The Show:At long last the BBC has released the last complete Patrick Troughton Doctor Who serial that hasn't already made its way to DVD. The Krotons is a four-part story that's very average, but still has some interesting ideas and one very notable aspect (more on that later). It's a fun, if largely forgettable story that will please Who fans but problaby won't win many converts.
The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe land on a desolate planet and decide to have a look around. They discover a single city that's inhabited by the Gonds, a human-like race that seems to be trapped at a medieval level of technology. That's because for the last thousand years they have been ruled by the Krotons, a race they've never seen. All they know is that their ancestors tried to fight their overlords when they first landed on the planet and the Krotons killed most of them and created the wastelands that surround the city in the process.
Not the Krotons guide the Gonds. They have installed learning machines that teach the young, but only what the Krotons want them to learn. Many areas of inquiry, such as chemistry and presumable all other sciences, are forbidden. In addition to that, periodically the Krotons summon two Gonds to tend to them, always the smartest of their generation.
As they approach the city, the Doctor and his companion see one of the latest crop of 'servant' Gonds being executed, and manage to save the second one. Presented with proof that the Krotons have been killing the best and brightest Gonds for the past millennia, the people rise up in anger. But how can a people armed with spear and slings defeat mechanical robots that have discovered the secret of space travel, especially when they can't even get at them? The Gonds do have one advantage though: The Doctor is on their side.
This is a decent and fun serial, even if it's not very memorable. The Krotons are a bit weak as far as villains go. The director, David Maloney, wisely shot them from the waist up and in close-ups so that viewers rarely got a complete picture of how silly they look. Even shot as they were, they're not that menacing. For starters, they're blind. That's an amazingly huge flaw and you'd think that their creators would have noticed. As it's the key to an escape that The Doctor and Zoe make though, it's a good thing no one did. They're incredibly stupid too; based on the conversation the two surviving Krotons have though the serial.
But even with a weak villain, the theme of this story is good. It all revolves around intelligence and how brains can overcome brawn. The Krotons keep the Gonds in an underdeveloped state because they fear what would happen if they invented acids and powerful weapons, yet they need some raw intelligence to power their crippled craft. After the Kroton's cruelty has been revealed, there's a struggle between two faction in the city, one that wants to rush in and fight the Krotons, and another that wants to wait until they can develop stronger weapons. Of course The Doctor and Zoe tip the balance of power, but they council caution too.
While the story does have its flaws (if the Krotons needed raw intellectual power, why did they kill off the smartest Gonds instead of nurturing their intelligence?) it's still makes for an enjoyable afternoon. That's largely due to the three main actors who have a wonderful amount of chemistry together. They feel like a family or a group of friends rather than a student and his pupils, as is often the case in the classic series. Troughton also shines, as he usually does, playing the buffoon while really being the smartest one in the room (or on the planet, as is often the case.)
This serial is also auspicious because it marks the first time that the great Robert Holmes (Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Autons, The
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show just fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the dialog is generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss, distortion or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.
The Restoration Team has worked their magic once more and the full frame B&W image looks amazing. I was really impressed with the sharp and clear picture. The level of detail is excellent, the blacks are deep, and the image is stable. This is one of the best looking black and white episodes of Doctor Who to be released. You'll be pleased.
This single-disc release has some nice extras. First off is a commentary track featuring actors Philip Madoc (who would appear in a few later Doctor Who serials), Richard Ireson and Gilbert Wynne, assistant floor manager David Tilley, make-up designer Sylvia James, costume designer Bobi Bartlett, and special sounds designer Brian Hodgson. They all appear on different episodes, but the one constant is moderator extraordinaire Toby Hadoke. I really enjoy this 'round robin' approach to the commentary tracks. Each person might not have enough to say to fill up the entire serial, but together they come up with enough trivia and amusing anecdotes to make the time fly by.
The video extras start off with a great overview of Troughton's tenure on the show, Second Time Around. It successfully puts Troughton's time on the show into perspective, reminding viewers just how gutsy and risky it was to replace the well-loved actor playing the title role on a popular show. With quotes from the crew and staff of the show who are no longer with us and ample interviews with those that are, the nearly hour-long documentary traces the second Doctor's adventures though his two seasons. It's an excellent tribute and, dare I say it, better than serial on this disc.
Next up is Doctor Who Stories: Frazier Hines (Part 1), a talk with the actor who played Jamie about his time on the show. It's an interesting interview and well worth watching. That's followed by another discussion with fans, The Doctor's Strange Love. I actually like these segments, even though I've heard mixed comments from other fans.
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option which is very informative as always. It does give some dry statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are also some interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background information on the supporting characters. The extras are rounded off with, a couple of photo galleries, and the listings from the Radio Times in .pdf format.
While this isn't a great story, it's not bad either. There are some plot holes and the villains are pretty forgettable, but it's great fun watching Jamie, Zoe, and The Doctor save a civilization. Those three have a lot of screen chemistry and the show was never dull when they were on screen. Recommended.