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The Sontaran Stratagem (TV story)

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The Sontaran Stratagem
Sontaranstrategem
Doctor: Tenth Doctor
Companion(s): Donna
Featuring: Martha

UNIT

Main enemy: Tenth Sontaran Battle Fleet, Martha clone, Luke Rattigan
Main setting:
Key crew
Writer: Helen Raynor
Director: Douglas Mackinnon
Producer: Susie Liggat
Release details
Story number: 192a
Season/series: Series 4
Premiere broadcast: 26 April 2008
Premiere network: BBC One
Format: 1x45 minute episode
Production code: 4.4
Confidential: Send in the Clones
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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 recurring guest character.

Synopsis

Fifty-two people across the world in eleven different time zones die at the exact same time. The only connection: they all have ATMOS installed in their vehicles. Martha Jones, now a UNIT medic, summons the Tenth Doctor back to modern-day Earth to help figure out why, but an old enemy lies in wait...

Plot

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 with her inside.

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 Harris's skills of deduction. He tells Gray that he smells of sweat and fear. After Harris calls him "Humpty Dumpty", the figure fires a bolt of energy from a staff to disable Harris's legs. Gray fires his submachine gun, but it only clicks. The figure reveals that the room is contained within a cordolane signal that excites the copper surface of the bullet and causes expansion in the barrel, rendering their guns useless, as well as blocking their radio signals (during which time Gray tries using his pistol but finds that is also useless). Gray raises the submachine gun to strike a blow and the figure fires at Grey's legs, causing him to fall the floor as well. When asked for a name, the figure identifies himself as General Staal of the Tenth Sontaran Battle Fleet, known as "Staal the Undefeated." He takes off his helmet to reveal a face that horrifies the disabled privates.

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, which is more suspicious. 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 the hypnotic programming on Gray and Harris, assigns them orders 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, Trepper, who seems to have come from Poland just to work. She finds him little more than an automaton with a rapid heartbeat, as he speaks in an emotionless monotone and he claims he works 24 hours a day. 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.

Doctor Sontarans

The Doctor stumbles upon the Sontarans

The Doctor ends up teleporting 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 down to the factory and confronts a captured Martha, saying for her, they need something more sophisticated than the hypnotic programming they utilised in the factory drones and the privates. 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 reverse psychology: he orders 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, expecting an explosion, which turns out to be unneccessary as the ATMOS just sparks and shorts 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 the Martha clone. She promises to pass on his warning about the Sontarans but tells Mace 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. But at the same time, Staal orders the converters activated and every one deadlocked. As Wilfred gets in his car, the doors suddenly lock themselves and the engine 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 at 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 the gas starts setting off car alarms 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.

Cast

Production crew

To be added

References

Diseases and illnesses

  • Donna is surprised that no ATMOS employees have ever had man flu.

Technology

Individuals

Locations

Planets

Species

  • General Staal is called a "baked potato" by Ross Jenkins.
  • 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.
  • One aspect of Sontaran culture introduced with this episode is the war-chant "Sontar-Ha!" which had not been heard previously.

Time wars

Timeline

Unified Intelligence Taskforce

  • 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

  • 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.
  • The Sontarans first appeared in TV: The Time Warrior and last appeared on a TV broadcast 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 TV: 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; however, 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.
  • 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 story also occupies episode four and five.
  • This two-parter is Douglas Mackinnon's debut 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 appears 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 broadcast during the thirty-fifth anniversary year 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.
  • 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.

Ratings

  • Official - 7.06 million viewers

Filming locations

Studio

  • Upper Boat Studios, Trefforest
  • BBC Broadcasting House, Llandaff

Location

  • Margam Country Park, Port Talbot
  • Usk Valley Business Park, Pontypool
  • Nant Fawr Road, Cardiff
  • Orion Electric, Port Talbort
  • Roath Basin, Cardiff Docks

Production errors

  • 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.

Continuity

Home video releases

Series-4-volume-3

Series 4 Volume 2 DVD Cover

External links

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