|(Doctor Who Story No. 47, starring Patrick Troughton)
- written by Robert Holmes
- directed by David Maloney
- produced by Peter Bryant
- music/atmosphere tracks by Brian Hodgson
- 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe visit a planet
whose inhabitants regularly send their two brightest
students into a crystalline machine to serve their
unseen masters, the Krotons. Although the Doctor
is suspicious of this process from the beginning,
his concerns escalate when Zoe becomes the next
new servant called into the machine....
DVD Extras include:
- Audio commentary by Philip Madoc (Eelek),
Gilbert Wynne (Thara),
Richard Ireson (Axus),
assistant floor manager David Tilley,
make-up designer Sylvia James,
costume designer Bobi Bartlett, and
sound/music designer Brian Hodgson.
- "Second Time Around" documentary (52 min.)
on Patrick Troughton's Doctor,
with Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon),
Wendy Padbury (Zoe),
Deborah Watling (Victoria),
Anneke Wills (Polly),
writer/script editors Terrance Dicks,
Derrick Sherwin, and Victor Pemberton,
and Troughton's debut director Christopher Barry.
- 2003 interview of Frazer Hines, part one (17 min.)
- "The Doctor's Strange Love - The Krotons"
fan appreciation featurette (7 min.)
- Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
- Photo Gallery
In-Depth Analysis Review
by Martin Izsak
WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for
those who have already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers,
read the Buyers' Guide version instead.
Writer Robert Holmes often manages to elicit widely different
opinions about many of his stories among fans of the show, and
his debut story "The Krotons" is perhaps the most famous of all for
this. There seem to be as many fans loving this one as there
are denouncing it. For me "The Krotons" is a fairly average
offering for season six, but if I have to jump down off of the
fence, I would have to say that I'm among the fans who like this
one. It most closely parallels
"The Dominators" (story no. 44)
as a straight
hero story set on a distant planet, yet this slightly tighter
production has greater repeat-viewing potential.
The opening shot is well-conceived, but the execution falters
when the panel won't open correctly and Selris bumps his hand into
it, a bad omen that must prompt many a viewer to keep a keen eye
open for what else may be wrong with the story. Seek and ye shall
find, for the acting appears a trifle stilted throughout the first
scene. One must be fair, though; Robert Holmes has scripted the
authoritarian ceremony of the first scene to be stiff and lacking
in wisdom on purpose. The former policeman begins here to speak
out against blindly accepting authority, a theme that will weave itself
through many of his stories. Possibly drawing on his experience, the
conflict is as raw as would be in any real situation when the heat
of the moment gets the better of a person's reason; Holmes has yet
to learn to inject this with deeper layers of character and make
the conflict sing with the glow of fine art. The first scene works
best in beginning a major theme and setting up the thrust of the main
story beat for episode one.
The TARDIS materializes on location to the same sound as in
"The Dominators", but thanks to the pre-filming having its own
allotted week in the production schedules, the Doctor, Jamie, and
Zoe have a chance to come out and explore the gravel pit.... er,
planet..... in a much more realistic way. The Doctor's curiosity
is highlighted by the script and is enjoyable to watch as Patrick
Troughton gives it his best, and Frazer Hines turns Jamie into the
perfect upturned-nose foil. Brian Hodgson's electronic tones
introducing the Gond City work much better than the corny model.
The plot comes together as our three time travellers first
discover the back entrance to the Kroton machine. Robert Holmes
gives this story its edge as a wonderfully crafted sci-fi mystery,
and it is not just the Doctor's curiosity that gets him into this
one, but his heroic impulse, and that of his companions. The answers
to the mystery are also quite alien and unique, allowing the story
to remain fresh longer than offerings on most other shows, or 60's
Doctor Who. This is the concept that fuelled much of 70's Doctor Who,
and won the program many of its awards for best TV writing. Holmes
crystallizes it here first, literally. By the time the heroic
save-Vana story beat has run its course, the Gonds and the time
travellers have bonded and are focused on solving the mysteries of
the Krotons, discovering their motives, and the audience is equally
keen to get a look at them and the insides of their machine, and find
out what sci-fi process happens there. The David Tennant story
"Midnight" (story no. 201) can eat
its heart out; this exploration of crystalline life blows it out of
Some of the biggest drawbacks in the story are the arguments among
the numerous humanoid characters.... very often these seem to be
getting in the way of the story. The characters aren't quite drawn
compellingly enough to understand what motivates their arguments
half the time, and they often don't seem to have a point to make
that doesn't feel contrived.
The acting also tends to get overly theatrical and feel forced
during such moments,
and I can't help feeling "The Krotons" might have worked a bit
better had the actors not always been in each other's faces
so much, or so loudly. Mind you, these bits are balanced by
some absolutely wonderful and witty ones, and with Philip Madoc
and our three regulars giving really good performances,
along with a nicely paced story with plentiful interaction,
the adventure remains rich and varied.
This is much better than "Midnight",
whose arguments were more understandable but threw the investigations
and plot right off the rails.
Jamie is once more needlessly obstructive in his part of the
travellers explaining themselves. Why assume that the Gonds won't
believe the travel potential of the TARDIS and the origins of the three
regulars, particularly as this isn't a typical Earth society anyway?
They've already accepted the alien nature of the Krotons. Jamie
did better in
"The Faceless Ones" (story no. 35).
At least Zoe is more open-minded.
The character of Eelek seems to be scripted to be as obstructive
as possible, whether it makes sense or not, but thankfully the role
was masterfully played by Philip Madoc, making his first appearance
in the television program itself. The mannerisms and emotional styles
that he adds go a long way to fleshing out Eelek and hinting at
hidden motivations that we will not have time to discover during
this one story - very good job. James Copeland does a solid, okay
performance of Selris; we can believe that he is well-meaning, often
thoughtful, yet happiest when everyone fulfills their "proper" role
in society. The character is capable of wrestling with new ideas
for change, which is an enormous credit to him and the script. Copeland
himself seems ready to wrestle in a more physical sense, maintaining
the posture of a Monty Python Gumby through most of the story. The
Krotons must have done a good job educating this one.
Gilbert Wynne's Thara is quite energetic, threatening to go over
the top on a few occasions, but thankfully held in check most of the
time. James Cairncross makes scientist Beta very watchable and
enjoyable - ultimately my favourite performance amongst the Gonds.
It's too bad he couldn't have got a more inspiring character name though.
The Gonds only provide half of the character exposition in this
one. The Krotons and their technology are also investigated with
lots of screen time, allowing BBC set, prop, costume, and audio-visual
effects designers to showcase their work. The sound goes a long way
to setting the atmosphere in this one, from Brian Hodgson's Kroton
machine sounds, to a startlingly new and attention-grabbing pair of
Kroton voices by Roy Skelton and Patrick Tull that bring a much needed
menace to our new crystal villains. The Kroton machine and its various
surprises work well, particularly the snake-like probe which could
have flopped badly under a less inspired director. Much criticism
has been laid on the rather clumsy design of the Kroton costumes
and their disproportionately sized weapons, but David Maloney really
does make the best of this with careful camera angles and suggestive
direction, and by the time the Krotons finally crystallize, the story
is moving forward too well for them to be any hindrance. In fact,
from the waist up the Krotons look quite good, and the Daleks should
well envy the dexterity of their manipulative appendages.
Music by Brian Hodgson
"The Learning Hall",
"Entry into the Machine", "Sting",
"Machine and City Theme", and
are available on:
Another wise return to the labs inside the TARDIS keeps the Doctor
and Zoe on the move - a good excuse to do some location action with one
of the Krotons. Although we sadly don't get to see anything of the
interior anywhere in this story, the TARDIS pulls a new move on us
which the Doctor explains is controlled by the Hostile Action
Displacement System. A nice excuse for an extra materialization,
borrowing the more satisfying over-echoed sound from the end of
"The Invasion" (story no. 46).
The conclusion of this one works fairly well, employing a
number of often-used dynamics. The least effective one surrounds
early bumbling over the small jar of acid - contrived all too
obviously to give Selris a moment of glory, and it doesn't work
too well considering that he's only catching the ball that others
have needlessly dropped. The Doctor's final confrontation with
the Krotons is enjoyable, as the last pieces of the puzzle are
fit in and we see the whole set-up from the Krotons' alien
point of view. The Doctor and Zoe also get to goof around a bit
before dealing the villains their part of the final blow. Good stuff.
Some interesting effects conclude the story, and our three travellers
make an increasingly standard quick and sly heroes' exit, featuring
little more than puzzled locals and a vanishing TARDIS. Perhaps though,
there's a bit too much unfinished business between the various remaining
members of Gond society, and there's no real reason it will be as
easy to solve as some of them claim.
It's easy to dismiss the innovations of "The Krotons" in light
of later stories when these same dynamics became more polished, which
is a bit of a shame, but let's face it, the story isn't perfect
either. As Who goes, it's good, and there's much to enjoy and
appreciate about it.
This story has become available on DVD and VHS video.
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