This story in a nutshell: Attack the Machine! Children of the revolution!
Sparkling Dialogue: 'She was one of the finest students we had ever produced?' 'Oh really? Competition for you Zoe.'
'Sounds a bit like a dinner gong...'
* To modern eyes the modelwork of the city might look some poorly done papier mache blocks but I think it is rather imaginatively constructed. I especially like how props team placed the dwellings in what appears to be a reconstruction of the quarry and there are little paths interconnecting them. It's a bit like the miniatures in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, easy to mock but worth studying what they were trying to do and the effort that has gone into it. With Doctor Who in the sixties where they had to make shortcuts visually, this is a creative example of trying to bring something a little alien to the screen.
* It is fascinating to compare the performances of Gilbert Wynne (Thara) and Philip Madoc (Eelek) because the former is doing all he can to attract your attention (screaming, emoting like a madman, dashing about the set) whilst the latter isn't moving at all and doesn't raise his voice once. Beguilingly my eyes were all drawn to Madoc.
* I can feel Terrance Dicks working behind the scenes on this one, he and Robert Holmes generating as many mysteries as possible to keep the viewer hooked (it is a similar trick they pulled off in the first episode of Carnival of Monsters). Who are the Krotons (perhaps it would have been better had we not found that out)? Why do they need the smartest minds? What happens to the youngster between heading into the machine and emerging the other side catatonic? And why are they dispatched so callously? Holmes always had something of a rebellious nature to his writing and he kick starts his Doctor Who career by jumping on the bandwagon of the youth uprising in the sixties. Interestingly I can't imagine scenes of rough kids behaving violently and smashing their way through a story being allowed anywhere near the series these days, especially in the wake of the London riots. Does placing this youthful uprising on another planet distance the viewer from what is going outside their front door? Although I have to say Holmes' script skips the metaphor completely and makes a direct comment when he has one character screaming 'Smash the machine!' Add in the climax which features kids dropping some acid to take on the system that has held them back and it's the sixties in a nutshell. Progressive, riotous, revolutionary. I like how the back story is left to the last minute so everything falls into place at the climax, the Krotons raising the intelligence of the Gonds after they crash landed to a level where their mental energy could be harnessed to enable them to escape.
* My favourite sequences in The Krotons all take place in episode where the Doctor step into the unknown of the machine. Doctor Who is often a straight forward action adventure show and only every so often does it dip its toes into something weirder and more idiosyncratic. These scenes certainly qualify with Maloney adopting some dramatic camera techniques (he gets right in the Doctor and Zoe's faces as they are having their mental energy torn from them) and indulging in some 60s psychedelia to stress the weirdness of the Kroton ship. I love the bubbling vats of liquid with the Krotons forming inside, at this point it is impossible to know what exactly is going on. With no incidental music guiding this story along, it is at this point where Brian Hodgson's sound effects really start to create an atmosphere.
* That heart stopping moment when it looks as though the Krotons have destroyed the TARDIS. Although whether my dismay was because it was apparently taken out by one of the least effective monsters the Doctor has met or because it means he will be stuck on this miserable rock forever more, I'm not sure.
* Whilst I can think of a fair few times when the HADS might have come in handy, it's sudden mention is just another element of the ever expanding list of devices that the TARDIS has on offer. Writers make these things up as they need them but it all adds to the crafts sense of magic.
* The Krotons, not one of Doctor Who's finest moments in the costume department. Which is a shame because the central idea of them being grown from crystal is genuinely innovative. With the advent of CGI this is an notion that is ripe for a re-invention, imagine being able to watch the crystal bubble and form, cracking into place and the finished result emerging; sleek, faceted and deadly. What we essentially get in this story is an egg box with a skirt, Dalek like appendages and a phallic crystal standing erect from the top. Cumbersome, impractical, artificial and unbelievable. Not exactly what every Doctor Who designer is aiming for. Initially I rather liked the voices when they were used sparingly, booming through the echoey halls of the learning to warn of the rebellious students. Unfortunately they start to shred at the nerves when the Krotons are actualised and they paper the last two episodes with their unintelligible babble ('DIRECTION POINT!'). I don't even think with more time, money or resources that the Krotons could be made to work with the methods of television at this point. It really is the case of Holmes thinking outside the box and conceptualising something that needed computer wizardry to bring it to life convincingly. We needed to see the transformation (rather than the egg boxes emerging from the machine - sorry standing up from their crouched position) for this to really come off. I think the Krotons work much better in episodes one and two where they are silently observing the Doctor and his companions, Maloney uses some creepy spying techniques to give them a real presence (given my phobia of snakes that viewing tendril that attacks the Doctor give me a moments panic). What I came up with in my head was far more impressive. Imagine The Krotons being brought to life with the same sort of technology that wowed the audiences of Frozen.
* Compared to Holmes' later work on the series (particularly in stories such as Carnival f Monsters, The Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Ribos Operation) The Krotons doesn't excel in the characterisation department either. The trouble is that the guest characters aren't given enough exposure to make them truly relevant and mostly serve to explain the mystery and help the Doctor to defeat the Krotons. We cut back to the revolt plot every fifteen minutes or so, long enough so we have completely forgotten about it. The dialogue isn't exactly sparkling either and doesn't make the character stand out as individuals with their own lives. Mostly it is the work of the actors that gives them any real identity with Philip Madoc's Eelek and James Cairncross' Beta both standing out amongst the rest. James Copeland struggles to make his unwieldy exposition work and Madeline Mills is given a real bum deal, either unconscious or moaning for the first three episodes. We needed to get to know the Gonds as a people, so we can give a damn if the Krotons wipe them out or Eelek pulls off a political coup but they are so faceless it is difficult to give a damn especially if Selris, Vana and Thara are anything to go by. The line 'we still have Eelek to deal with' thrown in at the end goes to show how irrelevant that whole plot has been to the story, so much so that it doesn't deserve an ending. That might be realistic but in dramatic terms it isn't very satisfying.
* Shots from the Krotons POV as it hunts down the Doctor and Zoe = big plus. Long shots of the Kroton ambling down the ramp trying to keep hold of his burdensome gun = big minus. Just how was Maloney supposed to shoot these creatures? He couldn't do it all in POV because money had been spent on the costumes. Perhaps he should have always shot upwards, capitalizing on their stature and excising any glimpses of the skirt.
* When the Kroton gives Jamie a big cuddle why doesn't simply kill him? How does the Doctor walk away from all that heavy rubble crashing down on his back?