Title: Doctor Who: The Krotons
Director: David Maloney
Starring: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Philip Madoc
Released: Out Now
The Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe touch down on an unnamed planet and meet the Gonds, a race in thrall to the fearsome Krotons. They send their best and brightest to study with them but have little idea of the terrible fate that befalls them. The Doctor and Zoe aim to learn more about the Krotons but their superior intelligence only succeeds in waking them up…
It’s the turn of the Troughton years to take a bow this month as the last complete story hits DVD, although we still don’t know what’s going to happen about episode two of The Underwater Menace. It will be released in some medium of course but with half the story now in the archives, fingers crossed that the remaining two will be animated. The First Doctor story The Reign of Terror is already receiving this treatment. However The Krotons also has some firsts; it was the very first story to be scripted by one of the series' most prolific, and best, writers, Robert Holmes and features the first of four guest appearances by the late Philip Madoc. This story will also have a place in the hearts and minds of many a fan due to its inclusion as the Second Doctor’s entry in the BBC’s legendary re-run The Five Faces of Doctor Who in 1981.
The Krotons is classic Doctor Who at its most basic. The Doctor and companions rock up somewhere and incite the residents to fight an alien foe. In this case, the Gonds barely question their existence and don’t even believe that they can go outside, but within a few minutes of arrival the Doctor proves that the atmosphere is breathable and that the Krotons have been killing the students sent to them. Robert Holmes was inspired by the then recent student riots in France plus contamination was also a big fear at the time. He also took inspiration from Tomb of the Cybermen but this story feels much more like The Dominators which had been on a few months earlier. The Krotons themselves are wonderfully designed and very unique with their spinning heads. Doctor Who continually proves that it has one of the best and most varied bestiaries in all genre television. It’s a shame that the clunky costumes show up the design when the aliens choose to venture outside their control room – they look as if they are about to topple over their rubber skirts. They also seem to have been given droning Afrikaans accents too.
The Troughton years were nearing the end and it’s the antics of the TARDIS trio that keep this rolling along nicely, especially when the Doctor and Zoe take the Krotons’ test (“go away. No, come back what’s this? Never mind I’ve got it…”). The group dynamics within the Gonds fail to really get going especially with Eelek’s leadership challenge. There’s not an awful lot to complain about here, it’s just all very average. There’s a pretty awful model shot of the Gond city near the beginning and we are back in a quarry again plus there’s another War of the Worlds style camera probe like last month’s Death to the Daleks. It’s a well made (if a little phallic) prop although I’m surprised that Troughton and Hines didn’t add their usual ad-lib (“look at the size of that thing, Doctor!” “Yes Jamie, that’s a big one isn’t it”).
We may see the Krotons return someday; they certainly made an impression on the new series’ two showrunners. Russell T Davies thought that their crystalline structure would look good in CGI and they apparently scared a young Steven Moffat so much that even his mum telling him to put his “coat on” freaked him out. All in all, this is a basic runaround which is nothing spectacular, but it has a good pace, some good ideas and is held together by the wonderful performances of a TARDIS trio that are really in tune with their characters. Holmes would, of course, go on to script better stories and define a whole much-loved era of the show. Plus when you hear about the story this replaced, The Prison in Space (later recorded by Big Finish in 2009), this really doesn’t seem that bad.
Extras: Commentary with Philip Madoc, Richard Ireson, Gilbert Wynn, David Tilley, Sylvia James, Bobi Bartlett and Brian Hodgson with the ever faithful Toby Hadoke moderating. There isn’t a ‘making of’ on this story but we have Second Time Around, a 50-minute documentary that takes a look at the whole Troughton era. Also included is Doctor Who Stories: Frazer Hines: Part One, which is worth it for the shadow puppet visuals alone, plus there are some wonderful behind the scenes stories from the man himself. We also have an edition of The Doctor’s Strange Love with Simon Guerrier and Joseph Lidster plus a photo gallery, text commentary, PDF material and Coming Soon trailer.
Continuing Adventures: BBC Books’ Alien Bodies (1997) by Lawrence Miles with the Eighth Doctor and Sam Jones fleshes out the Krotons’ back-story while Big Finish audio adventure Return of the Krotons (2008) sees the aliens face the Sixth Doctor and Charley Pollard. Philip Madoc also lent his voice to the story.
Trivia learnt from the disc: Janet Pimlott provided the learning machine animations for this serial. She later went on to animate the title sequence of popular 1970s self-sufficiency sitcom The Good Life.