The Mysterious Planet
|Dates||Dec. 28, 1968 -
Jan. 18, 1969
With Patrick Troughton, Frazier Hines, Wendy Padbury.
Written by Robert Holmes. Script-edited by Terrance Dicks.
Directed by David Maloney. Produced by Peter Bryant.
|Synopsis: The Doctor and crew battle the crystalline Krotons, who are using the intelligence of their human slaves to engineer their escape.|
The Krotons by Jen Kokoski 20/1/98
Like an earlier sixth season story, The Dominators, The Krotons has a fairly straightforward plot. The crystalline Krotons have enslaved the peaceful Gonds by the use of a nasty Teaching Machine. Of course, the Doctor cannot allow such institutionalized oppression to stand and in his own meddling way he saves the day. Simple, to the point, and unfortunately very untaxing on the brain cells. Attempts to flush out the struggle of the Gonds, the younger members desire to rebel and the older generation's unwillingness to face conflict, is not very successful. In fact, the scenes of rebellion talk are flat and enough to put one to sleep. An obvious sign that the writers were just plan tired of writing Who stories. The one redeeming quality of the Krotons is possibly the very thing that still attracts viewers to Patrick Troughton's portrayal (given that most of his best story lines were destroyed by the BBC). The camaraderie of Troughton and his costars Wendy Padbury and Frazer Hines livens up and carries this story line through the dreaded rebellion and endless rounds of Gond debates. It is apparent how much the actors enjoyed working with each other. If only they had had some better content to work with.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 28/6/99
Despite being Robert Holmes debut story for Doctor Who, The Krotons doesn`t share much of the characterisation that formed his other tales. The scripts in themselves aren`t that original either, as some of the ideas bear more than a passing similarity to The Savages.
Some of the characters are excellently portrayed however Philip Madoc as Eelek plays the part with great relish. Beta is another strong character, his joy at being allowed to mix sulphuric acid is good to see. Best of all though are the three regulars, the camaraderie between Zoe and The Doctor in the teaching hall, and while Jamie doesn`t have a great deal to do, Frazer Hines certainly gives one of his better performances.
With no incidental music, the soundtrack is given better treatment; all the effects inside the Dynatrope and the titular Krotons voices are something worthy of praise. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the design, the interior of the Dynatrope is just plain metal walls and plastic ribbing and the model shots are unconvincing. One effect that does work visually is the enchanting sequence when the Krotons come to life however. In summary then, The Krotons is a workmanlike story; enjoyable but not challenging.
Still better then the Dominators by Teri Glover 25/3/01
The Krotons may not be a classic, but it leads somthing better then the regular season 6 stories, like The Dominators and The Seeds of Death (most fans say The Space Pirates is no good but I haven't seen it yet, so I can't judge it).
The story resolves around the oppressed society (the Gonds) who are being controlled by machines (the big bad KROTONS) so a group of youngsters plan an uprising against their elders and everybody is at each other's throats then the Doc arives and makes the situation a little more complicated then it already is.
Patrick Troughton manages to steal the show, Wendy Padbury is great, and Frazer Hines manages just well. As for the guest cast they do o.k. Philip Madoc is great as the selfesh bastard who only thinks about himself and becoming leader of the Gonds. As for the KROTONS they only manage well with their voices. The story mostly resolves around the Gonds who have to deal with being the victams of their oppression. Most of all it's a good story to be seen.
Here Today, Gond Tomorrow by Andrew Wixon 9/10/01
It's always seemed to me that The Krotons is a story that's at best neglected and at worst derided as a near-clunker. But just having watched it for the first time since the 1981 repeat I find this rather puzzling. The debut of the greatest writer ever to work on the programme surely deserves a bit more attention.
The story certainly gets off to a shaky start - the very first shot is of the scenery not actually working properly. But things rapidly improve and The Krotons soon turns into an intelligent, pacy romp, with genuinely appealing performances from the regulars, interesting bad guys, and enough diversity amongst the local bystanders to stop them from turning into feeble cardboard cutouts like the same seasons' Dulcians. As far as historical value goes, it's interesting to note the classic Robert Holmes formula already well-developed - a crippled enemy confined to an underground base, reliant on the assistance of other, less powerful servants to survive. It describes the Krotons pretty well, but also Linx, Magnus Greel, the Master of Deadly Assassin, and even Drathro from Holmes' final completed story. Holmes' scripting of the Doctor is also interesting. I'm watching my collection in chronological order and its been fascinating to watch the Doctor as we know him evolve. And here, more than ever before, he's the wily, fiercely intelligent, but also endearingly conceited and fallible character most familiar from the mid-70s - a commanding presence at the centre of the story's events, actively trying to free the Gonds. Troughton manages to combine all this with his usual clowning around and the result is a Doctor you can genuinely believe in and trust.
The Krotons is by no means a classic. The monster costumes themselves are... let's say overambitious. The whole scripting thing with the HADS (why everyone always remembers it I'll never know) is a pointless dogleg. Why should an indestructible object need to move itself out of the path of danger? The Gonds, while on the whole well-scripted and acted (Phillip Madoc shines as usual) are ever-so-slightly ridiculous. Their habit of referring to each other as Abu Gond, Thala Gond, etc, gives the impression not so much of a civilisation as one big dysfunctional family. The whole tale is rather reminsicent of a brained-up pulp SF story.
But to accuse Robert Holmes of writing brained-up pulp SF is like accusing a dog of barking. That's what Holmes did so brilliantly. And what is Doctor Who if not highly-intelligent hokum? This may be one of Holmes' minor works, but it's still a hugely entertaining story. An overlooked gem.
I disagree with Stewart by Mike Jenkins and Ryan Thompson 5/12/01
This Story, Canival of Monsters, and Caves of Androzani are pretty much the only truly worthwhile things that Holmes ever did for the series. He is easily the most overrated writer in the history of the programme. Terrance Dicks is a writer that deserves as much praise as Holmes or of course Douglas Adams but not Robert himself.
The story is a classic adventure and perhaps the best story of Troughton's era that completely exists without reconstruction. Once again what makes the story truly remarkable is that strong acting backs up the good script. Of particular note is Philip Madoc who would wow us later in the season so to speak with his superlative performance in The War Games, one of the true highlights of that story. Some of the female characters seemed poorly characterized in this story but their strong acting makes up for it and this is some of the strongest interplay between Frazier and Pat we'll see this year.
Another strong aspect of the story is that even though almost all of Pat's stories are padding-free many of them are lengthy nonetheless and it's nice to have a shorter tale for once. The Krotons themselves look rather comicaly like vacumm cleaners but this is fun fodder as opposed to the just plain ebarassing look of the quaks in The Dominators. But of course what elevate the story to truly classic status is Pat himself. An easy 8/10. One for the collection indefinitely.
Strong and thoughtful by Tim Roll-Pickering 4/2/02
The Krotons is an interesting story, presenting one of the most alien races seen in the series and also featuring a strong allegory of the student riots of 1968 when the story was originally written. This is a story which shows a great deal of thought and attention, producing one of the most underrated gems of the Troughton years.
Although there are a few problems in the production such as the failure of the model of the Gonds' dwelling and the interior sets to match up, these are easy to overlook since the script rarely looses its pace. Unlike the great epics of previous seasons, The Krotons is confined to a small location allowing for much greater thought and interaction. The Gond society is well crafted, especially in the way it quickly becomes clear how they have been manipulated so long, whilst the Krotons' plight is not so different from that of many of individuals in the series although their way of resolving it justifies the Doctor's response. Indeed the Krotons' design does not seem as bad as it has been made out to be, since it is truly different from the norm and goes against many preconceptions of what aliens with a totally different chemical composition look like.
Although the Gonds themselves are not particularly memorable, with only Eelek standing out, helped by a strong performance by Philip Madoc, their society is well realised and it easy to understand their pain and hurt when they realise how they have been raised merely to be used by the Krotons for a purpose they have no conception of. Like the student protestors of 1968 who turned on the very way of life that had made them what they were, the Gonds have reached the point where they believe they can now strike out on their own even though they have little direct chance of bringing about the changes they seek.
The Doctor and his companions are central to the story, since had it not been for their arrival on the planet then matters would have continued the way they have been for many centuries. This means that there is little coincidence in the story and so instead it is driven by the arrival of the TARDIS.
There are a few weaker ideas in the story, such as the HADS which seems to serve little more purpose than to generate what could have easily been a cliffhanger. The story's cliffhangers are all strong, making the viewer want to see more. At four episodes the story doesn't outstay its welcome and is an enjoyable strong story in a strong season. 8/10
Crystal Blue Persuasion by Jason Cook 25/3/03
The regulars are almost up to their usual excellence, though something seems just a bit off in their performances in these early scenes. Two out of three of them pick it up admirably as the story presses on; Fraser Hines has definitely done better work as Jamie than we see in The Krotons. But Troughton's overeager grin when first meeting the Gonds is great, as is his subsequent backing off as he sees they're not too pleased to see him.
For the most part the actors playing Gonds overact their scenes considering the Gonds have been passively servile to the Krotons for thousands of years. I find it hard to believe nobody in their entire race had ever been just a tad bit suspicious of the tests before. This story in general starts off as a slightly mundane, overplayed alien planet saga -- strictly B-movie stuff. Robert Holmes was getting his Doctor Who feet wet slowly, using very little of the character development skills that would later define his work. The Gonds are broad stereotypes, second-rate at best, with only Philip Madoc (Eelek) offering anything remotely resembling a subdued, multi-layered performance. James Copeland (Selris) spits out most of his lines as if he's disgusted to even be seen in a Doctor Who serial. Selris, incidentally, seems to believe the Doctor very quickly for someone who's had such strong faith in the Krotons all his life.
The Doctor resolves the first cliffhanger by playing Peek-a-Boo with the Krotons. At this point there's nowhere to go but up.
I love how thrilled both Zoe and the Doctor look at the prospect of the Krotons being pleased with their test results. (Troughton in particular gives it a warm-fuzzy sleepy smile, once again making his mark as the King of the Facial Expressions.) The story suddenly gets more interesting in these moments, with the Doctor saying what I consider to be a classic Troughton line: "Zoe is something of a genius, of course... it can be very irritating at times." The implied rivalry between the two is great fun to watch. This is one of just a few highlights of a serial that is otherwise pretty dull. "Now go away and don't fuss me... no come back, what's this?... It's all right, I know." Troughton and Padbury both play their roles with wonderful humor and energy here.
The rest of the second episode is just a big runaround, which is disappointing after the promising Kroton test sequence. We do get to see our mysterious crystalline benefactors for the first time; they look pretty ridiculous, your standard hokey B-movie robots, but their voices are cool. Actually both Kroton voices sound almost exactly alike to me, but there's no reason they really need to be individual from one another as they both serve precisely the same function in the story.
Jamie is, well, typical Jamie here -- not really bad but not especially outstanding either. (I've never been impressed with Jamie on his own. His character is best when reacting to the Doctor or one of the other companions.) He simply isn't given a lot to do.
I don't remember the name of the actor portraying Beta, but whoever he is he sounds extremely high-society British. I really noticed it on the following line: "War against the Krotons?" Surely you jest, old boy. But I guess if we can excuse the fact that the Gonds (and every other alien race in Doctor Who) speak English in the first place, we can overlook such things. Meanwhile, everyone has the surname of "Gond." They're like Smurfs that way.
I like Jamie's confused offended look when the Krotons tell him he has no value. I also like how the Krotons keep answering Jamie by suddenly calling out things like "149 vector three." Makes them seem more alien, with their own strange agenda. By contrast, the Gonds irritate me by just standing back and accepting everything without a fight for so long in this story. This idea had already been done (with a little more effectiveness) with the Thals in early episodes of The Daleks.
The story gets sort of interesting again as Eelek confronts Selris for screwing everything up, then also as Eelek stands up to the Krotons. Extra points to the cast for tensing up as if they were scared when the silly-looking Krotons finally showed up. This scene woke me up, and then suddenly everyone went back to just running around and yelling at each other, which is unfortunate. Selris's death is actually his coolest moment, both heroically and in terms of that hammy-with-extra-ham look on his face as he dies. And I looked away from the screen for ten seconds and missed it and had to rewind it back!
In addition to having great facial expressions, Patrick Troughton's Doctor offers the funniest explanations, as he does here when he rattles off a complicated sentence to Zoe in a mutter as if the Kroton can't hear him. Then he tries to hand Zoe the bottle behind her back and she moves her hands so he ends up tapping her repeatedly on the bum with it.
Vana gets a pretty good line, fired at Eelek: "I'm not sensible enough to run away and leave my friends." And I like how Eelek's voice trails off when he says, "Let them stay. Let them die." There's also a great bit as the Doctor and Zoe stall the Krotons by pretending to work out who's going to stand where, and the Doctor acts confused over how to put on his headset. "Well, it's your fault, you're making me nervous!!"
FINAL ANSWER: Nothing to write home about, I'm afraid. At least an episode and a half of mediocrity in script, pacing, and acting. Some great Doctor-and-Zoe scenes keep it from being a complete dud, however.
Alien Bodies... the prequel! by Joe Ford 7/3/04
I recently said that black and white Doctor Who had the advantage of hiding its cheapness in the shadows, that by turning the lights down you can wrap underfunded monsters in a shawl of terror. Look at the Macra, a large crab with flashing eyes, hardly a terrifying threat but shrouding them in shadows and swathing mist and cutting it with shots of a hysterical Polly trying to escape and it becomes a lot more frightening than it really deserves to be.
The monsters in The Krotons look horribly cheap, embarrassingly so. They are cumbersome and slow and in a long line of camp monsters wear silly skirts. And it is crying shame because much of the rest of this story is delightful, the build up to seeing the Krotons so good that their appearance is ruined by their childish design.
Troughton Who is so rare that I would be thankful to see any of it, indeed I rather cherished The Underwater Menace part three when it was released despite what a universal shambles it is. The Krotons is probably the least liked story of the remaining Troughton stories but then it is in league with some frightening competition, The Mind Robber, The Tomb of the Cybermen, The War Games... compared to these fan favourites this unspectacular but undeniably solid four parter seems to get forgotten. A shame because there is much to merit it.
This is a point in the show's history where the regulars were truly contributing to the show's success. Later years would descend into mindless bitching pretending to be drama but in the sixties the TARDIS crew were truly having adventures, turning up from one place to the next and involving themselves just because they thought it was right.
This story more than any other in season six reveals the potential in the Doctor and Zoe's relationship. They make a quality comedy pair, spending much of the story in complete disagreement with each other. This clash of the minds is hysterical, particularly because Zoe is as intelligent as the Doctor but he is such a big kid he has a sulk every time he has to admit it! There is a real feeling of warmth between them in their bitching in the learning hall, Troughton puffing and pouting and Padbury barely suppressing her giggles. I am still waiting for the PDA that taps into this chemistry and explores their rivalry with more depth.
Jamie was always the muscle so it is good that Robert Holmes finally proves this, letting him do all the macho stuff. There is a rather realistic fight in episode one where Jamie attempts to prove there is strength behind their little team and they won't be pushed over. It is Jamie who grabs the Kroton gun and tries to kill one of them. And Jamie who pours the jugs of acid over the Dynotrope. Frazer Hines is a regular treat and not just because of his sexy Beatles haircut, he makes Jamie inquisitive and sensitive, especially as he interrogates one of the aliens in their base. Experiencing the Troughton era all over again it is shocking to realise just how much of a masculine presence had seeped into the show and for the last time in the show's history too, future producers would favour the Doctor/female dynamic but it is worth noting that for three years the Doctor/Jamie relationship thrived, like two kids in a sweetie shop they were let loose on the universe and proved a real success.
There is actually a solid plot here, quite an intelligent one too that sits well against the rest of the stuff in the season. The Dominators was a moral story, The Mind Robber a surrealist nightmare, The Invasion an alien take over, this rather clever SF tale of crystalline monsters is another departure from the norm, the almost B-movie feel of the plot diverts you from the bright ideas being explored such as subjugation, revolution and some definitely alien aliens. Sitting this next to The Seeds of Death (with its almost comic strip like action) was a marvellous idea and benefits The Krotons immensely; this is clearly a much superior script to its successor despite having a weaker production.
The first episode is great Troughton and no mistake. Subverting expectations from the starting point this is no clichéd base under siege story, indeed the horror has arrive thousands of years before the story begun and has now become integral to the society. The idea of testing the children of a society and selecting the two brainiest and having them murdered is intriguing and certainly compelling enough to suck you into the story. Ignoring some rather weak acting on Vena's part, saving her gives the Doctor and co a genuine reason to join the story. The episode starts to question the validity of these unknown benefactors, the Doctor infecting the colony with a curiosity they never felt before. Suddenly there is a revolution; kids are smashing up machines in the learning hall and from everywhere a terrifying voice echoes the halls and demands they stop. And this is all in the first half an hour! There are some issues with the set design and costumes, both of which suggest this is much more tacky than it actually is but overall this is an atmospheric opener, lots going on and lots of mysteries to solve.
Despite their absurd appearance (and I quite enjoy their crystal shaped heads!) the Krotons are one of the more unusual aliens in the sixties. For four episodes you believe they are leeches, feeding of the wealth of knowledge from the colony but Holmes bothers to give them a genuine motive (unlike the Ice Warriors from the next story): escape from the planet. And typically for this period their voices are bloody marvellous, robotic, malevolent and scary as hell. The scenes in the Dynotrope are rather freaky and well directed; for once you have no idea what will happen next and the sudden emergence of the tank of bubbling liquid is heart stopping. I love it when Doctor Who can surprise me by being as suspenseful as this and it is just a shame that tension is soon dispelled thanks to an unconvincing visual effect. However all is not lost, David Maloney to the rescue and he includes some rather giddy scenes from the Krotons' point of view, out in the slate quarry hunting down the Doctor and Zoe. There are always ways around the agonisingly awful alien costumes and Maloney cleverly concentrates on their top half, rarely showing them in full and only in long shot when he does. Plus the scene with the Kroton spraying the TARDIS (and apparently destroying it) rather cleverly lets us know how resourceful they are.
It's a pretty simple to solution an otherwise quite thoughtful tale but it in no way cheats the viewer, just seems a little easy. If only the colony had thought to dump a little acid into the Krotons' survival tank... but then they were trodden into submission and terrified of the creatures. And it does give the Doctor another chance to gigglesomely overacts as he tries to tell Zoe rather obviously how to kill them.
The dialogue is pure Holmes and he puts a lot of his energy into the regulars. The Doctor gets all the instantly brilliant lines ("Great jumping gobstoppers, what's that?", "Zoe is something of a genius... it can get very irritating!", "Now go away and don't fuss me... come back what's this? It's all right I know!") but Zoe is just as lucky at times ("You answered more questions!" she says, insulted as he dares to say he did better than her. "The worst smell in the world! Why didn't I think of that?"). There is some engaging banter between the colonist, lots of shouting and brawling that starts the viewer wondering if this civilisation is WORTH saving.
I would suggest that you give The Krotons a go; it is weird because it is not an average Doctor Who story (its scripts being rather more intelligent than the norm) but it is presented as such (the production lacking the resources to truly impress) and as such it is easy to shrug it off as forgettable. But it is funny, screamingly so at times and has a rather wonderful plot. And Troughton is divine.
I don't know much about art but I know what I like and I like The Krotons.
A Review by Joel B. Kirk 25/7/07
The Krotons is a nice, but flawed, little episode; the first script by well-known Doctor Who writer, Robert Holmes.
It's not as lengthy as other Troughton episodes, or other multi-part Doctor Who episodes, but a nice compact storyline; although, some of the technobabble may go over the heads of some and cause a distraction.
Too, the fact that the Gonds are not really given much characterization or distinction in the time allotted, may cause confusion to some viewers.
However, as one who grew up with the Tom Baker era, loves the Colin Baker era, and admires the current era (with Russell T. Davies producing), The Krotons moves quick enough for me as a serial, or episode.
The title villains are not as physically imposing as the Daleks or Cybermen, as they are almost reminiscent of a 1950's B-movie robot design; although I wonder if we won't be seeing a tougher and creepier version of the robots in the new series.
They even have their own tagline for those who don't do their bidding: 'You will be dispersed!' (So the potential to expand on this villain is high, I think).
In our story, the Krotons need intelligent beings (or 'high-brains') to control their ship; the intelligent being which they monitor and test via a machine a Dynatrope.
For some time, the Krotons have been using the Gonds, weeding out those intelligent ones for absorption.
Like a classic Star Trek episode, the Krotons are worshipped by the Gonds, who haven't really seen the Krotons before the Doctor and his companions arrive. The Dynatrope machine and the absorption are considered to be part of the Krotons' deity-like powers.
Zoe and the Doctor pretty much are the heroes in this episode, as their high intelligence is a match for what the Krotons are planning, (which is basically to power their ship and leave the world of the Gonds - at the expense of lives they need for that power).
Jamie is regulated to the background, assisting the Gonds with their own internal struggles; some want to turn over the Doctor and Zoe to the Krotons so the robots will 'possibly leave them in peace' and others want to rely on the Doctor to resolve the situation.
Zoe had my particular attention (and many other male viewers who have or will watch this episode) as her outfit this time around consists of a PVC jacket, miniskirt, and knee-high boots...
And this was considered a children's program at the time!
Still, as sexy as Zoe was, it didn't detract from her character (which is always a good thing when female characters can be intelligent and sexy).
Zoe was not only shown to be a bit smarter than the Doctor, but - as aforementioned - was one of the individuals who stop the Krotons' plans.
It was said Zoe was one of 'the screamers' (something that many early female companions were regulated to doing; screaming and/or falling down and being captured in the early Doctor Who run). However, I didn't recall any screaming (or falling down) in this episode; she held her own.
As she was captured (along with the Doctor) she combined her smarts with his to escape.
The relationship between Zoe and the Doctor almost reminded me of a 'different' version of the Peri/Sixth Doctor relationship; and I wonder how it would have been if later episodes were just Zoe and the second Doctor?
My rating: 7/10