As the first appearance of the Sontarans in Big Finish, its perhaps a bit unexpected that they’d be introduced via a play that, let’s be honest, isn’t taking itself that seriously. A lot of this play is played firmly for laughs, with the Sontarans themselves a source of much of the comedy (and the actors involved really give it their all, and are clearly having a lot of fun). Of course, with so many returning monsters that are played up as the ultimate menaces they are, this does give a nice, fresh feel to the play. Unlike the earlier 5th Doctor comedic release, Castle of Fear, the humour really hit the mark for me on this one, and I was frequently laughing away to myself or sitting with a big grin on my face at the antics of the Sontarans.
One thing I found particularly interesting was that in a previous Big Finish podcast, it had been mentioned that the actors were being told to focus more on the classic series Sontaran stories, as that was the portrayal Big Finish wanted to capture more than how they appeared in the new series. On this count, I can say the play didn’t really work, as the Sontarans far more brought to mind their blue-suited incarnation with their singing and the jokes at the expense of their height. However, I don’t really see this as a bad thing since, for me, those aspects really built on what made the Sontarans really stick in people’s minds (especially the war chants highlighting their militaristic natures), and as with the new series, its a take I found very effective here.
Which is not to say its all laughs in this play (although it mainly is). Nyssa and Tegan get some nice moments after Nyssa is infected by the plague that killed the population and is facing her own death. The twist of bringing Nyssa back from a point after the character left the TV show is also highly effective for raising the tension. Unlike Tegan and Turlough, we don’t necessarily know what is going to happen to Nyssa, and so that adds an element of danger that normally doesn’t exist with the companions from the TV series.
So to sum up, this is a release that I’d definitely recommend. If you prefer your Big Finish plays to be more serious, then admittedly this one probably isn’t for you, but for myself, I had a blast listening to the various misadventures of the TARDIS crew and the team of unlikely Sontaran troops.