Special Edition and Region 2 DVD Extras include:
The TARDIS introduces the Doctor and Romana to the scene with a good materialization on location in the swamp. Since we've seen the interior in every story since "Horror of Fang Rock" (story no. 92), and since this is the fifth tale in the Key to Time arc, "The Power of Kroll" can easily get away without any TARDIS interiors. The "TARDIS-exterior-only" style of story always works much better as a variation than a norm.
K9's absence is also easy to get away with in the swamp setting, as none of the elements of this story really beg for his presence. And he did rather complain about being stranded in a boat at the end of the last story. It also gave John Leeson an opportunity to take on a different role, which is enjoyable to see. It is strange, however, that during the few scenes that he and Tom Baker have together, Leeson keeps his back to him and ignores the Doctor altogether, and then when the Doctor's not there, Leeson's character apparently seems to know the Doctor and his values well enough to stand up for him and defend him.
A few easy points for effects are lost: The model shots of the refinery obviously should have been overcranked to make it appear more like it was sitting in a large body of water instead of a bathtub, and to make it appear that it was made of something heavier than cardboard when Kroll whacks it with a tentacle. And the much-maligned all-too-obvious split screen effect could have been improved upon by using a soft-edge video wipe - Dave Chapman seems to have been good at these around this time, and the horizon of the swamp is flat enough that one should be able to get away with it, even if the top half of the film footage had already been accidentally masked off.
It is Dave Jervis who is in charge of electronic effects on this story, and although his minimal effects do not include the visual beams of laser fire that I usually look forward to, these are not critical to the telling of story. Jervis gives the story what it needs most, and apart from missing one opening establishing shot, "The Power of Kroll" has excellent visual literacy to make its story clear and entertaining.
Norman Stewart deserves an award for being the director who made the most significant and rapid improvement since working on the show the previous year, directing "Underworld" (story no. 96). In addition to his already great visual skills, he made sure to hire first rate guest actors, many of whom had proven themselves on Doctor Who before. With the return of Neil McCarthy, Philip Madoc, and John Abineri, and excellent new faces like Carl Rigg and Glyn Owen, coupled with a dialogue-rich character-based script from Robert Holmes, "The Power of Kroll" can easily boast the most serious acting performances of the season. Thoroughly enjoyable, even with only a little humour sprinkled on lightly.
Episode three sees the Doctor and friends occupied with the old prisoner dynamic almost all the way through, but the pace remains high thanks to the Doctor's continuing investigation into the history of the fifth segment, the uniqueness of his death-defying escape, and the cut-aways to the refinery that highlight the Kroll problem and the land issue with the swampies. Norman Stewart's decision to produce shorter episodes with extended reprises also helps keep the pace up a lot.
But in the end, I find myself wishing there had been more interaction between the Doctor and the refinery crew, who do not meet outside of the first and last episodes. Note also that a lot of the time the Doctor does have at the refinery is spent sneaking around behind the crew's backs - another unfortunate Holmes trait.
Despite the fact that the "People of the Lake" have a culture and religion that are fleshed out far more believably and interestingly than most of the boring black-arts cults of the Hinchcliffe era, the refinery crew ultimately prove to be more interesting and have more intrigue going on amongst themselves. Robert Holmes perhaps left too many interesting on-screen plot developments until the final episode, where there is no longer quite enough time to do them all justice. In particular, Thawn's confrontations with Rohm Dutt and Ranquin's tribe are too curtailed to have much impact or indeed be worth anticipating; we get just barely enough to satisfy the needs of keeping the plot clear. Don't blink, or you may miss something important. A lot happens in episode four, almost too much too fast.
In effect, Kroll does upstage the human villains in the final episode, and the Doctor is extremely busy putting out fires and solving problems, making up for some of the lack of action he might have suffered in earlier episodes. This busy pace works well, and the conclusion of this tale is one of the more exciting and striking ones of the season. And nicely, the Doctor himself gets to undertake the final, heroic, climactic act.
This story is the 5th adventure in season 16's Key To Time quest. It has become available on DVD and VHS video.
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