For the Glory of the Sontaran Empire
Well, Doctor Who's 50th anniversary is nigh, and naturally, everyone wants a piece of the action. All 2013 long, IDW has been releasing a special issue featuring an adventure of each Doctor. So far, I've greatly enjoyed the Maxi-Series. I've been intrigued by the over-arching story but also enjoyed seeing the different Doctors and companions being showcased. Today, we look at last month's entry with, in my opinion, one of the more underrated Doctors of the series.
The 5th Doctor, as portrayed by Peter Davison, while excellent, never quite gained the notoriety that the likes of Tom Baker or Jon Pertwee did, which is unfortunate because there is a lot to love about good ol' number 5. Whether it's his unique attire, complete with a celery stick on his lapel, or warm and friendly wit and charm, it's easy to see why 10th Doctor, David Tennant considered him to be his personal favorite Doctor.
Our story opens with something the Maxi-Series has not yet shown us, a closer look at our main big bad. We still don't quite know who he is, but we do know that he's been systematically kidnapping the Doctor's companions out of time, he clearly has some sort of grudge against him, and each time he encounters the Doctor, he wipes his memory to keep him ignorant to his grand scheme.
Our story begins proper with The TARDIS landing on a mostly barren planet along with his companions, Tegan, Nyssa and *sigh* Adric. Apparently there's a Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey thing on this planet that the Doctor needs to use to recharge the TARDIS. Unfortunately, this planet happens to be a warzone for the millenia long war between the Sontarans and The Rutans, and the Doctor and the gang have landed smack dab in the middle of Rutan territory. The Rutan's believe The group to be allied with the Sontarans despite the Doctor's pleas to the contrary. They run for it, and are saved by a battalion of Sontarans, who despite their past differences, recognize The Doctor as a gifted Strategist and ask for aid in their war plans. The Doctor, known for his disdain for violence, particularly in his 5th incarnation, suggests that the Sontarans retreat to recover from their heavy losses, but the Sontarans reject that idea in favor of a full frontal assault, knowing full well that they'll all be wiped out.
As Team Doctor makes it back to the TARDIS, they watch in horror as The Sontarans are all wiped out. Amidst the slaughter, *grumble* Adric asks why they would throw their lives away for a worthless cause. The Doctor responds by recounting the tale of The Frog and The Scorpion. In the story, a Scorpion asks a Frog for a ride across a river. The frog refuses, fearful that the scorpion will sting him. The scorpion promises not to sting the frog and the frog gives it a ride. Half way across, the scorpion stings the frog, causing them both to drown. When the frog asked why, the scorpion replies by saying, "I can't help it, it's my nature." As the Doctor finishes his story, the mysterious villain from the opening kidnapping Tegan, Nyssa and *groan* Adric, comparing the Doctor's own nature to that of the scorpion. The final scene shows that the Doctor now remembers the previous times that this has happened.
This is a pretty solid tale. It is always nice to see both the Sontarans and The Rutans in action. In the series, the Rutans only had one appearance in what was a very well made episode, The Horror of Fang Rock. However, that was only one Rutan acting independently, this is the first time we've seen them in force, and they're very impressive and quite threatening. The Sontarans are also utilized fairly well here. While I'll always be partial to The Daleks and The Master, The Sontarans still rank among my favorite villains in the grand history of Doctor Who, and seeing them in their natural element is always a treat. The story advancements that bookend the story are well done, revealing enough to get our attention, but withholding enough to maintain mystery. I myself have a theory as to who he really is, but I'll keep it to myself for now because it's too early to tell and my guess would also contradict a Fifth Doctor audio-drama from Big Finish.
The story feels very short, and while the 5th Doctor gets to shine, the companions feel underutilized to the point of being completely inconsequential. In the previous issues, the companions have played integral roles, which makes it all the more unsettling when they get taken away at the end. However, here they pretty much have nothing to do.
A tough call, but I think ultimately the good of this issue outweighs the bad and sets up intrigue for the rest of the story.