The Sontarans are back! It’s been confirmed that the warlike alien clone race will be returning for Doctor Who series 13, where they’ll face off with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor.
“I love the Sontarans, and I thought they were due a comeback,” showrunner Chris Chibnall told Doctor Who Magazine.
“I’d had the idea about Jodie’s Doctor going up against them for a long time – you might remember that she mentioned them in her online COVID message last year. That was a little hint!
“You’ll find that the Sontarans pose quite a threat in this series. They’re great villains. One of the episodes, in particular, is a massive Sontaran adventure.”
And this grand re-entry to the Whoniverse meant that the Sontarans were in for a redesign, with costume designer Ray Holman and prosthetics expert Danny Marie Elias working together to create the new look for the classic Who foes (see main image).
Rather than the slicker modern design (below, which debuted in 2008 and has appeared sporadically since) Holman decided to go back to the classic look for the characters, as created by make-up designer Sandra Exelby and costume designer James Acheson in the 1970s.
“The spin we needed for Series 13 was to make them look more warfaring,” Holman told DWM.
“I went right back to the classic Sontaran designs. I did research into what they used to look like, and thought it would be great to reference the various designs that have gone in the past.
“The 2008 Sontarans are gorgeous, but the scripts we’re working with are about war and battlefields. These Sontarans should be down-and-dirty warmongers in the mud, conquering the universe.
“It was either Chris or me who said they need to be dirty, filthy Sontarans. After that, they were always referred to as “the dirty, filthy Sontarans”. Chris and I laughed about that, but it really helped inform the tone.”
This meant making their armour look like rusty, battered steel, developing a quilt-like undershirt (which also helped make the actors look more uniform and clone-like) and generally making them look a bit more rough and ready.
“It was really interesting to see how they’d morphed over time,” prosthetics designer Elias said, “from really being broken down and beaten up, and that classic shape and style, to later versions where their faces became a lot more animated, with a lot more detail.
“We set about stripping that back. We went back as far as we could, and then added our own markings to it. The question we set ourselves was: ‘How do we move forward with the design, without losing the integrity and the original feel that everybody knows and loves?’
“I think we ended up finding a sweet spot, which made us feel like we’d given credit to the very original version, but still allowed it to feel like it lived and breathed in 2021.”
For more details of the redesign, including more photos and concept art for the new Sontarans, you’ll have to check out the latest edition of Doctor Who Magazine.
Chris Chibnall, Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, John Bishop and Jacob Anderson preview Series 13!— Doctor Who Magazine (@DWMtweets) October 12, 2021
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