Tony Chooses a side on the Sontarans.
The Sontarans are a species cloned by the billion and bred for war, yet when they’ve been seen on screen, the choice of stories they’ve inhabited has been peculiar to say the least: a lone Sontaran trapped on a primitive planet; a Sontaran scientist torturing people to find out their strengths and weaknesses, a Sontaran invasion of Gallifrey by proxy which turns into a runaround of Tardis corridors; two Sontarans in search of a Time Lord’s biology; a full-on Sontaran invasion/clone-world plot, with battles; a ‘good’ Sontaran fights for right and then becomes butler to a Silurian.
Of them all, while it would be idiotically churlish to dismiss the wonder that is The Time Warrior, only The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky comes anywhere close to really showing the potential of the Sontarans, and with the incoming of a new showrunner if not exactly imminent, then at least announced, the time seems right to plant some seeds of stories we’ve never seen before that could bring the Sontarans in from the out and out comedy cold in which they’re currently languishing.
The Doctor and his companion arrive on the planet Valkoria, a world besieged by alien attackers the Geltrese, who bombard the planet from orbit, then send shock troops to slaughter survivors. They take no prisoners, issue no demands. They simply kill and go, only to return again to smash the cities of Valkoria to blood-soaked ruin.
The Valkorians are a peaceful race, but desperation is forcing them to countenance solutions they’ve never imagined would be necessary.
The Doctor offers his help to negotiate with the Geltrese, to find out what they want and so avoid more bloodshed. But the Tardis crew are not the only aliens offering to help the Valkorians. A genetic scientist from a distant world, Dr Sontris, is developing genetic alterations to the Valkorian biology that help them withstand the bombardment, that speed up their response times, allowing them to outfight the Geltrese shock troops. Only by showing they cannot be so easily defeated and conquered, he argues, can the Valkorians hope to survive. The Doctor, seeing that the Valkorian rulers agree to have their species’ genetic template altered, works with Sontris to solve a fundamental problem – the overlaying of a full genetic template on Volkarian biology, to make them able to resist the invasion. His companion meanwhile, at a loss while the Doctor does his scientific thing, uncovers some secret files. Sontris has a plan, and the support of some in the Valkorian government, to develop not defensive genetic hardening, but the ultimate genetic weapon. He intends to tamper with his own genetic profile, to make it harder, and faster, and more deadly, to reproduce this manifestation of himself through artificially grown clone bodies, and use them to wipe the Geltrese from the skies.
As the Doctor and Sontris make the crucial breakthrough, she runs in to tell the Doctor what Sontris is really up to. Too late, the Doctor realises that Sontris doesn’t want to overlay a template on Volkarian biology, but on clean clone hosts. Sontris feeds the new breakthrough data into a control net, and in warehouses and factories around the planet, line after line after line of clone bodies jerk awake, take up arms, and swarm out onto the planet. The Sontarans are born and the Doctor faces a dark night of the soul, knowing they will exterminate the Volkarians easily, then turn their attention to the Geltrese. With little time left before the newly hatched Sontaran species take over the planet, the Doctor finds he’s able to do little to stop their march – the best he can do is introduce a chronic rate of energy depletion into their otherwise unstoppable make-up, meaning they need to take in nourishment through their original umbilical-holes or probic vents. While he has played a part in the original hatching of the Sontarans, and the slaughter they will unleash on the galaxy, he’s also ensured they have a signature weakness that will be responsible for many defeats.
The Equality of War
The Doctor and his companion land on a barren planet, and while exploring, are captured by a squad of Sontarans. When their leader does the classic helmet-lift though, one thing is immediately obvious – this is a squad of female Sontarans.
Annnnd cue titles, and the bursting of fan blood vessels.
The squad are on the run from several separate extermination squads, the result of an apparent ‘error’ in the cloning process. Many of them have already been hunted down and killed, but this batch have proved themselves able to out-think and outfight their Sontaran pursuers. They have two goals. Not to get killed, and to steal some cloning technology so they can have the right to reproduce and prosper, away from the rest of Sontarankind. They do not seek war with the Rutans or with anyone, but once endangered or threatened, they are utterly without mercy, in a way their Sontaran pursuers cannot fathom. The Equality of War becomes the ultimate heist as the Doctor and his companion help the squad, led by Leader (not General) Kleng, break into the heart of the Sontaran cloning factory and walk out again with the cloning technology. It also becomes a grand game of war, as Marshall Valk, in charge of this clone world, becomes aware of their incursion and tries to outwit their attempts at thievery and slaughter them before they can make it off world, and the shame of the existence of female Sontarans is traced back to his clone-world.
The squad fight and deceive their way in and out of the complex, getting the cloning tech, and the Doctor agrees to resettle them on a planet with prospects. At the last moment, Strake, Kleng’s second-in-command, tempted by the potential of time travel, takes the Doctor’s companion prisoner, threatening their life unless the Doctor surrenders the Tardis to them. Kleng bargains with her deputy, then in an unguarded moment, shoots her dead. They are not Sontarans, she explains. They will not fall to Sontaran habits of greed and betrayal. What they will become, she cannot tell, but they are friends to the wandering Time Lord and his friends.
The Doctor arrives on the planet Mercy, in a shanty town. The people are scared of the lightning in the water. Then a squad of Sontarans arrive, to engage the Rutan squadron that have arrived on Mercy to ‘sterilise’ the planet and build a giant listening post to spy on Sontaran troop movements.
The two warring species clash, with the inhabitants of Mercy in the middle. The Doctor tries to talk sense to each side, but the war obliterates most of the Rutans and many of the Sontarans. The Sontaran Squadron Leader, Klaarg and his second in command, hatch a plan to neutralise all the remaining Rutans with a fragmentation grenade, taking out the locals at the same time. The Doctor pleads with them to consider the fate of the non-combatants, but Klaarg pushes on. Ultimately, Klaarg’s second in command, swayed by the Doctor’s words, has a change of heart and stands as the non-combatants’ protector. He goes against the Sontaran chain of command, and with help from the Doctor and the locals, takes out the Rutans. Then he faces his leader, claiming there is no reason to detonate the grenade. The second in command is a traitor to Sontarankind, and Klaarg attempts to execute him. But the second in command takes him by surprise and kills him first. Only then does the second in command remove his helmet, revealing himself to be Strax. Strax is distraught, both at the sense of his own treachery and the potential consequences of it. He intends to obliterate himself immediately, but the Doctor gives him a mission of penance instead – to go and be a battlefield nurse until the Doctor himself relieves him of his penitence. Some of the Mercians achieve the unthinkable – surviving a clash between the Sontarans and the Rutans, and it’s all down to the actions of a lone Sontaran traitor.
Which gives the Doctor an idea…
The Devil’s Experts
Finally, after decades of waiting, we find ourselves right in the middle of the Sontaran-Rutan War. Why? Because the Doctor has had enough. After plenty of visually stunning space battle action, he rigs a giant energy field in space that reflects aggression – he who makes the first move dies. And then the next, and the next. Moving to kill your opponent kills only you, forcing silence and stalemate on the two great warmonger species. Meanwhile, he kidnaps the commanders of each side and beams them to a planet right in the middle of their warzone. And there he tries to get them to see the futility of their war, which neither of them have ever considered because neither species values the other, nor anyone caught in their way. The Doctor argues that they both skip the step of nurturing young – the Sontarans are hatched fully ready for battle, the Rutans achieve consciousness only when they’re mature and ready for war. Neither species has a concept of nurture, of the young, of innocence. He calls them the Devil’s Experts, perfected only in the art of destruction, for whom war has become too easy.
Unlike the Zygons, the leaders of these warrior-species cannot see his point, seeing value only in war and the destruction of each other. The Doctor tells them that peace is their only chance. If they insist on the doctrines of war, then he will declare war on them both, will wipe every last one of their species from history, because that’s the point of war – it only works if there isn’t somebody bigger, and harder, and better at it than you are. It only works if it’s winnable. With the history of their species at stake, the Sontaran and the Rutan begin to negotiate.
Spool forward. A different Sontaran, a different Rutan, the same room. The same argument. Spool forward. A different Sontaran, a different Rutan, the same room, the same argument. The Doctor knows that one Sontaran and one Rutan among billions are not enough to make a peace between the two species. He’s doing it one by one, going through each battleship, re-running the scenario time and time again, because time is the one thing he has on his side. Eventually, what he has is a joint Sontaran-Rutan Peace Force, along the borders of the aggression reflection field. The vast majority of their races are still at war, but the Doctor only leaves when he believes he has enough of these old enemies working together to begin to act as an example, and to begin to tip the balance.
The Imperial Curse
The Sontarans have an empire. That means they have an emperor. The Doctor arrives on Sontar by accident and immediately finds the Tardis impounded and taken to Sontaran Emperor Jask. But the Emperor is not the Sontaran he once was. Aged 15, he is far older than any Sontaran dreams of being, and he suffers from the imperial curse – doubt. He has spent too long in power, ordering legions to their deaths without ever feeling the risk of death himself. He is – he was cloned to be – a politician, rather than a warrior. When he meets the Doctor, his doubts increase. He has encountered the Sontaran-Rutan Peace Force, he has heard rumours of the female Sontarans, and the Doctor encourages him to doubt, because doubt is the way to evolve beyond a rigid mindset, to make the Sontarans more than they’ve ever been. Unfortunately, Marshall Zek, who first impounded the Tardis, has power on his mind. The Imperial Curse plays out as part I, Claudius, part Daleks Take Manhattan, as the Emperor begins to contemplate changing the destiny of the Sontarans, ordering secret modifications to every cloning plant on every clone world, to allow the Sontarans to doubt. He sends the order out, as Zek storms the Emperor’s Fort (palaces are not very Sontaran). The Doctor and Zek have a stand-off, the Doctor offering his life in Jask’s place. During the standoff, Jask groans, topples from his war-throne. With the Doctor distracted, Zek shoots the dying Emperor. One does not become the Emperor of Sontar by waiting for one’s predecessor to die a peaceful death. Zek assumes command and countermands the order.
Fade out on a shot of Zek on the throne, fade in the sound of Sontarans cheering their new emperor. Fade out the sound, replace with the sound of a beating. Fade in – The Doctor being tortured by Sontaran specialists to give them the secrets of time travel. They stop punching and drop a gravity-bar on him, then turn up the dial. There are sounds of weapons fire, and a squad burst in and shoot the torturers. Some of the Doubting Sontarans were cloned before the order was countermanded. They have joined with the Peace Force and the female Sontarans to launch a full scale attack on Sontar. They take the Doctor to the Tardis and he begs the chance to help them, to protect them at least. Slarn, the leader of the Doubting Sontarans, tells him to leave Sontar. The ensuing Sontaran Civil War is for Sontarans to fight, he says, not Time Lords.
As the Tardis takes off, we end on a scene of pitched battles in the streets and skies of Sontar. The Sontaran Civil War has begun.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk