The TARDIS arrives at the planet Samur, a strategic location in Rutan space which was once the site of fierce fighting between the Rutans and Sontarans. The planet is now coated in a colorful form of mold, with no other signs of life, at least until a Sontaran ship crashes. Only a few of its warrior crew is left alive, but they’ve lost their sealed order. When the Sontarans round up the TARDIS travelers and learn that one of them is the Doctor, they assume that their orders are somehow related to the capture and execution of the Time Lord and his companions. There are only things that save the Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa, and Turlough: this platoon of Sontarans is more inept than most, and Samur may not be as uninhabited as it looks.
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), John Banks (Fleet Marshal Stabb / Trooper Jorr / Witch Guard), Duncan Wisbey (Field-Major Thurr / Adjutant / Orbital Command), Alex Lowe (Sergeant Mezz / Trooper Nold), Andrew Fettes (Corporal Clun), Derek Carlyle (Trooper Vend)
Notes: This is the first Big Finish audio story to feature the Sontarans (an enemy Peter Davison’s Doctor never met on television), though they had appeared in a few stand-alone stories (Silent Warrior, Old Soldiers, Conduct Unbecoming) in Audio Adventures In Time & Space series produced by BBV, a company whose audio releases came to an end a few years after Big Finish picked up the Doctor Who license. Nyssa mentions her husband and children (hinted at in part four of Circular Time), but keeps them a secret from the Doctor because of the events of that story, which remains in the Doctor’s future. TV Sontarans Linx (The Time Warrior) and Styre (The Sontaran Experiment) are also mentioned, as is the Sontarans’ defeat at Gallifrey (The Invasion Of Time). Sontarans were shown to be vulnerable to coronic acid in The Two Doctors.
Timeline: for the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough: between Enlightenment and The King’s Demons; for Nyssa: 50 years after Terminus. This story takes place after The Cradle Of The Snake and before Kiss Of Death.
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: It sometimes seems as though science fiction fandoms get their hackles raised at the slightest hint that the writers or producers of their favorite show are going to attempt a comedy storyline. (I’m reminded of my early 20s, when I worked at an adult contemporary format radio station and was told by management to tone down my tendency to write funny commercial scripts because “adults don’t laugh.”) Heroes Of Sontar is one of those instances. Clearly influenced by the portrayal of the Sontarans in the new TV series and in The Sarah Jane Adventures, Heroes Of Sontar doesn’t take its titular “stars” very seriously. They’re a bumbling, short-statured force of ineptitude, and even the Doctor notes that this platoon of Sontaran warriors isn’t up to the standard of the Sontaran enemies he’s faced in the past.
Fortunately, the story has a reason for that, and it’s a fairly dark and dramatic one. That’s the real charm of Heroes Of Sontar: the contrast between comedy and drama heightens both ends of the story. The funny scenes work because the Davison-era cast gets to attack a script loaded with British verbal comedy, full of dry humor, delicious insults, and ironic juxtaposition galore. Nyssa is relegated to something of a damsel in distress role (shades of Kinda and Terminus), rendered helpless and dying slowly thanks to the local flora, while Tegan gets to shamelessly insult Sontarans and Turlough’s legendary cowardly streak (which is emphasized moreher than normal) is examined for both its comedic and dramatic angles. The script probably doesn’t do anyone any major favors in the character development department, but it’s definitely funny.
The fate of the Sontarans, and in particular the sympathetically inept Trooper Vend, turns out to be a bit tragic, so the script doesn’t mercilessly poke fun at them. Even though Heroes Of Sontar starts out sounding like it’s about to stick to the comedy interpretation of the Sontarans from the recent television series, but it veers into different directions altogether, both funny and scary.