Do you like watching stage magic?
You poor, sad creature, you. Still, whatever turns you on during the inevitable cosmic march towards the grave, I suppose. You could be eating ice-cream. You could be watching the sunset. You could be enjoying inventive sexy fun time with the person of your euphemistic heart’s desire. If you choose to spend your time watching stage magic, there’s little I can do about it at this point, given that a clip round the ear is probably against the law.
The point about stage magic though is that it’s about delivering three phases:
- Setting up expectation
- Faffing about to fill time and build the expectation, and
- Either fulfilling that expectation, or confounding it in a way that’s even cooler than the expectation you had.
Not exactly very bad, but The Fate of Krelos is like an hoursworth of phases one and two, presumably with the intent of delivering an hour-long phase three in the final release of the season, which will also form part two of the Krelos story. To be a little more crass, it’s an hour of foreplay, followed by theme music and a promise that if you come back next month and spend more money, things will get really interesting.
Some stories go bang and then you’re running to keep up with them till the very last gasp.
If you’re looking for a quick bang and a rapid heartbeat, the Fate of Krelos is not the story for you.
Maybe there’s something inherently soporific about the Doctor going fishing – when he did it in The Two Doctors it led to three episodes of not a great deal, including most of an episode pratting about in corridors and ducting. Here, when the Fourth Doctor decides to take Leela fishing, there’s some fun banter about the point of the whole thing and then, to be honest, not a lot happens for fifty minutes. The idea appears to be a slow, pervasive intensification of tension, but really, the impression you’re left with is of a lot of talk about fishing, and K9 freaking out. Annnnd not much more.
One presumably important thing that does happen is that K9 beggars about with the internal architecture of the Tardis, so the Fourth Doctor and Leela end up using the ‘dusty’ console room of the Second Doctor. There is, we assume, more point to this than allowing the Fourth Doctor to wax lyrical about Jamie McCrimmon – we assume, and in fact we hope, there’s some chicanery that makes this important to Nick Briggs’ plot in its own right, otherwise it feels rather a heavy-handed way into the story.
The story? On the world of Krelos, interconnectivity is the watch-word – cleaning systems, food systems, city systems, personal systems are all interlinked, and increasingly accessed via headsets. Getting a vibe yet?
Meanwhile, left on the Tardis while the Doctor and Leela rather abortively attempt to go fishing, K9 has the slowest freak-out in his long history of electronic freak-outs, beginning to drone, and getting stuck in an analysis loop.
Having materialized at the bottom of a mountain to go fishing at its top, the Doctor and Leela face a hike, meet a robotic suit filled with the presence of a pensioner who’s actually safely dreaming at home, get interrupted by the comic image of K9 the rugged rock-climber having a neurotic stress-out, and return to the Tardis to take a short cut. Clearly, as Who fans have long suspected, ‘because it’s there’ is not actually a reason to climb a mountain – it’s a reason to get in the Tardis and hop to the top instead.
Enter a plot device from out of The Ark. Literally from out of The Ark – the Tardis dematerializes, then rematerializes at the top of the mountain, with the Doctor absolutely certain he’s traveled only in space.
Suddenly though, all is doom and gloom on Krelos. ‘The Fate of Krelos is sealed,’ apparently, and has been sealed during the second or so between the Tardis disappearing and reappearing. Planetary fates being sealed, it turns out, is exactly the kind of thing that can really put a crimp in an afternoon’s fishing.
Sealed by what?
Wellll, technically that would be spoilerific – which seems to have been the attitude of the writer and director too, as the story ends on a real fan’s cliff-hanger, in that you have to know what it means in order for it to work at its full power. Of course, having the tiniest glance at the name of the second part of the season finale will blow all the suspense that The Fate of Krelos appears desperate to build right out the window. As, come to that, would the thought-pattern ‘Krelos? Oh, that sounds like…’ The final line, delivered by K9 will give it to you too if you’re a fan of the Classic era, which, facing facts, you probably are if you’re listening to the Fourth Doctor on Big Finish audio. But given all that, The Fate of Krelos feels like a whole lot of stagecraft to little actual purpose, like a magician who takes fifty minutes to show you the nothing in his hat and up his sleeves, only to pull out an IOU for one rabbit you were fairly sure was going to be there before you walked in the door. In fact,
it’s pretty much the rabbit that convinced you to buy the ticket to the show in the first place. The giant, zombified, clanking rabbit of Krelos – now that could make a story. The Fate of Krelos is a lot of promise of a story, with no follow-through – at least, not till next time…
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk