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Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans

Video review by Nicholas Withers

According to all the hype and reviews this is the closest thing to new Doctor Who since 1989 (although The Zero Imperative was also close, if you ask me). Shakedown on the whole is good viewing.

From the outset the high production values are noticeable with the Mark Ayres soundtrack and ship models equalling anything previously seen in Doctor Who. The human leads perform very well, however the same cannot be said for the Sontarans. It is painfully obvious that the Sontarans are played by probably amateur fans rather than professional actors. The one exception is the Sontaran leader who is very good. However there is some serious mismatching of voices with the Sontarans: half the time they speak in the grainy 'I'm no human' voice, and the other half they speak in normal voices. The second-in-command Sontaran provides some unintentional comic relief with a voice I'm sure I have heard before on The Muppet Show.

Considering the budget, or lack of it, the special effects were brilliant. The exterior shots were very impressive, although occasionally jumpy. The interior of the ship was a bit too recognisable as the warship which served as the location (especially the chequered floors). These interior shots help to remind us that part of the reason for the success of the last season of Doctor Who was because the stories were essentially Earth-bound. The new Sontaran make-up was impressive however the exchange of the black vinyl/leather costumes for brown silk pyjamas may disappoint some people. The Rutan was also brilliantly done, providing a very believable alternative to the tin foil in Horror of Fang Rock.

After getting past these minor quibbles Shakedown is entertaining. Its simplistic story lacks the atmosphere of the Stranger videos and The Zero Imperative. The question that remains once the final credits roll is that if such a feature can be made for straight video release by a small scale company then why are we still without new Doctor Who on our screens?

This item appeared in TSV 44 (June 1995).