REVIEW: ‘Doctor Who,’ Season 13 Episode 2 – “War of the Sontarans”

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War of the Sontarans

Doctor Who is a sci-fi series produced by the BBC. The series continues the 13th series of its current iteration with the second episode titled War of the Sontarans. The executive producer is Chris Chibnall, who also is credited as the writer of the episode. It is directed by Jamie Magnus Stone. The Doctor is played by Jodie Whittaker, with Mandip Gil and John Bishop also starring.

This is the second part of Doctor Who: Flux, part of an event lasting the entirety of the season. The Doctor and Yaz find Dan, a normal Liverpudlian who was kidnapped by an alien with canine features. Every human has one of these Lupari designated to keep them safe, and seven billion are heading for Earth. On the other side of the universe, an ancient threat is freed from captivity, sending out a wave of devastation across time and space. The TARDIS is one such casualty, and Earth was also hit.

The Doctor, Yaz, and Dan wake up in the middle of the Crimean War, deep in a battlefield. But the English soldiers aren’t fighting Russians. They are battling Sontarans. Our heroes are rescued by Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole, but the trio is quickly separated far away from each other. They soon discover that the Sontarans’ war is spread over more than just Crimea.

The plot of the episode may be initially basic, but that is quickly dismantled. The Doctor and the Sontarans have battled for decades, like the Daleks and the Cybermen. They are the perfect front to tell one story as a mask for something much bigger. Chibnall brilliantly tells two stories within one episode. There is the situation in Crimea and then a larger story on the backburner. But the first is treated as a minor symptom of a cosmo-wide illness. The writer is a master at unraveling multiple stories at the same time, as seen in Broadchurch. The Sontaran story is magnificent and feels like classic Doctor Who, mixing education and excitement. And then comes an unexpected epilogue that is genuinely horrifying. 

War of the Sontarans features another brilliant aspect of Chibnall’s writing; incredible exploration of history. There are some beautifully emotive moments in this episode that makes these legendary moments. The writer expertly demonstrates the determination the British Army had towards defeating enemies but the antiquated boneheadedness of the generals that led it. General Logan has a damaged pride, and from that, directs his men into a brutal situation. The consequences are unflinching, and Logan’s reaction is poignantly performed by Gerald Kyd.

Doctor Who was developed as an educational device, and continues to do so through introducing younger audiences to these famous characters. While General Logan serves as one of the many antagonists in this second episode, Mary Seacole is the helpful historical figure. Sara Powell does an excellent job performing as the extremely influential nurse whose story is heartbreaking but demonstrative of the genuine kindness of the human spirit.

The three main characters are taken on their journeys, requiring a lot from the actors themselves. Whittaker’s brilliance as the Doctor resurfaces as she faces not only bloodthirsty Sontarans but humans who are just as eager to fo send men to their death. With Whittaker’s iteration of the Time Lord, there is a joyous glee to her nature, reveling in the adventure. But there is also a strength and a fury that should not be undermined. Gil as Yaz is crucial to the epilogue, shining in that final scene. And while Bishop’s acting isn’t better than it was in the first episode, there is more demonstration of how he can succeed.

The visual nature of War of The Sontarans is brilliant. The fusion between CGI and on-set imagery is improved, and all CGI shots are stunning as ever. The battle in the Crimea is fantastic as many visual effects and props are utilized. All of the Sontaran costumes are individual and beautifully sculpted. Their look resembles their counterparts in classic Doctor Who, as opposed to the modern incarnations.

War of the Sontarans is superb. Where the deficiencies of the first episode dragged it down in places, the shining moments in this chapter brought it up. There are so many layers to the episode’s plot, but all are given the time to impose themselves. There is heart, powerful themes, and alien silliness. Whittaker is brimming with energy and is always an infectious screen presence. And the ending has the audience wracked in dread.

Doctor Who War of the Sontarans is available on BBC iPlayer in the UK and on BBC America.


War of the Sontarans
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

War of the Sontarans is superb. Where the deficiencies of the first episode dragged it down in places, the shining moments in this chapter brought it up. There are so many layers to the episode’s plot, but all are given the time to impose themselves. There is heart, powerful themes, and alien silliness. Whittaker is brimming with energy and is always an infectious screen presence. And the ending has the audience wracked in dread