Doctor Who #501: The Power of Kroll Part 4

"Shouldn't you say don't make any sudden moves?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.13 1979.

IN THIS ONE... Kroll attacks the refinery, almost everybody is killed, and the segment of the Key is retrieved.

REVIEW: Take out the reprise, and you've got barely 19 minutes of new content in Part 4, and even then, the production is forced to tack on a second climax to the real one - a technobabble scene in which the Doctor pulls at wires - to make that length. It's like Bob Holmes didn't hand in a completed script. Another continued annoyance is that Philip Madoc, the man who only recently gave us Solon, is severely underused. I found out why in the extras, and it bears mentioning because it explains a lot. It seems that he was asked to play Thawn (the villain in chief), but through some error on the production end, so was Neil McCarty, and Madoc was given Fenner instead. So if he looks bored and irritable on screen, that's no performance! It's pretty incredible that he's one of the most watchable things in The Power of Kroll regardless.

I can't help but wonder how good his Thawn would have been. McCarthy goes so over the top with it, his madness coming out of nowhere (if at least they'd drawn some kind of Lovecraftian connection to his seeing Kroll), that Madoc's take would almost certainly have been more believable. After all, he's got the most naturalistic performance on here. (Full props to John Leeson as well for that surprised look on his face when he's murdered.) But over the top is where this story wants to live. In its generally negative review, the DisContinuity Guide commends the "kitsch grandeur" of Ranquin praying to a limp tentacle coming out of a pipe, a critical nugget that's a lot more memorable than the scene itself (I didn't have to look it up). Ranquin trying to pathetically justify every success and failure as Kroll's will hints at what the story could really have been about - Thawn also justifies his attempted genocide, etc. - but that was lost between drafts somewhere.

The Doctor gets involved in three climaxes, two of them fairly exciting and worthy. In the first, he must prevent a not-so-orbital shot aimed at Kroll and the Swampies, right from under the rocket's booster engine. The danger is so great, he feels the need to tell Romana goodbye, and they sell the self-sacrifice well. The solution is a bit of a gag that dispels the tension before the real climax happens, and that's Kroll's attack on the refinery. FINALLY, we get a sense of the scale of the monster as it batters the dirty dishwater-proof model. The Doctor's struggle to put the tracer to the beast's belly is excitingly shot, the tentacle effects relatively well done, and I love that Kroll turns into thousands of baby giant squids once the Key is removed from its system. This is a much better ending than the irrelevant piece of jeopardy that follows it.

VERSIONS: The Target adaptation fills out the guest cast's backgrounds a bit more, and widely considered the best Season 16 novelization.

- It has a couple of stand-out climactic scenes, but otherwise, a lot of characters die in between bits of padding.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Though disappointing from the standpoint of Holmes and Madoc's respective participation, The Power of Kroll isn't unlikable. It's just not particularly likable. It's just rather ordinary, and that's a sin unto itself.



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