Hailing from early 1975, just as fourth Doctor Tom Baker begins to establish himself in the title role, ?he Sontaran Experiment?is a pacey, undemanding little two-parter which at the time served as an intermission between the high-concept ?rk in Space?and the now-legendary ?enesis of the Daleks?(both already available on DVD). Released as the first in a series of extras-light lower-priced DVDs, ?he Sontaran Experiment?is a story you can sit and devour, special features included, in a couple of hours and still have time to catch last orders at the pub.

The story, at just two episodes, sees the Doctor and his travelling companions Sarah Jane and Harry, beaming down from the Nerva satellite thousands of years in the future to check if the Solar Flare-ravaged Earth is capable of supporting human life. They soon discover that other human explorers are already there ?and so is a ruthless, militaristic alien lifeform in the shape of Styre, the potato-headed Sontaran who? come to Earth to carry out nasty experiments on humans to assess their potential resistance to Sontaran invasion. And that? about it really. Filmed on location on a windswept Dartmoor, the story looks bleak and miserable and, as usual, the BBC Restoration Team has done an exemplary job on cleaning up the image, to the extent that it? even possible to make out the drizzling fine rain which made the shoot so uncomfortable for cast and crew. The two episodes fly by; there? no room for padding but there? plenty going on here. The Sontaran creature, its head-mask remodelled from the earlier appearance of the species in the previous year? Jon Pertwee yarn ?he Time Warrior?has been slightly redesigned, is a formidable and ruthless adversary, torturing its human victims and engaging the new Doctor in his first fight sequence (albeit with stuntman Terry Walsh standing in for an injured Baker). There? even a dodgy robot too, all twitching antennae and electronic bleeping as it prowls the wasteland seeking out human prey to ensnare for its master. Baker and co give the flimsy script some much-needed gravitas and the supporting cast do a decent enough job with material which requires them to do little more than run about and look scared. It? a decent little time-filler, nothing more and nothing less and at less than a tenner online it? worth the attention of your credit card.

THE DISC: The BBC DOCTOR WHO range is rightly applauded for the scope and imagination of its extra value features and even here, on this cheapie lightweight release, there? room for bonus stuff. The highlight is a forty minute documentary ?uilt for War? a talking heads piece looking at the history and evolution of the Sontarans. It? a nice piece, spoilt only by some clumsy linking material featuring a badly-designed modern Sontaran clumping about a field. You also get a picture gallery and a cheery commentary by Sladen, writer Bob Baker and producer Philip Hinchcliffe.


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