Doctor Who and the Krotons
Story No. 047
Bug-eyed, emotionless, paranoid, plunger-armed or block-shaped… all monsters must bow to the greatness of the mighty Pat Troughton.
The second actor to play the Doctor, Patrick Troughton had decided that three years was a decent run. His final series as the Doctor is a mixture of good and bad stories but unfortunately it is the most complete archive of his time on the series due to the junking of many of the episodes filmed in the first eight years of the program’s run. Krotons is hardly a fan favorite but that isn’t a mark against it either. The only four part adventure of Doctor Who from 1967-68, it reads as a kind of Who by the numbers adventure. The first script by Robert Holmes who would go on to become one of the most revered personalities in the annals of Doctor Who (having written Terror of the Autons, Talons of Weng Chiang and Caves of Androzani to name just three of his contributions as writer), Krotons is a far better story that the awkward Space Pirates screened just a few weeks later. It is interesting that none of the hallmarks that later become part of Holmes’ style are present in the Krotons at all. Nevertheless, it is a fun story if only for the performances by the three leads who are at their prime.
In my earliest exposure to Doctor Who I recall noticing a pattern right away where the Doctor and his companions stumble upon an alien civilization under the control of a cruel power system. The natives know no other way of life and fear outsiders, those in control fear that one day their subjects will wise up and overthrow them. After escaping confinement, the Doctor stirs up a revolution and destroys the culture’s system entirely before making a quiet getaway for the TARDIS. It always struck me as odd that not only does the Doctor leave the alien culture to pick up the pieces of the fractured society he has left them with but also England is a monarchy so what is a program preaching the value of revolution doing on the BBC?
In any case, the Krotons is one of these types of stories.
Landing on an alien world, the Doctor and his companions arrive at an awkward moment just as two of the brightest members of the society known as Gonds are being sacrificed to their rulers, the Krotons. The son of the highest ranking member of the clan of Gonds, Thera, objects to the practice but it is obvious that he is alone in his anger. After entering a doorway, the two sacrifices disappear, thought to join the Krotons and never be seen again. The Doctor and his crew just happen to witness one of the two youngsters exit a doorway in a desolate valley where one is killed by a strange weapon. Before the lovely Vana can be killed, she is rescued and returned to the gathered Gonds who are understandably miffed at the interference.
The Doctor is terribly curious about the Gonds and their relationship to the Krotons. His curiosity eventually leads to getting both himself and Zoe chosen as companions to the Krotons. Well, he had to get inside their citadel somehow! Eelek, a rival anxious to grasp power from Selris, seizes the opportunity to grab the attention of the Gonds while Selris tries to quell a rebellion led by his son. It is apparent that Eelek has little agenda outside of seizing power and being in control. If that means bowing to the domination of the Krotons, so be it. The part is played with sinister grace by the amazing Philip Madoc, one of the most talented actors to work on the series. He’s kind of like a prototype Paul Darrow from Blake’s 7, in some ways.
Inside the Kroton base, the Doctor learns that the Krotons are the remainder of an invasion force that battled the natives many generations ago. Composed of crystalline matter, the Krotons are virtually indestructible. Able to harness the mental capacity of humans and use it as energy, the Krotons have been educating the Gonds in order to gather energy necessary to escape the miserable planet and go home. On the other side of the impenetrable doorway, Eelek has learned all of this as well and seems more than happy to let the Krotons have the Doctor and Zoe to power their craft and leave.
Working with the resident chemist, the Doctor manages to launch an attack on the core of the Kroton base and inside the craft as well, introducing fast-eating acid to the crystalline being that destroys them utterly. Free from the Krotons’ control for the first time in generations, the Gonds decide to elect Thara their leader. Before they can look to the strange outsider known only as the Doctor for guidance, he is already gone.
Like I said, Krotons is a rather simple script, but it is also so straight forward that Patrick Troughton is able to inject some levity with some hilarious routines and improvised dialog. Together with Wendy Padbury as Zoe and Frazier Hines as Jamie McCrimmon, this could very well be the most finely tuned trip of actors to work together on the program outside of the initial grouping of the Doctor Ian and Barbara.
As monsters, the Krotons themselves are interesting to look at. Designed to look like an odd mixture of robotics, hoses and crystals, they suffer from the standard Doctor Who monster limitations… they cannot see you, they cannot move quickly and they are more than happy to explain their whole plan to you. In the end, I was more than happy to see them killed. Surprisingly enough, the monsters returned many years later to battle Doctor No. 6 Colin Baker in a Big Finish audio adventure, Return of the Krotons and in print agaist Doctor No. 8, Paul McGann.
To date the Krotons has not been released on DVD, but as only one of two remaining Troughton stories existing in its entirety, that is only a matter of time.