Doctor Who-The Sontaran Experiment (1975)

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Released 6-Dec-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Built For War-Sontarans
Gallery-Photo
Audio Commentary
Informational Subtitles
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 49:34 (Case: 94)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Rodney Bennett
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Tom Baker
Elisabeth Sladen
Ian Marter
Donald Douglas
Glyn Jones
Peter Walshe
Kevin Lindsay
Peter Rutherford
Terry Walsh
Brian Ellis
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Dudley Simpson
Roger Murray-Leach
George Gallaccio


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Doctor (in his Tom Baker incarnation), Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry (Ian Marter) arrive on Earth in the distant future by way of transmat beam. The have come from the space station Nerva, where surviving humans have been in hibernation for around 10,000 years as they wait for the Earth to recover from devastating solar flares. Following directly on from The Ark in Space, the Doctor has agreed to repair the Earth transmat station and find out if the Earth has recovered. Not only is the Earth inhabitable, but a group of men with intermittent South African accents are stranded on the planet and being hunted down by a mysterious robot. That robot is acting on behalf of Sontaran Field Major Styre who is testing the limits of human endurance, one body at a time, to help his people determine the viability of conquering the Human race - who have become strategically important in the Sontaran's never ending war with the Rutans.

    The Sontaran Experiment is an unusually short Dr. Who story, running at only two 25 minute episodes. This fact both benefits and detracts from the story. There is not a minute wasted in the story, unlike many longer stories that are stretched out with infamous "corridor running scenes", but not a great deal really happens. That is not to say that the story isn't any good, in fact quite the opposite is the case. The Sontaran Experiment fleshes out the Sontaran race in intricate detail, but it leaves you wanting more from this menace - much more! On one hand you have a beautifully scripted, albeit short, story whose quality cannot be faulted - incredibly satisfying stuff. On the other hand, it's all over just as you feel it's getting going - which is unsatisfying, bordering on frustrating. For this reason it is ultimately difficult to recommend The Sontaran Experiment as highly as the other stories from the same season, particularly to anybody not already a fan of Dr. Who, although it is among some tough competition. It comes from the true golden age of Dr. Who. Although, not at the top of the list of "must see" Dr. Who stories, The Sontaran Experiment is essential viewing for fans.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video is presented in its original 1.29:1 full frame aspect ratio.

    As far as Dr. Who from the 1970s goes, you are unlikely to find better video quality than is seen in The Sontaran Experiment. It was only the second Dr. Who story to be shot entirely on location and was filmed entirely on video cameras rather than the usual 16mm film used for location shoots. The result of this is that there are, obviously, no film artefacts to be seen and the image is consistently quite sharp - none of the usual soft focus 16mm. The outdoor lighting has also reduced the number of the video artefacts that are noticeable when compared to on-set shots. In particular, there are no distracting comet trails, as are frequently seen in video of this era - caused by lighting reflective surfaces too brightly.

    Though very good for its age, the video quality of the transfer is not perfect. In a number of instances, areas that display a high contrast (such as from the bright sky to the dark mountains in the background) appear to have thick black edges and a degree of cross colouration. This is mildly distracting in one or two scenes, but is ignorable for the rest of the time. There are no problems with grain or low level noise and no noticeable MPEG compression related artefacts, such as macro blocking.

    The colour in the video is quite good for its age, but some of the skin tones are a little pale and vary slightly between scenes depending on the light. The brighter colours, in particular, come across very well in the video.

    The white English subtitles are reasonably clear and appear well timed.

    Though this is a dual layered disc, no layer change occurs during the feature.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is reasonable, but not particularly good. In general, it sounds a tad more compressed than would be ideal and there is a mildly noticeable degree of low level static background noise.

    There is only an English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 Kb/s) audio track available.

    The dialogue is at a good level in the mix, but is a little muddy at times. Wind noise, an obvious effect of location recording, is occasionally noticeable and makes the dialogue a bit harder to hear. The dialogue sync is fine.

    The score is up to the usual high standard of Dr. Who incidental music. Music is not used as frequently in this story as others, but the melodramatic synth is very effective when the music does kick in.

    There is no surround channel use or noticeable subwoofer use in the story. For the most part, the soundtrack sounds mono (as would have been the norm when the episode was produced).

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The Sontaran Experiment is the first "standard edition" Dr. Who release (although this is not clear on the packaging). The "standard edition" releases are intended to be restored with the same due care as past Dr. Who discs, but feature little in the way of extras in order to allow the DVD producers to release episodes at a faster rate than has been the case to date. The "standard editions" retail at a lower price in Region 2, although that does not seem to be the case in Region 4. Whilst the features on this disc are not as extensive as other Dr. Who releases, the quality of the few extras is superb.

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    Fairly standard animation with clips and audio from the show.

Featurette- Built For War (39:50)

    This substantial featurette tells the story of the Sontarans and the Sontaran related episodes of Dr. Who. It features interviews with a wide variety of cast members, script editors, and other crew, as well as a Sontaran wandering around the world trying to figure out where this strange transmission is coming from. Of added interest is the Australian aspect - the original actor who portrayed the Sontarans was Australian and had a fairly big influence on their portrayal! This is one of the better made-for-DVD extras in the Dr. Who range.

Gallery-Photo (4:42)

    An extensive slideshow of production stills and promotional shots.

Audio Commentary - Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Bob Baker (writer) and Philip Hinchcliffe (producer)

    This rather chatty commentary track makes for good listening. The production of this episode featured a large number interesting points and each is discussed in detail - This was Philip Hinchcliffe's first story as producer, the story was entirely filmed on location and with unusual equipment, Tom Baker broke his collar bone early on during filming and a stuntman had to stand in for him in many scenes, Kevin Lindsay (Styre, the Sontaran) had a heart condition and only proved able to do a handful of his scenes (like Baker he was frequently replaced by a stunt-man). There seems to have been no end to the behind the scenes drama!

Informational Subtitles

    One of the subtitle tracks consists of trivia, script excerpts and other assorted tid-bits of information about the episodes. This feature makes for an excellent companion to the audio commentary track.

    This particular trivia track contains plenty of production notes and explains many tricks employed throughout production, including how stuntmen were disguised in reasonably close shots.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    An identical version is available in Region 2. An identical edition, save for NTSC formatting and different cover art, is available in Region 1. I would recommend the Region 2 or 4 versions for their original PAL formatting.

Summary

    The Sontaran Experiment is an excellent study of one of the Doctor's more interesting adversaries. This is an excellent Dr. Who story from the show's golden age, alas its short running time will likely frustrate fans.

    The video quality is very good for a show of this age.

    The audio is reasonable, but suffers from minor quality issues arising from its original recording.

    The extras are not as extensive as many other titles in the Dr. Who range, but are of a high standard.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDLG V8824W, using S-Video output
DisplayLG 80cm 4x3 CRT. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D512
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Doctor Who DVDs far too overpriced - BruceM (read my bio)
Agreed - Dr Who DVDs in Australia are far too pricey - Cassidy (The bionic man)
Ditto - overpricing -
Yep, the price is up Down Under... - REPLY POSTED
Why not just get it from CD-WOW for $21 delivered? - Bill T
I did buy it from CD-WOW... - Cassidy (The bionic man)