OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 228
STORY NUMBER: 047
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 28 December 1968
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: David Maloney
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Peter Bryant
RATINGS: 9 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Krotons
"You have been chosen to receive the highest honour that can befall a Gond. You are now the companions of the Krotons!"
WARNING! Do not put Krotons in your soup!
Abu Gond and Vana Gond have been selected to become companions of the Krotons. Abu goes through the doors into the machine first but Thara, Vana's love, objects to her going and delays proceeding. The Tardis lands on the Gond planet. Finding the back door to the machine, they see Abu disintegrated by gas guns. Travelling to the Gond city The Doctor, Jamie & Zoe arrive as Vana goes into the machine, quickly working out what will happen to her. The Gonds tell the travellers that the Krotons are in machine. The Time Travellers return to the wasteland with Thara and rescue Vana as she leaves the machine, but the Doctor's favourite umbrella is destroyed to his distress. Selris, the Gonds' leader, explains to the travellers that the Gonds' two best students are selected to enter the machine to join the Krotons. No living Gond has ever seen the Krotons. Years ago silver men came from sky, killing the Gonds and creating the poisonous wasteland that nobody had been in till the Doctor walked out of it. While they talk Thara and his friends sneak into learning hall to smash the teaching machines. Since the war the Gonds have lived in peace with the Krotons with their best 2 students of every class going into the machine to be their companions. Having seen what happens to the companions the Doctor decides to stop the Krotons. Beta reports to Selris what Thara is doing. They go to the learning hall to stop it. Inside the machine a device in a control room observes what is happening. A voice booms into the learning hall telling the Gonds to leave. The Doctor tries to get Gonds to stop as an eye on a stalk emerges from the machine and observes the Doctor pinning him to floor......
I like that: The Doctor shows up, takes one look at what's going on and decides that's got to change.
SELRIS: Ever since, we have lived in peace with them. The Krotons never show themselves to us, but we learn from them through the teaching machines.OK yes, people are dying, so it's obvious it needs to stop but the Gonds have been living this way for a long time, unaware that their brightest and best are going to their dooms.
ZOE: Teaching machines?
SELRIS: Yes, in the Hall of Learning, where you were today. The machines fill the mind with knowledge.
DOCTOR: And everyone uses these machines?
SELRIS: When they are young, yes. That is the law.
DOCTOR: Whose law, Selris?
SELRIS: Our law. The Gonds'.
DOCTOR: But I thought you said all your laws were given you by the Krotons?
SELRIS: Yes, all our science, all our culture, everything we have, has come from the machine.
DOCTOR: I see. A sort of self-perpetuating slavery. And the Krotons always choose your two most promising students?
SELRIS: To be their companions, yes. Do you think they've all been killed?
JAMIE: Aye, well, we saw one of them killed anyway.
ZOE: Well why are they doing it, Doctor? What's the point?
DOCTOR: Hmm? Well, it's time it was stopped, anyway. It's high time it was stopped!
SELRIS: You see, every so often the two best of our students have entered the machine to join the Krotons. They can't all have been murdered.The element of the best being taken reminds me of how the fittest/most beautiful are taken away to the city by the Tripods in John Christopher's The Tripods Trilogy to serve the unseen Masters. But as we'll see the author of this story will be not be averse to filing off the serial numbers and sticking to Malcolm Hulke's maxim that "All you need to work in television is a good idea. It needn't be your own"....
ZOE: Well, it's possible. If they had you wouldn't know because this spray stuff just
JAMIE: Dissolves everything. In any case, none of your people ever go into the wasteland.
SELRIS: But why should they do it? Why should they kill the best of our students?
ZOE: What are they like, these Krotons?
SELRIS: No living person has ever seen them. They never come out of the machine.
SELRIS: Not since the beginning. Not for thousands of years.
ZOE: Selris was just saying that no one's ever seen these Krotons.
JAMIE: Aye, they never leave that machine.
DOCTOR: How did all this begin, Selris?
SELRIS: According to our legends, silver men came out of the sky and built a house among us. The Gonds attacked them but the silver men caused a poisonous rain to fall, killing hundreds of our people and turning the earth black.
JAMIE: The wasteland.
SELRIS: Yes. Because it was said that ever afterwards anyone who set foot there would die in terrible pain.
And that brings us quite nicely to this story's author, who's on Doctor Who Who début here, so Ladies & Gentlemen please welcome Robert Holmes. Saying he's a former army officer, policeman and journalist doesn't do justice to it so read his Wikipedia entry or better yet buy his biography from Telos Books.
Holmes had started writing for television in the late fifties. He submitted a story, the Trap, to the Doctor Who office in 1965 where it was rejected. He resubmitted it in 1968 and incoming script editor Terrance Dicks decided he liked the look of it and developed it as a "reserve story". When the scripts for season six started going Tango Ultra - two stories had previously held the Krotons slot - the story was pressed into service. Robert Holmes had found Doctor Who and Doctor Who had found him. The two would only really be parted by Holmes' untimely death in 1986 while writing the concluding instalments of The Trial of A Timelord. Get used to his name, you'll be hearing a LOT more about him. Holmes was always very good at finding interesting ways for people to die: disintegrated by gas is just the start and Abu-Gond will not be his last victim!
Abu is played by Terence Brown who will return as a UNIT soldier/motorcyclist in Day of the Daleks.
His luckier companion, Vana, is played by Madeleine Mills who, although busy, hasn't appeared in anything else I've seen. One of her female friend is played by Patricia Matthews who returns in Doctor Who and the Silurians as a Technician.
This episode is also the first appearance in television Doctor Who of Philip Madoc, here playing Eelik. He'd already been in Daleks - Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., the second Doctor Who film, as Brockley and one of my earliest Doctor Who memories is of him being exterminated in the shed. Eelik is a bit of a background character here so we'll look at him in more detail when he takes centre stage later in the story.
During a fight in this episode Jamie can be seen wearing a wrist watch. It's not so much an anachronism as he's been travelling in the Tardis for a while but it does jump out at you, as it did for me the last time I watched this story to blog about it. However since then I've seen a few other earlier Troughton tales with Jamie wearing a watch! We have to assume while he's been travelling with the Doctor he has learnt how to tell the time as well as, as seen in previous episodes, how to read.
Some nice location work in two quarries nicely sets up the wasteland at the start of the story and is periodically returned to later.
Filming took place at the West of England quarry and Tank Quarry, both in Malvern on 10th & 11th November 1968. Unfortunately nobody knows which exterior sequence was shot at which quarry! When I watched this episode for the first version of this blog I said:
Gosh it's video time. This is the only complete Troughton story that we'll watch on VHS.Actually this episode survived as a 35mm transmission print in the BBC Film & Video library. Now I'm watching it on DVD it looks *really* good.
I'm obviously spoilt by DVD as this looked nowhere near as good as I expected it to.
Finally, 224 episodes since I last mentioned it, we get back to the 1981 Five Faces of Doctor Who repeat season! The Krotons was the sole 4 part Troughton story existing at the time so it was really the only choice for representing the Second Doctor in the Five Faces of Doctor Who. It was repeated from Monday 9th to Thursday 12th November on BBC2 and earned the wrath of many older fans for being broadcast instead of supposedly much better stories such as Tomb of the Cybermen. A few weeks later the Doctor Who Monthly Winter Special was released showing what state the Doctor Who archives were really in (well bar a few tinsy tiny errors!)