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From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.

"This is your final destination"
―Atmos GPS System
The Sontaran Stratagem
Series: Doctor Who - TV stories
Series Number: Series 4
Story Number: 192a
Doctor: Tenth Doctor
Writer: Helen Raynor
Director: Douglas Mackinnon
Producer: Susie Liggat
Broadcast: 26th April 2008
Format: 1x45 minute episode
Prod. Code: 196 a
Previous Story: Planet of the Ood
Following Story: The Poison Sky



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? And what will she make of Martha Jones?


Jo Nakashima is investigating the Rattigan Academy and is kicked out by Luke Rattigan because she has found out his secret about the ATMOS devices. While she is driving she tries to get in contact with UNIT but she gets the answer phone. Suddenly her car takes control of itself and drives into the River Thames.

Donna is flying the TARDIS while the Doctor gets a call from his former companion Martha Jones. She says that she is bringing him back to Earth. As the TARDIS lands, Martha greets the Doctor and Donna. Martha is engaged to Tom Milligan now and, thanks to the Doctor's recommendation, has a job with UNIT as a medical officer. Martha takes the Doctor and Donna to a truck which serves as UNIT headquarters. Colonel Mace tells them that 52 people died at the exact same time at different locations and found in their cars and it is linked to the Rattigan Academy.

Meanwhile, two UNIT solders, Privates Harris and Gray, are exploring in the lower corridors of the ATMOS Factory. They are let through a door by brainwashed ATMOS workers, and find a tub full of slime and an unformed humanoid shape attached to it by an umbilical cord from its neck. Just as it sinks back below the surface, the Sontaran General Staal appears and disables them, then brainwashes them both into working for the Sontarans.

While Martha is checking an ATMOS employee he says that he works 24 hours a day. It becomes obvious that he has been hypnotized by the Sontarans. The Doctor is assigned a soldier for protection named Ross Jenkins and he, Donna, the Doctor drop Donna off at her home before proceeding to the Rattigan Academy.

Donna walks down the street, recollecting past events with the Doctor, then sees her grandfather, Wilf, who is pleased to see her. They go in from a cup of coffee. The Doctor and Ross walk into the academy and are confronted by Luke Rattigan. After snipping Rattigan with much repartee, the Doctor sneaks into a teleport pod in his living room and teleports up to the Sontaran ship. Then, the Doctor discovers that the Sontarans are planning to do something with the cars and are orbiting the earth.

The Doctor teleports back to Earth and Staal, the Sontaran leader, follows him down to Rattigan's mansion. After impairing him hitting his Probic vent with a squash ball, The Doctor returns to the UNIT jeep with Jenkins. The ATMOS devices kick in and start to drive them towards the river. The Doctor realizing that the device is programmed to not follow his directions, orders the device to drive them into the river. Jenkins and the Doctor abandon the car as the device malfunctions. They run to Donna's mum house. Back at UNIT Martha is called to see Colonel Mace but she is kidnapped by the mind-controlled solders. She is taken to the cloning room in the basement and the process of cloning her is begun.

The Doctor tells Donna's family that their car is dangerous and that it should be destroyed. Wilf gets in the car to drive it off the street when the doors lock and the gas is released and starts to suffocate him. Sylvia runs in the house to grab an axe.

Martha's clone wakes up and puts her clothes on and Martha is put under a sleep. Martha's clone then walks off with the controlled solders, as the Doctor tries to save Wilfred.


Production crew

To be added




  • Martha is now engaged to Tom Milligan.
  • Martha's stated desire to change UNIT from the inside echoes Jack Harkness' similar statement regarding his intentions regarding Torchwood.


  • The Doctor mentions the fifteenth broken moon of the Medusa Cascade.


Races and species

  • General Staal is called a "baked potato" by Ross Jenkins.
  • When the Sontarans realised they had an intruder, the Doctor replied "How'd he get in, then? In-tru-der-window?" Henry van Statten also said the same thing.
  • The Sontarans' weak point is their probic vent; a small connector at the back of their necks that allows them to plug into an energy source to recharge.

Time wars



  • Donna calls the UNIT soldiers "stormtroopers", a possible reference to Star Wars, or rather the Nazi soldiers.
  • The dialogue between the Doctor and Martha suggests that he helped get her her job with UNIT.
  • Martha mentions the Valiant.

Story Notes

  • This episode marks the first television appearance of the Sontarans in 23 years. Their last regular series appearance was in The Two Doctors, however the last time they were refered to was in 2007s' "The Sarah Jane Adventures". They had also previously appeared in several non-canonical productions, including "A Fix with Sontarans" in 1985 and the early-1990s independent production Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans.
  • Helen Raynor wrote this episode. Her Series 3 episodes Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks both occupied fourth and fifth episode in the series. This two part episode also occupies episode four and five.
  • This two-parter is Douglas Mackinnon's first story as director.
  • When Donna asks the Doctor if it was his influence that turned Martha into 'a soldier', a few notes of Donna's theme music can be heard before it segues into the music which plays when the UNIT soldiers appear.
  • Mobile phone company O2 is releasing an ATMOS SatNav phone, possibly based on the devices used in this episode.
  • On the Sontaran ship and in almost every shot you will see what looks like an Xbox 360 power indicator complete with the quarter circle lines and a dot in the center the only major difference is that it is purple rather than green.
  • This show was made during the 35th anniversary of the Sontarans.
  • In DW: The Time Warrior the Sontarans were described as "nasty, brutish and short". This is the first time that they are shown to actually be shorter than normal human stature.
  • There is a UNIT character called Jenkins, a homage to a famous piece of dialogue "Jenkins, chap with the wings there five rounds rapid" from DW: The Dæmons.(In the commentary broadcast on BBC7, it was said that "Jenkins" was named for Richard Jenkins, who maintains the BBC's DW website.)
  • This is Christopher Ryan's second role in Doctor Who. He previously played Lord Kiv in DW: Mindwarp.
  • 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. Nonetheless, Martha still refers to UNIT receiving funding from the United Nations and the later TW: Children of Earth: Day One indicates that the UN still commands UNIT.
  • 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.
  • Donna makes reference to the terrorist prisoner camps at Guantanamo Bay. This is one of the first references in the revived Doctor Who to the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Similarly, Martha mentions a Department of Homeworld Security (here being mentioned for the first time), an apparent counterpart to the Department of Homeland Security established in the US after 9/11. (It should be noted that while references to other post-9/11 events such as the Iraq War have been made in both Doctor Who and Torchwood, the franchise has yet to explicitly indicate that the Whoniverse experienced the actual events of 9/11.
  • The cloning vat in this story is in fact the (redressed) fountain from The Fires of Pompeii.
  • The Table that is used to hold the real Martha is used in the Torchwood episode Cyberwoman. Also the metal headware that Martha has on at the same time looks like mind probe used the episode Sleeper
  • During the Sontaran Transporters activation the Master's drumming can be heard.


  • Official - 7.06 million viewers


to be added

Filming Locations

  • Margam Country Park, Port Talbot
  • Nant-Fawr Road, Cardiff
  • Cargo Road, Cardiff Docks, Wales
  • Usk Valley Business Park, Pontypool, Wales
  • Orion Electric Ltd, Margam, Glamorgan
  • The Port Of Cardiff (Compass Road Bridge), Cardiff Docks, Wales
  • BBC Studios, Tonteg Road, Treforest Industrial Estate, Upper Boat, Pontypridd

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • If, at the beggining of the episode, 'ATMOS cannot be disabled', why does it have a 'Disable' button? The ATMOS device at the beginning of the episode was being controlled by the Sontarans to kill the reporter. Ordinarily, it can probably be switched off, like any other GPS.
  • The ATMOS devices are meant to stop cars from expelling gases so how come we can see such exhaust fumes coming out of the UNIT jeep? The fumes may be other less harmful gases which CO2 could somehow be reacted to produce.
  • The field used by Sontarans to stop firearms apparently works by making the copper jacket expand, this would likely cause the firing pin to still engage the cartridge, causing an explosive misfire. In real life, misfires are rarely explosive.
  • In "Aliens of London" The Ninth Doctor says that UNIT are "Good People". Why now does he have such distain for them He has not been involved with new UNIT on screen until this episode so he would not know what they have been doing he probably though they were still UNIT of old
  • The Doctor also claims to be uncomfortable around people with guns, The Brigadier carried a gun often and is one of the Doctors best friends The Doctor also frequently chastised the Brigadier for using weapons. It is very consistently established that the Doctor does not approve of the use of guns and weapons unless absolutely necessary, and even then he does not like them.
  • The UNIT mobile command post is shown to be carried around in a semi-trailer, yet the inside layout appears considerably larger than the outside would suggest (shades of the TARDIS). The trailer has a fold out side. This is shown when they enter and inside where the ceiling angles down. It still looks larger than it should, however this can be attributed to the camera lens which often makes interiors seem larger than they really are.
  • The UNIT crest still reads U.N.I.T.; given the newly stated name, it should read UN.I.T. Perhaps the renaming occurred recently and the crests were left unchanged. Or they kept it for sentimental or branding/trademark reasons. Military units Often retain historical insignia even if their official designations change.
  • Luke Rattigan accuses the Doctor of uttering a tautology by saying "ATMOS system". However, the phrase "atmospheric emissions system" is a pleonasm, not a tautology. A tautology is a statement whose meaning is circular, such as "paper burns because it is inflammable". A pleonasm is a tautology so both statements are true. 
  • Considering the Doctor holds distain for UNIT, it's odd that he would have arranged for Martha to get a job with them. It's not 100 percent confirmed that he did get her the job, although she clearly believes that to be the case. Regardless, she does say her intent is to change the organization from the inside; perhaps the Doctor had this in mind when he recommended her - perhaps inspired by Jack Harkness' success in reforming Torchwood. Also he doesn't have distain for UNIT, only for its militaristic methods, which is consistent with the Doctor's attitude from his very first encounter with them.
  • Rattigan remarks on how all Sontarans look alike and asks how they can tell each other apart. As it happens, the only two "bare-headed" Sontarans seen in this and the following episode look nothing alike and sound nothing alike. Just like Sarah Jane, was confused about their appearance DW: The Sontaran Experiment
  • The Doctor and Wilf act as if they haven't seen each other since their brief encounter in Voyage of the Damned, yet didn't they see each other at the end of Partners in Crime? Wilf, maybe, though he might not have gotten a clear look at the Doctor as he was too excited. Unless the Doctor has super-vision it's doubtful he'd have clearly seen Wilf's face from such a distance.'
  • The closing scene is used twice in the episode. Once before a shot of the Sontarans on the ship, and once after.


  • The Doctor last saw Martha Jones in DW: Last of the Time Lords. It is not indicated on screen how long it has been for Martha since she last saw the Doctor, although it has been long enough for her to have joined UNIT, obtained her doctorate, become engaged to Tom Milligan and (though it's not stated in this episode but was discussed in the Doctor Who Confidental episode) work with Torchwood.
  • Martha last appeared (chronologically) in TW: A Day in the Death. It is not yet known whether this episode (and the two that follow) occur before or after her later Torchwood involvement in BBCR: Lost Souls. NSA: Beautiful Chaos dates this episode as mid-April and Lost Souls is dated as June meaning this takes place before that event.
  • The Sontarans first appeared in DW: The Time Warrior and last appeared on TV broadcast screen in DW: The Two Doctors, though they did feature in a spin-off story: RP: Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans. They also feature in The Sontaran Experiment and The Invasion of Time. Their appearance and character have changed somewhat since The Two Doctors. Their voices have taken on a more human quality. They are honourable when it comes to the rules of warfare and respect their enemies (as true warriors would). But otherwise they remain callous and bloodthirsty.
  • One aspect of Sontaran culture introduced with this episode is the war-chant "Sontar-ha!" which had not been heard previously.
  • Donna has flashbacks of DW: Partners in Crime, The Fires of Pompeii and Planet of the Ood. It is stated in dialogue that, from her grandfather and mother's perspective, it has only been days since the events of Partners in Crime.
  • In SJA: Eye of the Gorgon, Bea Nelson-Stanley referred to the Sontarans as Potato-like.
  • Sylvia Noble recognizes the Doctor and references the events of The Runaway Bride, while Wilfred Mott recognizes the Doctor from his brief encounter with him in Voyage of the Damned. Wilfred's absence from The Runaway Bride is explained by Sylvia when she says he was ill with flu at the time of Donna's interrupted wedding.
  • The Doctor's initial response to Martha and Donna meeting each other is to ask them not to fight, a reference to Rose Tyler and Sarah Jane Smith's first encounter in School Reunion.
  • The Doctor mentions that the ATMOS devices are a temporal pocket 1 second out of sync with real time like the Medusa Cascade in the Stolen Earth and Journey's End.
  • The Doctor says "How'd he get in? In-tru-da-window?" after teleporting onto the Sontaran's space ship. This is a reference to Dalek as Mr. Van Statten says the same thing when he hears the news of Rose and the Doctor are captured.
  • The scene with Staal and Luke staring out the window resembles the scene from Helen Raynor's previous story Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks in which Diagoras and a Dalek are staring out a window. In both the alien comments on the humans ambition.
  • After the Sontarans fill the area with gas the Doctor wears a gas mask. While being shown a gun by Colonel Mace, he is asked what he thinks. His reply is "Are you my mummy?", a reference to the episodes The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances, in which the child asks this question numerous times. It is worth noting that these episodes did not feature David Tennant as the Doctor, but instead Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor.
  • Though Martha's engagement to Tom Milligan is announced in this episode, in The End of Time we find that she eventually marries Mickey Smith.
  • Donna quickly knowing how to fly the TARDIS may be a foreshadowing of her becoming part Time Lord.

DVD Releases

Series 4 Volume 2 DVD Cover

External Links

  • Official BBC Website - Episode Guide for The Sontaran Stratagem
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide - Detailed Synopsis - The Sontaran Stratagem
  • Doctor Who: A Brief History of Time (Travel) - A Brief History of Time (Travel): The Sontaran Stratagem
  • The Locations Guide to Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures: Story Locations - The Sontaran Stratagem
Sontaran Television Stories
Doctor Who: The Time Warrior  • The Sontaran Experiment  • The Invasion of Time  • The Two Doctors  • The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky
The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Last Sontaran  • Enemy of the Bane
Minor Appearances: Logopolis  • The End of Time
Other: A Fix with Sontarans  • Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans
Series 4
Mini-episode: Time Crash  • Christmas Special: Voyage of the Damned

Partners in Crime  • The Fires of Pompeii  • Planet of the Ood  • The Sontaran Stratagem  • The Poison Sky  • The Doctor's Daughter  • The Unicorn and the Wasp  • Silence in the Library  • Forest of the Dead  • Midnight  • Turn Left  • The Stolen Earth  • Journey's End

Christmas Special: The Next Doctor  • Mini-episode: Music of the Spheres

This article uses material from the "The Sontaran Stratagem" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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