Lords of the Storm
Roots: Hindu religion and mythology. Space Opera science fiction.
Goofs: How did the Sontarans take the Nandi? Was it in the Agni hanger?
The Doctor says that the Sontaran/Rutan war has been going on for longer than mankind has been walking upright, (i.e. millions of years) yet also claims that it's been going on for millennia (so only thousands of years).
Technobabble: Microscopic gravitational lensing. Hyperspace egress. The Doctor uses a Finkle Groober in TARDIS repairs. Targeting computers have a mini bus between the firing pin and the ring modulator. Focusing systems have bifocal contact lenses [computers have problems with their eyesight?] The energy discharges from a synchrotron radiation belt will scramble transmats (via the magnetic flux tube). Hyperspace engines use Lorentz Transformers to iron out paradoxes in FTL travel.
I'm not sure how much of the discussion of how Tzun engines work on pages 208-209 is science and how much technobabble.
Dialogue Triumphs: Even a million to one chance was better odds than the state lottery.
Nur: 'He's not very good at lies, because he's not used to telling them.'
Turlough: 'I thought he was a politician?'
Wait, you can't go up there!'
'Of course I can, I'm Turlough.'
Karan: 'I've never seen anything like that before.'
Turlough: 'That's not exactly surprising; humans are so parochial'
Karan: 'Have you, then?'
Turlough: 'As it happens, no.'
The Doctor: 'Fortunately, there's not much equal about Sontaran ranks.'
Sharma: 'They all looked the same.'
The Doctor: 'That's just because they're clones.'
The Doctor: 'Stay right where you are, resistance is useless. I've always wanted to say that.'
The Doctor: 'Would I do that?'
Karne: 'If your file is accurate, you'd do that to your own president.'
The Doctor: 'Not necessarily, he's a terribly endearing chap.'
Continuity: Karne has been working with Loxx 10 years [by 2370], after Karne was the sole survivor of a destroyed ship. It has been almost 30 years since the switch.
The (non-military) human base has low-power masers and a meteor deflection field, Its armouries with thunderflashes and stun-guns. Sontaran ships use meson cannons [a common weapon, used by many species]. Their space superiority fighters are built for speed along straight flight-paths, and take quite a distance to turn. Radiation shields and communication equipment can be adapted into a primitive cloaking shield - covering either sensors or visible light. This is humanity's first recorded encounter with the Sontarans and the Rutan - Sontarans haven't been this side of the Coal Sack in 300 years [presumably Sontaran involvement in the events of The Poison Sky /The Sontaran Stratagem was never made public]. Nur has a pen-sized laser cutter in her tool-pouch. Humans use matter-antimatter power sources for their engines.
Sontarans are 3 times Turlough's weight. A surface hit to the rim of their probic vent only stuns them. They have a physiological mind-control technique, and come from the southern spiral arm of the galaxy. They have very good hearing. 5-Digit Sontarans are Intelligence operatives with enhanced skills and instincts. They do, however, have a tendency to paranoia. Sontarans evolved on a high-gravity world orbiting a G0 star (which has a dense atmosphere). One hatchery can produce up to 1,000,000 Sontarans in 4 minutes. Arcalian exobiologist Crahin speculated that they were created to keep down the Rutan host. The Doctor, however, doesn't believe this.
Sontaran society has a rigid clan structure. Sontaran clans all have different genetic markers.The Gunar clan from Sontar's southern deserts have a reptilian skin pigment. Sontarans are ruled by the Grand Strategic Council. Military rank (at least for generals) is marked either by shoulder boards on gun-metal army uniforms, or (for the Koda) by a silver collar attached to a brassy uniform. The Koda are the elite military security branch. Green armour is worn by the Sontaran army's medical and environmental division. They mostly oversee cloning vats and hatcheries, as Sontarans prefer a clean death in battle to being patched up. Ships crews have blue armour. Fleet Marshall rank is indicated by a gold-trimmed blue sash.
Sontaran Osmic projectors use quantum tunneling. They muck about with causality, but aren't really time machines - but can be used as such in a limited way. They can trace an individual if they have cell samples to track the DNA. Sontaran ships include the Valt-class destroyer (the one seen here, which has 30 crew, 6 fighters, 100 ground troops), the Linx-class cruiser (which is particularly valuable), Strag-class frigates (courier ships) and the double-disced War Wheels. Their robots are vulnerable to high-frequency sound. Sontarans use rheon carbines and have photonic missiles.
The 4th planet of the Unukalhai system is the gas giant Indra, and its sixth moon [Raghi] has an Earth-type ecosphere. Its population speaks Hindi. The fourth moon, Agni, contains the main energy generating facilities and harvests airavata. Airavata are creatures living in Indra's clouds, and their DNA contains a natural radiation decontaminant. Agni's station has a population of about 300.
The Romans had the technology to build the gramophone and the steam engine, but never did.
Earth colonies have public information terminals which, among other things, can tell you where the nearest unoccupied residence is. The Alliance (including Earth, Centauri, and the Cyrennhics) was formed after the Dalek invasion. Humans are aware of telepathic alien races. Human military technology includes rotary cannons and torpedoes.
Trion has many castes that live in separate parts of cities. It also has imperial families - and Turlough belongs to one. Members of these families attend the Academy, where they learn basic astrography. He knows of Sontarans, but has never encountered them before [despite what we later see in The Eight Doctors]. Trions have been colonizing and trading around the galaxy for centuries. They also abolished religion centuries ago.
Humans don't know about the Tzun, whose technology was based on terullian. The Tzun Confederacy had 10,000 worlds or more.
The Doctor has a cricket ball in his pocket. He can use a plastic card to open a door (though he doesn't have one to hand).
[Sontaran] Von Neumann machines can turn noxious gases into energy.
Rutan are amphibious amoeboids who reproduce by division - exponential population growth. They used to have a dry-dock on the moon of Betelgeuse V, but the Sontarans crashed the remains of a Tzun ship into it. Now there is no moon. Interestingly enough, the humans know that Betelgeuse V has no moon. One of their ship types is a type 97 escort cruiser. They use focused solar energy and torpedoes as ship weapons. Their world, Ruta III, is quite cold. They are revitalised by radioactive energy. Certain conductive element in their atmosphere allow a certain amount of telepathy.
Links: Sontarans have appeared many times before. The Rutan have been mentioned many times, but only previously appeared in Horror of Fang Rock. The Tzun (First Frontier) are mentioned. The Spinward Corporation (Deceit) is mentioned.
The Sontarans have records of the Doctor from The Time Warrior and The Invasion of Time, as well as the second Doctor from The Two Doctors. (On the other hand, Karne seems unaware of the attempted invasion of Gallifrey - and then dismisses it as a mere diversion).
It appears to be very soon after Tegan's departure (Resurrection of the Daleks). The Dalek time corridor (Resurrection of the Daleks) prevented the Doctor from checking the TARDIS is all right after its encounter with the Gravis (Frontios). The Doctor mentions doing something about the Chameleon circuit (c.f. An Unearthly Child, Attack of the Cybermen, The Left-Handed Hummingbird, Conundrum, and No Future). Turlough mentions that the Doctor is President of Gallifrey (The Five Doctors). Turlough mentions Kamelion (The Kings Demons) and the Doctor mentions the destruction of the sonic screwdriver (The Visitation).
Location: 2370 (p.6) and 2371. The Unukalhai system (aka Alpha Serpens Caput). In particular, Agni (a moon of the gas giant Indra) and Raghi. (Formerly Tzun space). Antares in the Lambda Serpens Caput system.
Future History: The Tzun were wiped out in the 2170s by the Veltrochni. Unukalhai IV's 6th moon was terraformed by Earth Colonial Office about 2247 - two generations ago. The Doctor says that the Sontarans won't be back until about 13,000 years in the future - the time of the solar flares (The Sontaran Experiment).
Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor says that it's a good few centuries since he last flew anything like Nur's planet-hopper. The Doctor once told Robert the Bruce "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again". The fourth Doctor's encounter with the Tzun at Mimoza II (mentioned in First Frontier) was when he travelled with Leela.
The Bottom Line: A fine example of space opera. The Sontarans and Rutan are well characterised, and the comparisons between Hindu, Sontaran, and Trion cultures add depth to the story. The plot is well-paced, and the twist is well-done.