Doctor Who (1963) - Season Eleven
Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen
Written by Robert Holmes
Produced by Barry Letts
Directed by Alan Bromly
I said on Monday that the Sontarans are, like the Ice Warriors, an example of an alien species that worked in large part on the strength of the performance, rather than simply the concept itself. I intended that as a tribute to the performance of Kevin Lindsay in this episode, which is wonderful. He'll return next season as two additional Sontarans, because they're all clones.
They're clones, they're at war with some aliens called the Rutans which we've never heard of before, and they can be incapacitated by striking a small "probic vent" located on the back of their spacesuits. That's basically all we know about them, and it isn't a ton. But Robert Holmes worked out a lot more about the Sontarans than ever made it to screen. I imagine that having so much to draw on helped Holmes to write Linx as such a compelling villain, both as an individual and as a representative of a previously unseen alien species. And Holmes script gives Lindsay lots to work with. But I just don't think the Sontarans would have been as popular without Lindsay's contribution. On paper, they're fine, but they aren't really that interesting. But Linx is a terrific character.
Also, I should say something about the marvelous costume design. That's not an area I really have much to say about, normally, but the costume department constructed an outstanding mask for Lindsay to wear. Well, it looks outstanding to us, but apparently it was very uncomfortable to wear, and it was significantly redesigned for Lindsay's return appearance. The costume should also get a lot of credit for making the Sontarans so successful. The mask makes excellent use of the actor's eyes and mouth, which helps to make Linx seem more like a person and less like a monster.
But whenever I watch this story, no matter how much I like it, I can't get over how very small it seems. It feels quite odd to me, as well, possibly because it's so unusual to see Jon Pertwee's Doctor in a historical context, or possibly because there's so much location work, and that gives the bulk of the story a look that doesn't match well with the conetmporary scenes in Part One or with what "Doctor Who" typically looked like in 1973/4.
But it's a fun and enjoyable story, in addition to being noteworthy for the introductions of Sontarans and Sarah Jane Smith.