purplecat: The Fourth Doctor (Who:Four)
[personal profile] purplecat
The Power of Kroll is not generally considered highly and certainly tends to be compared unfavourably with the rest of the Key to Time season that surrounds it. However, I had a feeling going in that it might not be that terrible and so didn't mention its reputation to Tame Layman, though I did say "All Hail Kroll!" to which he responded "Oh, it's one of those stories is it?"

And it honestly isn't that bad. On the other hand, it's not really that good either.

The biggest problem is the swampies (or, I suppose, the bad CSO of a giant squid attacking the swampie camp, but mostly I feel one is missing the point if you complain about the effects in 1970s Doctor Who). The swampies are clearly intended as an analogue for Native Americans and the story clearly wants to say something about the displacement of native peoples and the need to respect their cultures, unfortunately the swampies contrive to look faintly ridiculous and we are never invited to actually respect their culture (what little we see of it), nor does anyone ever really seek to present a point of view on what is worthwhile about their culture (beyond a little bit of random Earth people all live in metal boxes stuff which doesn't even really reach as far as suggesting that they have lost touch with nature). Their worship of Kroll (which is about all we know about them) is mostly held up for ridicule, particularly by the Doctor. Robert Holmes, of course, is neither the first nor the last author to attempt to address an injustice and contrive to be rather offensive about the victim of the injustice in the process, but he normally had a defter hand than this.

Swampies aside, the story has several decent characters, with a spectrum from narrow-minded ideology to pragmatism and compassion on display in the debates both within the refinery and in the swampy camp. The location filming is actually rather impressive and makes a change from quarries. One feels that series 11 NuWho with its anamorphic lenses and love of scenery would have made much of the flat landscape of marsh and reeds. The nuts and bolts of the plotting is perfectly coherent and has several clever bits, including the story behind Kroll's great size. We get to see the actor who played K9, which excited tame layman no end.

I suspect The Power of Kroll suffers both from comparison to the first stories in the Key to Time sequence, which are much better than this, and from a few key production points that let it down but it is mostly a perfectly solid Tom Baker story.

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