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Audio Drama Review
On Dowcra Base, the third Elite Sontaran Assassination Squad closes in on its target. They number a dozen trained killers, but even they will be unable to bring down the invincible General Strang… What is Strang doing here, and why is Sontaran fighting Sontaran? Manipulated by the Time Lords, the TARDIS also arrives on Dowcra. Little do they realise it, but the Doctor and Leela are about to encounter the greatest Sontaran ever cloned...
The cloning vats at Big Finish have been working overtime, birthing a new batch of adventures for Tom Baker and Louise Jameson as the Fourth Doctor and Leela. Though some of the genetic material may seem familiar – the return of the Sontarans, obviously, and a Time Lords-instigated ethical dilemma similar to that faced by the Doctor in Genesis of the Daleks – but writer John Dorney introduces some exciting new twists.
For one thing, the Sontarans are a formidable force again, after being predominantly played for laughs of late in the television series and in Big Finish’s own Heroes of Sontar. However, though the main warrior is played by the TV show’s go-to-Sontaran Dan Starkey, his General Strang is very different from his comical Commander Strax. John Banks is also effective as another Sontaran, Vilhol, who strikes up an alliance with Leela – which makes perfect sense, since they are both highly trained warriors.
Another engaging “what if” that Dorney presents us with is: what if it had been Leela with the Doctor in Genesis of the Daleks? How would she have responded to the aforementioned moral quandary? The answer to that question has repercussions...
The production team do not directly address the question of how Leela can encounter Sontarans here and yet not recognise them later in her timeline in The Invasion of Time – though in his sleeve notes Dorney insists that this has not been overlooked. It’s all to do with appearances, he says. I would guess that it is uniform-related – the Sontarans are out of uniform in this story, but when they make their entrance in The Invasion of Time they are fully kitted out and helmeted.
With the presence of David Collings (The Robots of Death) as a misguided scientist adding to the period flavour and Tom Baker’s performance going from strength to strength, The King of Sontar is easily the most powerful and confident Fourth Doctor season opener from Big Finish yet. A formidable force indeed.
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