This week we take on the shortest Doctor Who story in the 1970s. This two-parter was written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin and aired from 22 February to 1 March, 1975.
Tying in with the previous story, The Ark in Space, the Doctor (Tom Baker), Sarah-Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry (Ian Marter) transmit down to the Earth in the same time period, to work on some of the transmit refractors, to better facilitate the Ark’s repopulation of the Earth. Which everyone believes is currently desolate.
In fact there are two separate parties on the planet, a patrol of humans from the GalSec colony came in search of a missing ship that came down on the planet. Upon arrival, their own ship was vaporized, and they have been hunted, captured in turn and experimented on by a Sontaran, Styre (Kevin Lindsay).
One by one, our heroes get separated from one another, while the Doctor continues to work on the refractors, sonic buzzing away, Harry and Sarah wander off… When Harry plunges into a carefully hidden hole, he seems trapped, but when Sarah goes to fetch the Doctor, he’s already gone, having been grabbed by the team from GalSec who don’t believe his tales about the Ark in orbit above.
The Doctor learns they are being watched through a tiny camera fitted onto one of the men’s space suits, and the Sontaran’s robot, hunts them down, capturing the men one by one. Styre plans to study their bodies, the way they react to stress, fear, and the breaking point of the human body and the life within it. The studies are being conducted to prepare the planet for the Sontaran invasion fleet (which doesn’t make any real sense if there are supposed to be no humans on the planet they plan to invade… but maybe they just plan to use the Earth as a staging area to hunt down humans across the universe).
Things get upped in stakes a bit for the Doctor, when Sarah-Jane is captured by the Sontaran, and you know her fate will be grisly, as Styre gears up to experiment on her.
I did find it rather funny that the title of the story clearly indicates that it’s the Sontarans behind everything, but they try to keep that a secret until the end of the first part. Only seeing his hand, or his robot, until the reveal in the last few minutes of part one. I got a bit of a laugh out of that.
And Styre, villain that he is, meets a very gruesome end, but the Doctor, his companions, and the human survivors stand victorious. The Earth is almost ready to be repopulated by those aboard the Ark, as the refractors are finished being tweaked, and the Doctor leaves ready for his next adventure…
An adventure that will see the beginning of the Doctor’s eternal enemy, and introduce their creator – Genesis of the Daleks!