‘The Power of Kroll’ sounds like an Arnold Schwarzenegger film from the 1980s. Well, we’re not quite in the right era yet, but this Doctor Who serial deals with a giant monster and the penultimate piece of the Key to Time, as the Doctor and Romana find themselves on a swampy moon orbiting Delta Magna.
This story is not so subtle with its allegories, with the green-skinned ‘Swampies’ representing the oppressed native tribe – one of them is even a slave – with the greedy mining corporation trying to oust them from their land. It’s all painted with very broad strokes. The refinery controller, Thawn, is the typical character you love to hate, disregarding to the lives of the natives in the name of ‘progress’. The Swampies don’t come off too well either, mind you – they’re a tragic bunch, having been forced onto the moon in the first place, and now guided by a religious leader who follows his faith in the giant squid Kroll literally to the death. Cue ritual sacrifices and common sense being thrown out of the window. Oh, and chanting. Holy moly, am I sick to the teeth of ritual chanting!
The creature itself is quite well realised and the sequences where it attacks are well done for their time. I like the idea of an ancient monster awoken from its sleep, but I didn’t quite grasp how it had arrived on the moon if the swampies had been worshipping it for thousands of years. Did it migrate through space or have I got the timeline of events out of whack? Anyway, whatever.
The Doctor yet again delights with humour and wit, and more than once looks death in the eye with a smile. I like a funny Doctor, and Romana is developing a sarcastic edge which I think works quite well here, but I fear that the Doctor is losing some of his compassion. In this story, he not only doesn’t seem to care about the fate of Kroll (turning it into the key fragment at the end) but has a disregard for life in general. When the smuggler, Rohm-Dutt, is dragged away by a giant tentacle, neither the Doctor nor Romana try to save him. They just watch him get dragged slowly to his death and say he shouldn’t have moved.
On the other hand, slapstick potential is scuppered by the lack of Scrappy-9. What with it being a swamp planet, he can’t leave the Tardis! This was probably for the best. One more key fragment remains!