The Sontarans are a fictional extraterrestrial race from the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, and also seen in spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures. They were created by writer Robert Holmes.
The Sontarans are a race of humanoids with a stocky build, greenish brown skin, and a distinctive dome-shaped head. Ross Jenkins in The Sontaran Stratagem describes a Sontaran as resembling "a talking baked potato" but The Doctor sticks up for the Sontarans by saying to them he looks like a pink weasel. Sontarans come from a large, dense planet named Sontar in the "southern spiral arm of the galaxy" which has a very strong gravitational field, which explains their compact stocky form. They also are far stronger than humans.
Although physically formidable, the Sontarans' weak spot is the "probic vent" at the back of their neck, through which they draw nutrition. It is also part of their cloning process. They have been killed by targeting that location with a knife (The Invasion of Time), a screwdriver ("Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans"), and an arrow (The Time Warrior). Even something as simple as a squash ball aimed at that point is capable of incapacitating them temporarily (The Sontaran Stratagem). They are also vulnerable to "coronic acid" (The Two Doctors).
In the episode The Poison Sky, it is revealed that the Sontaran society revolves around the Sontaran Empire, and that they have been at war with the Rutan Host for more than 50,000 years, and which, at a time around 2008, they are losing. However, the war is still raging at least 20,000 years later, in the serial The Sontaran Experiment.
The Sontarans have a highly militaristic culture; every aspect of their society is geared toward warfare, and every experience is viewed in terms of its martial relevance. In The Sontaran Experiment, the Fourth Doctor comments that "Sontarans never do anything without a military reason." Aside from a ritualistic chant (shouting the phrase "SONTAR-HA!" repeatedly while slapping their right fist into their left palm) in "The Sontaran Strategem"/"The Poison Sky", they are never seen to engage in any activity that would be considered recreation, though a few offhand comments by Commander Skorr in "The Poison Sky" suggest they do consider hunting a sport (according to their creator Robert Holmes, Sontarans do have a highly developed artistic culture, but have put it on hold for the duration of the war, while the opening chapter of the novelization of The Time Warrior, based on Holmes' incomplete draft, refers to Linx listening to the Sontaran anthem while his spaceship is in flight). The Sontarans depicted in the series have detached, smug personalities, and a highly developed sense of honour; on multiple occasions, the Doctor has used his knowledge of their pride in their species to manipulate them. However, in "The Sontaran Stratagem", the Doctor nevertheless referred to them as "the finest soldiers in the galaxy".
All the Sontarans depicted in the television series have monosyllabic names, many beginning with an initial 'st' sound (e.g., Styre in The Sontaran Experiment, Stor in The Invasion of Time, Stike in The Two Doctors, and Staal in The Sontaran Stratagem); exceptions are Linx in The Time Warrior, Varl in The Two Doctors and Skorr in The Sontaran Stratagem, and Kaagh in the Sarah Jane Smith story The Last Sontaran. Subdivisions of the Sontaran military structure mentioned in the series include the Sontaran G3 Military Assessment Survey and the Grand Strategic Council, the Ninth Sontaran Battle Group, the Fifth Army Space Fleet of the Sontaran Army Space Corps, and the Tenth Sontaran Battle Fleet. Military titles include Commander, Group Marshal, Field Major, and General. Agnomens include "the Undefeated", "the Bloodbringer", "the Avenger" and "The Slayer".
The Sontarans reproduce by means of cloning rather than sexual reproduction, and thus for the most part are extremely similar in appearance. Human characters in both The Sontaran Experiment and The Sontaran Stratagem comment on how closely individual Sontarans resemble one another; however, it should be noted that their height, skin tone, facial features, vocal timbre and accent, hair, spacing of teeth and even number of fingers have varied from story to story, and sometimes within stories. When asked how they can tell each other apart in The Sontaran Stratagem, General Staal remarks that they say the same of humans.
In The Time Warrior, Linx states that "at the Sontaran Military Academy we have hatchings of a million cadets at each muster parade." The Doctor also comments in The Invasion of Time that Sontarans can mass-clone themselves at rates up to a million embryos every four minutes. Thereafter the clones take just ten minutes to grow to adulthood.
Sontarans reproduce asexually and all the Sontarans depicted in the television series are of one gender (male). General Staal comments that "words are the weapons of womenfolk" and that the clone of Martha Jones performed well "for a female" as opinions on the sexuality inequalities in other species. This typifies a Sontaran trait: interested only in the strongest fighters in any group or race. In The Time Warrior, when Linx examines Sarah Jane, he comments on how the Human reproduction system is 'inefficient' and that Humans 'should change it', perhaps hinting that Sontarans once reproduced sexually before moving on to cloning.
In The Sontaran Stratagem, the Sontarans are seen to create human clones by growing them in tubs of green fluid. Enemy of the Bane confirms that Sontarans are cloned in the same way. In a Human clone, the umbilical corresponds to the probic vent on the back of a Sontaran's neck, suggesting that the vent is not unlike the human belly button, though clearly more complex.
In both the classic and new series, Sontarans are depicted using spherical or semi-spherical single-occupant spacecraft. The Invasion of Time introduced a red carrier ship which could be briefly seen on the TARDIS scanner in episode 5. The Sontaran Stratagem also saw the introduction of a large mothership from which the small Sontaran spheres could be seen to originate. The Doctor notes that the one ship by itself is enough to completely wipe out Earth.
The Sontarans have a variety of weapons. Their trade-mark weapon is a small rod with two handles and a plunger at one end, giving it a syringe style. But this is so it can be held and fired using three fingers. This weapon has appeared in every Sontaran story except The Sontaran Experiment and The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky. When first used by Commander Linx in The Time Warrior, it shows the ability to fire a beam which can disarm by knocking the weapon out of the wielder's hand, hypnotise, as well as cutting through wood and killing.
In The Sontaran Experiment, Field Major Styre instead used a small red laser pistol which only killed (although it did not kill the Doctor, because of a small metal plate the Doctor had been keeping in his inside pocket). The Invasion of Time saw Commander Stor using the small rod again, but also in episode six, a Sontaran trooper uses a short black rifle-like laser to try and burn through a lock on a door inside the TARDIS. The Two Doctors introduced a weapon called the Meson Gun (as named in the Jim'll Fix It Sketch, A Fix with Sontarans), a large silver rifle with a red fuel tank in the centre which was used by Group Marshal Stike and Varl in the third episode. It seemed to be some kind of flame-thrower as it fired a jet of flames very briefly. Group Marhsal Stike was also seen carrying a baton.
It would not be until The Sontaran Stratagem that General Staal would show that the baton can fire an orange beam that could stun the target. In The Poison Sky, Commander Skorr and his troops carry large laser rifles into battle. In The Invasion of Time, their armour is shown to be resistant to Time Lord stasers and K-9's blaster. However, their armour is vulnerable to standard human firearms in "The Poison Sky", but the Sontarans in that episode used a 'cordolane signal' which caused the copper-lined bullets to expand, jamming most firearms instantly. UNIT troops overcame this by switching to steel-lined bullets.
The Sarah Jane Adventures story The Last Sontaran showed further technological advancements of the modern Sontarans. Commander Kaagh, a surviving pilot from the tenth Sontaran battle fleet, had slightly different armour due to being from the special forces. His suit featured no gloves, so his bare hands were visible. And on his left arm was a control panel for his suit and ship.
Rather than removing his helmet manually, it could fold up and retract. His suit and ship also featured cloaking devices, turning them both invisible. While the soldiers of the tenth fleet were armed with large laser rifles, Kaagh has a smaller laser carbine. Rather than hypnotising Humans (as Sarah pointed out they usually do), instead, Kaagh fixed neural control devices to the back of the necks of his Human agents. A red light flashes when it is operational, and Kaagh can activate and deactivate them when he wants with his control panel.
The Sontarans made their first appearance in 1973 in the serial The Time Warrior by Robert Holmes, where a Sontaran named Linx is stranded in the Middle Ages. Another Sontaran named Styre appears in The Sontaran Experiment, experimenting on captured astronauts on a future Earth. They later appear in The Invasion of Time, where they successfully invade Gallifrey, but are driven out again after less than a day. They appear for the final time in the original series in The Two Doctors. The Sontarans also appeared in a skit for the BBC children's programme Jim'll Fix It titled "A Fix with Sontarans", along with Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor and Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka.
Though the two species are never seen together, several references are made to the Rutan Host, an equally militaristic race with whom the Sontarans have been at war for more than 50,000 years ("The Poison Sky"). As both cultures live for war, neither side is interested in ending the bloodshed, only victory. Their war is still ongoing at the time of the earlier serial The Sontaran Experiment, which takes place at least 10,000 years beyond the 30th century. The serial Horror of Fang Rock, set during the early 20th century, hinted that the Sontarans had gained the upper hand, but this proved merely a temporary setback for the Rutans; "The Poison Sky", set during the early 21st century, hinted that the Rutans were winning at that point.
The Sontarans make their return in the revived series in the episodes "The Sontaran Strategem" and "The Poison Sky". The Sontaran design was revamped for the new series, though not to a great extent. In the episode, the Sontarans attempt to convert Earth into a breeding world for their clones; a planet the size of Earth would be able to clone millions at a time. It is suggested that their war with the Rutan Host is going badly at this point, hence the need for reinforcements. It is also revealed that they were not allowed to participate in the Time War. The Tenth Doctor is able to stop their plan and destroy their ship.
In "The Stolen Earth", It is revealed that UNIT has been experimenting with Sontaran teleportation technology in what they call Project Indigo.
Sarah Jane AdventuresEdit
They are mentioned in Eye of the Gorgon, an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures. Sarah Jane Smith meets Bea Nelson-Stanley, an elderly lady suffering from Alzheimer's disease who recalls her husband describing the Sontarans as looking like potatoes and that they were "quite the silliest creatures in the galaxy".
A Sontaran named Kaagh the Slayer, of the 10th Sontaran Fleet, made his appearance in the second series of the spin-off show in episodes 1 and 2, The Last Sontaran. Later in 2008, Kaagh reappears alongside Nicholas Courtney as Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart in episodes 11 and 12, Enemy of the Bane. The Sontaran Empire has ostrasized him for his failures and the failures of the Tenth Sontaran Battle Fleet, and he is forced to work as a mercenary for the alien Bane and later colludes with their renegade Mrs Wormwood to unleash the ancient entity Horath. After she betrays him, he seeks to take his life, but denied that opportunity he tackles her into Horath's vortex and they are both lost to it.
The origins of the Sontarans have not been revealed in the television series. The Doctor Who role-playing game published by FASA claimed that they were all descended from the genetic stock of General Sontar (or Sontaris), who used newly developed bioengineering techniques to clone millions of duplicates of himself and annihilated the non-clone population. He renamed the race after himself and turned the Sontarans into an expansionist and warlike society set on universal conquest. However, this origin has no basis in anything seen in the television series.
The Sontarans have also appeared as a character in the PC game Destiny of the Doctors released on 5 December, 1997, by BBC Multimedia. They can be defeated by firing the occupants of an angry beehive at them.
Other appearances by the Sontarans include the spin-off videos Mindgame, Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans and Do You Have A License To Save This Planet?; three audio plays by BBV: Silent Warrior, Old Soldiers and Conduct Unbecoming; the Faction Paradox audio The Shadow Play; and a cameo appearance in Infidel's Comet. Shakedown marks the only occasion in which the Sontarans and their Rutan foes appear on screen together, and was adapted into a Virgin New Adventures novel.
They have also appeared in several spin-off novels, including Lords of the Storm by David A. McIntee and The Infinity Doctors by Lance Parkin. In The Infinity Doctors, the Doctor negotiated a peace between the Sontarans and the Rutan Host when two of them were left trapped in a TARDIS for several hours and got to talking due to their inability to kill each other. General Sontar also made an appearance in that novel. In The Crystal Bucephalus by Craig Hinton, the name of their planet was given as Sontara.
They appear in 2009, in the novella The Sontaran Games by Jacqueline Rayner, featuring the Tenth Doctor and are due to appear later in the year in the New Series Adventures (Doctor Who) book The Taking of Chelsea 426 by David Llewellyn, featuring the Tenth Doctor
In 2008, as part of Character options first series 4 2008 wave of action figures, they released some Sontaran action figures. These include General Staal, Commander Skorr and several Sontaran soldiers.
The Sontarans have also appeared several times in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip, both as adversaries of the Doctor and in strips not involving the Doctor. In The Outsider (DWM #25-26), by Steve Moore and David Lloyd, a Sontaran named Skrant invaded the world of Brahtilis with the unwitting help of Demimon, a local astrologer. The Fourth Doctor faced the Sontarans in Dragon's Claw (DWM #39-#45), by Steve Moore and Dave Gibbons, where a crew of Sontarans menaced China in 1522 AD.
In Steven Moffat's short story "What I Did on My Christmas Holidays by Sally Sparrow" (the basis for the Tenth Doctor episode "Blink"), the Ninth Doctor has a rooftop sword fight with two Sontarans in 21st century Istanbul, defeating them with the help of spy Sally Sparrow, apparently before the events of "Rose" in his personal timeline.
The Sontaran homeworld was destroyed in Seventh Doctor strip Pureblood (DWM #193-196) but the Sontaran race pool survived, allowing for further cloning; the strip introduced the concept of "pureblood" Sontarans not born of cloning. The Sontarans also feature in the Kroton solo strip Unnatural Born Killers (DWM #277) and the Tenth Doctor's comic strip debut The Betrothal of Sontar (DWM #365-#368), by John Tomlinson and Nick Abadzis, where a Sontaran mining rig on the ice planet Serac comes under attack by a mysterious force.
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