The Power of Kroll is a curious thing. There are many things that are wrong with it, not least every single visual effect they attempted, the noticeably shortened running time, the complete lack of even a couple of bookending scenes for K-9, and a somewhat anti-climactic ending where The Doctor makes the monster disappear by waving a magic wand. But somehow, despite all this, it’s a really enjoyable serial.
I always enjoy a story that avoids the simple route of having clear cut baddies and goodies. Here, the effort is taken to depict a complex situation that the Doctor and Romana are just plonked into – there’s so many different factions, with good, bad and neutral people on all sides, and our heroes are stuck in the middle. A trio of good performances from Philip Madoc, John Leeson and your man from The Mind of Evil boosted the not terribly original refinery crew to becoming a highlight.
The Swampies were also great, even if they did look like they should be flogging tinned sweetcorn. They were fairly silly, particularly their happy little Kroll dance, but loveable for it. John Abineri (who I will always see as “Rimmer’s Dad” even if he’s covered in bright green paint) was as great as you’d expect from such a frequent guest – him and Philip Madoc have now clocked up four appearances each, over which time they’ve proved immensely versatile. It was an interesting twist that Madoc’s character should be the reasonable one, considering his last couple of characters.
Even though the realisation never matched the concept, I did find Kroll to be a pretty decent threat – they were smart to limit his screentime, as just the sheer idea of a monster that size was intimidating enough. It was interesting to read that the concept was imposed on Robert Holmes, and that he absolutely hated it. I doubt it would have been as good in the hands of many other writers – Holmes makes the most of it with the way he structures a story, and his brilliant dialogue.
But as is the case with most stories, even though I don’t mention it very often, it was Tom Baker’s performance that was the biggest highlight, that weird high-pitched squealing notwithstanding. I don’t tend to think about it much, but he just is The Doctor in my mind right now. Like Troughton before him, his sheer presence keeps you gripped no matter what, and you can never predict his behaviour. So again, it was interesting to read that it was around this point in the production that his ego really became a problem. It’s still over two seasons away, but it’s going to be a huge shock to the system when he leaves.
Yes, apparently all sorts of things were going to shit behind the scenes at this point, so it’s remarkable that, with five out of six segments in the bag, The Key To Time is so consistently good. Then again, I note that two writers have written a pair of stories each so far, and the other was written by Douglas Adams, so there is a logical explanation for both the consistency and goodness. Yet again, I’m going to give it the same score as the others. There are very minor variations in the quality, and I probably would be able to rank them if necessary, but they’re all bloody solid.
Overall: Kroll story, bro.