Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Countdown - The Sontaran Stratagem

To celebrate the fact that 2013 is the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, we are taking a look back at all of the episodes of the show which featured David Tennant as the Doctor. At the end of our look back we'll be asking you, the fans, to vote for what you think is the ultimate David Tennant episode of Doctor Who....

We continue with the next David Tennant episode.... The Sontaran Stratagem
Read our previous Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Countdown posts here.

33. The Sontaran Stratagem

First Broadcast on 26th April 2008. Running Time: 44.30 Minutes. Viewing Figures: 7.1 million.
Written By Helen Raynor.
Directed By Douglas Mackinnon.
Executive Producers Russell T Davies, Phil Collinson and Julie Gardner. Rating: 8/10.


Martha Jones summons the Doctor back to modern-day Earth, but an old enemy lies in wait. With the mysterious ATMOS devices spreading across the world, Donna discovers that even her own family is not safe from the alien threat - but is it too late to save them?

Extras: Promotional Photos |  Videos | On Set Photos | Screen Caps

Production Notes:

Following the successful resurrection of the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Master Russell T Davies decided that by 2008 it was high time that the classic Doctor Who foe, the Sontaran made their return. 
First seen in 1973 in The Time Warrior they had last appeared on our screens in 1985's The Two Doctors.
Davies was keen to stay as close to the original design as possible and decided that the Sontaran adventure should be the first two part story of the 2008 series.
Helen Raynor, who had previously penned another monster two parter, Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution Of The Daleks for the 2007 series, and had written To The Last Man for Torchwood, was brought in to take charge of the episode.
Davies wanted Raynor to include several elements to the storyline of the episodes, the biggest of these was the return of Martha Jones, the Doctor's loyal friend and travelling companion throughout the 2007 series.
Martha had left the Doctor - and the show - in the series finale, Last Of The Time Lords, in order to deal with her unrequited love for the Doctor. She had since featured in three episodes of Torchwood, Reset, Dead Man Walking and A Day In The Death. Davies wanted to show how Martha had grown up and matured. She was now a fully qualified Doctor who had worked for Torchwood and was now working with UNIT. 
In fact UNIT was another item of classic Doctor Who that Davies wanted to bring back. UNIT was a military organisation that had featured heavily in the Jon Pertwee era of the show. UNIT had of course been previously mention in several of the new episodes of the show, Aliens Of  London, World War III, The Christmas Invasion, The Sound Of Drums and Last Of The Time Lords had all referenced the organisation, but Davies decided that the Sontaran story was the ideal opportunity for UNIT to be in the spotlight.
He was extremely keen to look at how the Doctor's own peaceful and pacifistic tactics compared to those of UNIT which had, in the past, seemed almost hypocritical to him.
The final plot point Davies wanted included was that the story was to be set around something typically normal and mundane, the original thought was this would be new chimneys that would be fitted to every home and which supposedly cleansed that atmosphere. However as Raynor continued to develop her script she decided to combine this enviromental idea with the popularity of satellite navigation systems in cars. 
There had been several news reports at the time of SatNavs giving out the wrong information to drivers leading to all sorts of disruptions and it was decided that the viewers would be better able to identify with this idea. And so Davies and Raynor came up with ATMOS devices. Davies managed a sneaky reference to them in the series opener Partners In Crime when a sticker for ATMOS can be seen in the window of a taxi.

During the first drafts of The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky, as the Sontaran stories were eventually titled, cloning featured even more heavily than it did eventually, with the factory workers all being clones too. However Davies decided that the clone element worked better if it was done on a smaller scale and with a familiar character and so the idea of cloning Martha Jones came about. So instead of clones the workers of ATMOS were hypnotised  in a way reminiscent of the scenes of the scientists in The Time Warrior.

When naming her characters Raynor drew inspiration from people she knew. Luke Rattigan was originally to be called Luke Marlow after a young fan and UNIT driver Ross Jenkins was named after script assistant Ross Sutherland and New Media assistant Richard Jenkins.

When UNIT was originally featured in classic episode of Doctor Who it's full name was the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, however when UNIT was referenced in the new episode Aliens Of London the real United Nations made the BBC aware that they were concerned about the use of its name in a fictional TV show and in particular they were worried about online references confusing people. 

To begin with Davies decided that he would just not make references to what UNIT stood for, which was all well and good for a fleeting mention, but now the organisation was to form part of a major plot line and so the production team began discussions on what UNIT could be explained as standing for and finally decided upon rebranding it as Unified Intelligence Taskforce.

Then in October 2007 Helen Raynor was told she would need to make significant changes to her scripts for the episodes due to the fact that Howard Attfield, who played Donna Noble's father, was too ill to continue filming for the series.
Davies wanted Raynor to replace all his scenes with Donna's grandfather Wilf, played by Bernard Cribbins, taking his place.

Susie Liggat took over as producer of The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky to allow regular producer Phil Collinson some time off. Collinson was credited as Executive Producer on the show titles.

The Director of the episode was Douglas Mackinnon who had previously worked on The Last Detective, The Bill, Jekyll and London's Burning.

Filming started on 23rd October 2007 in Margam Country Park in Margam. This was used for scenes at Rattigan's Academy. The 24th October saw Freema Agyeman arrive on set to reprise her role as the Doctor's former companion Martha Jones.

On 27th, 29th and 30th October 2007 the action shifted to Usk Valley Business Park in Pontypool were the ATMOS factory scenes were shot. These included shots of Martha Jones and her clone with Mariam Nundy doubling for Agyeman in scenes where both Martha and her clone were visible.

Later on the 30th October the team headed to Nant Fawr Road in Cardiff to shoot scenes in Donna Noble's family home, work here continued until 2nd November.

It was back to Usk Valley Business Park from the 5th November to the 8th for yet more scenes in the ATMOS factory. Extra ATMOS material, including the supermarket car park scene, was recorded at Orion Electric in Margam on the 9th and 10th November.

The following week it was back to base as the cast and crew returned to the Upper Boat Studios where a specially built set was used as UNIT's HQ from 12th to 15th November followed by scenes in the Sontaran War Room on the 16th.

On 19th November filming took place at Roath Basin at Cardiff Docks. Here scenes of the Doctor and Ross escaping their UNIT Land Rover and Jo Nakashima's car plunging into the water were both recorded.

Then from 20th to 22nd November it was back to Upper Boat for scenes on the Sontaran ship. The 22nd also saw the final TARDIS scenes recorded and footage of a US newsreader was filmed at the BBC's Broadcasting House in Llandaff.

The 18th December saw Catherine Tate back at Upper Boat to record Donna's scenes were she is alone in the TARDIS. 

A few inserts including the cameo by Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark were finished off on January 24th 2008 and February 29th 2008.

On 8th April 2008 previously recorded footage of Billie Piper as Rose Tyler was added to the scenes of Donna alone in the TARDIS. This was following on from the series' opening episode Partners In Crime where Rose had been seen looking for the Doctor at the same time as Donna Noble was. She was not due to be seen again until the 10th episode in the series, Midnight, but it was decided to add the footage to The Poison Sky in order to tie in the episodes further.

Look who's back:

After the year that never was, (Last Of The Time Lords), Martha Jones and the Doctor parted company. Martha was heartbroken by her unrequited love for him and rightly decided that she need space away from him to get over her infatuation. They parted on good terms and Martha left the Doctor her mobile phone, determined that she would meet with him again one day..
During their time apart Martha had finished her medical school exams and had become a fully qualified doctor, she had also joined forces with her old friend Captain Jack Harkness and helped him out when she went to work with him at Torchwood.
Martha was working for UNIT when she phoned the Doctor and asked him to return to Earth to help her investigate the ATMOS deaths. The Doctor then discovered that the Sontarans were planning on turning Earth in to a breeding planet, and helped by a clone of Martha they had infiltrated UNIT.
Martha was with the clone when it died and she realised that it had shared the same memories, thoughts and emotions as herself.
After the Sontarans were defeated Martha went into the TARDIS to say goodbye to the Doctor and Donna Noble, but the TARDIS took off before she could leave...


The Sontarans are cloned warriors from the planet Sontar. The Sontarans numbered their forces in millions, with thousands of newly cloned warriors hatching every few minutes. The Sontarans have been at war for millennia against the Rutan host and were bred for war and nothing else. Dying in battle was the ultimate honour, and without honour, the Sontarans saw no point in existing. Each Sontaran had only one weakness, the Probic Vent on the back of the neck of his armour, through which nutrients were fed.
If struck this could stun and immobilise a warrior, meaning that a Sontaran trooper would never turn his back on an enemy.
Because of their love of war, the Sontarans were devastated to be ostracised by those involved in the Last Great Time War and unable to take part.
The Tenth Sontaran Battle Fleet, under the leadership of Captain Staal, planned to transform Earth in to a cloning colony for Sontaran cloning tanks, but this plot was foiled by the Doctor, Donna Noble and Martha Jones, fighting alongside UNIT.


Donna: I can't believe I'm doing this!
The Doctor: No, neither can I. Oh oh, careful! Left hand down, left hand down! Getting a bit too close to the 1980s.
Donna: What am I going to do, put a dent in 'em?
The Doctor: Well someone did.

The Doctor: Martha, Donna. Donna, Martha. Please, don't fight. I can't bear fighting.
Donna: You wish. I've heard all about you. He talks about you all the time.
Martha: I dread to think.
Donna: 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 long to get over it, though. Who's the lucky man?
The Doctor: What man? Lucky what?
Donna: She's engaged, you prawn.

Donna: He is too skinny for words. You give him a hug, you get a papercut.
The Doctor: Oh, I'd rather you were fighting.

Wilfred Mott: 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.


This is Christopher Ryan's second role in Doctor Who. He previously played Lord Kiv in Parts 5-8 of The Trial of the Time Lord (1986). Chis is probably best known for his comedic roles, including Dave Hedgehog in Bottom and Mike in The Young Ones.

UNIT first appeared in 1968's The Invasion, in which the military organisation - with the help of the Second Doctor - fought the Cybermen.
UNIT has now been rebranded as the Unified Intelligence Taskforce, having previously been known as the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. This followed a request by the United Nations shortly after the series returned to TV in 2005.

When communicating with each other, UNIT use call signs first used in the Classic series. These are mostly based around greyhound racing. Personnel are usually designated a Greyhound call sign, whereas a base of operations is known as a Trap.

The Doctor's reference to working for UNIT "Back in the 70s - or was it the 80s" refers to inconsistencies in the dates for UNIT stories in the Classic series. It was generally believed that UNIT stories were set slightly ahead of the present day, confirmed by Sarah Jane Smith's claim she was from 1980 in 1975's Pyramids Of Mars. 1983's Mawdryn Undead confused things somewhat, by featuring a retired Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart (the former head of UNIT's UK operation) in 1977!

Martha's fiancé Tom Milligan is the doctor from Last of the Time Lords.

The Sontaran Stratagem is the fifth story to feature the clone warriors. They have previously appeared in The Time Warrior (1973-4), The Sontaran Experiment (1975), The Invasion Of Time (1979) and The Two Doctors (1985).

Despite being a clone species, no two Sontarans appearing in Doctor Who have ever looked identical! 

  • David Tennant - The Doctor
  • Catherine Tate - Donna Noble
  • Freema Agyeman - Martha Jones
  • Christopher Ryan – General Staal
  • Rupert Holliday-Evans  Colonel Mace
  • Dan Starkey – Commander Skorr
  • Ryan Sampson – Luke Rattigan
  • Bernard Cribbins  Wilfred Mott
  • Jacqueline King  Sylvia Noble
  • Eleanor Matsuura – Jo Nakashima
  • Christian Cooke  Ross Jenkins
  • Clive Standen  Private Harris
  • Wesley Theobald – Private Gray
  • Ruari Mears – Clone