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The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe land on an unknown planet. Their exploration leads them to discover a giant machine, but before they can retreat they witness the disintegration of a young man. Fleeing to a nearby settlement they stumble upon a ceremony for a young woman who is dressed in the same style of robes as the dead man. When they try to stop the ceremony, fearing the girl is walking to her death, they discover that the indigenous population, the Gonds, are in some form of thraldom to unseen creatures known as the Krotons. The trio’s arrival sparks decent and revolution amongst the younger Gonds, with the Doctor determined to stop what he sees as ritualistic slavery...
The Krotons, is a four part, Patrick Troughton story which was originally broadcast between 28 December 1968 and 18 January 1969. The show was written by Robert Holmes, who would go on to become influential in the history of Who, and directed by David Maloney, the script editor was Terrance Dicks.
So little of Troughton’s work survived the mass tape destruction carried out by the BBC that it is always a pleasure to see the complete stories which did survive. This is by no means the best Who around. The monsters, obviously designed to be another commercial attempt to augment the success of the Daleks, are - if we’re being kind - not a great design, though a more honest appraisal would contend that they are bloody awful. If the Daleks were inspired by pepper pots, these look like they were directly nicked from a cruet set. There is even a shot from just behind the Krotons gun, which attempts to emulate the mystery and horror of the original shot of the Daleks sink plunger, but which fails miserably.
The basic premise, that the Kroton spacecraft, having crashed on the Gond’s planet, killing most of the population and needing to convert the intellectual power of the population into energy just to keep them alive, does have some interesting elements. Although this basic idea also creates numerous plot holes. How, for instance, did the Krotons power their ship normally?
Given the triumph of design for some of Troughton’s other stories, it is surprising the paucity of things to look at in the story. Interiors are bland, with the interior of the Krotons spaceship, the Dynatrope, being particularly disappointing, consisting of little more than a few screens in front of a dark ribbed background.
The planet is the usual quarry of the week and the film elements for the outside shots are noticeable grainy and of lower quality to the interior shots. The picture has been restored by the Doctor Who restoration team, who once again have done a magnificent job, with such an old print.
The acting, Krotons notwithstanding, is very good with the three leads having settled both into their roles and their respective interrelationships. Troughton is in full cosmic hobo mode, a man who seems to be a fool, but is in fact the most intelligent creature in the show, which has a lot of resonance with how Matt Smith plays the current incarnation of the Doctor.
Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon) is full of youth and aggression, his first act in meeting the Gonds is to start and win a fight. By this point of the series Wendy Padbury (Zoe Heriot) has softened her character, keeping the intelligence, but adding shades of humanity, which her earliest portrayals sometimes lacked. The show had a good cast of supporting actor, especially, the late, Philip Madoc (Eelek), who would return a number of times to the show.
Overall, the story seems to illustrate that Who, at this stage, was running out of ideas and being reduced to planet of the week stories. Odd really that this should come from the pen of Robert Holmes, who would go on to write some of the most innovative stories in Who’s history.
The DVD disc is blessed with the usual high quality level of extras, including the full length commentary with Philip Madoc, Richard Ireson (Axus), Gilbert Wynne (Thara), assistant floor manager David Tilley, Make-up artist Sylvia James, costume designer Bobi Bartlett and special sounds designer Brian Hodgson.
Second Time Around (52 min, 23 sec) takes a slightly different tack to normal. Rather than it being the usual ‘Making of’ the documentary takes a look at the whole of Troughton’’s career as the Doctor. Well researched, it charts his initial difficulties in filling William Hartnell’s shoes, and his journey to finding one of the most lovable Doctors the show has produced. The documentary also has some nice, rare clips.
Doctor Who Stories - Frazer Hines (Part One) (17 min, 28 sec) has the actor reminiscing about his time on the show and his relationship with Troughton.
The Doctor's Strange Love (7 min, 18 sec) has Joseph Lidster and Simon Guerrier pontificating on the show on the Sarah Jane set.
The disc is wrapped up with a photo gallery, the production information subtitles, the Radio Times listings and a Coming Soon for The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1 min, 05 sec).
The honest appraisal would have to be that this is not the greatest story either Who or Troughton produced, but because of the real crime involving the destruction of much of his work, it still a pleasure that we have, at least, some of his work preserved.