The Krotons

The Krotons
The Krotons.jpg
Season: 6
Episode: 4
Vital statistics
Air date 28 December 1968 - 18 January 1969
Written by Robert Holmes
Directed by David Maloney
Episode guide
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The Invasion The Seeds of Death
Robot #9072345734 of the Doctor Who universe.

The Crutons Krotons (working title: Arsing About With Another Bunch Of Robots) is the fourth story of the sixth season of the Britty (gud) science-fiction-ish television programme Doctor Whowantsmorerobots?, which was first broadcast in late 1968 to early 1969. The story is most distinguished as the first contribution from Robert Holmes (who definitely got better), least distinguished for some poor acting from the background characters and badly named robots, and all round just undistinguished - it’s just another Wednesday jaunt for the Second Doctor, Zowie and Jammie. The Kroton robots themselves would perhaps have proved so wildly popular amongst the illiterate Britains that “Krotonmania” might have swept The UK, except that no such thing ever happened.  The programme’s producers, recognizing the lack of writing on the wall, never brought them back ever again; Lawrence Miles and Big Finish Audio-Noises, both of which never met a forgettable Doctor Who idea they didn’t love, brought the Krotons back in some book and ear-stories that no one ever seems to talk about.

"Oh you've redecorated I see. Looks like shit."

Key Moments, Lines, And Profound Observations

The first shot of episode one gets things off to a super-auspicious start with a close-up of a two-dimensional yin-yang symbol made of only gray, jeez.   A boring zero of an actor (or just “placeholder”) and some blond girl are chosen to be “companions of the Krotons,” which is supposed to be a good thing but leads to no fun, arguments, apparent exhaustion and death by acid gas.  The Tardis arrives in, heavy sigh, another quarry that’s apparently on Tatooine and the Doctor likes the smell of smog.  They discover a model city made from wedges of swiss cheese and walk all the way from the outdoor quarry to the stage door.  Oh hey look, that guy from The Brain Of Morbius and his impossibly tall forehead are in this one - you remember, that one story, where he was trying to put that brain in that one guy?  This actually becomes rather important, read on and keeps your eyes open for anything to do with brains.  Someone asks “what is happening?” which is mighty early to have already lost the plot thread.  “You’re contaminated!  No one goes into the wasteland!” The Doctor’s favorite umbrella is ruined and she’s brainless now.  

Beware my mighty forehead!

The Doctor pretends to be the Master, then the guy with Donald Trump’s hair tells us all about what sounds like Cybermen; if only.  The rebel group led by the Solon guy’s forehead capture the universe's most overly-dramatic and useless janitor, then decide to smash the teaching machines which have “computer faces” on them if you squint.  As the rebels smash the machines, you can see the bits breaking off, revealing they’re just simple boxes with bits glued to them, ha ha!  Thanks to either poor script-writing or poor editing, we only then learn seconds later through some “teaching dialogue” that the teaching machines are learning devices given to these shnooks by the Krotons whom they’ve never seen.   X means the machines are very cross!  A mechanical tentacle stolen from the Martians in the 1953 War Of The Worlds movie takes a good look at the Doctor in one of the least exciting cliffhangers ever, “Oh!  Oh!  Oh my word, oh!” somehow just doesn’t sing here. At the beginning of episode two, the tentacle gasses another nobody who really should learn to not telegraphs his blows.  The Doctor and Trump-hair go down through the stage trap door and Zoe checks out a teaching machine and does better than any Gond ever, which doesn’t sound too difficult, really.   And just who the hell are these “Gond” people anyways?  Human planetary colonists in the future like in The Macra Terror?  Aliens native to this planet who just happen to be very human and rather British?  A Dravidian people of central India, spread over the states of Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra (Vidarbha), Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Western Odisha, who, with over four million people, are the largest tribe in Central India?  Time lost inhabitants of Gondwana, the more southerly of two supercontinents (the other being Laurasia) that were part of the Pangaea supercontinent that existed from approximately 510 to 180 million years ago?  A fictional deity in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting for the only thing geekier than Doctor Who, the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, and who first appeared in an article in Dragon magazine in 1981?  The Gond only have strangely triangular spears and axes for weapons and don’t know much about science but appear to be wearing boring Star Trek: Next Gen “civilian” clothing made of modern fabrics.  So who are they???  No one knows.  “Great hopping gobstoppers, what was that?”  

The Krotons want Zoe for a “companion” - not for her backside but because she’s so smart, so the Doctor also takes the test to get them to forget about her, so then the Krotons choose both of them to be companions.  The Doctor and Zoe walk through the door and find a spinning light fixture, wince in a fish-eye lens and their chain breaks before the dry ice in the aquariums starts bubbling.  The Doctor tastes the soup and Zoe handles another tentacle.  Some clunky robots wearing rubber skirts and crystal heads show up - the Krotons themselves I guess?  The credits said they were - and remind me of the Star Wars gonk droid (“gonk… gonk…  gonk gonk…” man could George Lucas write good dialogue!)(Star Wars ref #2 by the way).  The robots - oh, alright, alright - “the Krotons” appear to talk to themselves because their voices are very similar, and also, robots with sloppy British accents just seem wrong, you know?  Jamie goes to meet them wielding nothing more than a metal bar, but somehow one of the clunky robots sneaks up on him and he drops the bar.  They shine a strong light on him, which also isn’t a great cliffhanger but at least it’s par for course for the show in this time period.

Quarry? Check. Silly robot? Check. It's confirmed gentlemen, this is an episode of Doctor Who.

Jamie doesn’t die after all at the beginning of episode three (big surprise) and we finally get to see the Krotons proper in all their boxy, crystal-headed, wee pinchy-claw glory.  Solon and his forehead interrupt some guy watering his dry ice to bicker a bit.  “You will no longer obey celery, you will obey me!” is a line I’m sure I must have misheard, but any reference to Doctor Fivey is apparently popular on /who/ so there it is.   Jamie looks confused as the Kroton pulls what looks like a bomb but is a gun off a shelf.  The Kroton tells Jamie that they need the Doctor and Zoe for the “Dynatrope” (which I guess is their spaceship) for brainpower.  “Today we have slings and fireballs, weapons that will destroy the strongest building to rubble!”  No, seriously, Holmes gets MUCH better than that, trust me.   A Kroton explains its whole existence and the plot to Jamie while completely ignoring his sneaking up to grab another bomb/gun off the shelf; maybe he didn’t care because he knew it doesn’t affect Krotons?  Damn it, where is Solon with that brain when you need him?! The other Kroton has already recaptured Zoe and the Doctor, who was picking up some stinky rocks, but they escape immediately anyway (again), so the Kroton sprays some gas at the Tardis which appears to be destroyed!   Instead the Tardis has just moved itself up the hill with that safety system deal that Matt Smith couldn’t get right in the episode The Underwater Ice-Cold Warrior.   Solon and his forehead overrule Trump’s Hair.  The Gonds unconvincingly work to destroy the machine.  The Krotons get some head-spinning news!  The Doctor has a few rocks (or more likely a few bits of styrofoam) and dust fall on him. The Doctor is rescued at the start of episode four only to have more bits of rock and dust fall on him, great cliffhanger resolution there guys.  We can tell the rebels have harmed the machine by their pointing out a bleeding golf ball.  Trump’s Hair and Solon’s forehead’s factions argue a lot, then see a Kroton who says “STAAAHHP.  WHERE ARE THE HIGH BRAINS?” but he’s not talking about Solon’s forehead I guess.  Jamie and the Gond Scientist (named “Beta”, which I’m not even gonna say anything about) follow the Doctor’s directions and cough a lot.  Trump’s Hair makes a death-defying dive to get the Doctor his acid (this was the sixties after all) but dies anyway.   The script literally has the Doctor say this to the Krotons: “You’ve discovered a way of using mental power,” to which Zoe adds “and you Krotons haven’t enough.”  That’s this story in a nutshell.  

The Doctor and Zoe poison the Kroton’s aquarium which makes them fall over and dissolve, along with their machine or “Dynotrope.”  

Hey, at least it wasn’t a base under siege story.

*shrug*

Things We Learned

  • The Krotons had discovered a way of using mental power but they didn’t have enough.  This can’t be emphasized enough.
  • This story may be the template for the Fourth Doctor’s story State Of Decay which was about a television programme past its prime that had discovered a way to use mental power but now didn’t have enough and was about to go dreadfully off the rails.
  • The Krotons themselves?  Well, for starters, if the name of your new evil alien robot race sounds like a food, they probably need a new name; Reminder that the Ancharvies, the Baygrulls and the Krotons are all terrible names, but are officially better than the Chumblies.  Even “the Krotrons” would have been better, although that’s no great shakes either.  Also, their design looks like something from a 1930s serial, and talking about “high brains” does them no favors.  It’s apparently a myth that The Krotons were the winning entry in a Blue Peter 'design a monster' competition, but they might as well have been.  The spinning heads were kind of fun I guess though. The first four of this season's seven stories have robots in them (if you count the Cybermen as robots and prefer the Tenth Planet versions, which you should on both counts) - that's a lot of bots! The Krotons are the weakest of the lot - less interesting than the Quarks, who are less interesting than the Cybermen, who are way less cooler than those awesome-looking robots at the beginning of The Mind Robber. Without checking, I'll wager someone's brought those guys back in a comic book or ear-story, right? I mean, they brought back these guys.
Yeah, their heads are OK I suppose.
  • The script shamefully loses its one or two cool ideas beneath the usual “Za is no leader!” factional bickering that can sorely test the patience of even seasoned Classic Who fans.  At least I think there may have been a cool idea or two in there somewhere.  Then again, have you ever heard this joke?  “Worried that their son was too optimistic, the parents of a little boy took him to a psychiatrist. Trying to dampen the boy’s spirits, the psychiatrist showed him into a room piled high with nothing but horse shit. Instead of displaying distaste, the little boy clambered to the top of the pile and began digging with glee.  “What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked, aghast.  “With all this horse shit,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere!”  I think I may be that little kid, it’s hard to know for sure.  Then again, as Doctor Who fans, we are all that little kid aren’t we?  Fortunately, Robert Holmes got much better at digging through horse shit later.
  • Highly important behind the scenes crew mention: the Assistant Floor Manager for this story was none other than David Tilley (!!!), who was also production assistant for The Three Doctors.  This apparently inconspicuous fact provides the entire key to unlocking the importance and DEEP LORE of this Doctor Who adventure, as you can now plainly see.