What's it about: Dowcra base. The third Elite Sontaran Assassination Squad closes in on its target. A dozen trained killers, but even they will be unable to bring down the invincible Strang… Manipulated by the Time Lords, the TARDIS also arrives on Dowcra. And the Doctor is set to encounter the greatest Sontaran ever cloned...
Teeth and Curls: 'A machine warping space time? That's practically my bread and butter!' The Doctor complains about the Time Lords' continual interference in his life but accepts that they must have sent him to Dowcra for some good reason. It makes more sense to surrender to the inevitable than to fight them, after all they would probably just drag him back again. He doesn't like being an odd job man who gets called in whenever necessary. As you can imagine he is utterly facetious in the face of the Sontarans, not giving a damn that he is in danger of a good throttling when he can get a good jibe in at them. What's interesting about the Doctor here is that how badly he surrenders to stereotypes, thinking that the scientist Rostaro will be reasonable when it comes to the terrifying prospect of handing the Sontarans matter transportation technology on such a scale (he isn't) and that Strang is your typically bullyboy Sontaran warrior that can be felled by a blow to the probic vent (he isn't). I like it when the Doctor pigeonholes people like this and gets it wrong, it makes him a more realistic, flawed character. The Doctor resorting to attacking a Sontaran with a pipe is uncharacteristic but I have never objected to him using violence when needs must (it is a real sit up and pay attention moment too). It's a very rounded interpretation of the fourth Doctor, where he gets to be silly and insulting (especially when face to face with Strang) but also gravely serious when the situation requires it (his reaction to the news that Sontar is in the firing line was excellent).
Standout Performance: David Collings has turned up in many a Big Finish audio (from the Unbound range to Sapphire and Steel) but he is one of those actors like David Warner who you know is going to give an outstanding performance no matter what role they hand him. His turn as the tortured, morally ambiguous scientist Rosato is one that he can really get his teeth into, teetering on the edge of being both an ally and enemy of the Doctor's with the audience not sure which way he is going to jump. It's a choice between his principles and scientific glory, and that's a dilemma that Collings brings to light with some aplomb.
Sparkling Dialogue: 'Everyone tries to kill me Rosato, given time. If I held that as a bar to collaboration I would never do business with anyone.'
'He's just about to murder me in cold blood. You know how it is.'
'Who are you learning from, Leela. me or the evil out there in the universe?'
'You wish me to leave the TARDIS?'
Audio Landscape: Extreme gunfire from lasers, alarms, sensors, screams, falling from a gantry, explosion, dripping water, a Sontaran being shot down at close quarters, guns cocking, the Trell voice, steel on steel, the Doctor and Leela being throttled.
Isn't it Odd: Leela didn't quite kill an entire species in the first series of 4DAs but she was certainly quite handy in a scrape and the Doctor didn't seem as fussed as he is here. Whilst I prefer his reaction here and the consequences for their relationship it certainly does seem that he seems to have forgotten the trail of corpses she has left in their travels through the universe previously.
Standout Scene: Leela's decision at the climax seems to be an important turning point between her and the Doctor. She sees no problem with destroying Strang's clones and preventing his evil from spreading into the universe. The Doctor on the other hand wanted the chance to try and rehabilitate them. Having the decision taken out of his hand by his bloodthirsty (or you could say moralistic) companion is not one that goes down at all well. The quiet tension that brews between them in the last scene really made me sit up and pay attention in a way that I hadn't to date with the 4DAs. The Doctor is appalled by her actions and asks her outright if she thinks he has been taking her on a tour of the universe to try and teach her to be a better killer. He sets the co-ordinates for her home planet and is ready to part company. In his mind she does not understand the consequences of her actions and she is picking up too many tips from the evils that they face. Leela can see how hurt he is but doesn't know how to make things better. She's apologetic but sticks by her decisions. The last thing she wants to do is to upset the man who she respects above all others. A superb scene, and one that I hope will have ramifications throughout the rest of the season.