Doctor Who: The Krotons
Directors - David Maloney
Cast - Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
Country of Origin - U.K.
Discs - 1
MSRP - $24.98
Distributor - BBC Home Video
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Serial (3.5/5)
Common themes can be found in the career of any writer, especially one who has written such a massive body of work over the course of a lifetime. Robert Holmes wrote for Doctor Who in various capacities from script writer to script editor from 1968's The Kroton's all the way through to the Ultimate Foe in 1986, and during that time he wrote somewhere in the vicinity of 20 Doctor Who stories, most of which are considered not just classic Doctor Who episodes, but some of the greatest Doctor Who episodes of all time.
However, as the stories are the product of one man themes do emerge over time, and while I will never accuse Holmes of being quite like a Terry Nation reusing the same themes ad-nauseum in all of his stories, I did happen to notice a few interesting parallels with my first time viewing of 1968's 2nd Doctor vehicle The Krotons and 1986's 6th Doctor serial The Mysterious Planet. I'm sure I am not the first fan to notice that both serials deal with the concept of 2 intelligent members of a primitive race being forced to serve a robot master in various ways. Regardless, the way each serial is handled is slightly different. The Krotons deals with a singular race being dominated by the mysterious Krotons, while the race in the Mysterious Planet considering themselves advanced are at war with a primitive tribal colony on the future Earth planet Ravalox, while simultaneously dealing with internal strife in their culture (although the internal call to revolution against the robots is present in both stories). Anyway, I have digressed long enough on to the Krotons.
The Krotons finds the 2nd Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe landing the TARDIS on the planet of the Gonds. It appears that every so often 2 of the most intelligent Gonds are selected by the Krotons, a pair of robotic creatures who live in a machine in this primitive cultures "learning hall", and are forced to become their companions. Soon after they arrive they wander into this planets wasteland, and end up at a door on the opposite side of the Kroton's "machine". It is hear they see one of the Krotons latest companions Abu Gond, as he is quickly vaporized.
The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe quickly find the entrance to the Gonds learning hall, and attempt to explain what they have seen. Upon integrating themselves into the Gonds culture, they discover that the Krotons have been the dominant force in their culture for many millennia educating the Gonds with their learning machines in the learning hall, and having them become obedient servants to the Krotons. The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe, of course, investigate, and discover that the Krotons are actually 2 members of a robotic race that crash landed on the planet after a failed battle, and have been attempting to fix their "Dynatrope" spaceship ever since. They have been attempting to educate the Gonds on the ways of science, in the hopes that their minds would become advanced enough to assist them in the process, and it was not until the Doctor and Zoe stepped aboard that they had minds great enough to free themselves from the Planet of the Gonds, and escape to wreak havoc on the universe once more. It's up to the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe with the help of the Gonds to stop the Krotons from executing their plan.
Over the years I have heard mixed things in regards to the Krotons, and I have to say as a serial I quite enjoyed it. It is obviously not a classic Who serial, or close to the stuff Holmes would be doing in a few years time, but it is quite an enjoyable sci-fi yarn from a writer just finding his voice. Admittedly, the Krotons themselves were not the most memorable of monsters, and quite cheesy, but the story had some nice story beats going on especially in the first episode setup. The effects beyond the Krotons themselves are actually quite good for the era, and the direction by David Maloney utilizes them to great effect, and keeps the story going at a reasonable pace.
I said it in my review of the Seeds of Death, and I will say it again, but the group dynamic of the 2nd Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe is absolutely one of the finest put to the screen in classic Doctor Who history. The three of them have some amazing chemistry, and in the last month have watched not just Seeds of Death, but the Mind Robber, and now the Krotons I am further convinced. The performances of all 3 leads are excellent, and they play off each other very well. The supporting cast also works quite well with the material, we also have a Philip Madoc playing Eelok in this serial. He would go on in a few years time to act in one of my top 10 all time favorite Doctor Who serials The Brain of Morbius, and does a quite good job here playing one of the revolution Gonds Eelok.
The Doctor Who Restoration Time in conjunction with BBC Home Video have presented the Krotons in a wonderfully restored 1:33:1 full frame transfer preserving the Krotons original broadcast ratio. The contrast levels are solid, black levels are deep, and the image is for the most part crisp and clean.
The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital Mono track in English. The dialogue is clear and audible throughout the serial, and the music and effects are mixed well so they do not drown out each other.
BBC Home Video and the Doctor Who Restoration Team have put together a nice collection of supplements for their release of the Krotons. The disc kicks off with an audio commentary featuring the late Philip Madoc, Richard Ireson, and Gilbert Wynne. It also features make-up designer Sylvia James, assistant floor manager David Tilley, and the costume designer Bobi Bartlett. It is moderated by Toby Hadoke. We then have a 52 minute documentary called the Second Time Around which goes in depth about Patrick Troughton's time as Doctor Who. This is followed up by a 17 minute interview with Frazer Hines called Doctor Who Stories - Frazer Hines (Part 1). We then have another installment of the Doctor's Strange Love with fans sitting around discussing the episode with writers Joseph Lidster and Simon Guerrier. The disc is rounded off by .PDF materials, and a photo gallery.
An interesting entry to start off Robert Holmes' Doctor Who career. The Krotons is a fun, but slightly typical sci-fi adventure. The restoration on the serial is fantastic, and the extras are interesting and informative. Recommended for Doctor Who fans.