Written by Robert Holmes
Directed by David Malone
Arriving on a wasteland planet, The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe discover society held in check by creatures known as the Krotons.
“Zoe is something of a genius. It can be rather irritating at times.”
Given the influence that Robert Holmes would later exhibit over Doctor Who and its mythology, he gets a rather inauspicious beginning with The Krotons. Missing are the trademarks of Robert Holmes later scripts, the dark humor, the detailed world-building, the double-act. It is fun to see the development of writers and this is one reason I have wanted to watch these stories in broadcast order, to see how the show develops. By the time of his death, Robert Holmes will have written for every classic era Doctor except the first and the seventh. No other Doctor Who writer can claim this. I enjoy his stories for their characterization and imagination. Sadly, The Krotons was a bit boring in places. I found my mind wandering quite a bit.
The story takes place on an unnamed planet where the mysterious Krotons hold a race called The Gonds in a state of slavery and keep them technologically undeveloped. The Krotons regularly subject the Gonds to intelligence tests and those who pass become companions to the Krotons. We learn quite quickly that these “companions” are really drained of their mental energies and killed. The Krotons are a crystalline race and they need the mental energy to reconstitute themselves and repair their ship. The Gonds are kept under-developed to keep them from rebelling, but this also serves to slow The Krotons’ progress to a crawl. Unintended consequences there. It is the arrival of The Doctor and Zoe in particular that puts The Krotons’ goal within reach, but it also starts to spur the Gonds toward rebellion. You know how these things go. It’s Doctor Who, after all.
This isn’t a bad story, but it is a bit of a dull one. There are some great moments between The Doctor and Zoe. The scene with Beta and Jamie creating acid is fun due to contrasting Beta’s excitement at trying chemistry for the first time and Jamie’s apprehension with the exploding chemicals. Phillip Madoc brings great menace to the rebel leader Eelek. And of course, seeing Patrick Troughton act is always preferable to just listening to him. But overall the story is rather predictable and on par with many similar stories of the time. It isn’t bad, it just isn’t particularly memorable. There are, however, some good concepts floating in the background and these will later be fleshed out in the Lawrence Miles novel Alien Bodies.