", who she and Davies felt made the real Martha "warmer", and Davies thought Privates Gray and Harris discovering the tank in a darkened room was "classic Doctor Who".[1]


"The Poison Sky" is the fifth episode of the fourth series of British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was broadcast on BBC One on 3 May 2008. The episode features both old companion Martha Jones and the alien Sontarans.[3] It is the second of a two part story, following "The Sontaran Stratagem".


Plot

Synopsis

Following from the previous episode, Sylvia Noble (Jacqueline King) manages to free Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins) from the car by smashing the window with an axe. The Doctor (David Tennant) sends Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) back to the TARDIS while he sets off to figure out what the Sontarans are up to. After studying the gas, UNIT determines that it will need to reach 80% density to become lethal. Elsewhere, Martha Jones's clone (Freema Agyeman) helps the Sontarans to seize the TARDIS. Realising that he is trapped, the Doctor attempts to goad General Staal (Christopher Ryan) into revealing their plan: Staal is smart enough not to fall prey to this ploy, but the Doctor does trick him into moving the TARDIS out of the main war room, placing Donna in a position to help.

Against the Doctor's advice, UNIT decides to use nuclear weapons against the Sontarans; however, Martha's clone has covertly copied the launch codes, and stops every attempt they make to fire the weapons. This in itself shows a hidden agenda, since a nuclear strike would not have harmed them in the first place. This, combined with the unidentifiable elements in the gas, suggest that the Sontarans have an interest in keeping anything from disrupting the atmospheric conversion. At the same time, the Sontarans mobilize a contingent of troops to protect the factory. With the Sontarans' ability to jam most conventional firearms by expanding the copper-lined bullets, the UNIT troops are quickly slaughtered and the factory is secured.

Luke Rattigan (Ryan Sampson) leaves the Sontaran mothership to gather his students, explaining that he plans to have the Sontarans take them to another planet and begin the human race anew. The students merely laugh him off, even when he brandishes a gun. When he returns to report his failure, the Sontarans likewise ridicule his efforts, admitting that they never intended to take him or his students anywhere. Rattigan teleports back to his mansion before they can kill him, and the Sontarans lock the teleport pods behind him.

Meanwhile, the Doctor instructs Donna on how to reopen the teleport pods. As she makes her way through the ship, UNIT begins a counterattack, loading their weapons with non-copper bullets and using the aircraft carrier Valiant to clear the gas. The counterattack is a success, and the UNIT troops are able to put the Sontarans on the defensive. The distraction allows the Doctor to make his way to the cloning room where Martha is being held. Having figured out long before that the clone wasn't the genuine article, he severs its connection to Martha, leaving it to die. Martha convinces the clone to betray the Sontarans in its last moments, and the clone reveals that the poison gas is actually "food" for Sontaran clones: they are converting the planet into a giant breeding world. With Donna's help, the Doctor is able to reactivate the teleport pods, allowing him to rescue Donna, steal back the TARDIS, and teleport into Rattigan's mansion.

With the terraforming equipment Rattigan's students built, the Doctor builds his own atmospheric converter, igniting the atmosphere to clear out the poison gas as shown in the picture. However, he knows the Sontarans won't accept defeat so easily, and teleports to their ship with the converter, planning to give them the choice between retreat or death. Staal chooses the latter, content with the knowledge that the Doctor will die with them. At the last moment, Rattigan teleports himself to the Sontaran ship and brings the Doctor back to Earth, sacrificing himself to destroy the Sontarans.

With the day saved, Martha says goodbye to Donna and the Doctor in the TARDIS and prepares to head home. However, before she can leave, the TARDIS suddenly springs to life, locking the doors and piloting itself to an unknown destination as the jar containing the Doctor's severed hand bubbles.

Continuity

Production

This episode and the previous episode were filmed over five weeks, beginning in September 2007. Post-production was completed a week before the first part aired.[7]

During production, director Douglas Mackinnon intended to have the episode's climatic scene in the TARDIS show the moveable column in the center console move up and down much more rapidly than normal. However, when attempting to accomplish this, Mackinnon ended up breaking the prop, which took thirty minutes to repair.[8]

When interviewed on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, Catherine Tate stated that she had been filming alongside ten actors playing Sontarans for two weeks before she realised that there were actors inside the Sontaran costumes. She had assumed the Sontarans "ran on electricity". It was not until an actor removed his helmet to reveal his real face that she realised her mistake. She stated she was "freaked out" by this and said she "nearly died".[9][10]

When the Doctor interrupts the Sontarans' transmission, animated footage from CBeebies's part live action, part animation[11] eco adventure show Tommy Zoom is brought up on screen featuring the villanous Polluto disguised as a magician and the heroic Tommy and his dog Daniel as his audience.[12]

As in many previous episodes of the revived series, supposed BBC News 24 footage is used featuring reports of unfolding events. However, as with the more recent appearances of such footage in Doctor Who, the channel is simply captioned on screen as 'News 24' devoid of the BBC logo. Since this episode was produced, the BBC News 24 channel was rebranded in real life as BBC News.[13]

"The Poison Sky" marks the first time all three of the Tenth Doctor's primary companions — Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) — have appeared in the same episode, though Rose's appearance was extremely brief. Piper received screen credit, although her appearance is less than a second in duration.

Broadcast

Unofficial figures show that "The Poison Sky" was watched by 5.9 million viewers, giving it a 32.5% share of the total television audience. Although dipping below the 6 million mark, the programme was still the second most watched of the day, being beaten by ITV1's Britain's Got Talent, which got 8.5 million viewers. It was the highest rated programme on BBC1 for the day. The programme is currently the 19th most watched of the week and received an Appreciation Index score of 88 (considered "Excellent").[14]


Direct download: SON_DOUBLE_WIP.mp3
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