The Krotons

Written by Robert Holmes

Directed by David Maloney

In classic Doctor Who there are really two writers that get all the credit: Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes. Dicks had joined the series at the start of this season, nominally as script editor, but previous script editor Derrick Sherwin was still doing the job and didn’t let Dicks get really stuck into the job until the start of the next season. Holmes had recently been working on shows like Dixon of Dock Green and The Saint, when his pitch for a show called ‘The Trap’ was turned down by the BBC, but they pointed him in the direction of Doctor Who, and thus The Krotons, and with it the start of a long and fruitful association with the show, was born.

Holmes’ main strength as a writer was being able to build a story around one or more key moments, which the rest of the script mainly served to build up to. I have to admit that one of the things about classic who I’m not a total fan of is the heavy reliance on cliffhangers. While it may seem like a good idea on paper, what it usually results in is a pointless interruption to the actual story which has to be quickly resolved in an unconvincing way at the start of the next episode. The abundance of piss-poor cliffhangers also cheapens the few genuinely good ones (that mad cyberman in the sewer, for example), because you can pretty much guess that they’ll be resolved quickly next time round. New Who doesn’t use nearly as many cliffhangers, but when it does, it tends to do them well, and they have a whole lot more power as a result (watch The Rebel Flesh if you don’t believe me). Holmes’ writing, however, suits itself very well to that style of writing, and he pretty much arguably has the best cliffhangers.

The Krotons is a rather quiet start for Holmes, particularly compared to his later work, but it is not without some genuinely great moments. A flustered Doctor getting maths and science questions wrong, and being corrected by Zoe further cements her as the greatest companion ever, and Philip Madoc, (another Who regular who first became associated with the show in this story) gives a great performance as the big fucking dafty, Eelek. The first part of the story, with the gradual build up mystery surrounding the Krotons is particularly good, though the rest of the story manages to plod along saterfactoroly, if for a little too long

As for the monsters themselves: well, they’re better than the Quarks, I’ll say that for them. On the whole, though, they very much continue the run of shit monsters the Doctor comes up against. And their camera-on-a-stick is downright freudian.
So the Krotons proved a bit of a washout as villains. Perhaps next time the writers could actually come up with something scary? Nope, its just back the the Ice Warriors, in Seeds of Death.

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