Aired 28 December 1968 – 18 January 1969
‘The Krotons’ is another serial that Doctor Who fans do not hold in incredibly high regard, but for a long time it was the only complete Patrick Troughton episode remaining in the video archives. ‘The Krotons’ has a rather long history to it, the concept originating as a play entitled The Trap and initially being rejected as a Doctor Who serial during William Hartnell’s time when anticipation for the Mechanoids’ success during ‘The Chase’ was at its highest. Yet as Frazer Hines decided to renew his contract for one more year to leave alongside Patrick Troughton, other scripts were running into issues, and Robert Holmes became an increasingly important figure for Doctor Who as ‘The Krotons’ was pushed forward in the production order.
Even if the story does ultimately give off the impression of being a rather low-budget runaround and not necessarily indicative of the true essence of the Troughton era, but that is an inherently invigorating prospect as the Doctor and his companions arrive in a world already overtaken and get to be reactive as figures of change rather than proactive as figures of protection and stability. In that respect, the story of the most intellectual Gonds having the honor of serving the Krotons when in actuality their intellect is being used to power the Kroton ship is certainly an intriguing success and brings into focus the topical aspects of capitalism and education. Certainly the Doctor’s arrival sparks a fierce debate about education that touches on the so-called politicization of education of the time and the increasing rejection of the accepted norm by a younger generation.
Despite the possible comparisons and similarities to topical issues of the time, though, ‘The Krotons’ does still contain enough issues to keep it from achieving a classic status. The design of the Krotons themselves certainly keeps in line with other hulking robots of the 1950s and 1960s timeframe, but both the robot and ship designs fail to inspire the imagination to suggest that these could be credible futuristic threats. Aside from possibly Eelek, the Gond civilization likewise is written as one filled with one-dimensional characters, again failing to create any true sense of empathy as the truth behind assumptions and beliefs is revealed.
Instead, it is the memorable and otherworldly sound design as well as the three regulars that carry the serial. The intellectual rivalry between the Doctor and Zoe comes to the forefront here, and Troughton and Padbury play off of each other absolutely wonderfully. And though Jamie’s overall role is a bit reduced here compared to in other stories, Hines imbues a sense of innocence and resourcefulness to the character that still manages to resonate fully. All three characters are afforded some touching character moments, and the true camaraderie between the actors is apparent from beginning to end, again showcasing why this trio is still so well regarded so many years later.
While it’s certainly not going to top many must-see lists and does not reflect the height of the Troughton era in its substance or style, ‘The Krotons’ is nonetheless an intriguing diversion that highlights its leads while broadly touching on social issues. There are several noticeable flaws throughout, but the end result is certainly one with merit and plenty of ambition and undoubtedly one worth a view.