Doctor Who: Revisiting THE KROTONS - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: Revisiting THE KROTONS

Matthew Kresal receives the highest honour that can befall a Gond.

One of the great shames of the Patrick Troughton era of Doctor Who is that so little of it survives for us to watch. Seven stories, only a third of the ones that he did, survive intact. Five of those come from Troughton's final season, and amongst those is The Krotons. Sandwiched between the mostly surviving UNIT/Cybermen story The Invasion and the Ice Warriors' tale The Seeds Of Death, The Krotons has a reputation for being weak. Does it deserve that reputation, though?

The Krotons is notable for being the first contribution to the series from Robert Holmes, who later earned a reputation as perhaps Classic Who's best writer. As one might expect from a first outing, though, things in his script here are a little rough around the edges. His basic premise of peasants ruled over by technologically superior masters, remains, even now, a fairly standard Doctor Who plot. The script also lacks some of Holmes' later trademarks, the double acts between characters and his ear for dialogue not having developed just yet. Indeed the latter, especially regarding the Gond's, often falls into B-movie cliches of the decade before. While The Krotons isn't Holmes' weakest script (his other Second Doctor story The Space Pirates is a much worthier candidate), it also isn't his best by any means.

The Krotons themselves have come in for some criticism over the years as well. As the late Terrance Dicks often said,
“They couldn't do anything. They couldn't walk. They couldn't talk. They couldn't hold their ray guns. About all they could do was stand there and look menacing.”
And you know what? He's right. The Krotons certainly look effective thanks to David Maloney's direction, which, as he would later do with the Daleks, often shot them from below, giving the impression of them towering over the TARDIS crew. The sequence where the Doctor and Zoe cause the resurrection of two of the creatures is arguably the most effective in the entire serial.

Unfortunately, once they begin to play a more substantial part in the story, the Krotons slowly lose their effectiveness. That's something that takes us back to the Dicks' quote above. As designs and costumes, they're too lumbering and cumbersome to be the menace the script (and the acting, for that matter) imply them to be. The sequence of one of them pursuing the Doctor and Zoe highlights all of their problems at once. All of which ultimately means that the Krotons may tower over the cast but can't do anything menacing, making them a near-stereotype for a Doctor Who monster in the process.

The story has a couple of blessings, though. One of which is the direction of David Maloney, one of the best directors to have worked on Classic Who. Despite the weaknesses of the script, Maloney keeps the story moving at all times. He takes potentially boring sequences and gives them a sense of life, such as the aforementioned sequence where the Doctor and Zoe effectively resurrect the Krotons. It's also Maloney's direction that gives the titular monsters what effectiveness they do have. Maloney, like Holmes, would go to greater stories in Doctor Who, such as Genesis Of The Daleks, but stories like this show that Maloney was always a good director.

The other blessing lies in the strength of some of the performances, particularly from the TARDIS crew. By now, the trio of Troughton, Hines, and Padbury had settled in rather nicely, and The Krotons plays to their strengths in many ways. Troughton and Padbury get some excellent moments together, particularly after the Doctor and Zoe are isolated from Jamie at the end of episode one. As much as we the fans talk about the Troughton/Hines double act, the Troughton/Padbury one deserves praise as well, as the middle episodes of this story prove. That separation also allows Hines to be on his own for a bit, and he's especially good during the scenes in the Dynatrope in episode three.

The other strong performance in this story comes from an actor who would go on to make contributions in the series' future: Philip Madoc as Eelek. While there isn't a whole lot to the character on the page, Madoc imbues the character with a strong sense of menace throughout the early episodes of the story. Yet, Madoc neatly turns his performance around toward the end of the story as we discover that Eelek is ultimately a bully and. like all bullies, is a coward beneath his exterior. Madoc would shine in other Maloney directed stories such as The War Games and The Brain of Morbius but, like with Holmes's writing, it's interesting to see his early work here.

Does The Krotons deserve its reputation as a weak story? Ultimately, despite the direction and some of the performances, it does indeed. Neither the script by Holmes nor the Krotons as monsters works like they need to, hampering the efforts of others elsewhere. In the final analysis, we can say two things about this story. One is that it isn't the weakest of the surviving Troughton adventures as The Dominators has it beat there. The other is that, based on Big Finish's Second Doctor Lost Stories set, we can be thankful that this took the place of The Prison in Space.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places. 

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