The Sontarans made their first appearance in 1973 in the serial The Time Warrior by Robert Holmes, where a Sontaran named Linx is stranded in the Middle Ages. Another Sontaran named Styre appears in The Sontaran Experiment, experimenting on captured astronauts on a future Earth. They later appear in The Invasion of Time, where they successfully invade Gallifrey, but are driven out again after less than a day. They appear for the final time in the original series in The Two Doctors. The Sontarans also appeared in a skit for the BBC children's programme Jim'll Fix It titled "A Fix with Sontarans", along with Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor and Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka.
Though the two species are never seen together, several references are made to the Rutan Host, an equally militaristic race with whom the Sontarans have been at war for more than 50,000 years ("The Poison Sky"). As both cultures live for war, neither side is interested in ending the bloodshed, only victory. Their war is still ongoing at the time of the earlier serial The Sontaran Experiment, which takes place at least 10,000 years beyond the 30th century. The serial Horror of Fang Rock, set during the early 20th century, hinted that the Sontarans had gained the upper hand, but this proved merely a temporary setback for the Rutans; "The Poison Sky", set during the early 21st century, hinted that the Rutans were winning at that point.
The Sontarans make their return in the revived series in the episodes "The Sontaran Strategem" and "The Poison Sky", with Christopher Ryan playing the Sontaran leader, General Staal of the Tenth Sontaran Battle Fleet and also being the story arc's primary antagonist. The Sontaran design was revamped for the new series, though not to a great extent. In the episode, the Sontarans attempt to convert Earth into a breeding world for their clones; a planet the size of Earth would be able to clone millions at a time. It is suggested that their war with the Rutan Host is going badly at this point, hence the need for reinforcements. It is also revealed that they were not allowed to participate in the Time War. The Tenth Doctor is able to stop their plan and destroy their ship. In the same episode, General Staal enlists the help of Luke Rattigan and his students to lay the foundations of clone world on Earth. In return for their aid, he promises to take them to a "new world" where they could start fresh. He has nothing but contempt for these human helpers, however, and proposes to use them for target practice when their usefulness is at an end.
In "The Stolen Earth", It is revealed that UNIT has been experimenting with Sontaran teleportation technology in what they call Project Indigo.
In "The End of Time", a lone Sontaran soldier briefly appears chasing after Mickey Smith and his wife, Martha Jones; the reasons for this are not expanded upon. The Doctor knocks it out with a mallet before the Sontaran can shoot Martha.
Along with various other species, four Sontaran battle fleets appear in "The Pandorica Opens", in an alliance to trap the Doctor and seal him inside the Pandorica.
A lone Sontaran Nurse appears in a supporting role for the episode "A Good Man Goes to War". An old associate of The Doctor, he is recruited to assist in the rescue of Melody Pond from the asteroid Demon's Run. During a battle with the Headless Monks on the asteroid, he is mortally wounded and dies.
The Sontarans will next appear in the 2012 Christmas Special of Doctor Who, "The Snowmen" in which Dan Starkey appears to reprise his role of "Strax" from A Good Man Goes to War. And the 7th series episode written by Mark Gatiss will also see at least one Sontaran.
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“The conscience of the world is so guilty that it always assumes that people who investigate heresies must be heretics; just as if a doctor who studies leprosy must be a leper. Indeed, it is only recently that science has been allowed to study anything without reproach.”
—Aleister Crowley (18751947)