We reach the end of the long stretch of the Sixth Doctor Lost Stories (since I already covered “The Ultimate Evil”) with The First Sontarans, a story originally planned for Season 22 that then ended up being scrapped (though the idea of using Sontarans was kept for the story that eventually replaced it, “The Two Doctors”) It shows us a good bit of Sontaran lore, actually features the Sontarans and the Rutans fighting each other, and generally tells a really fun story, so I have no idea why it was dropped! Oh well, let’s have a closer look!
1872. After finding a strange signalling device on the moon, the Doctor and Peri travel to the depths of the English countryside to track down the source of its transmissions. But they’re not the first aliens to arrive on the scene.
Old enemies of the Doctor are drawing their battle lines in the forest and the local humans will be lucky to escape the conflagration unscathed.
For hidden within this village is a deadly secret – a secret that could destroy the entire Sontaran race… and reveal the terrible mystery of their creation.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
It’s the 1870s and The Doctor and Peri find a mysterious bit of alien technology while paying a visit to the moon, leading them to once again pop down to Victorian England. They eventually find a sinister alien Gentleman (John Banks) and some not-so-sinister aliens … one of whom kidnap The Doctor and Peri and put him in cells next to a Sontaran. This person, referred to as Jacob (Anthony Howell), is a Kaveetch, a race he claims are down to only a couple of hundred thanks to the Sontarans hunting them down. His ex-wife Jane (Lizzie Roper), who blames Jacob for leaving their children behind to the mercy of the Sontarans to save themselves, arrives and they deal with the rouge Sontaran in the cell after it escapes and then plan to deal with a force of invading Sontarans while also finding out the sinister Gentlema who was threatening them earlier was a Rutan, trying to get one over on their enemies by taking the Kaveetch’s anti-Sontaran weaponry.
It all turns out that the Kaveetch were the original inhabitants of Sontar and that Jacob and Jane were among the scientists to create the first batch of Sontaran clones in an effort to deal with the invading Rutans, but the clones soon out-numbered the Kaveetch and tried to wipe them out as they weren’t “pure”. That’s the reason why the Sontarans were so eager to finish the last of them off: they had intimate knowledge of Sontaran biology, information that could be fatal in enemy hands. It was really fun bit of lore that didn’t take away from the story. The Doctor nearly meets his end by a Rutan while Peri and Jane seemingly die in the latter’s space orbiter along with the entire rest of the Kaveetch race.
The Doctor and Jacob are taken prisoner by the Sontarans but as rescued by Peri and Jane, who managed to escape in the nick of time and the quartet manage to flee the Sontaran battlefleet as it engages and fights with the Rutans. Jacob and Jane decide to “start again” and raise a new family somewhere where the Sontarans can’t find them… despite being the last of their kind meaning their children won’t be able to mate with anyone… unless The Doctor finds a planet with suitable physiology? … Or maybe I’m thinking about this too much. Either way, that’s that, and it’s a damn fun story!
Great cover… with the possible exception of the CG Sontatan. I mean, they’re all clones so just re-use a promo pic from an older TV story…
The only real bad is that a character named “Major Thessinger” (Cameron Stewart) appears a few times throughout the story and he’s a really boring, stiff-upperlip Victorian ex-solder type that always makes me roll my eyes. He’s not in too much though, so it doesn’t effect things too bad…
The Sontarans first appear in the Third Doctor TV classic “The Time Warrior” and go on to appear many, many times across TV, Audio, Books and Comics, including the previously mentioned “The Two Doctors” that replaced this story, and the DWM Seventh Doctor comic story “Pureblood”, which tells a slightly different version of the Sontaran’s creation, though as I mentioned in my review of the comic, it’s not completely incompatible with this story…
The Rutans first appear physically in the Fourth Doctor TV classic “The Horror of Fang Rock”, and have since never again appeared on TV. They “appeared” in the Fifth Doctor audio “Castle of Fear”, but that’s about it. We have yet to see Sontarans and Rutans appear in the same story on TV, despite every Sontaran story featuring a mention of “the war with the Rutans”.
The First Sontarans is a great story, full of twists and interesting characters all while doing justice to the idea of creating lore for one of Doctor Who’s biggest enemies. Even though they have since returned and done a new Sixth Doctor Lost Story, this for a long time stood as a great way to go out, and another Lost Story that is a genuine shame never got made…