Sometimes . . . I don't think you're quite right in the head.
Never mind about that.
In upcoming reviews at DVD Talk, the writing staff will be perusing Academy Award nominees, heart wrenching dramas, sidesplitting comedies, and insightful documentaries. But for now, it's time for ineffective and dated effects work, questionable acting, and giant squids in Doctor Who. . .
The BBC science fiction series Doctor Who is a powerhouse legend in television. It initially ran almost continuously from 1963 - 1989. That's 26 years! After a lengthy hiatus (filled by a plethora of novels and Big Finish full-cast audio productions), the series recently returned to production with great success. David Tennant is a splendid Doctor. It can be seen on the Sci-Fi Channel here in the States, and, of course, on DVD.
My first experience with Doctor Who came in the 1980s, when WVIZ, channel 25, a PBS station in Cleveland, aired the show each Saturday night. I grew up with the Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Doctors, and the program remains close to me as it was an important component to my childhood imagination.
For the uninitiated, Doctor Who follows the exploits of an alien Time Lord named the Doctor as he travels through time and space in a cavernous vehicle called the TARDIS. Typically, he goes on adventures with companions - often from Earth. His ability to regenerate when facing death allows for a new actor to assume the role, perhaps in part explaining why the series has been able to last for 45 years. Thus, each new actor becomes a numbered Doctor. David Tennant is the tenth actor to assume the role, for example, so he is the Tenth Doctor.
The Power of Kroll is the penultimate storyline of The Key to Time: a season-long epic in the middle of Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor)'s tenure in the role. With his curly hair and lengthy scarf, Baker played the Doctor for seven years and became one of the most popular actors to appear in the role. The basic premise of The Key to Time sees the Doctor called into duty by the White Guardian to assemble the Key to Time, a cube object whose purpose is to maintain the equilibrium of all time and space. This cube has been split into six pieces and hidden across the universe, and the White Guardian needs the Key in order to keep the universe aright. Assisting the Doctor in his quest for these pieces are Romana, an intelligent Time Lord, and his robotic dog, K-9.
The Key to Time series had been released several years ago on DVD. For some reason, despite the number of classic Doctor Who stories still awaiting a DVD treatment, BBC Video has seen fit to double dip on this season with new "special editions."
The Power of Kroll . . .
In any case, The Power of Kroll is the least inspired of all the storylines housed under the Key to Time umbrella. The two leads - Tom Baker and Mary Tamm - continue to be quite good as the Fourth Doctor and Romana, and Robert Holmes's script gives them clever dialogue. However, the adventure's concept is rather flimsy and feels like a compulsory run-around to get the fifth segment to the key to time before the 6 episode finale.
The Power of Kroll is set on the swampy third moon of Delta Magna. On it, a handful of evil company industrialists in an oil rig-looking habitat are in conflict with the Swampies, a bunch of green-skinned guys who look like emaciated versions of the Jolly Green Giant and worship a mile-long octopus-like creature christened Kroll.
Of course, Kroll is comically realized on screen - but it lacks the punch of an old Godzilla movie. The Swampies are just extras in green oil paint and wigs - and not a particularly interesting lot. Curiously, in the on-set promotional piece that's included in the extras, actress Mary Tamm is unusually candid and critical about the unsuccessful realization of this addition to the Doctor Who canon. That makes two of us.
The Power of Kroll has its moments, but outside of the retrieval of the fifth segment to the key to time, there really isn't much else of note that happens here. I'm recommending this disc primarily on the strength of the extras and again encouraging fans to seek out the collected adventures in the Key to Time set rather than seeing them piecemeal like this.
By the way, Big Finish Productions recently finished an audio story arc sequel to this season - titled Key 2 Time starring the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison.
The four episodes of Doctor Who: The Power of Kroll are presented in a full frame 4:3 aspect ratio that reflects their original television broadcast. The image looks as good as I've ever seen it with solid colors and okay detail - don't expect stellar blu-ray visual quality here, however, given the show's late-1970s video production roots.
Each episode of Doctor Who: The Power of Kroll arrives with an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track. Dialogue is always clear, and though the track is obviously limited by the television program's production values, the sound is fine throughout.
Subtitles are available in English for the hard of hearing.
DVD releases of episodes from the classic Doctor Who series have traditionally been generous with extras, and this special edition of Doctor Who: The Power of Kroll is no exception.
For starters, actors Tom Baker and John Leeson provide an informal commentary track on all four episodes of the serial. In addition, there is an optional text information track for each episode.
There's Something About Mary (9:49) and Philip Madoc - A Villain for All Seasons (9:43) are two nice short featurettes with actors Mary Tamm and Philip Madoc respectively reminiscing upon their roles in Doctor Who. Madoc appeared in several serials and the second Peter Cushing Doctor Who movie, so he's able to comment on the talent involved in several eras of the television program. These are available in anamorphic widescreen.
Vintage extras include In Studio (11:28), studio recording extracts from 9 October 1978, and Variations (6:25), a promotional short recorded during the making of The Power of Kroll referenced in my review of the episodes above. These, of course, are in full frame.
Additional extras offered are Continuities (2:51), a collection of vintage ads for the show, including some holiday spots. A Photo Gallery (4:55) sports a slideshow of stills accompanied by sound effects and music from the program.
Finally, a trailer for the fourth season of the new Doctor Who series precedes the main menu. Also, a PDF file is included of the Radio Times billings.
With its plentiful extras, this newly-released special edition of Doctor Who: The Power of Kroll comes recommended, even though it's the weakest of this story arc's serials. However, fans of the series will likely want to get the concurrently released special edition of Doctor Who: The Key To Time that collects all 6 stories in one multi-disc collection, rather than getting them piecemeal like this.