Villain Countdown No. 4 – The Sontarans

A while back I commented on a series of villains that I felt had been woefully underused – one of which were the Rutans. Their eternal adversaries, the Sontarans, are a foe that oddly enough have suffered in reputation from reappearing in stories subsequent to their debut. There is no doubt, Kevin Lindsay is excellent as Linx in The Time Warrior, and equally sinister in The Sontaran Experiment (although I confess I personally didn’t enjoy the story that much) – but the drama of a lone Sontaran didn’t really carry over that well into The Invasion of Time or The Two Doctors – in the latter it is difficult to escape the conclusion that they were mainly included to deal with any military might required.

Which is a huge pity, because their potential was very well explored in Series 4 of the new series, even if the execution was awfully hammed up, and then subsequently ruined by Strax joining the Paternoster comedy trio. There is something quite intriguing about a race who are bred for the glorification and execution of war, absolutely cunning military strategists and yet possessed of a childish delight in watching any kind of warfare. “Nasty, brutish and short” is the rather excellent description Pertwee’s Doctor bestows upon this race. Which is why it is galling when they are reduced to the playthings of another power, or treated as light comic relief – they deserve a proper war-zone style narrative to get their teeth into. Which is strange, because their two most successful stories centre on lone operatives …

I’d dearly love to see a new series story that features a full scale battle between Sontarans and Rutans, not least to see how the Doctor would react (as in The Doctor’s Daughter) when it is not evident that there is a ‘good’ side or a ‘bad’ side. But then these militaristic clones need to be let off the leash to threaten and menace as they deserve to. An equally intriguing story would be a Sontaran general isolated from his troops and raising a human army to fight – for the character story of what so motivates Sontarans to their glorification of war. In any event – they are worthy recurring foes, but of course not in the same league as the top three …

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