Way back around the time Peter Davison was about to become the Doctor, the BBC broadcast a few old DOCTOR WHO episodes and for many people this was the very first time they'd had a proper chance to see Patrick Troughton's Doctor in action. The story they chose to show was THE KROTONS, a four-part adventure from his final year in the part. Now, whilst it might not be the best example of his era, it remains a solid little story with much to enjoy. It is also one of the very few of his stories that does exist in its entirety (only 6 of 21) in the archives. All of the "lost" stories have now been released in this audio range, so these last few are slowly being added to the range, so that hopefully someday all of his stories may be enjoyed in this very effective audio format. This era of DOCTOR WHO has been particularly well served by this series of BBC Soundtrack releases, not least because some of the shortcomings of the visuals of 1960s television can be overlooked and the listener can concentrate on the story, the performances and the rather excellent dialogue written by the rather well regarded scriptwriter Robert Holmes whose first work for the series this is. Things like the rather shoddy opening shot of some doors not opening properly or the rather rubbish looking monsters are not an issue when the pictures are just the ones being created in your head.
The plot is straightforward enough, and it is a simple story, simply told. The Doctor (and a rather handy umbrella) arrive just in the nick of time to save a young Gond girl from a terrible fate. For centuries the largely unseen and parasitic Krotons have been selecting the brightest and the best of the Gond people in their efforts to reanimate themselves, and disposing of the "waste material" when they are done with them. The Krotons use "teaching machines" to educate the Gonds in very specific areas of science and choose to leave them in total ignorance of other things that they'd rather they didn't know, and let them live a life in constant fear of reprisals given their superior firepower. All pretty diabolical, really, but with a lot of relevance to certain aspects of cultural influence and state suppression that remain even to this day. When listening, you should try to remember that this story dates from simpler times when visions of the future were very different to what they are now, but the story still holds up and, with the help of a little bit of real science, our heroes are able to save the day.
Patrick Troughton as DOCTOR WHO was one of those all time great performances that somehow has managed to get itself chronically overshadowed by later eras of the programme. Maybe it's because they were made in black and white, or maybe television from the 1960s is nowadays considered to be unsophisticated or slow, but that's a great shame because there's a fabulous characterisation to be enjoyed here. Frazer Hines as Jamie and Wendy Padbury as Zoe are the companions this time around and the three leads share some lovely banter along the way. There are also a number of fine performances from the guest cast which includes a young Philip Madoc giving the first of his four performances in the show. Despite their reputation as fairly average monsters, the Kroton voices (an electronically modulated South African accent) come across exceedingly well on audio and make them much more of a threat.
I have enjoyed this range for many years now, with the soundtracks of old stories enhanced by the addition of explanatory narration that successfully replaces the missing visuals, which might render them rather meaningless otherwise. Now that all the stories that are visually incomplete have been released, it was only natural that these stories that do exist in their entirety in the archive get similar treatment, and whilst some might think it a superfluous exercise, I think they make an interesting addition to the series.
Frazer Hines narrates very well in a style well suited to the pace of the adventure unfolding, and the 2nd CD contains a lengthy interview with him which covers a lot of ground including his regret at ever having left the show.
If you're interested in seeking out more Patrick Troughton, the other five stories that survive in full are TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN, THE MIND ROBBER, THE SEEDS OF DEATH and THE WAR GAMES all which already have DVD releases, and THE DOMINATORS which is, like this tale, still waiting for a DVD release, but can still be tracked down on video. THE INVASION is not a complete story, but has had its missing episodes restored with animation for its DVD release, and some episodes from incomplete stories can be found on the LOST IN TIME DVD set. Also, of course, all of the rest of his stories have been released in this rather excellent Audio CD range.