Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 236: The Krotons, Episode Two
I've said it before, and I've absolutely no doubt that I'll end up saying it again before we reach the end of Season Six… but Patrick Troughton really is fantastic, isn't he? Funnily, enough, I think this episode might sum up why I love his performance, and the entire character of the Second Doctor, more than any other that we've seen.
He's usually on pretty good form, but today he seems to be particularly enthused. For the most part, I've spent today's episode swinging between laughing out loud ('Great jumping gobstoppers!') and being completely thrown by the weird psychedelic imagery (more on which in a moment), but the entire time I've simply been impressed by his performance. This episode is home to one of my favourite Second Doctor scenes, and the only bit of this story which I've seen before. It's the moment that the Doctor sits down at the Krotons' learning machine and tried to get started with the tests. 'Go away,' he tells Zoe, 'don't fuss me.' A moment later an he continues: 'No, come back, what's this?' Another beat. 'It's all right, I know'.
The whole scene is a masterclass in timing and it doesn't only show off Troughton at his very best, but gives us a chance to really appreciate Wendy Padbury's performance, too. The pair of them bounce off each other so well here - and, indeed, throughout the rest of the episode - that it really does make me long for the departure of Jamie. I know, I know, he's an important part of this period in the programme's history, but I really love the idea of seeing Troughton's Doctor given room to breathe away from Jamie, and I think that Zoe might be the perfect person to travel on with him.
It needs to be said that all the stuff inside the Krotons' space ship is simply mad. As soon as the Doctor and Zoe are put through their strange mental testing, I found myself leaning forward in my chair, simply captivated by what was happening. Suffice to say that I couldn't make any sense of it, and things started to go really triply once they kicked in with the fish-eye effect. Shots of the bubbling tanks of water served only to confuse me further, but it was the look of real pain and anguish on their faces that sold the scene to me. Just as the climax to The Abominable Snowmen worked by showing us the Doctor at his most vulnerable, this whole sequence operates on showing us two of our heroes, who have spent the last ten minutes really bonding, being put through agony. We've already seen the after effects of this machine with Vana, which leaves us genuinely fearful for the fate of our two friends.
But for everything that I've said, Jamie gets a fairly good innings here, too. His best traits - his loyalty to his friends and his bravery - get to shine as he tries anything to desperately save their lives, and he's put through the same trial once he's trapped inside the ship. The stakes are even higher here, since the Krotons tell us directly that his mind won't be able to sustain the force of the assault, and we get plenty of weird shots of Jamie in pain, too.
Ah, yes. The Krotons. I'll reserve my judgement for now until we've seen them operating a little more, but I think this story might actually turn out to be the opposite of The Dominators - I don't think this story needs good robots to hold my attention (thank goodness!)