THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
TV STORIES "THE
ANDROIDS OF TARA"
AND "THE ARMAGEDDON
THE MOON OF DEATH,
THE HORROR OF THE
SWAMP & THE SHIELD
'THE KEY TO TIME' DVD
RELEASED IN SEPTEMBER
SEARCHING FOR THE
FIFTH SEGMENT OF THE
KEY TO TIME, THE
TRACER BRINGS THE
ON THE THIRD MOON OF
THE PLANET DELTA
MAGNA. THE DOCTOR
AND ROMANA SOON
UNCOVER A PLOT TO
WIPE OUT THE
SWAMPIES, THE LOCAL
INHABITANTS, BY THE
DUPLICITOUS CREW OF A
MEANWHILE, A MASSIVE
CREATURE IS STIRRING
BENEATH THE WATERS,
AND THE PRIMITIVE
SWAMPIES BELIEVE THE
ONLY WAY TO CALM THE
POWERFUL MONSTER IS
The Power of Kroll
23rd december 1978 - 13th january 1979
Much like its immediate predecessor “The Androids of Tara”, “The Power of Kroll” was by
all accounts another late addition to the season, commissioned from Robert Holmes less than four months before it was scheduled to go before the cameras. His brief was simple: give us the largest monster that the series has ever seen. And so he did.
To his credit, Holmes knew that this was not a good idea as he knew full well that no matter how great his script was, it would ultimately hang on a monster that would be impractical to realise on Doctor Who’s paltry budget. Unfortunately though, rather than work twice as hard on his scripts to make up for this, Holmes seems to have just bashed out a dreary, unimaginative hackwork. To make matters worse, production of his script was beset by some rather predictable technical problems as well as the series’ producer being taken ill. And where do the Doctor’s wellies go?
Some of Holmes’ characters – Rhom-Dutt, for example – are quite compelling, and in fairness I do like the concept of having the Doctor and Romana thrust into a situation where there are no clear goodies or baddies… just threats. Strangely enough, both the gunrunning character and the wholly hostile environment would both be re-used by Holmes his magnum opus “The Caves of Androzani” – a serial that, in terms of quality at least, could not be any farther away from “The Power of Kroll”.
For the DVD release, I was not surprised to find that the Restoration Team had furnished “The Power of Kroll” with little in the way of bonus material – and quite right too; the story does not warrant anything substantial - I for one would have been loathe to sit through a 30-minute documentary on this one. However, the disc does include some captivating clips
from the 1970s BBC local news programme Variations, which serves as a sort of contemporary ‘making of’. As you would expect it has dated terribly, but even so it does
offer some wonderful insight into the problems facing the crew as they carried out location filming around the River Alde.
There is also a Tom Baker / John Leeson (Dugeen – not K-9) commentary from 2002; an interesting little collection of yuletide continuities; and a featurette that explores actor Philip Madoc’s contribution to Doctor Who, entitled “A Villain for All Seasons”. Mercifully, the feature focuses on Madoc’s much more memorable appearances in “The Krotons”, “The
War Games”, “The Brain of Morbius”, and even the Peter Cushing spin-off movie, Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD. I had to laugh when Madoc described his character in “The Power of Kroll”, Fenner, as a “non-entity” - I do not think that I could have put it any better myself! Apparently though, Madoc only agreed to star in this serial because he thought that he would be playing the much meatier role of Thawn, which eventually went to Neil McCarthy.
Finally, the disc is rounded off with a featurette entitled “There’s Something About Mary” in which Mary Tamm looks back on her time as the original Romana. My knowledge of
Tamm’s work outside Doctor Who is limited – well, limited to The Likely Lads movie and an episode of the forgotten (but undeniably brilliant) cult drama Crime Traveller – and so I was quite interested to learn about how, unlike most companions, Tamm enjoyed a high profile movie career prior to joining Doctor Who. I also found it interesting that Tamm would have happily agreed to film a regeneration scene, sparing us the utter debasement of the regeneration debacle in “Destiny of the Daleks”, yet she was never even asked by the production team. Boo!
On balance I think that “The Power of Kroll” will be remembered as Holmes’ worst ever contribution to the series by a long, long way. Were it not for its inclusion in the otherwise impressive Key to Time box set, I would not be recommending it to non-completists.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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