Doctor Who #499: The Power of Kroll Part 2

"Well, he probably looked more convincing from the front."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Dec.30 1978.

IN THIS ONE... Kroll rises from the depths and Rohm-Dutt's weapons backfire.

REVIEW: The first version of Kroll we see, with its mushroom head and wimpy claws is a fake. Well, obviously. But it's like Bob Holmes is poking fun at the program's weaknesses by making the rubber-suited monster actually BE a man in a rubber suit. What I find absurd is that this creature looks nothing like the real Kroll, even though the Swampies have books full of pictures of this Lovecraftian tentacle monster. How do they ceremoniously justify that? It's part of the director's or design team's complete confusion throughout the serial. For example, why would the Swampies have a big, dry grimoire given their culture and environment? Does Mensch's signal lamp make sense, or is it at once too advanced for the Swampies and too primitive for the refinery crew? And I have yet to see a single shot that geographically ties the water, where the refinery is, and the marshland, including the awkward fx shot of Kroll rising from a hard-edged horizon. I like Kroll itself, with its insectoid mouth and massive tentacles, and his attacks are shockingly quick. Yes, that's right, I like to see its tentacles burst of ponds and pipes. That's how I roll, cephalopod-style.

Once again, Holmes (or perhaps Baker himself) writes a fun Doctor. Look for small gems like his accusing Romana of over-exaggerating when all she has time to say is "This is...", his evaluation of the Swampies' holy writ, and his opinion of the faux-Kroll. Romana shows shame at her performance, and I agree she should. In fact, I take real exception to the way Holmes is writing her in this episode/serial. From her screams, you can tell they weren't part of this particular companion, a companion not meant to be a screamer. Tamm struggles with it. I can't even understand why Romana says she hates underground passages because they haven't really featured in her adventures (the mine in The Pirate Planet maybe?). It just seems like such a generic companion thing to say. I bet this is the episode that got Mary Tamm to ask her agent to send Graham Williams a letter...

While our heroes are trying to figure out what's going on, find the segment, etc., the guest cast is embroiled in a plot I'm having trouble caring about. Rohm-Dutt betrays the Swampies by giving them defective weapons, and he might be working against the Sons of Earth and not for them. The Swampies are outraged to be taken for fools just because they lead a simple life, yet keep their failed sacrifice a secret so the troops don't get spooked by a "bad omen". Thawn kind of panics and wants to throw dangerous depth charges at the monster, and his team don't really agree. The storyline is so insular and disconnected from the Doctor and Romana that I can scarcely muster any interest. I mean, the refinery produces vast amounts of "protein"? Could this get any more generic? I keep finding interest in Philip Madoc's performance, but I can't decide if his quiet performance of Fenner is naturalistic or informed by indigestion. I think I'm giving him credit because it's so unlike his other Doctor Who roles, but it's far from as riveting.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - It thrums along and the Doctor gets some funny lines, plus, you know, giant cephalopod, but half the time, I'm wondering why I'm following the person the camera has decided to follow.



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