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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 497 > The Power of Kroll

The Power of Kroll

Continuing their quest for the Key to Time, the Doctor and Romana land on the third moon of Delta Magna – where they face a huge problem...

THE FACT OF FICTION

Scratching beneath the surface of Doctor Who’s most fascinating tales...

Poor The Power of Kroll. Written in haste, spurned by its first director, plagued by illness behind the scenes, and filmed in what Mary Tamm called “a dreadful marsh somewhere” (when interviewed in DWM 99). Even its signature special effect – “the biggest monster ever seen on Doctor Who” – was the very messy victim of crossed wires.

The TARDIS finds a soggy place to land.

The pre-production of the serial was especially fraught, and it seems that’s where the worst misfortunes occurred. The usually excellent Robert Holmes (who came fresh from scripting the superb opener to this season) seemed uninspired by his brief, the scripts had come in too short, and almost every major role was played by an actor who wasn’t the first choice. Once the cameras started rolling, though, everyone did their best to bring some life to what is a slightly dull adventure. So, while the viewer’s attention might wander during the scenes filled with obvious padding, the finished product is far from a disaster.

In what was quite an ambitious season, this is quite an ambitious story. It’s just a shame that it was hobbled almost as soon as it left the starting gates…

Part One

FIRST BROADCAST: 23 DECEMBER 1978

Thawn (Neil McCarthy), Swampie servant Mensch (Terry Walsh) at his side, has been on a trip to the planet of Delta Magna. Now, he has returned, back to his post on a methane refinery on the third of the planet’s moons.

◾ On screen, Thawn is an employee of some unnamed “company”, but in Terrance Dicks’ novelisation of the story, Thawn and his colleagues work for “the Government Scientific Service”.

◾ Thawn was McCarthy’s second Doctor Who role: he also played Stangmoor Prison inmate Barnham in The Mind of Evil (1971).

◾ Director Norman Stewart wanted George Baker – who would go on to play Inspector Wexford in the ITV crime series The Ruth Rendell Mysteries from 1987-2000 – for the role of Thawn, but the actor was unavailable.

◾ Walsh was a veteran of the series, having worked as a stunt performer, fight arranger and occasional actor on many stories since The Smugglers (1966). He was given the role in part because of the stunt work it required in Part Two.

He is greeted by his colleagues Fenner (Philip Madoc), Dugeen (John Leeson) and Harg (Grahame Mallard). Dugeen notices something on his scanner – a ship that followed Thawn’s down to the surface on the moon, landing in the dangerous swamps outside.

◾ One-time Coronation Street regular Alan Browning (who played Elsie Tanner’s beau Alan Howard) was originally cast as Fenner, but he fell ill before filming and had to be replaced. Stewart turned to Philip Madoc, whose association with Doctor Who stretched back to the second of the 1960s Peter Cushing-led movies, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966). He had also appeared in The Krotons (1968), The War Games (1969) and – in perhaps his most fondly remembered role, as mad scientist Mehendri Solon – The Brain of Morbius (1976). Madoc was under the impression that he had been offered the meatier, more villainous role of Thawn. “I don’t really remember exactly what happened,” he said in a later interview, in DWM 164. “Whoever sent me the script said, ‘For the part of so-and-so,’ which is what I read, but when I turned up on location, I found I wasn’t playing that.”

◾ Due to the soggy setting for this story, K9 spends all four episodes keeping his castors dry in the TARDIS. But Leeson – who had provided the voice for the robot dog since The Invisible Enemy (1977) – is kept busy as Dugeen; this story is his only on-screen appearance in the show.

◾ Stewart had lined up Martin Jarvis (who had appeared in The Web Planet (1965) and Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974), and would pop up again in Vengeance on Varos (1985)) for the role of Dugeen. When he became unavailable, Leeson stepped into the gap.

ESSENTIAL INFO

◾ Season 16 was producer Graham Williams’ big experiment. Each serial was a chapter in a bigger story, detailing the Doctor’s search for the segments of the all-powerful Key to Time. Williams and script editor Anthony Read had commissioned Ted Lewis to write the story detailing the search for the fourth segment of the Key – but with those scripts suddenly in the bin (see box-out, page 66), they needed to find a replacement, and quickly. So they turned to Doctor Who veteran Robert Holmes – whose first script for the series was The Krotons (1968-69), and who had written a dozen stories since then, including Season 16’s opener, The Ribos Operation (1978).

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About Doctor Who Magazine

A special issue celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1996 TV Movie! Contents include: interviews with actors Paul McGann, Eric Roberts, Daphne Ashbrook, Yee Jee Tso and Gordon Tipple, and Executive Producer Jo Wright; a feature examining the legacy of the TV Movie; Steven Moffat answers readers' questions; Fact of Fiction – The Power of Kroll; Part One of a new comic strip, Witch Hunt by Jacqueline Rayner, illustrated by Martin Geraghty; The Time Team watch Victory of the Daleks; plus news, reviews, previews, prize-winning competitions and much more.
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