Monday, 3 March 2014

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Power of Kroll

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Kroll appears and starts attacking stuff.
From Wikia
Doctor Who - Season 16, Story Five - The Power of Kroll
Written 7/8/13

Aaaaaaand we're five-for-five this season as Robert Holmes follows up his excellent season premier with a story that combines racial analogues with B-movie horror stylings to create a serial which is somehow simultaneously tediously serious and completely and utterly barmy. This season is really turning out to be a cracking one, as even though my expectations of a story with a name that sounds like a bad Sy-Fy movie weren't exactly high, I was shown to be wrong in a number of extravagant and at times hilarious ways.
     The Doctor lands on the third moon of Delta Magna, a far-future human colony made up of swampland and inhabited mainly by the green-skinned swampies, a race of tribal peoples whom humanity pushed from their homeworld below and now treat as slaves. When The Doctor and Romana arrive, refinery Captain Thawn has manipulated the native Swampies, arming them in order to give him a reason to wipe them out while simultaneously discrediting the humanitarian organisations opposing his work on the moon. The Swampies believe that their god, Kroll, wishes to sacrifice Romana and The Doctor, but the two Time Lords work out that the real Kroll, a 50 foot giant squid who subsequently attacks both Swampie and Human, was a normal squid who swallowed the fifth segment of the Key To Time - a fact which allows The Doctor to save the day in style and retrieve the segment.
     Robert Holmes uses the character of Thawn and his very human colleagues to create a racial analogue, comparing the uprooted Swampies to, for example, the indigenous population of the Americas, as well as taking a larger stab at British colonialism overall. Thawn's casual attitude towards the genocide of sentient beings means that while the Swampies do spend 90% of the story attempting to kill our protagonists, one is constantly wondering who the villain is. When Kroll arrives, and his arrival is spectacular (and actually quite well-done if you ask me), the pressure he puts on the situation forces the characters to reveal their true colours in what felt like a very realistic manner. Such is the wonderful subtlety in Holmes' scripts.
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It's better than it looks, I swear.
From classicalgallifrey

     There are times when the story dips its damp green toes into the realm of absurdity. The first cliffhanger highlights the problem that a lot of the script-writers had with Romana in that they really didn't know how to wrtie a companion who didn't get into trouble, leading to her being tied up and sacrificed with some of the worst and most painful screaming from a companion this side of Melanie Bush. Not to mention that the "Kroll" who is ravaging her is in fact, in-story, a man in a fucking squid suit, which while being remarkably cheeky and metatextual, makes Romana's ridiculous screaming all the more egregious. There's also the solution to the Doctor and Romana's captivity in the third episode, in which The Doctor breaks a window to allow in a convenient storm by shrieking in a high pitch.
      Taken for all of its various values, The Power of Kroll is an enjoyable and engrossing story that actually manages to pull off an "attack of the 50 foot whatever" story that is simulatenously meaningful and entertaining beyond the spectacle of seeing green-skinned men being dragged off by long plastic tentacles. The story's absurdities are few and far between enough to become part of the serial's charm, and the overall effect is immediately both memorable for the right reasons and for the wrong ones. I get the impression that this story isn't liked in fandom for some reason, but for me it's just as good as its four predecessors and I look forward to seeing this season's conclusion.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: The Key To Time reaches its end and I reach my final Tom Baker story as we meet Lalla Ward in The Armageddon Factor

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