The TARDIS takes the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe to a world where they meet the Gonds who annually send two brilliant students into the Dynatrope to be the companions of the Krotons.
The Krotons is a story that probably has more significance for what is going on behind the camera than what is going on in front of this, namely the debut story written by Robert Holmes. This is not a great story by any stretch of the imagination, but it is not as bad as its reputation suggests.
Even at this early stage, it is easy to see some of Holmes’ promise. He builds a world incredibly well, and the backstory for the Gonds and the Krotons feels remarkably well thought out. It does feel as though he is taking inspiration from the youth protests and revolutions that were going on at the time he was writing, with the Gond students smashing up the learning machines in the first episodes in an attempt to draw out the Krotons. This society is on the brink of overthrowing their oppressors, as students like Thara are already doubting that the Krotons taking the best students away is in the Gonds’ best interests, and all it really takes to light the spark is the Doctor telling them that the wastelands are not dangerous any longer.
David Maloney’s direction is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, Maloney does a great job of making this world feel like not just another quarry in the opening moments. On the other, there are moments like the ceiling falling in on the Doctor at the end of Part 3, which seems to leave the Doctor completely unscathed or the Krotons not seeming to be able to harm Jamie, that strike me as utterly bizarre.
Unfortunately, the Krotons are the biggest part of the problem, and it’s not entirely Robert Holmes’ fault. This largely is due to the costume, which feels big, unwieldy and blocky. The crystalline basis of the costume is an interesting idea, but it just ultimately makes them look a bit like particularly inconvenient salt and pepper shakers. The voice is most effective when it is telling the students to stop smashing up the Learning Hall, and as they get more to say just gets more and more irritating. This is something that could be down to both Holmes and the director, as the delivery of the lines would be a directorial decision, but the dialogue is not great to begin with.
Another problem The Krotons faces is the fact that the guest cast are just not that memorable. We do not care about the Gonds because they just do not stand out. There are a lot of alien races that the show introduces us to in the Hartnell and Troughton eras who want to overthrow oppressive forces, however, the Gonds fall amongst the most generic. The one actor who does stand out is Philip Madoc, who brings a real sense of elegance to Eelek. My eye was always drawn to Madoc whenever he was on screen, which shows why the actor was brought back on several occasions after this story.
Great jumping gobstoppers!The Second Doctor
The Second Doctor spends a lot of time in this story off with Zoe, as the Krotons perceive them as being the “high brains” in the view of the Krotons. There are some lovely moments between Troughton and Wendy Padbury, like their competitiveness about the scores on the Gonds’ learning machines and the fact that the Doctor struggles with the questions so much more than Zoe. Their chemistry is obvious on the screen and they are funny together, especially in that final scene with the Krotons where the Doctor is messing around with the headsets.
The show has really run out of things to do with Jamie, so he is largely sidelined. Whether this is looking after Vana, or chasing around after the Doctor and Zoe, it doesn’t feel as though we get a lot of Frazer Hines, which is a shame. Something that did make me quite happy was the fact that we do get to see Jamie actually fight and win. It is something that Jamie doesn’t get as much chance to prove as a companion like Ian, and it’s nice to see that it’s not all a great deal of hot air.
Verdict: The Krotons shows signs of what is to come from the pen of Robert Holmes, but it certainly isn’t the most promising start. 5/10
Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Wendy Padbury (Zoe), James Copeland (Selris), Terence Brown (Abu), Madeline Mills (Vana), Gilbert Wynne (Thara), Philip Madoc (Eelek), Richard Ireson (Axus), James Cairncross (Beta), Bronson Shaw (Student), Maurice Selwyn (Custodian), Roy Skelton and Patrick Tull (Kroton Voices) & Robert La’Bassiere and Miles Northover (Krotons).
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: David Maloney
Producer: Peter Bryant
Original Broadcast Dates: 28 December 1968 – 18 January 1969
Behind the Scenes
- The first story written by future script editor Robert Holmes.
- Holmes had originally submitted the outline for this story for season 2, then called The Trap, which was rejected as the aliens were too similar to the Mechanoids who featured in The Chase.
- Holmes resubmitted the outline to a more receptive production team three years later, under the title of The Space-Trap. It was commissioned for delivery in 1969, however, because Holmes had it ready sooner and another story, Prison in Space encountered problems, it was moved up.
- This story is notable for being the first collaboration between the new script editor Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes. Dicks would commission Holmes to write frequently during his era as script editor during his time running the show with producer Barry Letts, and Holmes would succeed Dicks when both Letts and Dicks chose to leave the show. Horror of Fang Rock, Holmes’ final story as script editor, was written by Terrance Dicks.
- As Terry Nation had asked the BBC to stop using the Daleks as he looked to make a Dalek series in the US, the Krotons were envisaged to replace them as the Doctor’s nemesis. The Krotons ultimately did not have the same impact as the Daleks, and Nation would eventually let the BBC use the Daleks again from the midway through the Third Doctor era.
- This would have been Frazer Hines’s final story, and Jamie would have been replaced by a companion called Nik. Hines ultimately decided to leave with Patrick Troughton at the end of the season.
- The company commissioned to make the Kroton costumes, Jack Lovell Ltd, built the suits to the wrong scale, making them unwieldy and making the addition of a rubber skirt necessary as the mistake with scale would have exposed the operators’ legs.
- The cast and crew do not have a favourable impression of the Krotons. Director David Maloney labelled it as a disaster and felt that it was his fault and Frazer Hines called it “horrible”. Terrance Dicks liked the story but not the Krotons themselves, finding them unthreatening and useless.
- This story is the first appearance of Philip Madoc, who would go on to appear in The War Games as the War Lord, The Brain of Morbius as Mehendri Solon and The Power of Kroll as Fenner. He also appeared in the Big Finish audio plays Master and Return of the Krotons.
- Richard Ireson had previously played a Clockwork soldier in The Mind Robber.
- James Cairncross had previously appeared in The Reign of Terror as Lemaitre.
I think the moment that Krotons are able to apparently destroy the TARDIS is a good moment, even if it is revealed that the Doctor has turned on the Hazard Awareness Displacement System.
I am sorry, Doctor. My people will always remember you.
Eh? Oh. Oh, that’s very nice of them.Selris and the Second Doctor
Previous Second Doctor review: The Invasion