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"Hmmmmm, Philip looks bored."
on December 3, 2002
I'm going to admit to something that may not make me very popular in Doctor Who circles. But here goes anyway. I like THE POWER OF KROLL. Go ahead; call me a sick man, a twisted fan, a Swampie-Lover and a reject from the Sons Of Earth. I don't care what you think. Yes, KROLL may be a outrageously silly adventure featuring some of the most awful special effects imaginable, but it's a story that I have fond memories of. The biggest flaw, and I mean this in all seriousness, is that Kroll completely fails to breathe fire, stomp through downtown Tokyo, or fire laser beams out of his eyes. If only he had, we would have been looking at a near perfect adventure.
Okay, I don't know how anyone on the production team ever thought that they could possibly get away with attempting to realize a sea-monster that's supposed to about a mile across. Doctor Who could rarely even get human-sized creatures looking right, and the result that appears onscreen here is both far better and far far worse than one would expect. Better, because the Kroll monster itself actually looks quite alien and strange. Worse, because whenever this surprisingly good alien creature has to interact with the rest of the story, it does so on the wrong side of a horribly obvious special effect line. The DVD production notes go into detail about what went wrong on the production side, but the long and short of it is that it looks absolutely terrible. It's a pity they didn't realize how flimsy and shoddy the creature effects would being and go completely over to the side of making this a comedy. One imagines that if the production team had tried this a season later, the monster and the Swampies makeup would have looked even more pathetic, but would have been infinitely more entertaining.
Still, while the Kroll monster is a particularly poor effect, one can never watch Doctor Who for its production values. What I like about this one is it's effective use of the Base Under Siege mentality. When I first saw this story, I was a young fanbaby and had no idea that this sort of thing was supposedly a worn-out Doctor Who cliché. I liked it then, and that enjoyment has stayed with me. The few sets and small cast help convey the feeling of claustrophobia. KROLL is just a pure adventure. Running around, avoiding the giant monster, getting captured by aliens, escaping from aliens, etc. It's just simple fun. The only downside to this sort of silly/fun adventure is that Kroll doesn't eat nearly as many innocent bystanders as he could have. Oh well.
POWER OF KROLL works well as a simple children's adventure. Sure, some aspects of the plot carry all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but one shouldn't really expect subtlety in a television program featuring a gigantic, evil, angry squid as the main villain. KROLL appealed to the part of me that enjoys Godzilla films. So what if I'm laughing at it rather than with it? At least I'm laughing.
The DVD commentary lacks the behind the scenes know-how that had been displayed on other discs. Tom Baker and John Leeson don't really remember much about anything to do with POWER OF KROLL, though to their credit they do manage to make an amusing performance. I enjoyed listening to them once, but I doubt that I'd go out of my way to listen again. It's a pity that there are no production staff members on this commentary track; perhaps they could have jogged the actors' memories. Still, even without any actual recollections of the story, Tom Baker manages to bring a laugh, although he did seem to get a little too excited during each of Kroll's onscreen appearances.
THE POWER OF KROLL is a story about a giant squid that made it big and decided to eat a lot of people. Treat it like a cheap monster flick and you can have a fun time with this one. This is pure silly entertainment, and while Doctor Who on TV could often do far more, it's important to consider that entertainment was one of its most important priorities. But just remember what it says on that box. If you know the adventure is featuring a giant, enraged octopus and you go in expecting a detailed, textural, tear-jerking story about Kroll seeking therapy and anger-management classes, then I'm afraid that you're going to be profoundly disappointed. Just break out the popcorn, take a drink every time Kroll eats somebody, and you'll be fine, just fine.