The Power of Kroll: Part 4
Broadcast on January 13th 1979 @ 6.25pm (9.90m viewers)
All hail Mighty Kroll! ‘The Power of Kroll’ is the fifth broadcast story in the ‘Key to Time’ 16th season and introduces the biggest monster in Doctor Who’s history. Written by former script editor Robert Holmes, it is not as highly regarded as some of his other work but elements of this script would influence the phenomenal Fifth Doctor swansong ‘The Caves of Androzani’ in 1984. One of the strongest elements was the extensive location filming, with more time allocated to it than would be usual for a four-part Doctor Who, and it certainly delivers a swampy landscape, perfect for the story’s setting. However, such an environment meant that the K9 prop, which could be temperamental at the best of times, was completely unsuited to the story.
As a result, this story treats viewers to seeing John Leeson, more famous for his role as the voice of K9, finally get to show his face in front of the camera, replacing another actor who became unavailable for the recording. During this episode, Leeson also gets to deliver the episode’s memorable moment. Another consistently wonderful actor is Philip Madoc in his fourth and final performance in Doctor Who on television, plus an appearance in the second Dalek movie, notable for playing the War Lord in ‘The War Games’ (1969) and Solon in ‘The Brain of Morbius’ (1976). Sadly, the role of Fenner is not a high note to go out on but he does remain the sensible voice of reason throughout.
Some shots of Kroll are very peculiar with a locked off section of the upper portion of the screen into which effects shots were inserted onto the location footage, leaving a very harsh horizontal line across the screen and making it very obvious that the two pieces of the film have been placed adjacent to each other. However, the sequences of the creature attacking the refinery are effective. Two crucial portions of the episode are focused on a dramatic countdown but the clock numbers appear to have been inserted into the wall with the area cut out with a blunt knife. As a result, of the poor standards, designer Don Giles was deemed unsuitable forever working on the programme again. It is these errors on the production which sadly overshadow the story. We are however also treated to the humorous behind the scenes tale concerning the Swampies’ green makeup which was, although effective on screen, incredibly difficult to remove from the skin and so supporting artists had to endure chemical showers at a nearby RAF base to remove the specially ordered product.
Today’s memorable moment has a strong political message. In an attempt to dissuade Thawn’s use of an orbital shot on moral grounds, Dugeen declares that all life is sacred and sacrifices himself in an attempt to prevent the genocide of the Swampies. It is an important message about racial equality, particularly to younger viewers. As strange and peculiar as the green-skinned creatures look to human eyes they remain beings with consciousness and have a right to life. Powerful stuff for a Saturday tea time in 1979.
Also first aired On This Day…
- The Enemy of the World: Episode 4
- The Three Doctors: Episode 3
- Warriors of the Deep: Part 4