Who Wrote It
What’s It About
In their ongoing search for the Key to Time, the Doctor and Romana arrive on the swamp moon of Delta Magna. In order to find the Key, the must navigate the violent designs of the natives and the colonial prejudices of the refinery workers. But lurking beneath the waters of the swamps is an ancient beast that hungers.
It’s atrociously writ.
It is inevitable that I would think of Cthulhu while watching this story. I have been steadily reading through the works of H.P. Lovecraft for over a year now and any cyclopean, tentacled water creature is going to cause my mind to wander toward cosmic dread. I don’t know that Lovecraft had any influence on this story at all; there seems to be little evidence that Robert Holmes read his stories. The mythos hardly strikes me as stories Holmes would enjoy. The similarities are extremely superficial. But the disappointment over what could have been, a story involving an ancient, cosmic creature with complete indifference to its worshippers, would have been a fascinating story. It also would have been completely contrary to the BBC’s mandate to Graham Williams. The story would have been much too dark—on the level of Image of the Fendahl.
The second area of disappointment I felt while watching this story was how uneven it was. Robert Holmes opened the season with a magnificent story. The characters were fun, the story was intriguing, and it was truly an example of everything Robert Holmes (and by extension, Doctor Who) does so well. Kroll, also by Holmes, lacks everything that The Ribos Operation had. The characters seemed underdeveloped. The pace is uneven. I almost wonder if Robert Holmes even cared.
This is a shame, I think, because the visual effects for Kroll look quite good. No, they aren’t perfect, but Kroll is one of the best-realized monsters of Doctor Who. The monster itself looks magnificent. But the story is half-hearted. The themes lack any significant punch (honestly, they were done better in Colony in Space). Even Philip Madoc is wasted in a secondary role (but he is still excellent). The Power of Kroll doesn’t quite get off the ground, even though it has so much in its favor. Robert Holmes was one of the great writers of classic Doctor Who. Even when his heart wasn’t in it, the stories had interesting elements. Unfortunately, when they are wasted in a story that doesn’t seem to care, watching a Holmes story can be incredibly disappointing.