The Krotons

Written by:
Robert Holmes
Directed by: David Baloney
Starring: Patrick Troughton
Year: 1968/9
Video Availability (NTSC Version): Try Amazon

First of all I have to say that I love Pat Troughton like a brother. He's the man. The guv'nor. The one the others can only hope to be. Yes, even the guy with the scarf. But I know from experience that a review of this particular story will not be favourable.

I'm not averse to naffness in Who (when isn't naffness in Who?) but when the opening shot is of a porthole hatchway that won't open properly you know you're in trouble. Location filming in black and white looks great and I almost cheered when the regulars arrived in the quarry two minutes in. Frazer's so much better here than in The Two Doctors, Zoe's wearing a mini skirt and Pat's a genius. He almost makes that godawful "city" shot seem convincing. Strangely, this is the third Holmes story in a row I've watched. If I'd just seen Talons, Assassin and Caves I'd probably be raving right now. Instead, I've seen The Two Doctors, The Sunmakers and now this, making me see him as a bit of a hack. With no incidental music and a lame, B-movie serial script, even the genius (yes, there are two geniuses in one story) of Philip Madoc fails to shine. Particular note must be drawn to the functional banality of ALL Zoe's dialogue.

Eight minutes in and we get a gratuitous fight sequence with Jamie. I know of one fan who accidentally had this sequence on a loop and thought it was a Pertwee six-parter. The very fact that padding is required in the first episode speaks volumes. I despise blinkered agreement with fan "wisdom" and am always up for reappraising "turkeys" or debunking "classics". But I have to concede that The Krotons does indeed live up to its reputation. Badly made, badly written, tedious and the cameraman's a drunkard. Still, it is nice to see the root from Death to the Daleks making its phallic acting debut.
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After the end credits of the first episode I realised this was directed by the same man behind Talons and Assassin. Mind you, he was also behind Planet of the Daleks so that about says it all. There's little to comment on in the second, slightly superior, episode. Wendy's stagey but I definitely would, the youthful Frazer is great and Pat makes the most out of even the worst dialogue. And you don't get much worse than this.

The episode is unique in actually having a decent scene. The bit where the Doctor tries the Kroton test ("Alright, there's no need to shout! Now go away and don't fuss me... no, come back, what's this?... it's alright, I know.") is a rare flash of brilliance. The crystalline "birth" of the Krotons is also pretty cool, too. Shame they have Brummie accents. They do look silly and unsophisticated now, but I nearly pooed my pants when I was 9 and they repeated this on TV. 9 is obviously the best age to watch The Krotons....
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It's the arms and the skirts, y'know. The opening of this episode, with the Krotons towering over Jamie, is quite menacing. But as soon as you see the pulp SF arms and skirts the illusion is blown. They're still better than the Quarks, mind.

One thing that seems to typify season six is loads of monitors with swirly black and white patterns on them. Isn't it weird how all the alien races the Doctor met this year had 1968 decor?

In pure cartoon style a Kroton tells Jamie how to destroy it; while "Tiluria" gets mentioned in Holmes's first story, a later trademark. Philip Madoc's brilliance starts to seep through amidst the mire, and I might make a compilation tape of Zoe's legs. This episode would definitely feature heavily on that score, Padbury (15 minutes in, anorak fans!) cannily positioning her hand so we can't see her knickers.

I must confess though that I quite enjoyed this particular episode. Robert Holmes always handled the episode three problem better than most, and although it's pulp, it does have some sort of quaint excitement about it..
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A wrapping up episode this one, with a somewhat naive depiction of the debating Gonds. How can this come from the same season as The Invasion? It's all a bit tedious again this week, as you care little about the "characters" or the plot, so you're just waiting for it to end. "Set the intergalactic link!" This really is a SF dirge. It's also Troughton's worst story. Not as camp as The Underwater Menace, as quirky as The Space Pirates or as charming as The Dominators it assumes last place. (Actually, with the benefit of hindsight I can now say it doesn't - see my later reviews of those last two stories for more information). Troughton's fiddling about with the headset seems less like a humorous aside, more the actor knowing how rubbish it is and trying to inject some fun out of sheer desperation. The Kroton dissolving is well cool, though, and Zoe is as lovely as ever. Didn't Pat's dematerialisation sound sound better than the rest?
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It's telling that what was one of the nadirs of the 60s - one of the five worst 60s stories, in fact - is still nowhere near as bad as the follies of the 70s or 80s. Yes, The Krotons IS poor, but give it to me ahead of a Three Doctors or a Twin Dilemma any day.
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