Doctor Who

Season 4 Episode 4

The Sontaran Stratagem (1)

Aired Saturday 8:00 PM Apr 26, 2008 on BBC America
out of 10
User Rating
408 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Location: Earth
Date: 2009
Enemies: Sontarans
The Doctor is called back to modern-day Earth by an old friend as an old enemy starts some new troubles. Aided by the Rattigan Academy, the Sontarans establish a covert base at the mysterious ATMOS Factory. Can the Doctor stop the Sontarans from unleashing a potent terror that will bring the world to its knees?moreless

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  • Villains who genuinely salute their enemies

    It's fascinating to get into these villains' heads and figure out how they work. I think that villains who are complex (not just plain evil) and entertaining make for the best watching.
  • The Sontaran Stratagem

    The Sontaran Stratagem was a superb episode of Doctor Who and I really enjoyed watching. The character development was intriguing and the plot was well written. The acting was great and it was awesome to see Martha Jones again. I liked the idea behind The Sontaran Stratagem and it was awesome to watch The Doctor trying to figure out what was happening. I liked how every thing played out and the ending was awesome! I look forward to watching what happens next!!!!!!!moreless
  • Sontarans are back! (Yay) Cow Features (Martha) is back too! (Boo)

    Due to the fact it's a 2-part episode the full review will be next week. It will be double length, too. But here are a few pros and cons of the first part.


    1. Martha Jones. They're finally doing something different with her. A useless and overly irritating character now has something worthwhile to contribute to a decent series.

    2. Bernard Cribbins. He's the good bit of Donna's family. If the cliffhanger with him does what it threatens to I will not be pleased. He was the best thing about this episode (and it was a good episode).

    3. Villains. The Sontarans. Classic enemy re-made. They're just as good as they once were. And that means this story should pay off pretty well. One can only hope, however, due to their appearance in the stupid stories: "Invasion of Time" and "The Two Doctors" which ruined their villainy.


    1. Martha Jones. She just irritates me way to much. It wasn't until about 15 mins from the end that I started to go "oh, wow Martha's interesting now". So for that first 30 mins she was in great need of a punch in the face. I actually hate her.

    2. Bernard Cribbins. If they do what I think they're gonna do to a great character I will not be happy.

    3. Villains. That little gimp with the crap American accent gets on my nerves. I hope he dies. Because if not, I might have to hunt down the actor and kill him anyway.


    8/10 - Overall

    It loses points because Martha appears and doesn't get hit by a car, which cripples her for life. And also because they seem to be hiring idiots who can't do accents properly for important roles. Otherwise, woo hoo! Another great episode.moreless
  • Another "classic" monster returns

    Having resurrected and killed of the daleks (four times), the cybermen (twice) and the Master, the Dr who staff were obviously running out of classic nasties to throw at his newest incarnation. Enter the sontarans, who must have appeared in a grand total of about 3 episodes in the original series, and who are about as menacing as squirrel in dark glasses.

    At this rate, I fully expect to see Yeti ppear in the next season, followed by the glorious return of the one eyed green condom flower from "Monster of Peladon".

    Unfortunately, this episode seems to rely on past episodes as its major drawcard. We have the return of the Sontarans, the return of UNIT, as ineffectual as ever but more convincing in death now, and the return of Martha Jones. Opinion seems to be split about Freema Agyeman's character. For my two cents, she wasn't a patch on Rose, but certainly a lot better than Donna, who I'm afraid to say is getting more annoying with each passing episode.

    Fortunately, she has some competition here in the form of a petulant, whiny, teenage protagonist, too stupid to realise that he will be betrayed by the sontarans, a fact that is obvious before the opening credits even roll.

    The soldier the Dr befriends acts well and is a good character, which makes you realise that it might be nice for the Doctor to have a permanent male companion in the Tardis again.

    The cliffhanger is basically a non-event. There's no feeling that they can't escape it or that anyone is in any real danger.

    Overall, not awful, but they really need some high quility episodes before this season slips away,moreless
  • Ok the dance at the end is annoying. But a great episode.

    This is why Doctor who is succesful. I moaned earlier about the return of classic villans but when a episode is this good who cares! The only bit I didn't like was the human trying to be a sontaron (dont mind my spelling) Yes he is smart but these guys tried to kill all of earth. Right the good points. Donna Noble had a good connection with Martha. I personally hated Martha as the assistant. But now she seemed to work really well on the set. The Doctor didn't really do anything for me in this episode. I was constantly waiting to see what Donna was up to. Martha and the Doctor still do not work! Whoever thought Martha would've been a good assistant is wrong. She is much better as a tag along like Mickey in season 2. But still the Sontarons were amazing. I never have seen a old episode with the Sontarons in but i'm desperate to find one. The only thing i'm a little annoyed about is this could have been so much better if it wasn't a two parter. I think in scenes you could have fit alot more in also the Martha clone didn't have to be so boring. The most interesting part in the story was boring. But apart from a few flaws and a very stupid dance great episode!moreless
Christopher Ryan

Christopher Ryan

General Staal

Guest Star

Rupert Holliday-Evans

Rupert Holliday-Evans

Colonel Mace

Guest Star

Dan Starkey

Dan Starkey

Commander Skorr

Guest Star

Bernard Cribbins

Bernard Cribbins

Wilfred Mott

Recurring Role

Jacqueline King

Jacqueline King

Sylvia Noble

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • When Donna tells the Doctor that he's a dunce, his left hand is on his left cheek. Then when the camera switches to Ross talking to the Doctor and Donna, it's on his right cheek. Then in the next frame it's back on his left cheek.

    • Colonel Mace should not give a hand salute (to the Doctor) when he is not wearing a cover (headgear).

  • QUOTES (30)

    • Sylvia: Men and their cars. Sometimes I think if I was a car… (sees the Doctor under the bonnet) Oh, it's you! Doctor… what was it?
      The Doctor: Yeah, that's me.
      Wilfred: What, have you met him before as well?
      Sylvia: Dad, it's the man from the wedding. When you were laid up with Spanish Flu. I'm warning you, the last time that man turned up, it was a disaster!

    • Wilfred: The thing is, Doctor, that Donna is my only grandchild. You gotta promise me you're gonna take care of her.
      The Doctor: She takes care of me.
      Wilfred: Oh, yeah, that's my Donna. She was always bossing us round, even when she was tiny. The Little General, we used to call her.
      Donna: Yeah, don't start.
      Wilfred: And some of the boys she used to turn up with, a different one every week! Here, who was that one with the nail varnish?
      Donna: Matthew Richards. He lives in Kilburn now. With a man.

    • The Doctor: Martha, tell Colonel Mace it's the Sontarans. They're in the file. Code Red: Sontarans. But if they're inside the factory, tell him not to start shooting. UNIT will get massacred.

    • Wilfred: Is it him? Is it the Doctor? Ah, it's you!
      The Doctor: Who? Oh, it's you!
      Donna: What, have you two met before?
      Wilfred: Yeah, Christmas Eve. He disappeared right in front of me.
      Donna: And you never said?
      Wilfred: Well, you never said! Wilf, sir. Wilfred Mott. You must be one of them aliens.
      The Doctor: Yeah, but don't shout it out. (shakes Wilf's hand) Nice to meet you properly, Wilf.
      Wilfred: Ah, an alien hand...

    • General Staal: War can never come too soon. Take your last look, boy.
      Luke Rattigan: It was never big enough for me.
      General Staal: I like your ambition.
      Luke Rattigan: That Doctor… he was in a UNIT jeep. Should have ATMOS installed.
      General Staal: You said you didn't know his name...
      Luke Rattigan: I don't, he just said 'Doctor'. What, does that mean something?
      General Staal: There is an enemy of the Sontarans known as the Doctor. A face-changer.
      Luke Rattigan: Do you mean he's an alien too?
      General Staal: Legend says he led the battle in the Last Great Time War. The finest war in history and we weren't allowed to be part of it. Oh, but this is excellent! The last of the Time Lords will die at the hands of the Sontaran Empire in the ruins of his precious Earth!

    • Commander Skorr: Tell me, boy, how many ATMOS devices have been installed?
      Luke Rattigan: They've gone worldwide but only about half.
      General Staal: Which means four hundred million cars converted. A fine arsenal.
      Commander Skorr: Is it sufficient to trigger the conversion?
      Luke Rattigan: More than enough, yeah, and that test signal proves that it works. Fifty-two deaths in the same second, man, that was just so cool!
      General Staal: Is the temperature significant?
      Luke Rattigan: No… it's just a phrase.

    • Luke Rattigan: How… do you tell each other apart?
      General Staal: We say the same of humans.

    • The Doctor: The Sontarans are the finest soldiers in the galaxy, dedicated to a life of warfare. A clone race, grown in batches of millions, with only one weakness…
      General Staal: Sontarans have no weakness!
      The Doctor: No, no, it's a good weakness.
      Luke Rattigan: I thought you were meant to be clever. Only an idiot would provoke him.
      The Doctor: No, but the Sontarans are fed by a probic vent in the back of their neck. That's their weak spot, which means they always have to face their enemies in battles. Isn't that brilliant? They can never turn their backs.
      General Staal: We stare into the face of death!

    • The Doctor: Sontaran! That's your name, isn't it? You're a Sontaran. How did I know that, eh? Fascinating, isn't it? Isn't that worth keeping me alive?
      Ross: I order you to surrender in the name of the Unified Intelligence Taskforce.
      The Doctor: Well, that's not going to work. Cordolane signal, am I right? Copper excitation, stopping the bullets.
      General Staal: How do you know so much?
      The Doctor: Well…
      General Staal: Who is he?
      Luke Rattigan: He didn't give his name.
      The Doctor: This isn't typical Sontaran behaviour, is it? Hiding. Using teenagers. Stopping bullets. A Sontaran should face bullets with dignity. Shame on you.
      General Staal: You dishonour me, sir!
      The Doctor: Yeah, then show yourself.
      General Staal: I will look into my enemy's eyes.
      (Staal removes his helmet)

    • The Doctor: What a responsible eighteen year old. Inventing zero-carbon cars, saving the world.
      Luke Rattigan: Takes a man with vision.
      The Doctor: Hm. Blinkered vision. Because ATMOS means more people driving, more cars, more petrol. End result: the oil's going to run out faster than ever. The ATMOS system could make things worse.
      Luke Rattigan: Yeah,well you see? That's a tautology. You can't say ATMOS system, 'cause it stands for Atmospheric Emission System, so you're saying Atmospheric Emission System system. Do you see, Mr Conditional Clause?
      The Doctor: It's been a long time since anyone's said no to you, isn't it?
      Luke Rattigan: I'm still right though.
      The Doctor: Not easy, is it? Being clever. You look at the world and you connect things. Random things. You think 'why can't anyone else see it?' The rest of the world is so slow.

    • The Doctor: Terraforming, biospheres, nanotech steel construction. This is brilliant. Do you know, with equipment like this, you could… ooh, I don't know… move to another planet or something.
      Luke Rattigan: If only that was possible.
      The Doctor: If only that were possible. Conditional clause.

    • Ross: UNIT's been watching the Rattigan Academy for ages. It's all a bit Hitler Youth. Exercise at dawn and classes and special diets.
      ATMOS: Turn left.
      The Doctor: Ross, one question. If UNIT think that ATMOS is dodgy…
      Ross: How come we've got it in the jeeps? Tell me about it. They're fitted as standard on all government vehicles. We can't get rid of them until we prove there's something wrong.
      ATMOS: Turn right.
      Ross: (as they turn the corner) Drives me around the bend.
      The Doctor: Oh, nice one.
      Ross: Timed that perfectly.

    • Wilfred: I said so, didn't I? Aliens. I said they was real. I just didn't expect them in a little blue box.
      Donna: It's bigger on the inside.
      Wilfred: Yeah, but is it safe? This Doctor, are you safe with him?
      Donna: He's amazing, Gramps. He's just… dazzling, and never tell him I said that but I trust him with my life.
      Wilfred: Hold up, I thought that was my job.
      Donna: You still come first.
      Wilfred: For God's sake, don't tell your mother.
      Donna: I dunno. I mean this is massive. It's sort of not fair if she doesn't know.
      (Sylvia comes in, carrying a washing basket)
      Sylvia: Doesn't know what? And who's 'she', the cat's mother? And where have you been these past few days, lady, after that silly little trick with the car keys? I phoned Veena and she said she hadn't seen hide nor hair of you.
      Donna: I've just been… travelling.
      Sylvia: Ooh, hark at her, Michael Palin. Are you staying for tea? 'Cause I haven't got anything in. I've been trying to keep your granddad on that macrobiotic diet but he sneaks off and gets pork pies from the petrol station. (Wilfred starts to protest) Don't deny it, I've seen the wrappers in the car. Oh, I don't miss a trick. Now, then. What were you going to tell me? What don't I know?
      Donna: (off Wilfred's look) Nothing. Just… nothing.

    • The Doctor: I want to talk to this Luke Rattigan, not point a gun at him.
      Colonel Mace: It's ten miles outside London. How are you going to get there?
      The Doctor: Well then, get me a jeep.
      Colonel Mace: According to the records, you travel by TARDIS.
      The Doctor: Yeah, but if there is a danger of hostile aliens, I think it's better to keep a super-duper time machine away from the front lines.
      Colonel Mace: I see, so you do have weapons but you choose to keep them hidden.

    • Martha: Do they know where you are, your family? I mean, that you're travelling with the Doctor?
      Donna: Not really. Although, my granddad sort of waved us off, but I didn't have time to explain.
      Martha: You just left him behind.
      Donna: Yeah.
      Martha: I didn't tell my family. Kept it all so secret, and it almost destroyed them.
      Donna: In what way?
      Martha: They ended up imprisoned, they were tortured. My mum, my dad, my sister. It wasn't the Doctor's fault but you need to be careful. 'Cause you know the Doctor is wonderful, he's brilliant, but he's like fire. Stand too close and people get burnt.

    • The Doctor: Could you stand back a bit?
      Colonel Mace: Sorry. Have I done something wrong?
      The Doctor: You're carrying a gun. I don't like people with guns hanging around me. Alright?
      Colonel Mace: If you insist.
      (Colonel Mace leaves)
      Martha: Tetchy.
      The Doctor: Well, it's true.
      Martha: He's a good man!
      The Doctor: People with guns are usually the enemy in my books. You seem quite at home.
      Martha: If anyone got me used to fighting, it's you.
      The Doctor: Oh, right, so it's my fault?
      Martha: Well, you got me the job. Besides, look at me! Am I carrying a gun?
      The Doctor: Suppose not.
      Martha: It's alright for you. You can just come and go but some of us have got to stay behind. So I've got to work from the inside and, by staying inside, maybe I stand a chance of making them better.
      The Doctor: Yeah? That's more like Martha Jones.
      Martha: I learned from the best.

    • (Privates Gray and Harris discover the Sontaran cloning tank)
      Private Harris: Someone's growing a body. A human body.
      General Staal: Excellent skills of deduction. I would rate you above average, soldier. Well done. (to Private Gray) Whereas you… you smell of sweat and fear.
      Private Harris: Yeah? Well, we're not the ones who got out of school early, sonny. Now stop playing Humpty Dumpty and tell us who you are.
      General Staal: Is that a reference to my height?
      Private Harris: Short answer: yes.
      General Staal: A pity. Words are the weapons of womenfolk. I must judge you unfit.
      Private Harris: What you gonna do? Bite our ankles?
      (Staal shoots Harris in the leg with a laser, crippling him)
      Private Gray: I'm warning you!
      General Staal: A proper soldier gives no warning. Fire. I order you. Fire! (Gray pulls the trigger but the gun doesn't work) The room is contained within a cordolane signal, exciting the copper surface of the bullet and causing expansion within the barrel, rendering your guns useless and your radio signals have been blocked.
      (Staal shoots Gray in the leg, crippling him)
      Private Gray: My legs. I can't feel my legs.
      General Staal: I apologise for disabling you. Death has more honour, but you are needed for the stratagem.

    • Donna: Okay, so why would aliens be so keen on cleaning up our atmosphere?
      The Doctor: Very good question.
      Donna: Maybe they want to help? Get rid of pollution and stuff?
      The Doctor: Do you know how many cars there are on planet Earth? Eight hundred million. Imagine that. If you could control them, you'd have eight hundred million weapons.

    • The Doctor: Tell me, what's going on in that factory?
      Colonel Mace: Yesterday, fifty-two people died in identical circumstances right across the world in eleven different time zones. 5am in the UK, 6am in France, 8am in Moscow, 1pm in China…
      The Doctor: You mean they died simultaneously?
      Colonel Mace: Exactly. Fifty-two deaths at the exact same moment worldwide.
      The Doctor: How did they die?
      Colonel Mace: They were all inside their cars.
      Martha: They were poisoned. I checked the biopsies. No toxins. Whatever it is left the system immediately.
      The Doctor: What have the cars got in common?
      Martha: Completely different makes. But they're all fitted with ATMOS and that is the ATMOS factory.
      The Doctor: What's ATMOS?
      Donna: Oh, come on. Even I know that. Everyone's got ATMOS.
      Martha: It stands for Atmospheric Emission System. The ATMOS in your car reduces CO2 emissions to zero.
      The Doctor: Zero. No carbon? None at all?
      Donna: And you get Sat-Nav thrown in plus twenty quid in shopping vouchers if you introduce a friend. Bargain.

    • Martha: This is the Doctor. Doctor, Colonel Mace.
      Colonel Mace: (saluting) Sir.
      The Doctor: Oh, don't salute.
      Colonel Mace: But it's an honour, sir. I've read all the files on you. Technically speaking, you're still on staff. You never resigned.
      Donna: What, you used to work for them?
      The Doctor: Yeah. A long time ago. Back in the Seventies. Or was it the Eighties? It was all a bit more homespun back then.
      Colonel Mace: Times have changed, sir.
      The Doctor: And that's enough of the 'sir'.
      Martha: Come on though, Doctor. You've seen it. You've been on board the Valiant. We got massive funding from the United Nations, all in the name of homeworld security.
      Colonel Mace: A modern UNIT for the modern world.
      Donna: What, and that means arresting ordinary factory workers, in the street, in broad daylight? It's more like Guantanamo Bay out there. Donna, by the way. Donna Noble, since you didn't ask. I'll have a salute.

    • General Staal: (observing the UNIT forces) Observe their troops. Thin fabrics. Exposed skin. Feeble weapons. These are toy soldiers. The playthings of children.

    • The Doctor: Martha Jones.
      Martha: Doctor.
      (After a few moments, Martha rushes forward and hugs the Doctor)
      The Doctor: You haven't changed a bit!
      Martha: Neither have you.
      The Doctor: How's the family?
      Martha: You know, not so bad. Recovering.
      The Doctor: What about you?
      Martha: (noticing Donna) Right. Should have known. Didn't take you long to replace me then.
      The Doctor: Now, don't start fighting. Martha, Donna. Donna, Martha. Please don't fight, I can't bear fighting.
      Donna: You wish. (shakes Martha's hand) I've heard all about you. He talks about you all the time.
      Martha: I dread to think.
      Donna: No, no, no. No. He says nice things. Good things. Nice things. Really… good things.
      Martha: Oh my God. He's told you everything.
      Donna: Didn't take you long to get over it though. Who's the lucky man?
      The Doctor: What man? Lucky what?
      Donna: She's engaged, you prawn.
      (Martha shows her engagement ring)
      The Doctor: Really? Who to?
      Martha: Tom. That Tom Milligan, he's in paediatrics. Working out in Africa right now, and yes, I know, I've got a doctor who disappears off to distant places, tell me about it.
      Donna: Is he skinny?
      Martha: No. He's sort of… strong.
      Donna: (gesturing to the Doctor) He is too skinny for words. You give him a hug, you get a papercut!
      The Doctor: I'd rather you were fighting.

    • Luke Rattigan: Her name's Jo Nakashima. A freelance journalist. Clever by the sound of it, not as clever as me- but that goes without saying. I'd recommend termination.
      General Staal: Remember your status, boy. We do not take orders from humans.
      Luke Rattigan: I said 'recommend'.
      General Staal: Then your advice shows military wisdom. She will be terminated.
      Luke Rattigan: Cool.

    • The Doctor: We're going to the country. Fresh air and geniuses - what more could you ask?
      Donna: I'm not coming with you. I've been thinking. I'm sorry. I'm going home.
      The Doctor: Really?
      Donna: I've got to go.
      The Doctor: Well, if that's what you want. I mean, it's a bit soon. I had so many places I wanted to take you. The Fifteenth Broken Moon of the Medusa Cascade, the Lightning Skies of Cotter Palluni's World, the Diamond Coral Reefs of Kataa Flo Ko. Thank you. Thank you, Donna Noble. It's been brilliant. You saved my life, in so many ways. You're... You're just popping home for a visit, that's what you mean.
      Donna: You dumbo.
      The Doctor: Then you're coming back.
      Donna: Know what you are? A great big, outer-space dunce.

    • Donna: (to The Doctor, regarding Martha): Is that what you did to her? Turn her into a soldier?

    • (Sontaran removes his helmet)
      The Doctor: And your name?
      General Staal: General Staal, of the tenth Sontaran fleet. Staal: the Undefeated!
      The Doctor: Oh, that's not a very good nickname. What if you do get defeated, "Staal: the not so undefeated anymore but nevermind"?
      Ross: It's like a potato, baked potato, talking baked potato.
      The Doctor: Now, Ross, don't be rude, you look like a pink weasel to him.

    • Commander Skorr: (about The Doctor) Intruder!
      The Doctor: How'd he get in? "Intruder" window!

    • The Doctor: Getting a bit too close to the 1980s.
      Donna: What am I gonna do, put a dent in it?
      The Doctor: Well, someone did...

    • Donna: The first thing I noticed is an empty file
      Doctor: Why what's inside it, or what's not inside it?
      Donna: Sick days, there aren't any. Hundreds of people working here and no ones sick. Not one hang over, man-flu, sneaky little shopping trip, nothing, not ever, they don't get ill.
      Colonel Mace: That can't be right
      Donna: You've been checking out the building, you should've been checking out the work force
      Martha: I can see why he likes you, you are good.

    • Martha: That's why I thought we needed an expert.
      The Doctor: Really? Who did you get?
      (All look at him)
      The Doctor: Oh right me, yes

  • NOTES (8)

    • Christopher Ryan has also starred in the classic series of Doctor Who: he played Mentor Lord Kiv in Mindwarp, which formed part of the 1986 Trial Of A Time Lord story (with Colin Baker as the Doctor).

    • The creator of the Sontarans - Robert Holmes - is mentioned in the closing credits.

    • The old building dubbed "Rattigan Academy" in this episode has been used recently in The Sarah Jane Adventures, but under a different name.

    • According to producer Susie Liggat, the Sontaran cloning tank was made from part of the scenery used in The Fires Of Pompeii.

    • Overnight UK viewing figures for this episode were 6.4 million, with the final viewing figure at 7.06 million.

    • International Airdates:
      United States: 16 May 2008
      Australia: 27 July 2008
      Turkey: 27 February 2011

    • Freema Agyeman's name is back in the opening credits but she is billed last and is given the "And" credit.

    • This episode marks the return of the Sontarans, a villain from the classic Doctor Who series. Their last appearance was in 1985 serial, The Two Doctors. This featured Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor and saw Patrick Troughton reprising his role as the Second Doctor.