Browse the WBW Podcast
Browse the WBW Podcast
Browse Classic Who reviews
Browse Classic Who reviews

Racist humans drill for methane and awaken Cthulhu-wannabe, Kroll, in the process

The Fourth Doctor and Romana track down the next segment of the Key to Time on the third moon of Delta Magna, where some industrially inclined white chaps have subjugated the aboriginal green people while setting up shop and stealing their resources.

The green, so-called “Swampies” have put their faith in their giant, tentacled god Kroll to deliver them from evil, however, and when Kroll actually turns up, Doc and Romana have to summon all of their wits not to be sacrificed to the squid monster by the Swampies or be shot as traitors by the human colonists.

Here's what we think of C102 The Power of Kroll

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Jim | @jimmythewho


Here's what we think of C102 The Power of Kroll

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Jim | @jimmythewho


Here's what you think 9 Responses to “C102 The Power of Kroll”
  1. Peter Zunitch

    I know I’m in the minority, but I simply treasure this story. The locations and sets stand out here. They’re simple, effective, and it shows that great care was made to facilitate both the action and the filming, They built an air vent used to send signals to the swampies, a hallway that leads us to believe the rig is a lot larger than 2 rooms, a temple lined with a thick reed fence and the sacrifice room with a raised entry, sloped roof and Squid emblem around the window. It’s all just so beautifully done.

    There’s a subtle, yet vital line in this story that makes the whole key to time series more interesting. The doctor notes that each segment is hidden as a symbol of power or great importance. More accurately, it’s the hidden key that has made something or someone powerful. Nowhere is this more relevant than the magnificently gorgeous floppy tentacled, marginally split screened, barely moving Kroll. The attack scenes here are done so much better than John Pertwee’s hilarious rolling himself up moment from Spearhead from Space.

    In the end though, the writing gets the nod. The story is simple, but the world-building backstory is so interesting it makes for something [pun intended] bigger than it should be. It’s another ep. I rewatch often, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Even though the monster baddie shares similar origins with Spongebob Squarepants, this story gets a “Your ways are strange to us dryfoot” 3.2

  2. Phil Salter

    What this? Of course it’s a tale of some green primitives battling invasive technology and those who bring it whilst revering their god who happens to have eaten the one thing that might make him god-like. A strange story not really up to scratch with the rest of the season.

    • I would call Kroll a good idea of a giant monster, but lets be real here, why in the budget of old Dr. Who is this a good idea?
    • During the sacrifice scene when the swampies (what a great name!) are dancing and shouting ‘KROLL’, why oh why is it not in time? It just seems random, there’s no regular time signature to it and it always infuriates me
    • Aah one of these stories, where the companion is the only female in the entire story
    • During the countdown towards the end, that countdown timer really looks as cheap as it is, they’ve not even cut straight lines into the metal
    • Robert Holmes! Robert Holmes! How can the great man write this… thing! Clearly his lowest moment
    • Bonus fact: The swampies had to have chemical showers to remove the makeup each day!
    • A slog to get through, as mediocre as it shouldn’t be given the concept… 1.6



  3. Kristaps Paddock

    What a load of crap. Sorry the gloves were so quick to come off but this is a real stinker. Above all I find it ploddingly dull. There’s no suspense in the plot and the premise is very bland.

    The “anti-colonialist” theme ends up very muddled. The indigenous people of Delta Magna, as I shall refer to them, are not portrayed in as racist a manner as the cast of Talons of Weng-Chiang, but the writers clearly take a sympathetic but dim view of colonised peoples, their spears, and their loincloths.

    Also, maybe it’s me, but it seems the slur “swampies” is used with such force that I wonder if some of the actors were using it as a stand-in for less savory language.

    All of this discourse, however, serves to elevate what is fundamentally a very boring serial. I usually am happy to overlook or even embrace rubber costumes and bad CSO effects, but not here. It’s boring and it looks cheap. One point eight.

  4. Joe Ford, Doc Oho Reviews | @docoho

    Oddly serious for a Robert Holmes script in the Graeme Williams era, this is another much criticised story that I don’t have much of a problem with. There are some moments in there that would turn up on any fans ‘most cringe-worthy scenes’ but to balance that there is some of the best location work we have ever had, a reasonably accomplished gargantuan monster (Kroll would kick the shit out of Big Man T-Rex and the stop motion Loch Ness Monster who came from far more visually accomplished eras) and Tom Baker is clearly having a whale of a time. It is a slow story for sure but Holmes writes his racism angle well and the last episode winds up being one of the most gripping of the year with one action set piece after another. Norman Stewart clearly wasn’t a Doctor Who director (his other credit is Underworld) but he at least manages to add a bit of polish to the story with the atmospheric OB work in the marshes and even attempts some ambitious physical effects. When you are talking about wasting actors like Philip Madoc and John Abineri on underwritten roles then you cannot laud a story too much, but there are few witty moments and on the whole it is a flawed but generally enjoyable romp around a swampy alien world. Considering it presents the biggest stereotype in fantasy television (the primitive culture) and doesn’t entirely suck is something to be proud of. A silly bit of nonsense but elevated by its inclusion in the surprisingly consistent season sixteen: 3.0

  5. The Doctor Gamer | @doctorgamer789

    Ah… The Power of Kroll…
    It’s a bit dull I guess.

    – Well, I liked the effect of Kroll attacking the building and the makeup on the green people was also pretty good
    – Just to give it another pro, as always, Tom Baker is GREAT!

    – It’s all SO BORING!
    – Stating that the characters in this are 1 dimensional is an OVERSTATEMENT!

    This story is FAR from good and only has a few redeeming features.
    I’m giving it 1.5 green cult people.
    We got a dud last week in new who as well!

    At least next time we get a story that I actually find is underrated!

  6. Jim The Fish

    The fact that the actors playing Swampies coloured with the green dye, couldn’t remove the dye due to the makeup artist failing to get the dye remover, leading to the actors having to take chemical baths to try get it of it. Sums up this story adequately.

    It’s a real slog because The Doctor and Romana spend a lot of time trudging through muddy swamps with some green-painted extras who keep chanting “Kroll! Kroll! Kroll!” like they thought he was going to make it to the championships this year or something.

    The only two memorable elements of the story are some guy wrestling with a rubber tentacle and the fact that Cthulhu has a guest cameo as the alien god Kroll.

    It’s supposed to be based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft, but it only proves that neither Robert Holmes nor Douglas Adams ever really read much of Lovecraft except for what was made famous by August Derleth, and thus comes across as a very bad impression of Lovecraft’s writing style based on mass-marketed stereotypes and not what the usual Lovecraft story was actually like. Revelation of the Daleks is actually a lot closer to what Lovecraft usually wrote: Using setting and atmosphere to tell more than the plot itself, tons of worldbuilding, the main characters are a couple of frightened spectators and a ruthless leader, and humans turning into monsters. That is typical Lovecraft. Not this shite.

  7. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club


    • The smoking, wise-cracking, gunrunner. More of him please…oh bugger, he’s been eaten.
    • Fake Kroll #hilarious.
    • Real Kroll looked big, gross, and kind of threatening.


    • Politically incorrect colonial and racial analogies; (‘Swampie-Lover’). This certainly wasn’t the overt racism of Weng-Chiang and I *think* I can see what the writers were trying to do. It might have worked if the Swampies had been the likeable heroes of the story – but they come across as really dumb, bloodthirsty, expendable canon-fodder for Kroll.
    • The Sons of Earth seemed intriguing but turned out to be a red herring.
    • There are an awful lot of conveniently placed canoes.
    • No K-9. Boo. He should have been floating around on a canoe, randomly zapping Swampies, humans and and Kroll tentacles.
    • Where the fuck is the Black Guardian? He was really bigged up in Ribos and hasn’t shown. We’ve only got one story left! He’d better turn out to be Romana in disguise all along or I’m going to be cross (not Picard episode 10 cross but cross nonetheless).

    Summary: Not as rubbish as forewarned.

    Rating: 2.2/5 Rituals of Kroll from which NOBODY escapes! (except for everybody who escapes. Which is everybody).

  8. Paul Waring | @pwaring

    There are some great lines which mark The Power of Kroll out as a Robert Holmes story – I particularly like the ones about progress being a very flexible word and ‘when in doubt, cut everything’. Unfortunately the other thing about a Holmes story is that he doesn’t seem to like writing for female characters. Romana is the only woman and ends up being captured, screaming, and then sidelined, which is a marked decline on the previous story.

    The guest cast however is excellent. Doctor Who stalwart Philip Madoc is on form as always, and it’s nice to see John Leeson in person (his only appearance on camera), given that K-9 is written out from the start. Thorne is particularly menacing, quite happy to use any methods to achieve his aims, and has no qualms about wiping out the Swampies – considering this a bonus.

    The Kroll effect is pretty good, taking into account when this was made and the minuscule budget. It would be nice to hear a bit more about Delta Magma, and particularly the Sons of Earth, given how often they are mentioned, but with only four episodes the limited backstory is understandable.

    Overall, a solid story with a decent guest cast and a good performance from Tom Baker. 3.5/5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

If you haven't already... Subscribe now!

Subscribe to us on iTunes now! We're dropping a new episode every week (pretty much), reviewing Classic Who, New Who and all kinds of bonus stuff from spin-offs and conventions to Doctor Who comic books.

We last reviewed...

N183 73 Yards