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The Sontarans: A Creative History

By Murray Cramp

The Sontarans are a popular Doctor Who monster. As a major threat to the universe, arguably they are third behind the Daleks and Cybermen. They receive from me the bronze award for celestial mayhem. This is helped by the fact that they enjoy nothing but war. Also they have a limited time travel capability and a desire to improve on this. Also making them a considerable threat is the fact that they reproduce at a rapid rate - "one million hatchings every minute" when at maximum! This essay contains information on the Sontaran History, hierarchy, weapons and equipment, and enemies and 'allies'.

In preparation for this, I received very useful advice from Paul Scoones and Jon Preddle regarding various aspects of the possible Sontaran History. The usefulness of their advice is indicated by the fact that I had to completely rewrite the essay because of it!

This is the story of their entire history as we 'know' it, from their emergence as a clone race through to their last known activities. The Sontaran homeworld of Sontar was once abundant with reptilian life of a type similar to Earth's during its Cretaceous Age. It also contained huge, towering forests in the areas not destroyed or eaten by the large reptiles. This was before the days of invasion and war.

Sontar has a gravity 1.5 times stronger than that of our own (Earth) and as a consequence Sontarans tend to be shortish, squat (although those of the officer class may be taller) with a compact strength of about three times that of a normal human. The Sontarans quickly developed as the most intelligent race. Their culture evolved in much the same way as most races of intellect. They passed through the Stone Age to the metal ages and eventually to an industrial age. They fought wars, played sports, built shopping malls, developed oral contraception and all the things a truly civilised world would be expected to do. They developed basic space travel. Also at this time they were developing primitive genetics and cybernetics experimentation. They developed quickly in both these fields. However the geneticists were given a greater supply of state funding, so progress in this area was more rapid. Eventually they were able to clone small lizards and snakes (then abundant on the planet). Then they moved on to larger varieties, until they felt ready to try it out on themselves. After a few nasty mess-ups they managed to achieve their great aim - exact duplication of a Sontaran's body. Initially they used 'volunteers' from mental institutions. They planned on using specimens from the general population after initial experimentation.

Meanwhile the first unmanned probes of the Sontaran Special Space Service had been launched. Unfortunately the first alien life encountered by these ships was the Rutans. At this time (3300 BC) the Rutans had command of much of the Milky Way Galaxy. They destroyed the defenceless craft and traced their origin to Sontar. Then they prepared for invasion. But the Sontarans proved to be a difficult race to subjugate. First of all, the sheer size of the planet made an organised offensive a logistical nightmare. Secondly the Sontarans threw every weapon available at the invaders. At this time, the then young Time Lord, later known as the Doctor, decided to help the Sontarans to defeat their enemy. Against the advice of his Time Lord superiors he landed on Sontar and helped them to develop an army of cloned warriors. With nearly a year (487 Earth days) of fighting, the Sontarans were desperate for victory. They realised that if they could clone the Doctor many times over and recondition him/them to serve their cause, they would be victorious. Later the 'Doctor' clones could be destroyed if desired. The Doctor managed to escape this fate, but the Sontarans now had the power to duplicate their best warriors many times over. With these new armies came new hope, but success had its price as success always does.

Most of those cloned were the most ruthless, brutal killers of their race. As the war dragged on the older, weaker, non-clone population gradually died off. A small group of cloned 'volunteers' (mentioned earlier) took over political and military control. The conventional egg-hatching reproductive system was declared militarily inefficient. Those who clung to the old ways were rounded up and executed in bloody purges. The 'Right To Traditional Reproduction' movement was declared illegal and immoral. So the new race of Sontarans was formed. Soon all that remained was a mass of homicidal maniac clones. But near disaster was turned into victory. The Rutans were forced into retreat.

To the Rutans this was a major setback which they never fully recovered from. The conflict continued for centuries, always the Rutans being pushed back, slowly but surely.

By about the year 3000 BC the Sontarans began to detect biological weaknesses in themselves. Their research indicated that each generation of clones was slightly inferior to the last. Dismayed at this discovery they attempted to reproduce in the traditional way. Alas because of decades of neglect, this activity was no longer available to them. The Sontaran race seemed doomed. However they soon discovered that by allowing parts of their bodies to be cybernetically converted they could return to their previous efficiency. They became more machine than reptile, and as time passed they would gradually become less and less organic.

By 1108 AD the Rutans had been pushed back to the planet Vollotha. The war had turned completely against them. It was hopeless, but they fought on in the vain hope that something or someone might save them. This is exactly what happened.

At the time of the battle the Time Lord known as the Master was devising another of his evil plans of universal domination. But he had the misfortune to get captured by the occupying Rutan force. As a bargaining tool he helped them develop what later became known as coronic acid. This new weapon gave them the chance they needed to again go on the offensive. The Master managed to escape his captors in the confusion of the opening battle. He then materialised on Earth (approx. 1971) and proceeded to stir up some animated plastic. Coronic acid has the strange ability of being able to destroy only cloned flesh. Hurriedly the Rutans proceeded to arm all units with the new weapon. The acid was delivered by conventional warheads that when detonated sprayed coronic acid inside the Sontaran space craft. Rank after rank of the Sontaran space fleets was destroyed. The third Sontaran space fleet was totally destroyed by the surprise attack. The Sontarans were completely unprepared and expected an easy and successful campaign. But the Rutans advanced on a wide front.

[A Sontaran]

Sontaran technical support teams worked in an attempt to counter this new weapon. By 1120 AD, all space craft were redesigned. Formerly saucer-like in appearance they now resembled large golf balls, making them perhaps the oddest craft in the universe. This design proved more resistant to acid fracturing. In addition all craft were strengthened with the newly developed metal called Terrutlian. This was not all; previously the typical Sontaran warrior wore a grey cloth uniform. Now they all wore 'special space armour' made from Terrullain. This covered their body and included a helmet to protect their heads. Soon after this another feature was added. In order to increase military efficiency, the Sontaran digestive and cardio-vascular systems became cybernetic. A 'probic vent' was placed in the nape of the neck of every soldier. This eliminated the need for food and even sleep. When fatigued they simply plugged into the energy of their ship's drive systems, through their probic vents. This vent is the major weakness in Sontaran armour. A blow here will stun or even kill them. Also, Sontaran armour is completely immune to the effects of staser fire despite the fact that a dagger thrust will easily pierce it!

The next major event in the history of the Sontarans involved another Time Lord. In 1152 the race of beings known as the War Lords were searching for a race suitable for using as an army of conquest. They needed an aggressive but controllable race. After much experimentation they decided on Earth and humanity as the target planet. But before this they toyed with the possibility of using others. One such example was on the Sontarans and Rutans. The War Lords and the War Chief (a Time Lord) soon decided to abandon the operation as both sides were too aggressive and quite uncontrollable. But during this research the Sontarans managed to capture a SIDRAT (a time machine of the War Chief's making). Much of the technology of the craft was alien to the Sontaran scientific teams, but they managed to understand enough through reverse engineering. They invented the 'Osmic projector', a primitive time travelling device with a maximum range of 769 Earth years. These are normally used by Sontaran strategists wanting to know the likely outcome of a future battle. This provides the Sontarans with a limited ability to change time. Sontarans have a great interest in time travel.

In 1205 Sontaran Commander Linx was on a reconnaissance patrol when he was attacked by a squadron of Rutan fighters [see The Time Warrior]. Linx's time travel jaunts took him to the year 1974.

Still more centuries of war, and the Rutans had retreated to an area near planet Earth. Here they planned a bold counter-offensive. It involved the capture of the Earth in the year 1907. Once captured it would function as an orbital platform where a large group of Rutan squadrons would launch a mass attack cutting the Sontaran front in two. The Rutans would then use newly developed shape-shifting techniques to cause confusion behind the lines, cutting off vital supplies and reinforcements. The second wave would then systematically annihilate the now fractured resistance. Earth would be totally destroyed in the battle, but the Rutans held no sympathies for a race of "bipod primitives". Unfortunately for the Rutans, this bold plan was never allowed a chance to succeed, thanks to the intervention of the Doctor and his companion, Leela [see Horror of Fang Rock]. The Rutan scout and its mothership were destroyed. The Rutan forces hesitated unsure of their next move. When the Sontarans attacked a large Rutan force was eliminated.

By about 1978 the Sontarans encountered the race called Vardans. These beings had great powers. The Sontaran strategic council decided that it would be wise to form an alliance with them, for the time being. The Vardans enjoyed war almost as much as the Sontarans but refused to join in the Rutan conflict. In 1980 the Fourth Doctor stumbled across the Vardans. In order to save his life, he agreed to help them, secretly plotting to destroy them. The Sontarans were delighted to hear of the Doctor's capture. They had always been greedy for the power that the Time Lords held. So the Sontaran High Command decided that the time was right for the invasion of Gallifrey. "The invasion of time itself!" By using the Vardans and the Doctor as a front they hoped they would succeed in opening the transduction barrier surrounding Gallifrey. What happened to the Doctor and the Vardans after that would be unimportant [see The Invasion of Time].

The Sontarans continued to dream of the power that unlimited time travel ability would give them. By 1985 the scientists Kartz and Reimer, on board the space station Camera, were working on the development of a time travelling capsule. They were close to success. So close in fact that they had caught the attention of the Time Lords [see The Two Doctors]. The war with the Rutans continued. An unsuccessful attack was launched by the Sontarans in the Madillon Cluster. It failed to alter the course of the war.

During the course of the next centuries the battle fronts stabilised. The Sontarans encountered another race of clones known as the Hyperioi, from Hyperion Sigma, in the year 16,800. Relations between the two races were good. Somehow a certain amount of inter-cloning took place. The results of this were (in Sontarans) paler skins and two additional fingers. Sontarans had traditionally only two fingers and a thumb. Now many had four fingers and a thumb.

The Hyperioi were not especially militaristic. Many decades previously the race had almost been wiped out by a terrible plague. Those that survived discovered that they no longer had the ability to produce offspring. They remedied this by cloning the survivors. Thus the race was able to continue.

[the Sontaran Experiment]

In 17,000 the Hyperioi sent a rocket fleet to the Venusian Colonies and succeeded in eliminating a Dalek task force preparing to invade that region [see Genesis of the Daleks]. The Sontarans were impressed with this and decided to sign a formal treaty of non-aggression with the Hyperioi. Peace continued between them until the 29th Millennia. Both races retied heavily on a constant supply of the valuable metal called Terruflian. As competition for it grew (with the Sontaran military situation becoming more and more desperate) tensions increased. The Sontarans decided to attack and so the Terrullian wars began.

After nearly 2,000 years of bloody conflict the Hyperioi were soundly defeated. They could have been defeated sooner but the Sontarans never launched a full scale assault. Most of their resources were still engaged in the Rutan War. The remaining Hyperioi reluctantly agreed to help in this campaign.

More centuries of war. By the year 75,000 both the Rutans and Sontarans had beaten each other to a pulp. Only small contingents of warriors remained to fight on for the hopeless cause. Some groups began to make private peace negotiations. Whole attack groups and space squadrons deserted or surrendered. Others, more dedicated to the struggle, but who realised the hopelessness of further fighting, committed suicide or launched Kamikaze style attacks against their opponents. But in some sectors, soldiers continued to resist.

In approximately the year 79,000 Styre conducted the 'Sontaran Experiment' [see The Sontaran Experiment]. After the Doctor's success against this plot, the Sontaran forces were paralysed by indecision. The Rutans chose this time to launch a fierce attack on Hyperioi Sigma, which was successfully invaded and completely destroyed. Small groups of Rutans and Sontarans continue to fight. For them the war continues...

This item appeared in TSV 22 (April 1991).