Doctor Who – The Krotons Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Krotons
  • Story #: 47
  • Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 12/28/1968 – 01/18/1969
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“This is the most advanced machine, perhaps he can’t answer the questions.” – Gond Leader
“Of course he can, the Doctor’s almost as clever as I am.” – Zoë

“It is not patriotism to lead people to a war they cannot win.” – Gond Leader

The Doctor and his companions, Jamie and Zoë, land in the TARDIS on an alien planet. They step outside and Jamie immediately notes the smell of bad eggs, while Zoë realizes there is sulfur in the air. They explore a bit anyway and find a city and then a building, but the Doctor realizes immediately that it is a machine, not a building. They see a man stumble out of the machine but he is immediately gassed and killed. A few minutes later a woman stumbles out, the TARDIS crew block the gas jets for a few moments and pull the girl free, but she is catatonic. They make their way to the Gond city, and the woman is given treatment but stays catatonic until the last episode.

The Gonds are a primative people, with no weapons. They make regular sacrifices to the Krotons when called upon. The most intelligent, clever, and successful men and women are sent to live with the Krotons. But some of the people rebel at this status quo, especially the woman’s boyfriend who begs her not to submit to the Krotons (she does, and is rescued by the Doctor and company). Eons ago, the Krotons arrived and during the war that followed, they caused poisonous rain to fall on the planet, creating the Wasteland (where the TARDIS lands). Since the Gonds have lived within their city, being taught by teaching machines. But the machines and their knowledge is supplied by the Krotons. The Gonds themselves are starting to realize there are major gaps in their knowledge but they have no way to fill those gaps themselves.

The Doctor tries to help the woman, Vana, who is comatose for much of the story, but remarks he’s not a medical doctor. Zoë tries out the teaching machine, gets double the score of even the best Gond, and is immediately called to join the Krotons. The Doctor also passes the teaching machine exams, so he is called and can accompany Zoë into the Krotons’ machine. Inside the machine, the mental power of the Doctor and Zoë is converted to energy and used to reconstruct the Krotons who are crystalline aliens (they look like big robots though). Zoë realizes they are using the mental power of the Gonds for energy. She asks why they don’t set the Gonds free afterward (since this process doesn’t actually harm the person they get the energy from) and the Krotons are actually confused – they are simply disposing of the waste.

Jamie meanwhile, who had been watching over Vana, returns to the teaching hall, and upon learning the Doctor and Zoë are inside the Kroton machine, breaks into it. He later breaks out.

One of the Gonds challenges the Gond Leader as well as the Gond head scientist to attack and destroy the Krotons – saying they can attack with slings and fireballs. The Doctor has the Gonds make sulfuric acid after analysing the Kroton’s structure and crystal slurry in the TARDIS. (He escapes, does his analysis and then goes back to the scientist.) Another Gond suggests knocking out the pillars that support the Kroton machine from below (forgetting that it would destroy the entire hall.) The military attack is doomed to failure but doesn’t really get started, and the destruction of one pillar only makes the entire situation worse for the Gonds. But the Doctor has Jamie work with the scientist to make gallons of sulfuric acid. When Zoë and the Doctor go back into the Krotons machine, it’s Jamie who leads an attack. Zoë dumps the sample of sulfuric acid and other components into the Krotons slurry tank, while Jamie attacks the Kroton machine with the acid. Between the two attacks, the Krotons are defeated, the Doctor and Zoë escape, and the Gond Leader having shown his idea worked rather than the pointless military attack, wins the respect of his people. The Gonds decide to develop their own science. The Doctor and company leave in the TARDIS.

I had seen “The Krotons” on PBS, and when I purchased the DVD, but I could remember nothing about it when I went to re-watch it. After several five and six-part episodes and the eight-part “The Invasion”, going back to a traditional 4-part Doctor Who actually felt a little short. But this is actually a pretty good story – the villains are not your traditional evil invaders – they are simply so alien they don’t understand organic life. In essence, they are treating the Gonds the way people treat metal, or wood, or stone – as a resource to be used. And the Gonds aren’t your traditional “stupid natives” – they aren’t that advanced, but even before the Doctor’s arrival, some are questioning the status quo. This story has some thought behind it.

Zoë is wearing a really awful plastic-looking bolero jacket over an incredibly short skirt. I know it was the 1960s and the mini was in, but come on – if you can’t sit down, the skirt is too short. There are several edits and shots of Zoë from the hips up where it’s obvious that if you saw her legs you’d also see her panties. Honestly, I own tunics and one tunic-style sweater with a longer hem than that mini-dress she’s wearing, it’s truly ridiculous. Compare the length of Jamie’s longer kilt, and you’ll see what I mean. And of course, as always in the Troughton serials, no one remarks on the strange clothes all three of the TARDIS crew are wearing.

But other than some bad wardrobe choices, “The Krotons” is a good, “typical” Doctor Who story – it won’t win any rewards or sit at the top of any “Best in Who” lists, but it’s an interesting culture, interesting aliens, some good sets, and some nice set pieces (some of the Kroton machinery and labs are pretty cool). I recommend this story.

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