Big Finish Productions
The Creed of the Kromon
|Written by||Philip Martin|
|Continuity||After The Telemovie|
|Starring Paul McGann and India Fisher.|
|Synopsis: The Interzone is a fearsome nether-world protecting a zone ruled by the Kromon. Theirs is an arid land of dust and dying trees. Across the landscape are spheres that look like giant anthills. The Doctor believes that within one of these structures lie the clues that will lead him to his lost TARDIS.|
Tell me again about your relationship with your mother, Mr Martin... by Andrew Wixon 2/2/04
When an ongoing series puts itself through a bit of a reformatting (like the captain and crew of the good ship whatever going off into hostile alien territory, or whats-his-name and friends becoming the management at a law firm - no, still haven't figured that one out myself) it's normally announced as a bold and and exciting new direction, and more often than not it's only happening because that series has been struggling to pull in the punters.
So I really am struggling to figure out the thinking behind Big Finish's 'Divergent Universe' story arc. The McGann audios seem to be doing okay, and the Who format itself is so proverbially vague that it's hard to come up with a genuinely new direction of any kind, let alone one that's bold and exciting. The fact that BF happily admit that Creed of the Kromon is an old-style trad monster mash of an adventure only compounds this - why bother with the Divergent Universe at all if you're only going to use it to tell the same old stories? It's a bit like having your forehead tattooed and then going around in a bandana all the time.
And Creed is a lot more than generically familiar. I met a bloke down my dealer's the other week who said that the reason Sil hasn't been used by BF is that Gary Russell doesn't like the character very much. If this is true (and issues of editorial objectivity notwithstanding) one must then wonder a) why Russell was so keen to recruit Philip Martin to the stable of writers, given that Sil was easily the best thing in both Martin's TV scripts and b) why Russell's happily let him turn in a story about gargling invertebrates obsessed with profit, in which the Doctor's companion goes through a rather icky metamorphosis. As Divergent Universes go, it's not tremendously divergent from what we've seen before, is it?
While the prospect of a story which doesn't revolve around the Doctor and Charley talking about how much they love one another is a bit of a relief, the fact remains that Creed covers dull and hackneyed ground. It has a sort of wacky 60s Annual feel to it in places, and some mellow music, but it really is very done-to-death. The bad guys are giant termites that have become obsessed with management consultancy, but still manage to be quite boring (that mad Douglas Adamish concept is played straight some of the time, but for laughs at others, which is quite jarring). To say that they are the Mentors in all but name is probably stretching a point, but not by much, and their vocal treatment and dialogue ('I am always interested in profit' gargles one in episode three) only serves to emphasise the similarity.
What's beyond debate is that Philip Martin seems to have serious issues with the Doctor's companion. In Varos (which, by the way, gets an utterly contrived name-check here) Peri gets turned into a parrot. In Mindwarp, she gets turned into the short one out of The Young Ones. And here, Charley gets turned into a giant queen termite. And people say that Dennis Potter's plays were misogynistic...
These re-used plot elements would be a lot more palatable if they were re-used well but Creed is technically quite poorly written too: for most of its length it's just an assembly of capture-escape routines, corridor-jogging and various interrogation/trial/torture scenes (with a bit of a deus ex machina ending). The only exception is part one, where not very much happens at all apart from a peculiar and quite possibly overlong encounter with the gatekeeper of the new universe's different 'zones' (yup, we're in for another story arc) and the first appearance of the New Guy whom I shall hereafter refer to as Cerys for comic effect.
I have to say that for all that Conrad Westmaas does a reasonable job with the character, he still comes across as terribly bland - this is particularly ominous, as most companions are at their best characterised in their debut adventure. Cerys just comes across as a faintly manic-depressive bloke with a bone on his head, although there are hints (on the subtlety level of a brick through a window subtlety) that he may have hidden depths in future installments.
The danger with story arcs and bold new directions is that writers not full up to speed on the new format, and not entirely aware of where the arc's heading, can just turn in basic old-style scripts which make the whole exercise seem a bit of a self-important waste of time. And so it is with Creed of the Kromon - a story which would barely scrape the level of average outside of this particular arc, and which both suffers itself, and damages BF's intentions, by being included within it.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 3/3/04
It's taken me a while to listen to Creed of the Kromon. I haven't fallen out with Big Finish audios, it's just recently they haven't really excelled like they used to do. Master was the last brilliant audio, and that was ages ago. I'm not saying they are that bad, just not as good as they were (I will stop that paragraph there for fear of sounding too much like Adrian Mole off Greatest Show in the Galaxy!).
Nearly a month after its release (I'm sure I used to listen to Big Finish audios within a few days of receiving them - I must try harder) Creed of the Kromon was finally listened to - and that was after many negative vibes coming at me over the Net about it. Kromon therefore was one of the few audios that I read about, before I had heard it. Seeing as the reviews were all pretty average or dire, I wasn't expecting greatness.
It can always be quite liberating, when you discover something is quite good, when all around you are saying the opposite. A re-affirmation of your individuality, and our own unique place in the universe (sorry about the philosophy). Creed of the Kromon is not all bad. It's not particularly brilliant, but I enjoyed it more than anything since Master (I have massive expectations for the next two McGann audios by the way).
The 8th Doctor and Charley have to put behind them the niggles and expressions of emotion that characterized Scherzo. As they enter the Kromon Zone of this mysterious new Universe, there's very little of the inner trauma that started this Season off. We are given a fascinating barren landscape, where strange golf ball-like structures adorn the horizon. We meet a new companion - C'Rizz, who seems there to deflect us away from the Doctor/Charley intensity of recent releases.
I found the first episode fascinating. The Kro'ka, with its cryptic introductions to this new world. The new companion - where is he from, how does he fit in with this barren world. There's a useful visual representation for us, on the cover, but there's plenty of mystery about him. How would the Doctor and Charley be towards one another after Scherzo? There was plenty of interest, and you just wondered what was in these Eden Project-like spheres (the TARDIS maybe?).
From the 2nd Episode we get to find out, and the insect Kromon are a very strange species. Reminding me at times of Sil's race (subconsciously comparing this to Philip Martins other Doctor Who stories no doubt), there is a real civilization at work here. Their production plant, with different sections for all kinds of life-sustaining endeavour. This was a well thought out monster race, and I really felt an alien-ness about the whole race.
The 3 leads all have plenty to do, in their attempts to find the TARDIS, or escape. The backcover gives away where the story is going, which is a shame, but India Fisher really does play these confused scenes well. Paul McGann is always good as the Doctor, even though here I didn't feel his urgency with the situation as much as his previous stories. C'Rizz I liked - there's plenty of personality there, and I am glad he is staying on board.
Scherzo left me bemused at times. I wasn't sure where this new Universe arc was going. With Kromon I felt that other-worldliness that I wanted to feel. It is quite a traditional runaround in many ways, but there's also a great deal of unease and strangeness. A sense that we were somewhere very far away indeed. The Kromon were the main reason, but the big supporting lump that is the Oroog adds to this. A lovable monster is always nice to see, a human face on nastiness around. Also of note too is the atmospheric music - an area Big Finish never ceases to excel at 60 stories on.
If my memory serves me correctly then this is only the 2nd time that a TV Doctor Who writer has written for the Audio medium. Philip Martin produced a very good, and a very bad, TV story. Here he has given us a story that registers nearer Varos on the swingometer than Mindwarp - and for that I was hugely grateful.
Creed of the Kromon I was pleasantly surprised at, providing me with a fine audio production, where so many had said there wasn't any trace. I expect disagreement on this front, but then that's the beauty of the diversification of Who - I liked it! 8/10
Urgent: New director required! by Joe Ford 29/3/04
What is going on with the eighth Doctor audios this season? Is this the quality we have to expect from a company that has been producing Doctor Who for years now? If so I may have to get off soon as this is unfortunately one of the most boring pieces of Doctor Who I have heard. It is monotonous to the last line, lacks tension of any kind and doesn't even bother to paint a very interesting picture of the world the Doctor and Charley are stuck on. Indeed new companion, C'rizz is so deathly dull I cannot foresee anything-worthwhile coming from his character in the future.
I think it is an insult to compare this to Vengeance on Varos, Philip Martin's best Doctor Who story in my opinion, because although they share one or two similar characteristics (companion torture, capitalist aliens) the difference in the quality of the two, the plot, the dialogue, the acting... they are worlds apart. In fact I almost vomited when Philip Martin stuck in a reference to his earlier story, it would be nice to blast this season of eighth Doctor audios into their own little Unbound universe and pretend they never took place in the same timeline as the one where the Doctor visited Varos.
The fundamental problem with Creed of the Kromon is primarily the plot that involves a lot of walking about talking which as you can imagine is hardly a thrill and a half. In a sharp contrast with the last release, Scherzo, which was also just a lot of walking and talking, it is clear what can make or break these audios. The dialogue must be dynamic, memorable, sparky, Creed of the Kromon barely rises above the level of mundane. Even when things do threaten to get exciting, Ch'rizz tied to a water wheel, Charley transforming into a Queen Kromon... it is still written in such a lazy, undramatic fashion it is hard to get worked up by any of it. Get Charley screaming in agony, make C'rizz suffer in terrible pain... don't just have people sitting around talking about the mechanics of their torture!
As Andrew Wixon quite rightly points out above there was a real opportunity this season to sent the eighth Doctor audios in an entirely new direction with the divergent universe arc. A mean c'mon, it's a whole new universe to explore (and for the writers a whole new universe to make up!!!). It reveals something of the writer's imagination when we discover that this spanking new universe is just like the old one. How exciting. Big scary insect monsters. Commercial aliens. Lots and lots of corridors! It was foolish error on Gary Russell's part to stick this next to Scherzo which dared to suggest a strange and outlandish new universe was for the taking and then beats you down with from that high with a decidedly traditional Doctor Who story. Martin writes as he would have down in the mid eighties as if he does not want to acknowledge that the series has moved on in leaps and bounds in terms of storytelling and modernisation. Creed of the Kromon is embarrassingly about fifteen years out of date.
I pity Paul McGann, here is a guy who is really trying to make an impression as the Doctor, especially now the new series has been announced and his claim to being the current incumbent to the role is about to draw to a close and Big Finish offer him scripts like Zagreus and this. Poor guy. And he tries so hard but he cannot sound anything but thoroughly bored by the whole thing, as I understand it Scherzo was recorded last in this sequence of stories so this means Kromon would have been made directly after Zagreus... after this deathly dull duo he must have been reconsidering his agreement to star in the audios.
The Doctor is supposedly at the mercy of the Zagreus energies but you would have no idea of this when listening to the story (except from a rather handy new extra in the sleeve which keeps you up to scratch of the story so far... what is this Buffy the Vampire Slayer?), he is as amicable as ever, saving lives, annoying baddies and frustrating companions... in fact there is nothing at all to distinguish him from last year's Doctor. So what was the point of all the Zagreus-style character rethink? Isn't it supposed to be so the Doctor is spikier, more arrogant, less predictable? Well he rarely comes more predictable than in Kromon, foiling the evil schemes and pulling down the corrupt government.. haven't we seen this a million times before? Let's have him lose. Or at least make it look as if it's a struggle. The Doctor pretty much walks into this story grinning, saves the day with a shrug of the shoulders and walks out again. Gripping stuff, eh?
Charley is even worse I'm afraid, she sounds just like a 1980's throwback, whimpering, sarcastic and lacking any sort of chemistry with her fellow companion. The first episode is fairly poor for the Edwardian adventuress; once again the R-101 is dusted down and thrown at Charley as though she only has any character when she is react to her non-death. Aren't they milking this a bit now? It was prominent all of last season and now in the first three stories of this one, give it a rest and let the woman get on with her life, the life changing event was pretty much drawn to a close in Scherzo so why resurrect it again here? Because Charley has no other hook really, take away her potentially universe damaging good luck and you are left with a fairly generic companion, one who suffers from Peritis, a deadly disease that causes you to be attacked, abused and transmuted at the hands of Philip Martin. And I cannot believe in all that is good and holy that they inflicted Charley with the line "I didn't 'ave no education me Guv!" as if she hasn't been through enough in the past three stories!
One brilliant piece of news is the arrival of new companion C'rizz, someone to add a bit of spice to the eighth Doctor adventures now the Doctor/Charley relationship has been explored to its full potential come Scherzo. It is the first decent decision that man Russell has made all year. However he loses points when you actually listen to Creed of the Kromon and realise this is a man who makes Adric sound positively chirpy. He spends the story moaning about his lost love (acceptable, granted), trying to weasel his way out of an early death (to the point where he seems like a right Turlough) and winding up Charley ("Charlotte!"). Plus Conrad Westmass plays him with a whiny, effeminate voice that really grates after five minutes. In short, he is irritating, and considering this is his first story it is not a positive sign of things to come. However given his early status it seems unfair to judge the performance or the character on just one script so I shall reserve myself until the end of the season and see how he progresses.
Have you taken a look at the list of stories coming out this year? Gary Russell is directing every single one of them! I scrolled down the page in slack jawed astonishment and failed to find any other director for the next five or so releases. Given his excruciating work in this story (and coming on the heels of the intimate drama he achieved in Scherzo) I am expecting another 2003, a mass production of solid stories that are torn to pieces by a man who is taking on far too much work and not lavishing enough attention on individual pieces. What about Nick Pegg? Nick Briggs? Jason Heigh-Ellery? Are they all on holiday or something?
Go listen to Creed of the Kromon, any five minutes and you can tell the director is half asleep because you will be too. Talk, talk, talk... David Darlington's there with his trademark stings of music but even they fail to inject any urgency into the story. For 130 minutes (the pain!) you are taken on a trip through the Interzone by three barely likable people and they fail convince that there is any real danger. The cliffhangers are awful, painfully predictable when you can see where the episode is heading and failing to give you any incentive to continue. And don't get me started on all of the modulated voices, when you listen to an alien with a cockney accent and another with a southern accent you start to lose the will to live. The guest actors all play up their parts as jokes, highlighting the comedy more than the drama and inflicting the story with that painful, inconsequential feel.
I cannot go on, it pains me to be this abusive about any Doctor Who merchandise but this new direction the eighth Doctor audios have taken has done nothing but rub me up the wrong way. Gary Russell wants to have his cake (push Doctor Who into experimental territory) and eat it (plus tell more traditional stories), which is fine except he now has an annoying habit of appetite whetting (promising great things of Zagreus and Scherzo promising a shock look at this frightening new universe) and failing to deliver.
The Creed of the Kromon is another disaster and easily one of the most boring stories ever.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 22/10/04
Given that the most recent McGann season is set in a divergent universe where things are supposedly different, The Creed Of The Kromon is remarkably traditional if a somewhat average tale. The first episode carries on where Scherzo ended with the Doctor and Charley still searching for the TARDIS, encountering new companion C`Rizz and the bullying Kro`ka (excellently portrayed by Stephen Perring) who seems intent on preventing their search. Strangely, he disappears after the first episode, and as he is the most interesting character in the play, this is somewhat unfortunate.
Conrad Westmaas potrays newcomer C`Rizz with enthusiasm, but there is nothing really to define his character and as such he could`ve been any supporting character; especially as he was billed as the first truly alien companion; however the tale`s conclusion offers some fascinating foreshadowing. Paul McGann is competent but his Doctor is underused, and India Fisher`s Charley is afforded to be somewhat different to her plucky self as she is turned into a Kromon breeding queen.
Writer Philip Martin`s brief was to write an old fashioned monster romp. However much of the play feels like it's retreading old ground, which is a shame as it should`ve been so much better. Instead it comes across as merely average.
Pointless by Phil Ince 24/10/05
Another poor entry in the consistently weak 8th Doctor series.
Philip Martin seems to have written with the 6th Doctor and Peri in mind; he of his very weakest TVs and she at her wearisome glibbest. The lines for Charlie are just completely wrong; throwaway wisecracks of a very feeble sort. The unsurprisingly half-hearted and unconvinced performances (a disappointing first for them) of Fisher and McGann underline the poverty of the writing.
The failure is partly tied to the comedy elements which simply make the Kromon - the protagonist villains - look stupid. Perhaps they are. But comedy villains need to rise above this bleak level of wit to be either funny or threatening and, without that, I'm left twiddling my thumbs for the thing to finish.
Besides the vapid palour of Martin's humour, there are numberless instances of ineptitude that inevitably cause anyone with a mind to sigh.
The interminable gun-toting in part 2 - the Doctor and Charlie, a defencless pair, in the heart of an alien stronghold can hit and disable the villains with mud but these same heavily-armed, menacing villains can't shoot a single blast that hits its target. The Kromon drug their slave labourers to control them Hmm ...? If it is the conviction of the Kromon that their drug will subsume prisoners' personalities and link them subordinately to the Kromon, why do they then strap C'rizz to a wheel as a demonstration to these hypnotized slaves then? If the drug does what they believe it to, why do the slaves need to be taught a lesson? Believed to be under the influence of the same dubiously efficacious drug, the Doctor constructs a bomb instead of a TARDIS and then simply walks away before it goes off. If the Kromon have cause to be suspicious of the effect of their drug - and why else do they strap a lizard to a wheel to demonstrate their power to the slaves? - it seems unlikely that their greatest minds and most senior figures would all gather in one room and let the Doctor excuse himself just before his device's activation; these misjudgements and irrationalities constitute a form of insult to the audience simply by being so slipshod.
The play's remnants consist of an endless-seeming set of lifeless events without humour or the least dramatic merit.
A Review by John Seavey 18/1/06
So the Doctor and Charley are in an entirely new, Divergent even, universe. One completely different from anything in ours, in which anything, anything at all can happen.
Blimey, I thought as I listened to Creed of the Kromon, who'd have thought he spent most of the 80s there.
Seriously, this is exactly the wrong way to kick off the first real exploration of the Divergent universe; it's a vapid retread of old Doctor Who ideas combined with themes that are, to say the least, well-worn even in our own universe. To find that the Kromon, a species in a different universe with a different perception of time and space, behave exactly like an Earth corporation from the 1980s, well... it's disappointing to say the least. The plot is a four-part treadmill of capture/escape/capture/escape, the Doctor commits genocide at the end without even the slightest hint of a whisper of a notion of remorse, and C'rizz is wetter than a swimsuit model at a sprinkler convention. Scherzo might have been frustrating, but at least it understood what should be done with the idea of a Divergent universe and did it. This should have been shelved until there was a slot open for one of the other Doctors.
A Review by Charles Berman 12/10/10
I came into The Creed of the Kromon not knowing quite what to expect: it's by Philip Martin, the author of two of Doctor Who's more interesting, satirical, and dark stories from the 1980s (Vengeance on Varos and the Mindwarp segment of The Trial of a Time Lord) and sets the Doctor and Charley off into their new Divergent Universe proper, but I was also aware that it's pretty much universally reviled.
I didn't find it to be a universally bad story, but it does deserve much of the ire it has invoked due to the fact that, set in a rather important spot of the Doctor Who line, it lets it down in a number of ways. The Creed of the Kromon is not only the story that has the responsibility of drawing out for the first time a setting in the new divergent universe and detailing how it differs from ours, but also of introducing a new companion and dealing with some heaping bales of character development in the stories leading up to it.
Actually, I'm not entirely convinced this was the best spot in the Eighth Doctor's story for a new companion to be introduced at all. After the events of Neverland, Zagreus and Scherzo, the way we and they see the relationship between the Doctor and Charley has been revolutionized. At the end of Scherzo, the two have just learned to accept their feelings towards each other and the fact of their mutual imprisonment for all time in this new universe; I would have liked to have had a chance to see how they deal with this between themselves and where they go as characters from there. Instead, we get a new companion, they are separated for much of the story, and don't seem much changed by events at all, which is difficult to find believable.
At the beginning of Creed of the Kromon, we find that the TARDIS is inexplicably missing and the Doctor and Charley travelling through things we have never heard of called "interzones" in search of it, till they encounter a kind of sinister experimenter figure called the Kro'ka. This sequence is an interesting one and developments about the possibility that everything happening to our heroes is just inside some huge laboratory are interesting, but what are interzones and what happened to the TARDIS? It feels as if perhaps Martin was given an incomplete or out of date brief as to what happened at the end of Scherzo, which would explain why the Doctor and Charley end up with dialogue that just reflects fairly generic versions of their usual selves, rather than anything stemming from the bleaker, more desperate outlook reflected up to here.
The new companion himself, C'rizz (I don't know why his name couldn't simply be spelled Keriz; I have a prejudice against science fiction names which are full of unnecessary apostrophes), is a decent enough supporting character, and acted well enough by Conrad Westmass, but there's nothing until the scene at the end where he abruptly decides he wants to travel with the Doctor and Charley to suggest he would make a especially good companion. His characterization seems mostly mostly based on his search for his captured love L'da (again, why not just Lyda?) and, after he's killed to save her the agony of alien transformation, mourning her. Beyond that, we just don't know much more. So he's not badly written as such here, just written in a very guest-cast way until he's plopped into the companion role, which does him a disservice moving forward. At one point, he does decide for no reason yet known that he is expendable and the Doctor is not, even though he has basically no idea who the Doctor is.
Once we move past the Kro'ka into the world of the story proper, we don't get anything that suggests much interesting about this Divergent Universe. The setting is an unusual planet, but by no means one that couldn't appear in Doctor Who's usual universe. There's an attempt to represent the fact that time does not exist here, but it doesn't really work. It amounts to several instances of the Doctor letting word "time" slip, and people not understanding what it means. However, this setting, the Kromon, and C'rizz's people clearly have a past, since their backstory is explained in the form of past events. It just doesn't make much sense to say the people here have a concept of the past and future but not of time. The impression is more as if the word "time" is alien to them, and they happen to call it something else instead. Very demystifying as far as the new-universe setting goes. C'rizz even seems to know what bees are at one point.
The story itself is very standard-issue Doctor Who in its outlines - a dominator race whom the Doctor and company must defeat, using mind control to subjugate another people - but it does have a number of touches which mark it off as the work of the same Philip Martin who wrote Varos and Mindwarp. There is a real focus on disgusting transformations, revolting food (including maggots) and strange torture which echoes the previous stories and perhaps goes even a bit further. These shocking elements can lend a dark and memorable atmosphere, but too much that is there for shock value tends to betray a lack of substance. Kromon does start to feel like an attempt to shock us over and over again. In addition, the slow transformation of Charley's body and mind into that of a Kromon queen seems to take up the entire fourth episode and completely destroy the pacing of the story as we cut back and forth between Charley becoming more and more Kromon-like, and the Doctor and C'rizz wondering what they can do about it.
Creed of the Kromon also invokes some of the kind of satire that Philip Martin was remembered for, and perhaps that is the part about it I like best. The Kromon are a race of obsessive bureaucrats, which is a neat idea though a reductive way of characterizing a whole race. They learned their ways as a means of survival from a powerful company which had dominated them. They element of their character is actually put to fairly good use and the Kromon become a neat little satire of capitalism as a Doctor Who alien. It's a little unfortunate, though, that we don't get a completer picture of the oppression Martin is trying to depict, since almost the entire story takes place inside the one Kromon bio-sphere and C'rizz is the only Eutermesan we meet.
Unfortunately, in order to reflect in the audio medium the Kromon's different-ness, their voices are all postprocessed. It's a nice effect they get, but it makes them slightly harder to understand and becomes rather annoying to listen to through the course of the entire play.
Philip Martin may be new to writing audio drama, but he falls pretty regularly into the old trap of having characters describe to each other what's going on around them for no apparent reason other than to let the audience in, especially during the early scenes on the planet. Apropos of nothing, was anyone else a little amused, when, after hacking around in the Kromon's computer system, the Doctor makes the new password "TARDIS", even after asking around for his TARDIS all story long? I suppose cyber-security is not his strong suit.
Taken in isolation and given the once-over by a good editor, The Creed of the Kromon would have been a decent Doctor Who story. But as it stands in context, it's a disappointment on a number of levels.