Recap: Doctor Who S16 E5 "The Power of Kroll"

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The Doctor: Well, you'd better introduce me.
Romana: As what?
The Doctor: Oh, I don't know... a wise and wonderful person who wants to help. Don't exaggerate.

The search for the Key to Time takes the Doctor and Romana to the third moon of Delta Magna, a marsh-covered world where the indigenous tribesfolk worship a giant squid-god called Kroll. K-9 can't come along (it's too wet, and his actor is busy playing a mook). Things are complicated by the presence of a mining operation from Delta Magna, which is stealing the natural resources and angering the locals — and then it turns out that there really is a Kroll, the mining operation has woken him up, and he's more than a little grumpy. Kroll's really just an overgrown squid brought over by the colonists as a little one, but that doesn't make him less dangerous.

The head of the mining operation, Thawn, decides to blast Kroll with rockets, but the Doctor disables them just in time for the locals to mount an attack on the refinery and kill him. The gizmo the Doctor has been using to track the Key to Time shows it's Kroll — or maybe it's just inside Kroll... Turns out Squidzilla has eaten a local relic which is the Key segment, and the Doctor uses his gizmo to transform it back again, which has the handy effect of turning one giant squid into lots of normal-sized ones. They retrieve the segment, prevent the whole rig from blowing up as an aftereffect, and leave the one remaining villain to sort things out with the tribesfolk on his own.

Robert Holmes has called this his least favourite of the ''Who'' stories he wrote, describing it as rather dull. He was never a fan of "big scary monster" stories, and so was uneasy with the premise he was given, as well as the way the script was executed. It also suffers from budgetary issues, even by Who standards of the time.


Tropes

  • All There in the Manual: In Robert Holmes's earlier drafts of the story it's made clear that Varlik is actually the chief of the Swampie tribe, but doesn't have any real authority, thanks to Ranquin using the legend of Kroll to effectively usurp total control of the tribe. This doesn't really come across in the finished episode, but the novelization keeps this little detail.
  • Arms Dealer: Rohm Dutt, a smuggler from Delta Magna who's selling firearms to the local tribe.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: On the one side there's Thawn, who wants nothing more than to wipe out the Swampies, and is quite willing to kill anyone who gets in his way. On the other side is Ranquin, who similarly wants to get rid of the humans, while feeding any dissenters to Kroll. And then there's Kroll itself, which doesn't really care about any of this and is perfectly happy to just eat anyone who gets within range.
  • Book Ends: A subtle one. Kroll came into being by eating a disguised Key to Time segment, after which it started growing and devoured a Swampie high priest. Its final act before being reduced to the segment and hundreds of baby giant squids is to consume the current high priest, Ranquin.
  • Cassandra Truth: During the final episode the Swampies gradually begin to realize that Kroll isn't really a god at all, just an oversized, mindless beast. Ranquin, however, holds onto his belief until the bitter end, resulting in him becoming Kroll-chow.
  • Chained to a Rock: The Doctor and Romana, by the local tribe.
  • Crapsack World: it's an equal-opportunity-misanthropy depiction of colonialism where the colonists are all murderous racists or ineffectual wets, but the indigenous people are bloody-minded, backwards, sadistic, and worship a mindless monster just because it's big and scary. The ending gives the strong impression that the Doctor has absolutely no confidence in his standard "and now you must learn to live in peace together" speech and that the Swampies are either going to execute the last surviving colonist as soon as team TARDIS is out of sight, or start worshipping him for helping to kill the old god.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The setting resembles any number of situations in Earth history where relatively primitive nations are exploited by their more civilised neighbours. Except for the bit about the giant squid.
  • Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: A reeeaaaally big one.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Thawn is impaled by a spear, complete with blood spewing through his fingers.
  • Fantastic Racism: Between the humans and the Swampies, to varying degrees. There's Thawn and Ranquin, who are very much the "genocidal lunatic" variety, Dugeen, who actually doesn't mind the Swampies at all, and varying shades in-between the two extremes.
  • Fantastic Slurs: "Swampy" and "Dryfoot" are what the miners call the locals and the locals call the miners, respectively.
  • Giant Squid: Kroll is this trope combined with Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever, and the show's largest-ever monster up until that point.
  • Human Aliens: The miners look just like (and may be descended from) Earth people. The locals also look a lot like Earth people, apart from being green.
  • Human Sacrifice: The Swampies first try to sacrifice Romana to Kroll, then The Doctor, Romana and Rohm-Dutt in one go.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: The Doctor is unable to hypnotise someone into releasing him.
  • Low Culture, High Tech: Thawn hires an arms dealer to sell defective guns to the natives as an excuse to get rid of them.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: Used by the Doctor to shatter a particularly tasteless window.
  • Man in a Rubber Suit: The fake Kroll who tries to kill Romana.
  • Occupiers out of Our Country: The Swampies aren't overly keen on the idea of sharing their homeworld with humans, even the small crew of the refinery.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Romana is very dismissive of Kroll and his titular power.
  • Red Herring: Mensch is set up to be a potential Swampie Double Agent, with both the humans and Swampies being unsure of where his true loyalties are. Ultimately it doesn't really matter, as he becomes Kroll's first victim.
  • The Skeptic: Varlik clearly doesn't buy into the Kroll myth as much as the other Swampies, and in the latter stages begins openly questioning Ranquin.
  • The X of Y: One of two Key to Time stories (the other being "The Stones of Blood") to follow this format. Originally the title had a double meaning, referring both to both the power that Ranquin had over the Swampie tribe thanks to the Kroll legend, and the real Kroll being a giant building-wrecking behemoth, though it's much less apparent in the finished story.
  • You Have Failed Me: Ranquin interprets Kroll's destruction of the Swampie village as an example of this, for failing to deliver the Doctor and Romana. He sticks with this belief even after the others point out that it was because of Kroll that they weren't able to capture the two Time Lords.
  • You Look Familiar: Philip Madoc, who played one of the miners, and John Abineri and Terry Walsh, who play tribesmen, each had multiple guest roles in Doctor Who over the years. Another of the miners doesn't look familiar, but is played by John Leeson, better known as the voice of K-9. (This was because John Leeson was contracted as a regular cast member, but having K-9 in a story with heavy location shooting in a marsh was never going to be practical - and the actor due to play Dugeen dropped out)