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< 1.3 - Harvest of the Sycorax
2.1 - Night of the Vashta Nerada >

1.4 - The Sontaran Ordeal

Rating Votes
10
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9
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12
8
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31
7
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Average Rating
7.9
Votes
57
Classic Doctors, New Monsters - Volume 1
7.9
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Reviewed By: DalekbusterScreen5ReviewsReview Date: 4/10/17 5:36 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

The last in the Classic Doctors, New Monsters set, The Sontaran Ordeal proved a very controversial release for Big Finish. Many complained that the Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky Sontarans shouldn't count as new monsters. If you want my angle on the 2008 Sontaran new/classic debate you can read it in my review of The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky. The Sontaran Ordeal isn't a release that's going to win over any doubters but for those who don't class 2008's Sontarans as new monsters the release does feature the Time War which *technically* could count as an abstract new series monster.

In The Sontaran Ordeal, The eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) arrives on the planet Drakkis just as it becomes a victim of the Time War. He is joined by Paladin Sarana Teel (Josette Simmon) and together they encounter a disgraced Sontaran called Commander Jask (Dan Starkey). If they are to save Drakkis from the trouble the Time War has caused then they must form an uneasy alliance - but how can they work together when they barely trust each other?

The Sontaran Ordeal is different from the other Classic Doctors, New Monsters stories in that it's more of a character piece of the Doctor, his race the Time Lords and how close they have come to the Sontarans as a race than it is the Doctor taking on a new series monster. For example, one scene sees Commander Jask try to convince Sarana Teel that the Doctor is dangerous and not to be trusted because of his race's involvement in the Time War that has devastated Drakkis. This is an interesting angle to take and something you could imagine happening in the new series through an episode with a similar tone to The Girl Who Waited. It's not as simple as Commander Jask being the 'enemy' anymore; whilst the Doctor knows he wants no involvement in the Time War, Sarana doesn't. She's only just met this man. In some ways it might sound similar to Night of the Doctor but no similarities are noticeable when listening to the audio.

The problem with the character exploration in this audio is that it slows the pace down. With a length of sixty minutes in comparison to the main range's usual 120 the last thing the audio adventure needs is a slower pace. The Sontaran Ordeal is nowhere near as fast-paced as Judoon In Chains or Harvest of the Sycorax; it is perhaps more comparable to the pace of The Sontaran Experiment than The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky. This is something that I found surprising when listening to the audio as I expected it to be the most action-packed of the Classic Doctors, New Monsters audio dramas. Out of any of the classic Doctors, the eighth Doctor is the most comparable to a new series Doctor after all. He is the only one to get his own new series minisode and a new series audio box set solely dedicated to him due for release next year ('The Time War').

Which brings me to another issue I had with this audio drama. It feels too much like a prequel to next year's The Time War than a story in its own right. This is a story that could easily have been kept back for the eighth Doctor Time War box set, purely because it feels like an extended advertisement for it. Including a Time War story in a new series box set is cool but it would have been nice to have seen the focus entirely on Classic Doctors meeting new monsters. Why couldn't the eighth Doctor's audio drama have taken place shortly after the TV Movie, for example? It would have explained why the eighth Doctor was companion-less and could have allowed for a lighter, more romantic Doctor than the darker, more subdued version towards the end of the eighth Doctor's life.

What's nice about this audio though is the chance to hear Christopher Ryan's return as a new series Sontaran. Christopher Ryan is fantastic as General Stenk and is just as convincing at playing a Sontaran as Dan Starkey. Dan Starkey and Christopher Ryan work well together as Sontarans; I've always thought it a shame that the new series has never brought Christopher Ryan back as a Sontaran since his 2008 performance. It's equally as disappointing that Dan Starkey hasn't been given a chance to play a serious Sontaran again since Strax. I know many speculated that Strax was in this release and that was why Big Finish were classing the 2008 Sontarans as new monsters...unfortunately he isn't but I don't think he would have worked in the story anyway. Strax would almost certainly have not suited The Sontaran Ordeal's tone. It's nice to hear a new Sontaran from Dan Starkey in the form of Commander Jask anyway.

Unfortunately Paul McGann's performance on the other hand is not among his best. Too many times he mumbles lines and you can't quite tell what he is saying. It's not as spectacular as his groundbreaking performance in Night of the Doctor and sounds somewhat like an off-day for Paul McGann. Not everybody is perfect all the time of course; even my favourite Doctor David Tennant wasn't up to his usual standard in Love & Monsters and the hugely popular Matt Smith was a little underwhelming in my view in the episode The Beast Below. Hopefully he'll be back to his usual standard in Doom Coalition 3. I'm not sure when I'll get round to reviewing that one myself as I will probably buy a Big Finish bundle of all four Doom Coalitions but I am sure it will probably be a top quality box set from Big Finish.

The sound design on The Sontaran Ordeal is among Big Finish's best. Howard Carter has done a good job with the audio. You can totally picture what kind of world Drakkis is and the music sounds like the kind of composition you would expect from a new series eighth Doctor episode. As with The Tenth Doctor Aventures Volume One, you forget that it's not a composer like the new series' Murray Gold composing it and iconic new series tracks like All The Strange, Strange Creatures aren't really missed. If Murray Gold ever decides to stop composing the music for the new series, then perhaps Howard Carter would be a good person to take over?

Overall, The Sontaran Ordeal is probably the weakest audio drama in the Classic Doctors, New Monsters box set. It's by no means a terrible story but it's not likely to be anybody's favourite Big Finish audio either. The main problem with it is that it feels too much like a prequel to the eighth Doctor's upcoming Time War box set. There's not enough to set it apart as a standalone story in its own right as opposed to an advertisement for the Time War release. The story's pace is also significantly slower than the other Classic Doctors, New Monsters audios too, which is a little surprising given that the eighth Doctor is perhaps the closest to a new series Doctor. Speaking of the eighth Doctor, Paul McGann's performance isn't quite as good as usual; he mumbles too frequently throughout the audio and sometimes it can be hard to catch what he says. The character exploration with the Time Lords' part in the Time War and whether Sarana can therefore trust the Doctor is interesting though and it's great to hear Christopher Ryan playing a Sontaran again. I also like Howard Carter's sound design, which helps to create a vivid image of what Drakkis would look like on-screen.
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Reviewed By: Queen DragonReview Date: 1/17/17 10:31 am
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

I'm not really sure how you can classify the Sontarans as new monsters, since they've been around for decades, but I enjoyed listening to the 8th Doctor take them on. Not a lot was new in this story and I would describe the script-writing as competent rather than inspired, but it was slickly done, and I was particularly pleased by the casting of Josette Simon, a favourite actress of mine. Dan Starkey has now played so many Sontarans I am sure he could do it in his sleep. Best of all was the integration of the plot into the ongoing story of the 8th Doctor's involvement in the Time War.
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Reviewed By: adamelijahReview Date: 8/14/16 11:32 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

Just like in the finale of the first set of the Diary of River Song, this story takes the Eighth Doctor into the heart of the Time War where a Time Lord battle has plunged a planet into a constant state of war. He's given a chance to help the mother of two POWs make her away to the enemy capitol to make peace with their rivals so they can unite against the Sontarans. However, their efforts are frustrated by the ongoing war and the arrival of the Sontaran Jask who has been sentenced to exile by his commanding general.

The story is a good vehicle for McGann who does a good job as this older war weary Eighth Doctor, trying to stop the utter madness of the Time Warrior to no avail. This episode does a great job tying into and capturing the feeling of Night of the Doctor.

At the same time, Jask is well-written. Throughout the first two thirds of the story, he's the seeming main villain of the piece, but the character is more complex than that, and his sense of honor leads to a surprising twist. Overall, a tantalizing look at the Eighth Doctor in the Time War.
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Reviewed By: kfb2014Review Date: 8/9/16 7:44 pm
2 out of 3 found this review helpful.

So onto our final story, with No.8 and the Sontaran's. Not necessarily a new villain, or indeed a villain at all. I find that easy laid back McGann style instant entertainment, and shows off Pauls skill at playing the part, as it is probably the most effortless of all the Doctors, and that is not taking anything away from all the other Doctors that are on this release. This is tale around the period of the Time Wars, and with a stranded and very unlikely peoples champion lost on a war torn planet, the Doctor soon steps into a rather interesting predicament, with a Sontaran who has been forced to the planet as part of his "Ordeal", however, he is never going to turn the opportunity down of bringing triumph to his race even if he has been shunned by a rather unpleasant and ultimately corrupt senior Sontaran whose ploy to get involved in battle, is more to do with satisfying his own self indulgences, it is not until the end that Jask is not aware of this and the Doctor misgivings of all that is going on. If nothing else this could well have been a episode that would have suited a full No.8 release, as opposed to what feel to me like a bridged release format. McGann is perfection, Starkey is superb, and special mention to Josette Simon as the people champion, champion. Inspired and here is hoping for a Volume 2 next year