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Doctor Who: The Power of Kroll (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Power of Kroll originally aired in 1978 and 1979. It was the fifth part of The Key to Time saga.

What? Well, you’d better introduce me.

As what?

Oh, I don’t know. As a wise and wonderful person who wants to help. Don’t exaggerate.

– the Doctor and Romana meet the locals

The Power of Kroll is a strange little serial, apparently the result of Robert Holmes being told to create the largest monster even on Doctor Who. Holmes wasn’t necessarily convinced that this was the best idea (and one can sense that from the story), but the adventure isn’t quite the mess that most people would have you believe. At the very least, it serves as a dry run (see what I did there) for the much stronger Caves of Androzani, but it also has an interesting idea or three along the way.

The power of CSO, more like...

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Doctor Who: The Androids of Tara (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Androids of Tara originally aired in 1978. It was the fourth part of The Key to Time saga.

Ah! That takes me back… or forward… that’s the trouble with time travel, you can never remember…

– The Doctor

There are some things that I know I should probably feel guilty about – cases where my opinion is so clearly distinct from the general consensus that I feels some sense of obligation to apologise for my radical and far-out ideas. While it falls just short of that mark, I honestly enjoy The Androids of Tara as the best story of The Key to Time. I’ll concede it isn’t as masterfully written as The Ribos Operation, nor as full of wonderfully clever constructs as The Pirate Planet, but The Androids of Tarais a refreshingly small-scale adventure that manages to accommodate the awkward humour that this era of the show is accustomed to, while remaining an excellent adventure in its own right.

Eyes without a face...

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Doctor Who: Stones of Blood (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Stones of Blood originally aired in 1978. It was the third part of The Key to Time saga.

Doctor, might I ask you  a personal question?

Well, I don’t see how I could stop you from asking.

Are you from outer space?

No.

Oh.

I’m more from you’d call inner time.

Ah.

– Professor Rumford and the Doctor clarify things

Stones of Blood was a bit of a landmark for the television show. Not only was it the 100th Doctor Who story broadcast, but it also aired remarkably close to the show’s fifteenth anniversary. The Three Doctorshad demonstrated that the show could celebrate its anniversaries in style, but producer Graham Williams seemed to want a more restrained celebration of the show’s run – vetoing an early scene in the TARDIS where Romana and K-9 give the Doctor a birthday cake and a present (a new scarf). Instead, it was decided that the show would celebrate its time on the air by returning to two of its more defining genres, blending those two distinct types of story into one four-part adventure. So we end up with a story that is half gothic horror and half outer space adventure.

A celebration, out of the blue!

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Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Pirate Planet originally aired in 1978. It was the second part of The Key to Time saga.

Excuse me, are you sure this planet’s meant to be here?

– The Doctor

I have to admit, I admire The Pirate Planet for its lofty aim. Douglas Adams’ script is vast and impressive and epic, incorporating and number of brilliant high concept ideas, traditional science-fiction story-telling devices, and healthy sense of humour into one Doctor Who story. Unfortunately, the production is restricted both by the technical limitations of the time, but also by the sense that there’s simply too much going on over the course of this four-episode adventure. Still, it’s as bold, fun and imaginative as any Doctor Whostory, and showcases the series at its most ambitious. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Pulling a fast one...

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Doctor Who: The Ribos Operation (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Ribos Operation originally aired in 1978. It was the first part of The Key to Time saga.

Your name!

What about my name?

It’s too long… by the time I’ve called out “Look out Romanadv…” – what’s your name again?

Romanadvoratrelundar!

By the time I’ve called that out you could be dead! I’ll call you Romana.

I don’t like Romana!

It’s either Romana or Fred!

All right, call me Fred!

Good! Come along Romana!

The Key to Time was a rather ambitious project for the time – the idea being that an entire series of the show would centre around one core arc, suggested in the first story, developed through the rest of the season, and tied up at the end of the year. It helps, when you’re doing something like that, to have an experienced hand at the reins. While The Ribos Operation doesn’t stand as Robert Holmes’ finest contribution to the series, it’s a suitable introduction to the adventure.

Time Lord and Lady...

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