The Interzone is a fearsome nether-world protecting a zone ruled by the Kromon. Theirs is an arid land of dust and dying trees. Across the landscape are spheres that look like giant anthills. The Doctor believes that within one of these structures lie the clues that will lead him to his lost TARDIS.
The spheres are ruled by the insect-like Kromon who covet the TARDIS. When Charley is captured she is forced to metamorphose into a hybrid-insect Queen, and so to save her, the Doctor must barter his knowledge of space-time technology, all the while knowing that he risks opening up all the realms of space to a rapacious race whose creed is not to create, only to plunder.
I don’t think it’s a good sign when you know you’ve listened to a story before but cannot remember a single thing about it. Sadly, that is the case with The Creed of the Kromon. After the intriguing if flawed Scherzo, this story feels quite like a lot of filler without anything really memorable happening to any of the characters. Philip Martin may have written one of the best Sixth Doctor stories in the instance of Vengeance on Varos, but this feels repetitive and quite tedious.
Philip Martin’s story seems to be a hangover from the Eric Saward era of the 1980s and it is clear that this style of story does not suit the Eighth Doctor. It is grim, quite nasty and humourless and seems to just have been plonked into this Divergent Universe series completely unedited or changed for a different lead actor. I really enjoyed Vengeance on Varos (at the time of writing, I have not seen Mindwarp) but this feels like a derivative and formulaic retread of what could possibly be described as the classic Doctor Who formula (get captured, escape, discover important information, get captured, repeat) with nothing to endear it to the listener, which is especially jarring considering it comes after Scherzo. Shearman’s script for that story was certainly not perfect but it was experimenting with what could be done in this new setting for this TARDIS team, and to return to the set formula seems a bit disappointing. It certainly feels as though Martin has a limited number of ideas about Doctor Who stories, with this story again focusing on capitalist villains looking to make a profit, and all that we’re missing is Sil. The script feels as though it needed to be passed through with a fine toothed comb, especially when the Doctor starts spouting unnecessary technobabble about the TARDIS. Ultimately though, the story feels overly long and I kept checking the Big Finish app as I was convinced it was lying to me about the time remaining on the rest of the story. This is bland, hammering home the problems with Gary Russell’s direction, although the sound design is quite good. The sounds of the Kromon eating and the sound effects used for some of the body horror are effective – Big Finish are quite good at this – and this helped produce some moments which cut through and made an impact whilst listening to this story, like Charley walking around the lab partway through the metamorphosis process and seeing her legs which have transformed into insect legs, but also the constant running water and bleak landscape are given texture by the sound team.
I tend to like to hail some guest performances in my reviews, but there are a lot of modulated voices talking over each other in this story and it does get a bit grating after a while. I was grateful that there were at least multiple actors taking the roles of the Kromon, who under other circumstances, like a script trying to emulate Douglas Adams, may have been characters who conjured up moments of mirth, but no such luck! I will say that Stephen Perring is superb as the Kro’ka, acting as the bookends to this bizarre and bleak story, and I’m looking forward to hearing more of him through the Divergent Universe stories.
The central cast here feel largely side-lined and out of character, especially the Doctor, who seems to have reverted to be a Tigger-ish figure full of excitement and intrigue at exploring somewhere new. McGann seems bored at times, especially when he has to spout technobabble, and it does feel very much like Doctor Who by the numbers. Charley on the other hand seems to be an afterthought, with her metamorphosis into the Queen Kromon feeling like a re-tread of what happens to Peri in Vengeance, and she barely has any impact on the story before this. This is also a weird story to introduce a new companion in the shape of C’rizz, played by Conrad Westmaas, who like McGann and Fisher is trying his best but cannot elevate this dialogue. If I didn’t know that C’rizz would go on to travel with the Doctor and Charley thanks to The Night of the Doctor, he wouldn’t have leapt out of me as a potential companion, and he seems quite one-dimensional. The tragedy of him murdering L’da, his partner, after she has been transformed into the Kromon Queen is undercut by the fact that the character is scarcely mentioned either before or after the event, and C’rizz spends the majority of the concluding part urging the Doctor to let him kill Charley as there’s nothing else that they can do. I’m intrigued to see how this team works – I’m not sure I can call them a TARDIS team yet as we haven’t seen the TARDIS yet – and I hope that C’rizz can prove me wrong, but he doesn’t seem to be a terribly promising companion.
Verdict: It feels as though everyone is trying their hardest, but nobody can raise Creed of the Kromon out of the mire. I can only hope things will get better from here for the Divergent Universe stories…1/10
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Conrad Westmaas (C’rizz), Stephen Perring (The Kro’ka/The Kromon), Brian Cobby (The Oroog), Jane Hills (L’da) & Daniel Hogarth (The Kromon).
Writer: Philip Martin
Director: Gary Russell
Behind the Scenes
- The author of the story is Philip Martin, who wrote Vengeance on Varos. The stories share some themes.
- C’rizz’s companion status was hinted at in a story released a couple of months previously, He Who Jests At Scars…, where the Valeyard named companions that the Doctor could have had in an alternative time line.
- Conrad Westmaas had appeared in a couple of previous Main Range stories, including Omega and Zagreus.
- Stephen Perring had previously appeared in The Eye of the Scorpion, Seasons of Fear and Zagreus, as well as playing the recurring role of the Kro’ka in the remaining Divergent Universe stories. He also plays Matthias across various stories in the Gallifrey range.
- As well as playing the recurring role L’da, Jane Hills also appears in The Natural History of Fear.
- Daniel Hogarth has appeared in The Holy Terror, Blood Tide, Flip-Flop, The Axis of Insanity and Three’s A Crowd, as well as appearing in the Gallifrey range.
I think for the first time in the history of writing Doctor Who reviews, this might be the biggest struggle I’ve had to find decent quotes for the blog…
So, no best quote this week! I will change this to stand out star of the story for the week, and nominate Stephen Perring as the Kro’ka as the best character.
Previous Eighth Doctor review: Scherzo
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