If there were a Doctor Who story-writers’ FAQ then one entry might read like this:
Q: I want to write a story featuring the largest monster ever seen in the show. What should I do?
Really, the summary of why The Power of Kroll performs so dismally is very easy: the adversary of the piece is a very unconvincing giant squid, the titular Kroll. There is a certain amount of peril and threat, the theatrics of swamp people (that is, actors painted green wondering if their profession is really worth it after all) and the typical Earth crew stationed on another world meddling with forces that they do not understand and suffering for it. But … it’s all a bit lame.
I’m aware I’ve spent a long time lambasting the production values of the 1980s, and imagine certain readers would dispute (perhaps with just cause) that The Power of Kroll is worse than a story like Silver Nemesis in that the production values were pretty bad by the standards of the 1970s, and the story line is fairly weak. It struggles to make four parts not feel like delaying the inevitable. I must also confess that when it came to buying the DVDs, Silver Nemesis was one I rather looked forward to, but The Power of Kroll was faced with closely approximating dread – a necessary stepping stone in the Key to Time season, but one to be stepped on as quickly as possible.
But when it has come to ranking the stories, I found to my surprise that I genuinely couldn’t rate any of the 1980s episodes higher. I suspect it comes down to three factors:
1. Tom Baker and Mary Tamm both put in exceptional performances as the Doctor and Romana – even if by this stage the writers are resorting to type somewhat and casting Romana in the ‘damsel in distress’ role.
2. I rather enjoy the Key to Time as a whole season. I think this makes me more disposed to be sympathetic to episodes that might otherwise have been propping up the list.
3. The story is weak yes, but I found it oddly compelling when I watched the DVD. If you suspend a little disbelief, and of course try not to guess the very obvious fact that the giant squid is of course the fifth segment to the Key to Time … then it’s possible to accept it on its merits and gloss over the ropy production values.
So embracing the positive, I’m pleased to say that this story is no longer viewed as a chore to get past when watching Season 16. Being candid however, it’s never going to be high on my list of stories I would rush to watch!