Doctor Who #230: The Krotons Part 1

"All our science, all our culture, everything we have, has come from the machine." "I see. A sort of self-perpetuating slavery."TECHNICAL SPECS: I missed the DVD release by THIS much. The Region 2 DVD has been available since July 2nd, but Region 1's only comes out later this week. First aired Dec.28 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands on the planet of the Gonds and turn their culture upside down. Their Kroton masters retaliate by scanning the Doctor with a big, rude, snake thing.

REVIEW: Surviving stories I've never seen before are getting rather rare, but The Krotons is one of these, and probably the last one until the 7th Doctor era (though I find I have little memory of several 3rd Doctor stories). Unfamiliarity doesn't make it good - it's one of those future stories filmed in a quarry with dodgy sets, costumes and monsters, feeling very much like The Dominators, especially the bit about the poisonous wasteland being safe again - but it IS Robert Holmes' first work on the series and that's something. Robert Holmes, to the uninitiated, is the Steven Moffat of the classic era, responsible for some of the greatest Who ever made. In that, I happen to agree with popular opinion. And in The Krotons, I do notice some of his themes starting to develop, in particular a world view in which organized society (read: government) is a bureaucratic machine that trains you to be an unthinking slave only to spit you out, spent, at the end. An allegorical daily grind. In the episode's part, quite literally. However, if I'm honest, I'm not entirely sure I would have seen this in the episode without my 20/20 hindsight.

The planet of the Gonds isn't just a quarry, it's apparently a real stink hole, the Doctor hilariously finding the ozone and sulphur "bracing", and to protect himself from the twin suns, carrying the unmbrella that would be in all the pictures and inspire the 7th Doctor's own gear (7 is very much a take-off on 2). Sadly, the umbrella doesn't survive, but the Doctor does use his props well, bounces in place to check the gravity, picks up random bits of stuff on the ground. As usual, Troughton is determined to make an under-designed world interesting with his own comic bits of business. He plays hypnotist with his watch, he gums up the Krotons' works, and in exchange, he gets spotted and scanned by the unseen Krotons who may or may not be related to salad and soup condiments. Jamie gets to wrestle a Gond, which isn't as interesting as it sounds, and the Doctor almost gets a rise out of Zoe when he tells her she has competition in the Gonds' students, or at least, the "chosen ones" that get gobbled up. The episode has some good character moments then, but most of it is a long history lesson about the mindless bureaucracy.

The minimalistic score tells us nothing and sounds more like electronic noise, so I wasn't too surprised there wasn't a composer credited for this one. I did like the way the Kroton scanner was used, shades of Lichtensein. I also like the Gond axes, and nothing about the design is particularly objectionable. The teaching machines have faces in the style of WOTAN, but it's more subtle. And yes, the camera snake is potentially rude-looking, but it's long and impressive (I'm not helping its case, am I?).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - While it has a thematic foundation with potential, and the regulars doing their best to make things interesting, we'll have to file Holmes' first effort under "humble beginnings"...


Carson said...

Bwahaha! Your camera-snake comment made me LOL. (Technically, SOL: "snort out loud")

Really enjoying your blog!

Siskoid said...

Thanks Carson.

Well, "snake" humor is pretty basic to all human beings.


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