Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

VerityEpisode41-210Our survey of Doctor Who baddies continues with those kings of the potato people themselves! Join Deb, Erika, Liz, and Tansy as we chat about Sontarans. We all rewatched “The Sontaran Stratagem” and “The Poison Sky” as a jumping-off point for this conversation, but fear not classic Who fans, there’s plenty discussion of their origins and development throughout the series (and even Big Finish)!

What do you think of these (usually) stocky, militaristic foes? Let us know in the comments!

While you’re commenting, please vote! We’re going to try our hands at play-along commenting. Let us know which one of these stories you think we should do. (Or let us know on Twitter using #VerityVotes.)

  • The Gunfighters
  • The Visitation
  • Black Orchid
  • Paradise Towers
  • Father’s Day
  • The Curse of the Black Spot

PLUS, feel free to ask us any Doctor Who-related questions you might have. We’ll start covering those in future Extras! (Again, you can also ask on Twitter, using #AskVerity.)


Also covered:

Bonus links:
The First Sontarans
The Five Companions
The Time Run (full video)

Download or listen now (runtime 1:25:15) 

Comments on: "Verity! Episode 41 – The Legend of Sontar: A Linx to the Past" (36)

  1. Sontar, Ha!

    I thought the “Reveal” of them in The Invasion of Time was amazingly awesome, then and now. “Oh, *they’re* the real threat. Rut roh!”

    My favorite out of this set is probably The Visitation, so I’d love if you did that. But Paradise Towers is just such “what the…” ery that maybe you should tackle it instead.

  2. Gary Schaper said:

    The invitation to pick a story for commentary has finally prompted me to leave a comment (and incidentally, express my appreciation for your very fine podcast and congratulations on the Hugo nomination.)

    I would love hearing the Verity! crew comment on Paradise Towers. Build High For Happiness!

  3. Sontar, Ha!

    I wonder if everyone will start their comments this way…I hope so 😀 Anyway, I’ve commented elsewhere that Heroes of Sontar (Big Finish 146) is my very favorite treatment of the Sontarans, because it manages to respect them as a credible threat, as a militaristic alien race ought to be, even despite featuring some particularly hapless individuals. Also has some cracking good moments for 5 and Turlough, which sells it for me personally. I tend not to love Sontarans as villains, though I like them now more than I used to because of this and some other particularly good stories.

    As for questions about Doctor Who, I’ll throw this one out there for you. The other day, I saw this quote by RTD about the 8th doctor and the loathsome half-human issue:

    “I don’t like the half-human thing. He certainly isn’t half-human, but it’s less interesting to say it simply doesn’t count. I always wanted to put in a line where someone says to the Doctor ‘are you human?’ and the Doctor says ‘no, but I was once in 1999. It was a 24 hour bunk.’ Part of the reason I never put that in was it was a bit too self-referential but also I thought I’m spoiling the TV movie if I do that….In that time, like it or not, the Doctor was half human. Everything in that story says he was half human, so you can’t not count it. I don’t think we can ignore it.”

    My question is this: how would you explain away this issue? Do you think he WAS half-human? Was it a 24-hour bug? Or would you ignore it completely? It is a favorite hobby of mine to come up with convoluted explanations to make such anomalies make sense, so I’m curious to hear what you would come up with!

    In other news, I vote Visitation or Black Orchid. I ♥ 5 (and I also think commentary on these would be most fresh & interesting).

    • I hate the half human thing, but I agree with RTD but it’s less interesting to just say “that doesn’t count.” The 24 bug idea is funny, but I also sort of like the idea that the 8th Doctor is weirdly half human and the others aren’t. Plus of course – he could be completely lying. But what a thing to lie about, and why? (this is where stories come from)

      • My “fan theory” as to why 8th was half-human? I have 2 options:

        1) He can regenerate with different hair, different face, maybe no head (probably a joke line, but he did say it), and even a different gender or skin tone. Since we look like Gallifreyans (or they look like us), it could just be this particular regeneration he got more “Earth human.”


        2) I think this is the only death / regeneration that has someone touching him at the point of the change. And Grace is performing surgery on him! I can’t remember how much we see (it is TV, so I’m sure it wasn’t too graphic), but Grace is very close to his insides. Even with her gloves on, she’s physically in contact with 7 as he passes. So maybe part of her DNA mixed with the Time Lord? So McGann is part-Grace!!!

      • James C said:

        Theory 2 is great Chris. It’s supported a few times onscreen – when someone is about to regenerate, they will tell everyone to ‘stay back!’ Once bitten…

      • Emily said:

        Oh, nice one! I love it! I had always tried to work it in as a clever lie, but it never worked.

  4. Voting for Paradise Towers and Curse of the Black Spot. Hooray!

  5. First off, Liz is always wrong .

    As much fun as it is hearing you get a bit snarky at each other, I find it difficult to enjoy the commentary if I don’t like the show/movie itself, so I vote for Father’s Day (it’s the only option you gave that I can tolerate…lol) [don’t get me wrong, it’s not the worst episode of new Who, but it’s not the strong point of that season, either, but I digress].

    Final note, I love the authenticity you all exude, I giggle every time you squee at something (my co-workers already know I’m weird, it’s ok…lol).

    Anyway, .

  6. boywonder3919 said:

    I’m voting for Paradise Towers just so I can hear Liz lose it for two episodes. Sontar, Ha Ha Ha!

  7. I’m going to vote for the Curse of the Black Spot because that and Father’s Day and the Visitation, I believe are the only ones streaming on Netflix/Amazon Prime, unfortunately and I would like to review it before the episode. 🙂

    My question is (and apologies if you all already answered this), what is your Series 8 wishlist? What do you hope to see? What do you hope doesn’t come back? What type of episodes do you hope to see (contemporary Earth, historical, future, another planet/dimension/universe, etc.)?


    Who would you love to see write or direct an episode?

    Thanks again for a great episode! Seriously, your podcasts help me get through the end of the semester grading period!

  8. Paradise Towers! Build high for happiness!

  9. Jarrod said:

    Firstly:- Longtime listener – First Time Caller
    Secondly:- Can’t stand Paradise Towers (worst-episode-ever) so that obviously gets my vote.
    Finally:- My question since your doing Villains as a main topic is “What’s your favourite non-Doctor Who fictional villain/villainous alien race who you’d like to see the Doctor square up against?” My vote would be Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s Child Catcher.

  10. James C said:

    I vote for Gunfighters and Paradise Towers. And if there is some way to watch them simultaneously…

    Also a question, either for the ‘ask verity’ or a standalone extra ep: What are those one-offs that capture your imagination? They could be characters, concepts, props or even a whole story. A couple of examples: Rafalo from End of the World was a wonderfully realised character who in a couple of minutes opened out the society of the year 5 billion more than all of the costumed extras in the main room. Second: the Laserson Probe from Robots of Death. A beautiful design (it even had a logo!) supported by some lovely dialogue and a horrifying role in the story itself.

    A thought on the two Sontarans from The Last Episode of the Doctor: I did not think that they undermined the Sontarans. They were certainly a B team, but in the context of the story it kind of made sense. The war had been going for a long time, and lots of effort spent in trying to get through the village’s defences. This is just one more attempt, trying a new and untested technology. Perhaps it was deemed a low likelihood of success, so they sent less capable units out. So we see some petty squabbling from a couple of footsoldiers, not the steely determination of a field tested commander.

  11. So, yes, I am perhaps slightly too attached to Ross Jenkins. And I might have an entire headcanon regarding his survival and what he did next that crosses over with another fandom (and I’m not alone!). I may also have written the fanfiction. *whistles innocently and hides the dinosaurs behind my back*

    In terms of #VerityVotes – The Curse of the Black Spot. Amy dressed as a pirate with a sword, hello?

  12. Henrik said:

    Dear Verity,

    The purple and pink is brilliant! But that two parter is set dressed and lit like Sarah Jane Adventures or something.
    It’s something that really stands out to me about a lot of Davies Who compared to Moffat Who. And I’m fairly sure that it’s not the switch to HD, the Tennant specials looked very much like the SD new series that preceded them, the shift in looks came after the shift in production crew rather than resolution.
    It’s a bit garish and unnatural in a stagey kind of way. Series 5 onwards saw a serious step up in production values and looks if not like serious drama then at least like proper sci-fi films while a lot of series 1 – 4 and the specials look rather more like, well, a children’s television show working on a budget. It’s not a constant thing. Newer stories can sometimes look slightly more pedestrian and older ones can sometimes look absolutely fantastic but that’s how it comes across in general.

    I also think series 1-4 can look a bit soapy at times. It might just be my imagination but a lot of early new Who, especially scenes set on Earth with the companions’ families looks like it’s lifted straight out of what I imagine daytime drama series to look like. Which I also imagine is probably intentional. I’m not super sure about that one though as I haven’t really ever actually seen a soap. But it doesn’t help lift the look of the show even if it’s perhaps thematically appropriate.

    I always figured that the differences between how the show dealt with Jennie (Jenny? Genny?) and the 11th regeneration runoff Doctor are almost certainly all down to plot convenience. No need to invoke “the patriarchy”.
    ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’ can’t have it be just an identical copy (so you have it look different) because part of the point is that it’s a militaristic offspring of a sort that the Doctor can initially reject and then come to terms with and it can’t be a combination with the companion’s DNA because that leaves a heck of a lot of dangling tragic plot threads after the story wraps. In the series finale it’s all about wrapping up dangling plot threads and not at all about the actual mechanics of it or even really who the new Doctor is in relation to the “real” one. You have to marry off Rose for some stupid reason apparently now that she’s back, end the Donna storyline and, hey, let’s throw in a surprise regeneration (a concept we are all already familiar with as being the Doctor just turning into the Doctor rather than spawning a new one) all in one convenient Hand Doctor!
    The daughter is about accepting all the good and the bad that is in the Doctor by him being confronted with it in the form of a version of himself in a way much like most of us get to by seeing reflections of who we are or could have been in the family we have around us.
    Handy is never about the Doctor’s relationship with the offspring thing but just about trying to tie together a mess in a way sufficiently spectacular to be distracting long enough for the end credits to roll.

    Space genetics mechanics behind it all be damned.

    Probably. Well. It’s how it struck me anyways.

    Also ‘Black Orchid’ or ‘Paradise Towers’? One of the best 80’s stories ever or the literally worst Doctor Who story ever made including ‘Dimensions Of Time’. I literally had to try 4 or 5 times before making it past the first 5 minutes of that McCoy monstrosity.

    … I vote for the horror and hopefully future lost story ‘Paradise Towers’. #VerityVotes? Do hashtags even matter outside of Twitter? Oh, who cares. Can’t hurt.

  13. ccarol said:

    Paradise Towers!

  14. I vote for Curse of the Black Spot and Father’s Day.

  15. Julie said:

    The Gunfighters, please!

  16. I vote “The Gunfighters” as well!

  17. Daniel O. said:

    I vote for Curse of the Black Spot, principally because it’s so widely reviled.

    I’ve got two vaguely related questions for you: What famous historical individual would you like to see the Doctor encounter on an adventure?
    Do you have a favorite fictional character (particularly a fictional villain) that you think could be successfully integrated into the Whoniverse?

    • I’d love to see the Doctor meet Alexandre Dumas – he does have a bit of a taste for historical authors, doesn’t he? I do *hate* it when they suggest the author’s famous ideas come directly from the Doctor, but I love it when they come from the adventures that the author has WITH the Doctor. I am now imagining Lenny Henry with a French accent running across an alien planet full of bug-eyed swashbuckling scoundrels and I can’t get it out of my mind!!!

      As for favourite fictional character/villain, that’s a tricky one. Soames Forsyte is my go-to favourite villain but I’m not sure we’d enjoy him spending time with the Doctor (though if it meant casting Damien Lewis, yes please!). I also think it would be lovely if there was a reveal at some point that one of the Bennet sisters had a brief stint as a TARDIS companion. Kitty, perhaps? One of the less appreciated sisters, certainly.

      Though it would be MOST fun if Miss Marple turned up on the TARDIS with her knitting. But I think that one’s a Matt Smith adventure.

      • Daniel O. said:

        Hmmmm … Miss Marple might be a good one-shot companion for Paul McGann’s Doctor. #BringMeKnitting

      • Deborah Stanish said:

        Save it for the podcast, Tansy! 😀

  18. Rodney said:

    Yet another wonderful episode- this time about my favourite villians.

    I share the view that the Sontarans have been dumbed down and make a mockery since Strax came about. That being said, there would be nothing stopping the writers bringing back a fully fledged Sontaran fleet un-Straxed. While we’re there, how about some new series Rutans? We’ve heard so much of this great conflict, could we SEE some of it?

    I’ve posted my vote for #Verityvotes on twitter (Paradise Towers, of course)

    as for #askverity- What is your favourite VAM on the dvds? Do you have a least favourite?

  19. Chuck C said:

    Paradise Towers!

    Also, for the rugby game between the Sontarans and the Rutans, it’s gotta be Union and not League. The Sontarans won’t even have to crouch for a scrum! 🙂

  20. Matthew Kilburn said:

    I do find the Sontarans scary, especially Linx, Styre and Stor. I couldn’t bear to watch the first two and couldn’t see why my contemporaries in the playground found them so funny… and I still find something uncannily uncomfortable about their features.

  21. I always enjoyed the Sontaran Strategem/ Poison Sky and could never understand why so many fans were down on the story. I thought it had a very classic Who feel to it that I appreciated at the time.

    The reveal of Lynx is one of my earliest Who memories and I remember he scared the hell out of me when I was 4 , but I do appreciate the Sontarans as straight men and I don’t think that Strax has “broken” them at all, nor the appearance of the two comedy Sontarans in the Christmas special. However, I do think it would be good to see a story that treats them as a serious menace again.

    As for the commentary, I vote for The Visitation!

  22. Korina said:

    I have to vote for Curse of the Black Spot for a commentary (mostly because it’s the only one of those I own). Otherwise, Father’s Day because Chris Ecclescakes. Mmm, cake… 😉

  23. Laurissy said:

    This is actually well timed because I’ve just finished watching invasion of time which I have to admit I quite like. It’s very stupid but it ‘s fun it’s own way. I think the sontarans have always been jokey now then my first exposure was sontaran stratagem and poisoned sky which I loved as a kid and I love them now. I’ve got to admit that clip in time of the doctor because pretty much every race was featured excepth the daleks were made fun of and detoothed in that episode even the angels Moffat’s own creation have been reduced to a slight nuisance. I haven’t actually seen that many of the ones you’ve suggested to comment on I guess I’ll go for the visitation because it’s the only one I wouldn’t have to go and buy just to listen to it.

  24. If I’m not too late, Paradise Towers!

    I don’t think the Comedy Sontarans ruined anything as long as they’re threatening again the next time we see them. If it gets to the point where we expect them to be silly, then it’s a step too far.

  25. Sarah B said:

    An unrelated story because I know so few people who will appreciate this: my nearly-3 yo daughter broke into the bathroom the other day to scan me with her brother’s sonic screwdriver to see if I was a Zygon. Conclusion was “maybe”.

    Anyway. Ryan is wrong, Liz is almost always right, especially about Patrick Troughton, Cybermen and the best Sontaran story. *ahem*

    I think the Sontarans are the perfect straight men (clones) and I don’t think the comedy has broken them as villians en masse (although I do wish Strax would just get on with things and not keep making the same “I don’t get gender” joke over and over). Love the Time Warrior, love these two eps, love love love the Martha-Donna interactions!

    And I either just watched or was about to watch all of these! I vote Black Orchid or Father’s Day because those are next (and then you may have to snark and/or defend Father’s Day in real time). 🙂

  26. I’m catching up on Verity episodes and you mention reviews… I just wanted to let you know that there’s this cool app (Mac Only) called “commentcast” that podcasters can use which shows you all your iTunes reviews regardless of what country they’re from. It’s much quicker and easier than checking them in iTunes!

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