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Production Code: WW
1 - 28/12/1968 17:15
2 - 04/01/1969 17:15
3 - 11/01/1969 17:15
4 - 18/01/1969 17:15
The TARDIS arrives on the unnamed planet of the Gonds, who are ruled and taught in a form of self-perpetuating slavery by the alien Krotons - crystalline beings whose ship, the Dynatrope, crash-landed there thousands of years ago after being damaged in a space battle.
The Krotons are at present in suspended animation, in a crystalline slurry form, awaiting a time when they can be reconstituted by absorbtion of mental energy. Periodically, the two most brilliant Gond students are received into the Dynatrope, apparently to become 'companions of the Krotons' but in truth to have their mental energy drained, after which they are killed.
When the Doctor and Zoe take the students' test, their mental power is sufficient to reanimate the Krotons. The Doctor discovers that their life system is based on tellurium and, with help from the Gond scientist Beta, he is then able to destroy them and their ship using an impure form of sulphuric acid.
Gond students start smashing up the teaching machines. When Selris, the Gond leader, arrives with the Doctor, a snake-like probe emerges from the Dynatrope. It homes in on the Doctor and extends toward him.
The Doctor and Zoe, after reanimating the Krotons, have escaped through the back of the Dynatrope. Jamie however is still trying to enter through the main door. The Krotons allow him through in the belief that he can supply more mental energy. They subject him to the intelligence draining device and discover that he is not as intelligent as the Doctor and Zoe. One Kroton remarks that, in that case, the power will kill him.
The Gonds attack the Krotons' ship by attempting to undermine its foundations. The Doctor arrives too late to stop them and the ceiling starts to cave in. The Doctor is buried under a pile of rubble.
With the Dynatrope destroyed, the Gonds must find their own solutions from now on. The TARDIS leaves the planet.
The Prisoner episode 'The General' (fascist educational techniques) and the Paris student riots of 1968.
Theseus and the Minotaur.
John Christopher's Tripods novels.
Zoe : "The Doctor's almost as clever as I am."
Beta : [To the Doctor] "We've been slaves for one thousand years. Do you think you can free us in one day?"
The Doctor : "Zoe is something of a genius... It can be rather irritating at times."
The Doctor : "Great jumping gobstoppers, what's that?"
The Doctor carries an umbrella due to the planet's twin suns. He remarks that the architecture is more typical of low gravity planets. Zoe suggests Inca influence. The Doctor says the planet's atmosphere is a mixture of 'ozone and sulphur' [plus all the usual gases]. The planet is rich in magnesium silicate (mica) and tellurium (which the Krotons' life system is based on).
The TARDIS' Hostile Action Displacement System, seen in action when a Kroton attempts to destroy it, [is a version of the relocation device mentioned in The Mind Robber. The TARDIS moves back to its original location by the end of the story. The assumption seems to be that the TARDIS is not indestructible].
The Krotons have been on the planet for 'thousands of years'. Gond history talks of 'silver men' coming from the sky and bringing 'poisonous rain'. The Krotons are crystalline, as is their ship, the Dynatrope. They can't see in bright light, and cannot die, but 'exhaust' if their structure is destroyed.
They were part of a war fleet. Their heads can spin, and they carry cylindrical weapons in clamp-like hands. Tellurium dissolves them. The Dynatrope transfers mental power into energy but requires 'High Brains for transfer power'.
The unnamed planet of the Gonds.
Popular Welsh actor Philip Madoc makes his first appearance in Doctor Who as Eelek.
Frazer Hines had originally intended to leave the series at this point but decided to stay on to the end of the season after he learned that Patrick Troughton would also be bowing out then. This was the main reason why a light-hearted story entitled The Prison in Space by Dick Sharples, in which Jamie was to have been written out and a new companion character called Nik introduced, was dropped at the last minute and The Krotons brought forward from later in the season to fill the slot.
This story was based on an idea by Robert Holmes for a science-fiction play that was passed on to the Doctor Who office after being rejected by Roger Parkes, the script editor of the BBC's Out of the Unknown anthology series.
(It was based on a storyline that Holmes had originally submitted to the Doctor Who office some three years earlier - although apparently at an even earlier stage, when Irene Shubik rather than Roger Parkes was script editor, it had indeed started life as an unsuccessful submission to Out of the Unknown.)
The Krotons were the winning entry in a Blue Peter 'design a monster' competition. (They weren't. Confusion may have arisen as one of the winning entries in a Blue Peter 'design a monster to beat the Daleks' competition, the 'Aqua-Man', resembled a cardboard box with legs and arms - not too dissimilar from the Krotons' appearance.)
Zoe gets Tellurium's atomic number (52) correct, but is out on its atomic weight (128 instead of 127.6). She describes hydrogen telluride as having 'the worst smell in the world'.
The first shot is of a sliding door refusing to open.
Vana's cloak falls off when she raises her arms in episode one.
Jamie collides with Zoe whilst climbing in episode one, and in the same scene her knickers are briefly visible.
Zoe's jacket is badly torn at one shoulder in episode four.
Selris is Scottish.
Beta is magically transported from place to place.
Zoe in PVC.
Beta has amazing sideburns.
Cast & Crew
The Doctor - Patrick Troughton
Jamie - Frazer Hines
Zoe - Wendy Padbury
Abu - Terence Brown
Axus - Richard Ireson
Beta - James Cairncross
Custodian - Maurice Selwyn
Eelek - Philip Madoc
Kroton - Robert La'Bassiere
Kroton - Miles Northover
Kroton Voice - Roy Skelton
Kroton Voice - Patrick Tull
Selris - James Copeland
Student - Bronson Shaw
Thara - Gilbert Wynne
Vana - Madeleine Mills
Director - David Maloney
Assistant Floor Manager - David Tilley
Costumes - Bobi Bartlett
Designer - Raymond London
Film Cameraman - Alan Jonas
Film Editor - Martyn Day
Make-Up - Sylvia James
Producer - Peter Bryant
Production Assistant - Edwina Verner
Script Editor - Terrance Dicks
Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson
Studio Lighting - Howard King
Studio Sound - John Holmes
Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire
Visual Effects - Bill King /Trading Post
Writer - Robert Holmes
Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide
Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion
The very first shot in this story is of a small hatch-cover sticking as it opens to allow Selris to receive instructions from within, and this production glitch unfortunately sets the tone for the remainder of the adventure.
In design terms, The Krotons is very basic. There is little to be seen here that excites or even shows promise. The interior of the Kroton ship, or the Dynatrope as they call it, consists of bland metal walls and hanging ribbed plastic tubing (perhaps the Krotons use the same supply house as the Cybermen?) rather than something truly alien-looking. The model shots used to depict the exteriors of the Gond dwellings and the Dyantrope, which appears to be a massive golf ball-like structure, are unconvincing and cannot be rationalised with the studio sets - a problem that is most painfully obvious in a scene where some of the characters notice that the Dynatrope is damaged, and the next shot is of a view that they could not possibly be seeing from their vantage point. Director David Maloney wisely keeps such effects to a minimum.
The scripts, the first from future Doctor Who stalwart Robert Holmes, can be most generously described as workmanlike. The Krotons is a simple tale of a group of humanoids enslaved by an initially unseen power. It could be viewed as some sort of political allegory, but it is doubtful that this was the impetus behind it. Holmes had yet to master Doctor Who's particular requirements and, perhaps as a result, many of the characters come across as being bland and faceless. One notable exception is Eelek, played with relish by Philip Madoc, who all but steals every scene in which he appears. Another strong character is Beta, a scientist to whom certain areas of learning have been denied. His obvious joy at being 'allowed' to mix up sulphuric acid is pleasing to see, and yet this does raise the question of how he happens to be aware of acids at all, given that the Gonds supposedly know only what the Krotons have taught them and that this does not include chemistry.
Where this story does succeed is in the quality of its soundtrack. In the absence of any incidental music, special sounds supervisor Brian Hodgson fills the air with the most wonderful pulsing and throbbing noises as the Krotons are reanimated and move about their ship. The Krotons' voices too are superb: harsh, grating and totally authoritative. In some ways this is a story that is better listened to than watched, as the mind can conjure up a far more impressive series of images than its makers were able to achieve on screen.
Some commentators, though, take a much more positive view of the story. 'The Krotons was entertainment,' argued David Gibbs, writing in DWB No. 87, dated March 1991. 'It stood up... as a tight, crisp one hundred minutes of enjoyable television. Its sets were small, sometimes cheap; the acting tended towards the wooden on occasions... It was devoid of music, special effects on any real scale, even action, in the contemporary sense of the word. And yet it worked, so well. It needs no apologies, just your appreciation.'
Contemporary viewers, too, seem to have derived a fair amount of pleasure from the story, judging from the BBC's Audience Research Report on the first episode: 'The start of a new adventure in space and time in this popular family series was thoroughly enjoyed by a number of viewers in the sample audience. It was said to be an "intriguing" and "compelling" episode that promised another excellent science-fiction story, with sufficient suspense at the end to make viewers look forward to the next instalment. Children were particularly fascinated, apparently, but adults also judged it exciting and innovative.'
As usual, such positive reaction was not universal, although much of the negative comment recorded seemed to relate more to the current state of the series as a whole than to this particular story: 'Those who were less satisfied had various complaints. The adventures of Doctor Who had become too familiar and repetitive, it was said, and thus were becoming "stale" and "boring". New ideas and themes were required, it was occasionally suggested: "Why must all other space-beings be baddies or monsters - cannot Doctor Who meet a friendly alien?"; "Why in the future? Can't we have something in the past for once?". The happenings were "too horrific" and "too far-fetched", even for a children's serial, it was sometimes remarked. The start of this story was too slow and unexciting, in the opinion of a few, though lack of action while the scene was set in the first episode was only to be expected, some thought. For a small minority it was all "the usual predictable rubbish", it seemed, some saying they only watched because their children enjoyed it, while others felt the series had been going on too long.'
'It was probably one of the poorest [Troughton] stories,' wrote Ian K McLachlan in TARDIS Volume 6 Number 5, dated January 1982, 'And yet there were still some good parts in it. The lovely voices of the Krotons. The enchanting scenes when the Krotons actually come to life. The great dialogue between the Doctor and Zoe when they are taking the tests. One sequence which did surprise me was the almost slapstick [one] between Frazer Hines and James Cairncross when they were mixing the acid.'
This is probably the fairest assessment of the story - it was disappointing, but by no means a total disaster. As Gibbs commented, 'No irrelevant sub-plots, few scenes that deviate from the main thrust of the story - The Krotons just gets on with telling the story, and telling it well.'