Iron Nadines

Generally the reviews on the boards seem quite in favour of the new Sontaran two-parter, old monsters returning with gusto and more pizzazz than, well, the other, more lacklustre early two-parters of previous seasons.  And really that isn’t a good yardstick to compare these episodes by.  Having felt that a bit of extra time would’ve benefited both Fires of Pompeii and Planet of the Ood to expand plot strands and ideas that were begging to be developed, Stratagem and Sky seemed too much like a runaround.  By co-incidence I ended up rewatching Girl in the Fireplace shortly after seeing the closing episode and it simply brought home to me (as Jamas noted in his blog) that this is just a really good Sarah Jane Adventure story.  It has it all, simple plot, in-jokes, turns-out-nice doppelganger, lots of action, backyard setting, eco-theme, villainous kid, and cutesy aliens.


I never thought I could describe the Sontarans as cutesy – but here they’ve taken one of the series’ design classics and tweaked it out of skew.  It’s not that they’ve made them short (they always were stocky, but they never made jokes about it before; I don’t see Pertles or Tom B wrestling with Chris Ryan); it’s not that they dressed them in baby blue (though black always looked niftier); it’s not even that they’ve turned them into cut-price Klingons; it’s because they’ve made them so bad at it.


After years of lone clones living by their wits, the warriors have arrived en masse, but seem a lot less sharp for it, the new army less than the sum of its original parts.  All the bluster about honour, and yet they resort to subterfuge, using kids and look-alikes (a Rutan method), shooting the unarmed as sport – they used to be even more shrewd and cunning, but they didn’t prattle on hypocritically about it.  All the moaning about females (whereas they used to be a curiosity), they seem more like gung-ho schoolboys.  The aliens of this story could be almost anyone, just with a lot of Sontaran window dressing, like the good old probic vent; their only weakness… that and bullets.  The new Sontarans have no fear of death, which is handy, as they seem far too good at it.


Donna continues to shine, although some of the set pieces (“you’re leaving?” TARDIS key) are such parodies they detract from the plot.  Bernard Cribbins needs to do a Mickey and come onboard for a stint on the ship (although given the behind the scenes reasons for his casting, the way his character is developing may be in slightly pour taste); even Sylvia gets a chance to look good (how would’ve we reacted to Jacqui or Martha’s Mum with an axe?).  Sadly they had to clone Martha to give her something productive to do, but all this aside it all just seems far too clever, mummy jokes, handy hammers, but really it’s almost an exercise in ticking the boxes: bring back Martha, tick; UNIT, Sontarans, tick, tick. Valiant, family issues, special effects, obligatory Rose reference etc.  Given the potential scope of what could be done with these two episodes what we’ve been given just seems a little mundane.


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