Released not too long after the two-parter that reintroduced the classic series villains to the new series’ mythos, the Sontaran Stratagem set is, hands-down, my favorite boxed set of Doctor Who figures to date. I was originally a little skeptical of the Sontarans’ redesign, but their appearance in the two episodes won me over – and if that wasn’t enough, they make great action figures.
General Staal leads the invasion with his command staff, and comes with a removable helmet; Commander Skorr – available only in this set, though I have a feeling that economic realities may soon make him as individually available as the previously-exclusive Davros figure – also sports a removable helmet and a big honkin’ gun. The guns are tailor-made for the three-fingered Sontaran grip, and what’s more, the articulation of the figures allows the Sontarans to hold their weapons in a variety of ways, from an at-rest position to ready-to-shoot-somebody.
The helmets are perfect, if somewhat snug, fit. We’ve been down this road once before with Dapol, who delivered generic Sontaran figures which were okay, apart from being far too tall and thin. These Sontarans – which use the same body molds because the entire race is cloned – are as short, squat and disgusting as their on-screen counterparts. They only come up to the shoulder of a Cyberman figure.
The reason that the Sontaran Stratagem set is my favorite Doctor Who boxed set to date is simple: there’s no extraneous figure of the 10th Doctor taking up one of the slots here. Instead, we get the standard figure of Donna (also available separately), which happens to be a very good likeness of Catherine Tate. Diehards will note that she isn’t wearing what she wore in The Sontaran Stratagem; rather, she’s wearing her cold wear garb from Planet Of The Ood. Why that decision was taken with the figure, especially when the coat restricts movement, is a bit of a mystery – sure it’d make more sense to produce an “all-weather” depiction of the character. Rounding out the set is the generic Sontaran Trooper figure (also available on its own card), which is almost exactly like the other two except that its helmet can’t be removed (which makes it rather obvious that there’s no head underneath). The collar of the Trooper’s helmet also lacks the rank insignia of the two officers.
The Sontarans are some of the best-articulated figures in the entire range: with ball-jointed shoulders and ankles, plus the customary bicep, elbow, wrist, waist and knee joints, these Sontarans are ready for action. The waist joint also allows for some limited side-to-side pivoting, rather than just simple rotation. Naturally, there’s a trade-off to all that articulation, and it’s something that’s almost certain to occur under the stress and strain of perfectly normal play: the Sontarans’ feet detach with almost disturbing ease. The good news is that they can be re-attached, but I imagine the repeated removal – whether accidental or otherwise – and repair may wear down the ankle ball joints to the point where the feet may become very loose.
That’s not much of an issue for someone like me, who puts these on a shelf, but the detached foot syndrome can occur with even a simple drop from – no pun intended – a couple of feet. The ankle joints are neat, but maybe Character should go back to the drawing board before incorporating that particular feature on any future figures. Other than that, however, the Sontaran Stratagem set is a great value, and for once, you don’t have a spare plastic David Tennant to deal with…and that was the great appeal of this set to me: every figure in it was new to me, and every one was a keeper.