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.
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....
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..
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.