Make Sunday night your Doctor Who movie night by hitting play above and enjoying the fondly-remembered fan-produced 1990s spin-off movie Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans!
Conceived by Mark Ayres and Kevin Davies – and shot largely on location aboard Second World War-era ship HMS Belfast, permanently moored on the Thames at Symon’s Wharf since 1971 – the film features redesigned, Babylon 5-esque Sontarans who caused quite a stir when they first appeared in promotional pieces such as in Doctor Who Magazine.
Starring Sophie Aldred and Carole Ann Ford (in new roles), the fact that Shakedown was unlicensed (it was produced by Dreamwatch Media) meant of course that the Doctor couldn’t appear. He was, however, referred to obliquely, with one character recalling someone who “…called himself the Physician, or the Dentist, or something…” Also appearing are original Davros Michael Wisher, Brian Croucher (The Robots of Death, Blake’s 7) and Jan Chappel (Blake’s 7)
But hey, who needs a Time Lord? This film is the first (and to-date only) time the millennia-spanning war between the Sontarans and the Rutan Host has been seen, and the direct-to-video film proved popular for this.
Interestingly, there is also a Terrance Dicks novelization, courtesy of Virgin Publishing in 1995 (the original version of this is available on Amazon now, with a BBC Books reprint imminent in March). With the shortened (and more commonly used) title of Shakedown, the book features the Doctor and expands on the film, cleverly inserting the events of Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans into the middle of the book. After all, Virgin had the rights to use the Doctor; Dreamwatch Media did not!
Initially released as a mail-order only release, Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans was eventually released on VHS in 1997 by Reeltime Pictures (a company which released many Doctor Who-related fan-produced documentaries and movies), but remains very hard to get hold of (although Mark Ayres’ soundtrack can be picked up on Amazon).