Released December 2009
Whether it was the original intent of the Big Finish subscriber Bonus Releases to transition down a path of familiarity while revisiting old locations and foes or not, ‘Return of the Krotons’ marks the third consecutive release to do so, following in the footsteps of the Daleks on Spirodon and of the Menoptera and Zarbi on Vortis. As the title so succinctly suggests, the immensely persuasive writer Robert Holmes’s first villainous contribution to Doctor Who, the crystalline Krotons, once more cross paths with the Doctor, this time in his sixth incarnation alongside Charlotte Pollard.
Whereas ‘Return to the Web Planet’ kept continuity references to a minimum, ‘Return of the Krotons’ revels in them and will certainly reward subscribers with an intimate knowledge of both the audio range and original television serial. Thus, interwoven into a story about the last vestiges of humanity struggling to survive on the planet Onyakis amidst increasingly numerous suspicious disappearances under their dangerous leader Commander Cobden are references to the Dynatrope, Nerva Beacon, C’rizz, and the overall mystery of Charlotte from the Sixth Doctor’s perspective. The story does manage to present these facts in a way that remains at least somewhat accessible for newcomers, but ‘Return of the Krotons’ is unabashedly directed at the fans.
Unfortunately, just as the Krotons were a fairly forgettable foe both during and after their initial appearance, ‘Return of the Krotons’ does little to adequately imbue the foes with anything more powerful or memorable even in the audio medium. This is not to say that there is a lack of intrigue, and the revelation of an accidental hybrid is certainly a chilling proposition as presented, but little is done to truly flesh out and give meaning to the genuinely exciting ideas introduced. Still, Nicholas Briggs does sterling work in once more giving voice to the long-forgotten foes, perfectly emulating the original performances.
Colin Baker and India Fisher are as enjoyable as ever and anchor the story while further exploring the uncertain dynamic between the two characters that remains due to Charley’s unwillingness to divulge the truth. Philip Madoc also gives a splendid performance as Cobden, and it is these three who together elevate the performance since little is done to fully explore the rest of the supporting characters who are written more as stock stereotypes to fill a need rather than to add anything personal or dynamic to events, giving the rest of the cast little meaningful work to do.
As a whole, ‘Return of the Krotons’ does exactly what the title suggests. However, simply bringing back an overlooked foe is not enough to warrant an entire story, and unfortunately the script bypasses the opportunity to truly do something meaningful with the Krotons or the situation that they create. Still, the duo of the Sixth Doctor and Charley is immensely enjoyable even in this short burst, and there are undoubtedly some enjoyable moments and ideas to be found as the danger escalates even if the resolution seems a bit too convenient. The end result is a perfectly adequate Doctor Who story, but one that fails to meet its full potential even with the shorter running time.