Just finished rewatching this last night. It’s been a while since I last watched it. Anyway, time for a quick review.
This is a rarity in classic Who, in the sense that the entire story is basically the same length as a single story from the current incarnation of the show. As such, this is a story from classic Who that can easily be shown to people unfamiliar with Doctor Who, in terms of time constraints. But is it an effective “first story” for people who have never seen the show before? I’ll take that into consideration in my review.
This story continues the story arc for Tom Baker’s first season, with the trio beaming down to Earth via transmat beam. The idea of a continuing story arc for this season worked quite well, actually, with only Genesis of the Dalek feeling out of place (the Time Lords interrupted the trio when they were beaming back to the station).
So here we have the Doctor, Sarah, and Harry back on Earth, and apparently the whole planet has been abandoned, except for four humans and a Sontaran. As always, the Doctor and friends are suspected of being enemies, and initially treated as such. You know, it’s for that reason that I’m glad we have the slightly psychic paper now, so this isn’t a recurring thing in New Who.
This is a rather fast-paced story, which I enjoy. It isn’t long before we meet the Sontaran, Styre, and figure out what he’s up to. Styre is an effective villain, far as I’m concerned, and if you think about it, he’s quite insane, what with all of his experiments.
This story is not without its problems. For instance, that robot that Styre is using in order to pursue and capture the humans is rather frail and not at all menacing. As I was watching, I just kept thinking, “Push it over!” Also, there’s a lot of falling down pits. Another problem I have is the somewhat rushed conclusion, with Styre being defeated and the Doctor’s gambit. Seemed a bit rushed, to me.
The Sontarans are explained well enough in this story, inasfar as they’re yet another force trying to destroy humanity. As far as the war between the Sontarans and the Rutans is concerned, it gets a brief mention in this story, but nothing more.
Now, as for using this as an introductory episode, it works well enough. It has all the basic elements of a good Doctor Who story, and it moves along at a good pace. The only thing missing from this story is the TARDIS, but that bit is easily explained.
Anyway, this is an enjoyable story. Time for my rating.
I give The Sontaran Experiment a 4 out of 5.