Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans (home video)

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Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans was an independently produced spin-off from Doctor Who featuring the Sontarans and the Rutans, which directly tied into the Virgin New Adventures novel published the following year, Shakedown. Produced by Dreamwatch Media and released by Reeltime Pictures, it featured several Doctor Who actors and also former Blake's 7 actor Jan Chappell in feature roles. It is also notable for the altered appearance of the Sontarans; this was due to licensing arrangements meaning they had to be redesigned for the production.


The solar yacht Tiger Moth has a stowaway on board!

On the run from its mortal enemy, the Sontarans, it will do anything to survive...

Unfortunately, the Sontarans will do anything to destroy it...

Captain Lisa Deranne and her crew of rich misfits must band together or die as the clone warriors move in for the kill!


Zorelle, Kurt, Nikos, Mari & Captain Deranne

The Tiger Moth, a space cruiser recently converted to a solar yacht, is on its way to space station Beta for its first race. The yacht is owned and crewed by a syndicate of four business people – Kurt, who is rumored to have a shady criminal background; Nikos, the son of Earth colony planet Valeria's leading industrialist; Mari, the daughter of Valeria's president and Nikos's fiancée; and Zorelle, an attention-seeking fashion mogul. Engineer Robar informs Captain Lisa Deranne, an experienced solar yacht racer hired by the syndicate, of irregular fluctuations in the ship's power system. Lisa uses this as an excuse to put her amateur crew through their first solar sail drill, whilst Robar shuts down the power drive to investigate the fault.

The crew assembles on the sail deck, where they don virtual reality gloves and glasses to operate the solar sails in the same context as a traditional sea-going yacht. After the drill is successfully carried out, Tiger Moth is attacked by a huge War Wheel mothership, which dispatches a boarding party of Sontaran troopers led by Commander Steg. Lisa and her crewmates are stunned by the Sontarans as they enter the solar yacht, and once the group recover in their crew quarters, Steg explains that he is on a mission to find a shape-shifting Rutan spy. The Sontarans tracked the Rutans to space station Alpha, the Tiger Moth's last port of call, so they are now searching every vessel that left there recently. Although Steg claims that he will leave the humans in peace, Kurt warns Lisa that the ruthless Sontarans will destroy the Tiger Moth.

Robar, unaware of the Sontarans on board the Tiger Moth, has been working on the ship's power units to resolve the fluctuations. He discovers the cause to be the energy-dependent Rutan spy, who kills Robar and adopts his human form. It then kills a Sontaran trooper sent to find Robar, and attempts to escape in the Sontarans' assault craft, but Lieutenant Vorn discovers the disguised Rutan and fires at it, injuring the Rutan and forcing it to retreat. Vorn reports this to Steg, who orders a thorough search of the power room, where the Sontarans find the dead trooper and Robar's partially dissected body. Steg shows this to Lisa, encouraging her to help him destroy the Rutan, and she agrees if Steg leaves her crew and ship unharmed. Steg promises to do so, but he secretly intends to destroy the Tiger Moth as per his duty.

When Lisa briefs the rest of the crew on the situation, Kurt is still suspicious, so Zorelle – fearing that Kurt's resistance could endanger her own life – tells Steg about Lisa and Kurt plotting to kill him. Steg gives his blaster to Kurt and tests him to use it. Kurt suspects a trick and does not fire, but Nikos takes the blaster and tries – only to learn that the blaster was not primed, and Steg kills him. Mari goes berserk and has to be sedated, leaving just Lisa, Kurt and Zorelle to help the Sontarans hunt the Rutan. After they leave Mari in the crew quarters, the Rutan kills her, and inhabits her body to kill Zorelle too when she returns. Lisa and Kurt kill Vorn and the remaining troopers, then confront Steg at the airlock. Kurt is wounded by Steg, but Lisa guns down the commander, who salutes her as a worthy enemy. The Rutan arrives in Zorelle's ghostly form, and vows to leave Lisa and Kurt unharmed, before entering the assault ship to escape with the secrets it learned. Steg warns Lisa of a bomb he planted in the airlock tunnel to destroy the Tiger Moth. Lisa places the bomb in the assault ship, and Steg helps her escape the closing airlock before he dies. Lisa and Kurt watch on the scanners as the assault ship departs and explodes.

Lisa tends to Kurt's injuries, thinking that this disastrous shakedown cruise will be the end of her solar racing career. However, Kurt reveals that, as the sole surviving syndicate member, he inherits the others' shares in the Tiger Moth's finances, so he can afford the repairs and hire a professional crew. With Lisa and Kurt now racing partners and in a relationship together, the captain contacts station Beta to start preparations in time for the upcoming race.




Story notes[[edit]]

Dedication to memory of Robert Holmes and Kevin Lindsay.
  • A number of the actors in Shakedown had previously appeared in Doctor Who or Blake's 7. As well as playing Borg in the Doctor Who story The Robots of Death, Brian Croucher had appeared on Blake's 7 as the recurring villain Travis, while Jan Chappell had played the character of Cally. Carole Ann Ford had appeared on Doctor Who as Susan, Sophie Aldred as Ace and Michael Wisher had played several guest roles, most notably Davros in Genesis of the Daleks.Elisabeth Sladen was originally intended for the lead role but had to pull out, while William Russell was considered for Wisher's role. [1] Aldred agreed to the job as she wanted to play 'against type' as a spoiled coward.[2]
  • Shakedown was novelised as part of the Virgin New Adventures series, fleshing out the story with a backstory and a resolution involving the Seventh Doctor and his companions.
  • The unlicensed nature of the Dreamwatch Media production meant they could not even refer to the Doctor by name — hence Kurt's recollection of a man he met on Metebelis III who "called himself the Physician, or the Dentist, or something..." Similarly, the copyright to the Sontarans was acquired, but not the specific rights to their appearance, and so they have been redesigned for this story.
  • Although the longstanding war between the Sontarans and the Rutans was frequently mentioned in Doctor Who, this video marked the first occasion in which the two opposing species appear on-screen together.
  • Mark Ayres, who had previously worked on Doctor Who as a composer, was co-producer and post-production sound designer.[3]
  • The shoot and production of this story took four months to complete a final product.[3]
  • At the end of the credits there is a dedication to the memory of Robert Holmes, who created the Sontarans, and Kevin Lindsay, who played the first three Sontarans: Linx, Styre and the Marshal.
  • The film was partially financed by DreamWatch after the delay of Downtime, leaving the Dreamwatch 94 convention without its planned main attraction. Kevin Davies approached the DreamWatch editor Gary Leigh about making Shakedown as the replacement. The rest of the financing came from Jason Haigh-Ellery. The need to have the film ready for Dreamwatch 94 meant there was only ten weeks to produce it (the sound mix would be finished the night before it premiered) and Terrance Dicks was hired to write the script, being both fast and a professional writer rather than a fan. Dicks told Dylan Rees in an interview that he agreed to do it despite the "fraction of a proper fee" because he found them "a nice bunch of lads and tremendously enthusiastic". [4]
  • Kevin Davies and Mark Ayres had the idea of a story structured similarly to Horror of Fang Rock and a tough female space captain, while Dicks had the idea of using the Rutans and making the victims rich people who bickered so it would satisfying to see them die. [5]
  • A behind the scenes making of documentary called The Making of Shakedown Return of the Sontarans was included on the VHS release of the story.
  • Promotional appearances for the film included interviews on Radio 4 and Sky One, and a squad of Sontarans invading The Big Breakfast. [6]


to be added

Filming locations[[edit]]

Location work was shot entirely on location aboard the Second World War-era Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Belfast, permanently moored at Symon's Wharf on the River Thames since 1971. Filming was often disrupted by noise from the upper decks and so had to be done at night when the tourists had gone.

Model shots were shot at Pinewood Studios.

Production errors[[edit]]

to be added


DVD, video, and other releases[[edit]]

  • Released on VHS on 1 December 1994.
  • Re-released on VHS in high street shops with Making of in June 1996.
  • This is the only Reeltime Pictures film not to be re-released on DVD.


  1. Downtime: The Lost Years of Doctor Who Chapter 9 (Dylan Rees)
  2. Ace! The Inside Story of the End of an Era by Sophie Aldred and Mike Tucker (Questions and Answers)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mark Ayres - Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans accessed 10th November 2010
  4. Downtime: The Lost Years of Doctor Who Chapter 9 (Dylan Rees)
  5. Downtime: The Lost Years of Doctor Who Chapter 9 (Dylan Rees)
  6. Downtime: The Lost Years of Doctor Who Chapter 9 (Dylan Rees)

External link[[edit]]