Doctor Who: The Krotons
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Doctor Who: Ep. 47 - Krotons, The
The Doctor, Zoe and Jamie are drawn into rebellions of the Gonds against their unseen rulers, the Krotons.]]>
The Krotons is one of the final episodes, from the late 1960s, with the underrated Patrick Troughton playing the good Doctor. The Krotons is a clever story, including the best elements of a good Star Trek story as well as The Twilight Zone, with a lot of humor, and even a little politics, thrown in. The Doctor, Jamie (Frazer Hines), and Zoe (Wendy Padbury) arrive on the planet of the Gonds in the TARDIS and discover that the Krotons are controlling the best and brightest of the Gonds. At first it's not clear if the Krotons' intent is toward a greater good or not, but the slow realization of what is truly going on gives our heroes a lot to think about--and to try to rectify. In many ways, the political undercurrent in The Krotons is surprising yet very much of its time. There are nods to the Cold War and the control that Communism held on people behind the Iron Curtain, and there's a bit of late-'60s countercultural rebellion against The Man, and becoming a resident of a house made out of ticky-tacky. There's a good bit of unsettling fear in this episode too, and the fates of the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe hang in the balance for a good portion of the episode. This disc is packed with cool extras, including astute audio commentary by some of the supporting cast, the makeup director, the costume designer, and production managers. There's also a great hour-long documentary about Troughton's era as the Doctor, shedding light on his particular comedic bent on the character. There's a BBC documentary, and a fan featurette, and several other great goodies that all Doctor Who fans will not want to be without. --A.T. Hurley
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In "The Krotons," the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe land on a desolate planet inhabited by the Gonds, a technologically primitive society that has been enslaved by the unseen Krotons for a thousand years. The Krotons test Gond youths for intelligence and skim off the cream of each new generation to join them as "companions" inside their machine, never to be seen again. The Doctor and company discover the Krotons are actually killing the Gonds after siphoning off their brainpower to extend the Krotons' robotic lives. Meanwhile, the Krotons learn that the Doctor and Zoe possess higher IQs capable of powering the Kroton ship, which would allow them to escape the Gond planet for good.
The blocky Krotons (which were called "croutons" by the cast and crew) don't make for very menacing aliens, but director Maloney compensates by shooting them in close-up from the waist up, somewhat disguising the fact that there are only two of them and they can't see or walk very well. Philip Madoc makes his series debut as Eelek, a minor Gond villain who tries to trade the Doctor and Zoe to the Krotons in exchange for their promise to leave the Gonds in peace. Madoc would go on to play much more complex, convincing nemeses of the Doctor in "The War Games" and "The Brain of Morbius" in addition to playing the evil Huron Indian chief Magua in the BBC's 1971 production of "The Last of the Mohicans" (also directed by Maloney).
I would normally rate a humdrum story like "The Krotons" only three stars, but I give this DVD four stars for the unusually crisp quality of the digital transfer and the high caliber of the added Special Features. Most of the original videotape from the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton years was wiped by the BBC for reuse, meaning that surviving episodes are usually restored from film copies made for foreign TV markets. "The Krotons" exhibits none of the fuzzy, grainy qualities that plague so many of these restored episodes.
The Special Features menu leads with a 52-minute documentary spanning the Patrick Troughton years, which contained so many milestones that would later shape the series: the first regeneration of the Doctor to replace the aging William Hartnell, a one-time gimmick that was not meant to be repeated; the phasing out of purely historical stories in favor of stories with science-fiction elements in historical settings; the scripting troubles that led to such creative stories as "The Mind Robbers" and "The War Games"; the creation of UNIT to take pressure off the lead actor playing the Doctor; the introduction of the Time Lords and the Doctor's back story as a rebel Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey; the Doctor's trial by the Time Lords and exile to Earth, without a working TARDIS, to cut series costs.
The Special Features also include a 17-minute interview with Frazer Hines (funny, as always) and a brief send-up of the Krotons by writers Joseph Lidster and Simon Guerrier (less funny). Not to be missed is the audio commentary, which includes the aforementioned Madoc on three of the four episodes, talking about his later work on Doctor Who and "The Last of the Mohicans." (The veteran Welsh character actor passed away in March 2012.)
Other pluses about this story is that the Doctor and Zoe get to show off their intelligence. Zoe spends the entire story in a nice miniskirt. Jamie provides some humorous moments when he is on his own with the native humans, helping them.
The story just seems to be missing something extra to make it special.
As for the DVD itself, the picture and audio quality are excellent, and it has some nice extras. There is an interesting documentary detailing how Troughton got the role, and the behind-the-scenes details about the producers, writers, and scripts. It also has a short interview with Fraser Hines who played Jamie. I have not listened to the commentary yet, but I notice that Hines and Wendy Padbury (Zoe) are not on it, a little disappointing.
I still hope the BBC tracks down the rest of Troughton's stories, especially The Power of the Daleks, The Highlanders, The Web of Fear, well basically all of them. With renewed interest in the show since its return in 2005, hopefully this will happen.
As for The Krotons, if you like 60s Who or the 2nd Doctor, you might want to pick this one up.