A worldwide crisis is declared as Atmos-equipped cars across the globe poison the atmosphere with toxic gases. Meanwhile, the Sontarans’ clone of Martha continues to undermine UNIT’s preparations for all-out war against the invaders, but she’s also been noticed by the Doctor, who uses her to find the real Martha and discover why the Sontarans – usually a race that craves all-out war – are sneaking around with tactics such as poisoning the atmosphere. But the TARDIS is not at his disposal: the Sontarans have teleported it to their ship, with Donna inside. As he uncovers the plan to terraform Earth into a world suitable for breeding more cloned Sontaran warriors, the Doctor has a life-or-death choice to make – and he has to offer one to the Sontarans as well.
written by Helen Raynor
directed by Douglas MacKinnon
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Freema Agyeman (Dr. Martha Jones), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Bernard Cribbins (Wilfred Mott), Jacqueline King (Sylvia Noble), Ryan Simpson (Luke Rattigan), Rupert Holliday Evans (Colonel Mace), Christopher Ryan (General Staal), Dan Starkey (Commander Skorr), Clive Standen (Private Harris), Wesley Theobald (Private Gray), Christian Cooke (Ross Jenkins), Meryl Fernandes (Female Student), Leeshon Alexander (Male Student), Bridget Hodgson (Captain Price), Kirsty Wark (herself), Lachelle Carl (US Newsreader)
Notes: The Brigadier gets his first mention in the new series, even though he isn’t seen; apparently there’s only one Brigadier serving in UNIT, since Colonel Mace seems to instantly know who the Doctor is talking about.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: Rounding off the best classic series villain revival since the Autons showed up in Rose, The Poison Sky keeps the Sontarans on course and even justifies their unusually sneaky behavior – the dialogue even points up how oddly they’re acting. These are the Sontarans 0f old, and I certainly hope we’re not done with them. I couldn’t envision Christopher Ryan from The Young Ones as the head Sontaran, but his performance won me over. (He also appeared in The Trial Of A Time Lord in 1986, and I think it’s fair to say that this was a much better performance.)
If there’s anything that’s a little bizarre, it’s the extended conversation between Martha and her clone. The odd empathy that they feel for each other adds precious little to the story, and feels like a detour that was dropped into the script to pad it out. Also odd, though you can be sure it’ll be explained by the end of the season, was the almost subliminal appearance of Rose on the TARDIS screen. (Even more mysterious is how those two silent seconds – if even that – of screen time earns Billie Piper a credit above actors who have lines throughout the episode.)
Speaking of Rose, where Donna continued to be a spectacular breath of fresh air in the first part, Poison Sky paints her in more traditional new-series-companion colors, getting weepy if the Doctor is even within throwing distance of thinking about sacrificing himself to defeat the menace of the week. Hopefully that doesn’t become a consistent facet of her character. UNIT continues to be a study in contrasts – heavy-handed militaristic enetity in part one, noble warriors with an eve-of-battle speech worthy of Independence Day in part two. The UNIT colonel’s insistance that his Sontaran foe turn to face him before he pulls the trigger is an interesting facet; so much has been made, earlier in the episode, of the Sontarans’ weakness in the back of their necks that you’d think that was coming into play.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this two-parter, by the end of it, is the notion of turning every motor vehicle on Earth against the human race. With all of the focus on the Sontarans, I almost wonder if this concept might not have gotten more airtime (pun intended) with a new villain that didn’t demand the focus that the Sontarans do. It’s a fascinating idea that almost becomes window dressing at times.