The second chapter of the new season of Doctor Who has arrived, and the ‘War of the Sontarans’ is the biggest adventure of Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor yet.
The episode follows the Doctor as she tries to defeat the formidable Sontarans during the Crimean war, whilst companions Yaz and Dan are teleported away and have to face their own challenges- without the Doctor.
Personally, this has been my absolute favourite episode of the show since Peter Capaldi’s final two part finale in 2017. It is everything an episode of Doctor Who should be; funny, educational, political, and full of creative sci-fi.
The episode centres around the alien race known as the Sontarans, who were first introduced in 1973 and were a big part of the classic show. However, they have been woefully underused in the revival, only having one proper serial, all the way back in 2008 with David Tennant.
However Chris Chibnall demonstrates in this episode that (just like with the Daleks and Master) he understands classic villains.
The Sontarans in this episode are arguably the best that they have ever been. They are ruthless, comedic, and finally receive an epic war sequence. The days of reusing the same three aliens and sets are over; the Sontarans clash with the British army in a huge battle sequence, which really demonstrates how far the scale and quality of production has come.
As for the Doctor herself, I think that this was Jodie’s best performance as the Time Lord yet. She was commanding, funny, and endearing. She confronts the Sontarans in a way no other Doctor has, as well as calling out the hypocritical attitudes of stuck-up British army generals, in a way that felt important. She truly felt like a force not to be reckoned with.
She is joined by historical figure, Mary Seacole (Sara Powel), who was a healer during the Crimean war. Her character does not get too much screen time, but you do get an essence of who she was and what she did, which was interesting, and Powel does a good job.
The companions also get more time to shine here, as they are independent from the Doctor, and have to work out things for themselves.
John Bishop continues to provide great humour in all of his scenes and I’m surprised at how quick he was able to get me to like and care for his character. Unfortunately he does not share too many moments with the Doctor in this episode, which is a shame as it’s his second appearance, and usually the second episode is dedicated to bonding time between Doctor and companion. However the moments they do share are fantastic and they have a nice, friendly chemistry.
Yaz’s sub-plot is unfortunately the weak link of the episode, which she shares with new character Vinder (Jacob Anderson). Although she does get to be more independent and shine on her own, which she has not had too much time to do in the past two seasons, so that is great to see.
However the ending of the episode makes up for that, as it is tense and quite scary. I was genuinely worried about the characters and the cliffhanger left me genuinely shocked.
The main villains, Swarm and Azure, return to continue the main series arc and they remain creepy, with fantastic make-up effects, and performances. They are perhaps my favourite original monster since the Weeping Angels and the mystery surrounding them is one I can’t wait to find out more about.
The stakes are higher than ever and I do not know where this story is going next. The new serialised format of this season is gripping and I can’t wait for next week’s chapter. If Chris Chibnall keeps this up it won’t just be his best story, but it will be one of my favourite stories in the shows history.
I would also like to pay tribute to Bob Baker who sadly passed away last week at the age of 82. Baker co-wrote many classic Doctor Who serials with Dave Martin, including the second Sontaran story ‘The Sontaran experiment’ with Tom Baker’s Doctor. He is also well known for co-creating K9 and writing many of the Wallace and Gromit movies. May he rest in peace.
Feature Image credit: [BBC]