The Poison Sky
The Doctor: They’ll be getting ready for war, and, well, you know, I recalibrated this to Sontaran air.
Episode star rating:** (out of a possible five)
I can imagine the “shopping list” that RTD provided for Helen Raynor.
1. Return of Martha.
2. Return of UNIT.
3. Return of Sontarans.
4. Some satire on technology?
Mobile phones? No, done that. Twice.
Catalytic Converter AND Satnav. Yes!
5. Some sort of spectacular resolution to the problem of this technology.
6. Some sort of spectacular resolution to the problem of the Sontaran ship.
1 to 5 were included successfully, but 6 was just reusing the clever idea of 5 again.
I get why the Sontarans were keen to stop the missiles – they may have ignited the volatile ATMOS gas, as explained by the Doctor.
But what is “Sontaran air?” They don’t appear to need a supply of it when they are down on Earth. Is is particularly volatile?
A review of the whole story episodes 4.4 & 4.5 will appear soon…
Update May 4th, 2008: Review of 4.4 & 4.5, The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky
Two-parter star rating:** (out of a possible five)
To begin to go through that imagined shopping list (mentioned above in the Review of 4.5) in more detail, looking at the two-parter as a whole: the return of Martha. Martha’s scenes in part two thankfully gave her more to do than the previous part, and I quite liked her literally “having a word with herself” in an introspective scene. The Doctor/Martha relationship was again cleverly contrasted by the Doctor and Donna against their relationship with the amusing offering-of-the-key scene (a contrast to a similar scene in the episode 42.)
In part two, Colonel Mace gave UNIT some dignity back after their buffoonish antics in part one, and I enjoyed the reappearance of the Valiant from U/TSOD/LOTTL. It demonstrated that Nu-Who can have fun with recent continuity, and it doesn’t need to be all Macra and Rutans.
Third on the imagined shopping list – the Sontarans. Christopher Ryan’s General Staal really was the star of this two-parter. The Sontarans’ return was a nice combination of jokey references to previous Sontaran lore, and using that lore as a starting point to provide some intriguing ideas like the planned “clone world” revealed in part two.
Talking of references, there is one story that Helen Raynor seems very keen to reference. Twice now, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. First in Torchwood: Ghost Machine, with the spooky WWII kid, and now with the gas masked Doctor’s metaquip of the catchphrase. This two-parter has begun the comparisons with that two-parter, and I will continue. What makes a two-parter great?
One of the reasons TEC/TDD is such a great two-parter is the cliffhanger with its ingenious and left-field resolution from the Doctor: “Go to your room!” That the Doctor looks an idiot as someone else provides the obvious resolution in TSS/TPS is less satisfying. TEC/TDD also provides a wonderful resolution to the mystery of how the Doctor will save the day, with an enjoyable nod to actual science. TSS/TPS has a similar scene (to return to the imagined shopping list, number 5) in that the volatile ATMOS gas and Atmospheric Converter are culmination of various plot elements with a nod to known science. A great scene.
However, on the imagined shopping list, number 6, the resolution of the problem of the Sontaran ship, this is a disappointing repetition of the same device, this time with the previously unmentioned “Sontaran air”, which lessens the enjoyment from the carefully crafted previous scene.
So, although this two-parter had many wonderful character moments, these moments were overshadowed by various unsatisfying plot contrivances.