a real world point of view
|The Sontaran Stratagem|
|Main enemy:||Sontarans, Clone facsimile, Luke Rattigan|
|Premiere broadcast:||26 April 2008|
|Premiere network:||BBC One|
|Format:||1x45 minute episode|
|Confidential:||Send in the Clones|
|Doctor Who television stories|
|Planet of the Ood||The Poison Sky|
|Partners in Crime||The Poison Sky|
The Sontaran Stratagem was the fourth episode of the fourth series of Doctor Who. It was the first appearance of the Sontarans in the revived series and saw the reappearance of Martha Jones as a guest companion.
When fifty-two people across the world in eleven different time zones die at the same time with ATMOS in their vehicles, Martha Jones, now a U.N.I.T. doctor, summons the Doctor back to modern-day Earth to help figure out why, but an old enemy lies in wait.
Luke Rattigan and his students toss out reporter Jo Nakashima and her notes. She protests, saying that she's investigating ATMOS, Rattigan's invention. It is dangerous. An uninterested Rattigan lets her leave. However, he goes inside and contacts his mysterious employer, recommending termination of Jo. His employer reminds him they don't take orders from him, but Rattigan reminds him that he said, "recommend", and the employer agrees to terminate Jo.
Some time later, Jo is in her car (fitted with ATMOS). She leaves a message for Colonel Mace of UNIT, asking him to check out several recent deaths that have happened in ATMOS-equipped cars and to pinpoint the times. At the same time, she follows her ATMOS's instructions. After crossing a bridge, the car turns right and stops at the bank of a river. Jo is confused, as she told ATMOS to take her to UNIT Headquarters. She's about to find her own way when the car doors lock themselves and the transmission of the car locks itself in the drive position. The car accelerates towards the bank. Jo screams as the car goes flying, landing in the river, where it sinks.
Meanwhile, Donna is flying the TARDIS with mixed results while the Tenth Doctor watches closely (warning her not to put a dent in the 1980s). He gets a call on his mobile phone, from former companion Martha Jones.
Martha waits in an alley when the TARDIS materialises. The Doctor introduces Martha and Donna and catches up on where Martha has been since she left the TARDIS. She is now engaged to Tom Milligan and, thanks to the Doctor's recommendation, has a job with UNIT as a medical officer. She speaks into a walkie-talkie and gives the all-clear to execute "Operation Blue Sky." Elsewhere, UNIT forces raid an ATMOS factory and capture the workers. What no one knows is that Luke Rattigan's employer is watching the raid on a television monitor and is not very impressed.
Martha leads the Doctor and Donna into a lorry containing a mobile UNIT headquarters. She introduces the Doctor to Colonel Mace, who knows about the Time Lord from UNIT files. The Doctor isn't impressed either with the overly military "new" UNIT or their handling of civilian workers in the ATMOS factory. Donna compares it to how the United States treats detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Martha and Mace explain why they've executed the raid: just the day before, fifty-two people were simultaneously poisoned to death in their cars across the world. Martha has checked the biopsies and found the unknown toxin had left each of their bodies immediately. The cars in question are of different makes and models but are all fitted with ATMOS. UNIT suspects that the technology is alien in origin.
Meanwhile, two UNIT solders, Privates Harris and Gray, are exploring in the lower corridors of the ATMOS Factory. Wandering into another corridor, they find two ATMOS workers guarding a door. Rattigan's employer remotely orders the two workers to let the soldiers in. Hypnotically, one opens the door. They enter a room with mysterious lighting and a tank with something banging underneath. They figure it must be a cloning tank and someone is growing a body. Gray tries to call for backup, but a squat armoured person appears in the room and praises their skills of deduction. He tells Gray that he smells of sweat and fear. After Harris calls him "Humpty Dumpty", the figure uses a staff to disable Harris's legs. Gray prepares to fire, but his gun jams. The figure reveals that the room is contained within a cordolane signal (exciting the copper surface of the bullet and causing expansion in the barrel, rendering their guns useless, as well as blocking their radio signals). When asked for a name, the figure identifies himself as General Staal of the Tenth Sontaran Battlefleet, known as "Staal the Undefeated." He takes off his helmet to reveal his face.
The Doctor examines the ATMOS equipment and concludes it is advanced but not alien technology. He notes that he didn't expect Martha to work for the military but she points out that he left her and she is working with UNIT on her own terms. Donna has been using her own skills to go over the personnel records. She returns with the Sick Days file, which is empty. There have been no sick employees at the factory in months if ever. The Doctor wants to go see Luke Rattigan, the creator of the ATMOS system. Mace assigns him a private, Ross Jenkins. Meanwhile, Donna and Martha chat and Martha notes that her family suffered because Martha didn't tell them about her involvement with the Doctor.
In the basement, Staal finishes hypnotic programming on Gray and Harris, assigns them tasks and returns to the Sontarans' ship via a teleport pod. The Doctor prepares to go the Rattigan Academy and Donna says that she's going home. The Doctor thinks she means she is leaving for good. He babbles on about how he'll miss her until he figures out she's just going home to talk to her mother and granddad. Meanwhile, Martha talks to a factory worker, Trepor, who seems to have come from Poland just to work. She finds him little more than an automaton with a rapid heartbeat. She goes to find Mace. Gray and Harris offer to escort her to the Colonel. They take her to the basement and lock her in the cloning chamber.Donna returns home and explains to Wilfred where she's been. He takes it well, but warns her not to tell her mother, Sylvia. When Sylvia comes in and demands to know where Donna has been, Donna says she's been travelling. The Doctor and Jenkins travel to the Rattigan Academy, and the Doctor notes that even UNIT jeeps have ATMOS. Jenkins says that until the system has been proven dangerous, the government refuses to remove ATMOS. They arrive at the Academy and meet Luke. The Doctor checks out the science labs and goes to Luke's reception area, which contains a large piece of tunnel-like sculpture. The Doctor notes that Luke couldn't have created the equipment in the science labs. He triggers a control on the piece of "art," revealing it's a teleport pod. He arrives on the Sontaran spaceship. As they notice him, he teleports back. General Staal makes it through before the Doctor can sabotage the pod. He removes his helmet. The Doctor, realising who he's up against, taunts Staal about his honour and bounces a ball off of the wall behind Staal. It hits his probic vent, the Sontarans' one weakness. Staal, stunned, collapses. The Doctor and Jenkins make their escape. Staal recovers and fixes the teleporter, then returns to his ship with Luke. He has his second-in-command Commander Skorr, "the Bloodbringer," begin the invasion.
Skorr teleports to the factory and confronts a captured Martha, saying they need something more sophisticated than hypnotic programming to use her abilities. He renders her unconscious and begins transferring her memories into a clone.
Staal realises that he is dealing with the Doctor, the last Time Lord. He tracks the Doctor through the ATMOS device in the jeep and drives it into the river. The Doctor overrides the device by commanding it to do what it's doing anyway so it will disregard his orders and do the opposite. It stops just short of the river and the Doctor and Jenkins jump out as the ATMOS device burns out. With ATMOS destroyed, Staal assumes that the Doctor is dead and confirms with Skorr that the Martha clone is ready. Luke assures him that the initial test run resulting in the fifty-two dead car drivers was successful and they are ready to unleash ATMOS on a wider scale.
The Doctor goes to pick up Donna while Jenkins finds a vehicle without ATMOS so they can get back to UNIT. Wilfred and Sylvia both recognise the Doctor from their previous Christmas encounters with him. The Doctor calls UNIT and talks to Martha. She promises to pass on his warning about the Sontarans but tells Moss that everything is fine. The Doctor then examines the ATMOS in Donna's car and triggers a hidden device exposing gas nozzles. The Sontarans detect the activation and Staal realises the Doctor is still alive. He orders the invasion to begin and the Sontaran ships close in.
The Doctor realises the gas is poisonous and there are over four hundred million cars on Earth with ATMOS. Wilfred tries to move his car. Just then, Staal orders the converters activated and every one deadlocked. As Wilfred gets in his car, the doors lock themselves and the car starts. As the ATMOS device begins to emit a poisonous gas, the Doctor tries to disable the ATMOS to get Wilfred out. ATMOS vehicles activate everywhere. At UNIT, soldiers try to destroy their ATMOSes by shooting them. Mace learns that all other cars equipped with ATMOS have been activated.
Meanwhile, the Doctor's efforts to get Wilfred out of his car fail. He is interrupted when car alarms go off on the street. He looks up to see other parked cars emitting the gas. Up above, the Sontarans and Rattigan shout a war chant as the invasion begins.
- The Doctor - David Tennant
- Donna Noble - Catherine Tate
- Martha Jones - Freema Agyeman
- Wilfred Mott - Bernard Cribbins
- Sylvia Noble - Jacqueline King
- Luke Rattigan - Ryan Sampson
- Colonel Mace - Rupert Holliday Evans
- General Staal - Christopher Ryan
- Commander Skorr - Dan Starkey
- Jo Nakashima - Elenor Matsuura
- Private Harris - Clive Standen
- Private Gray - Wesley Theobald
- Ross Jenkins - Christian Cooke
- Trepper - Rad Kaim
- ATMOS Voice - Elizabeth Ryder
Production crew Edit
To be added
- Martha is now engaged to Tom Milligan.
- Martha's stated desire to change UNIT from the inside echoes Jack Harkness' similar statement regarding his intentions regarding Torchwood.
- Luke Rattigan invented Fountain Six.
- The Doctor mentions Cotter Paluni's World as one of the planets he wanted to take Donna.
- General Staal is called a "baked potato" by Ross Jenkins.
- When the Sontarans realised they had an intruder, the Doctor replied, "How'd he get in, then? In-tru-der-window?" Henry van Statten said the same thing in TV: Dalek.
- The Sontarans' weak point is their probic vent: a small connector at the back of their necks that allows them to plug into an energy source to recharge.
Time wars Edit
- According to Staal, the Sontarans were not allowed to take part in the Last Great Time War.
- The Doctor said he worked with UNIT some time in the 1970s, "or was it the 80s?" - a reference to the UNIT dating controversy.
United Nations Intelligence Taskforce Edit
- Donna calls the UNIT soldiers "stormtroopers", referring to the characters from the Star Wars franchise, or perhaps the nickname for Nazi soldiers that inspired their name.
- The dialogue between the Tenth Doctor and Martha suggests that he helped get her job with UNIT.
- UNIT has received increased funding from the United Nations due to the increase in alien incidents: "all in the name of Homeworld Security".
- Martha mentions the Valiant.
- The Doctor is still technically a UNIT staff member, having never officially resigned. He's well known to UNIT.
Story notes Edit
- This episode marks the first television appearance of the Sontarans in twenty-three years. Their last regular series appearance was in The Two Doctors. The last time they were referred to was in 2007 in TV: Eye of the Gorgon. They had also appeared in several non-canonical or questionably canonical productions, including "A Fix with Sontarans" in 1985 and the early-1990s independent production Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans.
- Helen Raynor wrote this episode. Her Series 3 episodes Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks both filled fourth and fifth episode in the series. This two part episode also occupies episode four and five.
- This two-parter is Douglas Mackinnon's first story as director.
- When Donna asks the Doctor if it was his influence that turned Martha into 'a soldier', a few notes of Donna's theme music can be heard before it segues into the music which plays when the UNIT soldiers appear.
- Mobile phone company O2 released an ATMOS SatNav phone, possibly based on the devices used in this episode.
- On the Sontaran ship and in almost every shot you will see what looks like an Xbox 360 power indicator complete with the quarter circle lines and a dot in the centre. The only major difference is that it is purple rather than green.
- This show was made during the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Sontarans.
- In TV: The Time Warrior the Sontarans were described as "nasty, brutish and short". This is the first time that they are shown to actually be shorter than normal human stature.
- There is a UNIT character called Jenkins, a homage to a famous piece of dialogue: "Jenkins, chap with the wings there five rounds rapid" from TV: The Dæmons. In the commentary broadcast on BBC7, it was said that "Jenkins" was named for Richard Jenkins, who maintains the BBC's DW website.
- This is Christopher Ryan's second role in Doctor Who. He previously played Lord Kiv in TV: Mindwarp.
- UNIT has now been rebranded as the UNified Intelligence Taskforce, having previously been known as the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. This followed a request by the United Nations shortly after the series returned to TV in 2005. Nonetheless, Martha still refers to UNIT receiving funding from the United Nations and the later TV: Children of Earth: Day One indicates that the UN still commands UNIT.
- When communicating with each other, UNIT use call signs first used in the classic series. These are mostly based on greyhound racing. Personnel are usually designated a Greyhound call sign and a base of operations is known as a Trap.
- Donna makes reference to the terrorist prisoner camps at Guantanamo Bay. This is one of the first references in the revived Doctor Who to the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Similarly, Martha refers to UNIT's funding being "in the name of Homeworld Security", a deliberate reference to the Department of Homeland Security established in the US after 9/11. It should be noted that while references to other post-9/11 events such as the Iraq War have been made in Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, as of 2012, the franchise has yet to explicitly indicate that the Whoniverse experienced the actual events of 9/11.
- The cloning vat in this story is the fountain from TV: The Fires of Pompeii, redressed.
- The table that is used to hold the real Martha is used in the Torchwood episode TV: Cyberwoman. Also the metal headware that Martha has on at the same time looks like mind probe used the episode TV: Sleeper.
- Luke Rattigan, despite having an American accent, uses the word "clever" in the British sense of the word, in which it simply means "intelligent." While the word has a similar meaning in America, Americans generally use the word "clever" to mean not just intelligent but intelligent with an element of cunning, wit and imagination.
- As is routine for post-2005 Doctor Who, a "NEXT TIME" trailer for the next episode is shown at the end of the episode.
- Official - 7.06 million viewers
Filming locations Edit
- Upper Boat Studios, Trefforest
- BBC Broadcasting House, Llandaff
- Margam Country Park, Port Talbot
- Usk Valley Business Park, Pontypool
- Nant Fawr Road, Cardiff
- Orion Electric, Port Talbort
- Roath Basin, Cardiff Docks
Production errors Edit
- The UNIT mobile lorry is much bigger on the inside than the outside. This was explained in the next episode's commentary.If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
- When the TARDIS lands where the Doctor and Martha are supposed to meet, as the camera pans, you can see that the inside panel of the TARDIS has been removed and the gap attached to the building behind it, to give the TARDIS that "bigger on the inside" look without the use of a green screen.
- The Doctor last saw Martha Jones in TV: Last of the Time Lords. It is not indicated on screen how long it has been for Martha since she last saw the Doctor, although it has been long enough for her to have joined UNIT, obtained her doctorate, become engaged to Tom Milligan and worked with Torchwood.
- Martha last appeared (chronologically) in TV: A Day in the Death. It is not yet known whether this episode (and the two that follow) occur before or after her later Torchwood involvement in AUDIO: Lost Souls. PROSE: Beautiful Chaos dates this episode as mid-April and Lost Souls is dated as June, meaning this takes place before that event.
- The Sontarans first appeared in TV: The Time Warrior and last appeared on TV broadcast screen in TV: The Two Doctors, though they did feature in a direct to video story: HOMEVID: Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans. They also feature in The Sontaran Experiment and The Invasion of Time. Though physically similar to prior appearances, their uniforms are now purple (though a few Sontarans seen aboard their command ship are seen in armour coloured more like previous versions, though they still have purple helmets and shoulder pads.) and their voices have taken on a more human quality. They are honourable when it comes to the rules of warfare and respect their enemies, but are callous and bloodthirsty.
- Sontarans using hypnosis to control workers and two soldiers is a nod to TV: The Time Warrior when Jingo Linx did so to scientists.
- One aspect of Sontaran culture introduced with this episode is the war-chant "Sontar-ha!" which had not been heard previously.
- Sontaran batons were first shown in TV: The Two Doctors.
- Donna has flashbacks of TV: Partners in Crime, The Fires of Pompeii and Planet of the Ood. It is stated in dialogue that, from her grandfather and mother's perspective, it has only been days since the events of Partners in Crime.
- In TV: Eye of the Gorgon, Bea Nelson-Stanley referred to the Sontarans as potato-like. Clyde Langer also makes a similar remark about "spuds" in TV: The Last Sontaran.
- Sylvia Noble recognises the Doctor and references the events of The Runaway Bride, while Wilfred Mott recognises the Doctor from his brief encounter with him in Voyage of the Damned. Wilfred's absence from The Runaway Bride is explained by Sylvia when she says he was ill with flu at the time of Donna's interrupted wedding.
- The Doctor's initial response to Martha and Donna meeting each other is to ask them not to fight, which is what happened when Rose Tyler met Sarah Jane Smith in TV: School Reunion.
- The Doctor mentions that the ATMOS devices are a temporal pocket one second out of sync with real time. The same is later said for the Medusa Cascade in the TV: The Stolen Earth.
- Staal and Luke stare out the window in a scene reminiscent of the scene from Helen Raynor's previous story Daleks in Manhattan in which Diagoras and a Dalek are also staring out a window. In both, the alien comments on the human's ambition.
- Martha's engagement to Tom Milligan is announced in this episode. She met Tom during her last adventure with the Doctor in Last of the Time Lords. During the intervening time, she referred to dating a doctor (Milligan) in TV: Reset. She is said to be on honeymoon during TV: Children of Earth: Day One. In TV: The End of Time we find that she eventually married Mickey Smith.
- Donna quickly knowing how to fly the TARDIS may be a foreshadowing of her becoming part Time Lord.
- While in the jeep the Doctor asks Ross to contradict the ATMOS navigation and "turn right". This is a possible reference to the events of TV: Turn Left.
- When the Doctor meets Wilfred and they shake hands, Wilfred comments, "Ooh, an alien hand." This may be a reference to Donna's Time Lord meta-crisis which involves making contact with the Doctor's hand. (TV: Journey's End)
Home video releases Edit
- This story was released in the Series 4 DVD box set in November 2008 along with the rest of the series.
- It was released as Series 4 Volume 2 in a vanilla edition with The Poison Sky, The Doctor's Daughter and The Unicorn and the Wasp.
- Official BBC Website - Episode Guide for The Sontaran Stratagem
- Detailed synopsis of The Sontaran Stratagem at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- The Sontaran Stratagem at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- The Sontaran Stratagem at The Locations Guide