Doctor Who #231: The Krotons Part 2

"Zoe is something of a genius. Of course it can be very irritating at times."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.4 1969.

IN THIS ONE... Zoe and the Doctor are found worthy by the Krotons who use the TARDISeers' brain power to boil some water.

REVIEW: Robert Holmes' first "classic double act" may well be the Doctor and Zoe. There is some very funny interplay between them after Zoe tries to Kroton learning machine and find it all too easy, while the Doctor struggles because he lacks concentration and treats it like a competition. Maybe it always was? Troughton is generally very good in this, flattered that the Krotons might be after him, and flustered that Zoe has been chosen to become a Kroton "companion". Obviously, her curiosity about alien computers puts her in grave danger, but Holmes suggests there's some professional jealousy there. In a way, it's all one big joke about Jamie's simple-mindedness. The Krotons only admit him because not-Gonds have proven smarter than Gonds, but they'll discover not all not-Gonds are built alike. Cue brain-melting cliffhanger.

The sequences inside the Kroton machine - which we find out is really a crystalline growth, though the design rarely manages to show it - have some good effects and revelations. The force field effect is well done, as are the painful distortions the characters go through while their brain power is being drained. And director David Maloney keeps us from seeing whole Krotons, I think knowing the design isn't very good, but we still see too much. Hopefully, I'm right in thinking the Krotons are really just those crystal heads, because I don't see how those great big robot bodies from 50s B-movies could grow in a tank no matter how much brain power you sucked out of someone. Dalek-like, the Krotons would put their newborn living crystals in machine bodies.

The idea of powering your stuff (and in particular, your means of reproduction) with other peoples' brain power is part of Holmes' symbolic conceit, but it doesn't seem very efficient in terms of plot. The Doctor and Zoe are said to have more power than anyone the Krotons have ever used AND survive with their minds intact. So how dumb are the Gonds? Because it's been thousands of years and the Krotons are surprised to find humanoids who could stand a second go in their machine. Has their society been stuck in neutral because the native population has trouble powering a light bulb? When the teaching machines are used, Zoe and the Doctor are implanted with a willingness to please the Krotons (which they shake off), and that could have been an apology for the Gonds, a reason why they're not more inquisitive. But no, it really seems like the poor Krotons have been starving on Gond brain power all this time. Still, they're wastrels for destroying used Gonds, because as we find out, Vana does wake from her coma. Disturbed by the experience, yes, but alive, and I bet she's on her way to make a complete recovery. Of course that would be people returning to Gondville to tell their story, and we can't have that.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The comedy is quite good, the effects pretty good, and the Krotons, well... the comedy is quite good.


Anonymous said...

"So how dumb are the Gonds?"

Well, the Krotons have been applying a selective pressure to make them more stupid, generation after generation, by killing off their brightest specimens before they can breed.

Which means that the real question is, "How dumb are the Krotons"?

Steve Flanagan

Siskoid said...

Good point. Something I address over the course of the last two parts.


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