Written by Robert Holmes
Directed by Norman Stewart
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television series that has been around off and on since 1963. The main character is just known as “The Doctor” and is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. This means he travels through time to various places. One of his favorite places to visit is Earth. Typically, he has a companion traveling with him, usually female, sometimes male, sometimes one of each. He travels in a time machine known as a “Tardis” which is disguised as a British Police booth.
A Time Lord can regenerate if fatally wounded, which has accounted for all the different actors who have played The Doctor throughout the years. In this episode, he is portrayed by Tom Baker. Baker was one of the most popular incarnations of The Doctor, and by many fan’s assessments, he was the most popular.
In The Power of Kroll, the Doctor is traveling with an assistant ostensibly on an almost equal playing field. Romana (portrayed by Mary Tamm) is a fellow Time Lord, although not of the stature of the Doctor. They are also traveling with the robotic “dog” known as K9. They are searching for something known as The Key to Time and journey to the third moon of Delta Magna in search of the fifth piece of the key.
The planet is somewhat swampy and the Doctor soon finds himself at odds with both the natives, known as “the Swampies” who look like smaller versions of the Jolly Green Giant and a group of scientists. The scientists are there to staff a methane plant and he impresses them with his technical knowledge.
Romana, meanwhile, is kidnapped by the Swampies. They decide to sacrifice her to their God, known as Kroll. Kroll is a squid and a rather large one. At first, the Doctor thinks it is a figment of the imagination of the Swampies. Soon he learns this is not the case. He discovers a book on the history of the Swampies and soon learns the planet and the scientists have bigger problems facing it.
The Power of Kroll seems to raise the issue of messing with your environment too much and the bad side effects that can come from it. Since this came in the 1970s during the time when cities were clouded in a haze of brown smog, it’s easy to see where writer Robert Holmes got his inspiration. It was a last-minute replacement for a different story in the line-up which had to be canceled.
The effects are even cheesier than usual with things having the feel of being thrown together quickly. Some of the worst offenses have been somewhat fixed for the DVD release, but the shots of a rubber squid superimposed on shots of the actors in their roles still look amazingly bad. Add to that the lousy costuming, hair, and make-up on the Swampies, and you have a story-arc that really needed to be rethought. It’s unfortunate that it had to be rushed into production.
What saves The Power of Kroll from disaster are the performances. Tom Baker gives the Doctor the same affability and strength of character as he does each and every time. It’s not like he took one look at the Swampies and the giant rubber squid and wondered how the heck he managed to get himself involved in all of this. The Doctor talks to the scientists with the same degree of confidence and secure in the knowledge that they are incompetent. There’s even a funny moment when the Doctor pulls a reed from alongside the swamp and begins playing music on it.
Mary Tamm is great as Romana, even when she’s doing a Fay Wray impersonation to a giant squid. She comes off as an intelligent woman and it would have been interesting to see her interacting with the scientists rather than the Doctor. Still, she’s more than just a damsel in distress and not afraid to plunge into the middle of the entire mess to prove it. She shows character strength even in the face of a script and effects that don’t seem thoroughly fleshed out.
John Leeson, who has been the voice of K-9 throughout the series, comes out from behind the scenes and has a role here as one of the scientists. It’s a high point in this series and a treat that many fans were looking forward to.
Far from the best Doctor Who has to offer, The Power of Kroll has many shortcomings. The saving grace is the actors which do make it a lot of fun.
NOTE: Although I’m viewing them out of order, the Key to Time series should actually be viewed in the following order:
KEY 1 – The Ribos Operation
KEY 2 – The Pirate Planet
KEY 3 – The Stones of Blood
KEY 4 – The Androids of Tara
KEY 5 – The Power of Kroll
KEY 6 – The Armageddon Factor
• Information Text
• Commentary with Tom Baker and John Leeson
• Photo Gallery
• Who’s Who