32 Cool Things about
(And 18 Stupid Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)
By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore
Previously published in Celestial Toyroom issue 394
1. According to Philip Madoc, the director, David Maloney, thought his character’s name, Eelek, was hilarious, and kept calling him that for years after the event. Make of that what you will.
2. This story, then called “The Trap,” was originally submitted by Robert Holmes to Donald Tosh in 1965. Holmes wrote on his storyline, “if you think there is anything worth discussing here, please drop me a line and I will come in and elaborate wildly.”
3. The Gond village looks like someone has dropped a packet of chips and a Scotch egg on a graveled drive.
4. The Doctor comments that the Gond architecture is more typical of low gravity planets, and Zoe remarks that it looks Inca. This would suggest that the gravity is lower in Mesoamerica than on the rest of the Earth.
5. Taking the “wee McClarty” description to extreme, Zoe wears a very short PVC skirt, and hooker boots. There, that’s got that bit out of the way then.
6. This story replaced one called “The Prison in Space,” featuring Zoe being cured of her feminist leanings with the administration of a good spanking by Jamie. There, that’s got that bit out of the way too.
7. “Is she being sacrificed?” “I don’t think so, Zoe, they’re too civilised for that.” The Doctor has clearly forgotten the events of “The Aztecs.”
8. “They can’t all have been killed!” says Selris of the students who go to the Krotons. As Zoe is quick to point out, that’s a pretty big assumption.
9. The Gonds’ outfits not only show a lack of imagination in the fashion department, they’re distinctly unflattering on the stouter figure.
10. Since the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe otherwise look more or less the same as the Gonds, the Krotons’ immediate realization that they are not Gonds must be based on their superior fashion sense.
11. There appears to be only one female Gond on the planet, and, when the TARDIS crew turn up, the Gonds’ first response is to pile onto Jamie. No wonder the species is in trouble.
12. The Krotons’ giant one-eyed black snake bypasses Zoe completely and makes straight for the Doctor. What all that means, we’re not sure.
13. This is the second story (after “The Savages”) in which the actors get to smash up the actual set.
14. The teaching machines, when battered, make a distinctly wooden “clunk” noise.
15. Roy Skelton and Patrick Tull adopted South African accents for the Krotons as they felt the story was a comment on the apartheid system. Exactly how they came to that conclusion is distinctly unclear.
16. Particularly as later commentators have said that the Krotons sound as if they come from Birmingham.
17. Although unintentional, it's still amusing that Eelek looks distinctly like Richard Nixon.
18. Most of the actors seem uncertain as to whether “Abu” is pronounced with the emphasis on the first or second syllable.
19. Although the Doctor prevents the students from smashing the machines, the Krotons promptly decide to have him killed, illustrating that their strategy is to identify and destroy the intelligent and charismatic in Gond society, regardless of whose side they’re on.
20. At that, the Krotons’ strategy of identifying and killing the two most intelligent students has visibly had a knock-on effect in regard to the intelligence of the population as a whole. No wonder the Krotons have been dormant for thousands of years.
21. And even at that, it’s only when a group of aliens come into the society that the Krotons get anywhere near achieving their ends, suggesting that, had it been left to the Gonds, they’d never have got anywhere.
22. Finally, somehow the Krotons have neglected to stop Eelek, a politician clever enough to use the crisis to do an end-run around Selris and get himself put into power, from reaching maturity.
23. Cleverly, the key to the Kroton one-eyed snake’s defeat is given by the Doctor putting his hands over his face at the end of Episode 1, though of course we don’t find that out until Episode 2.
24. Even the Doctor describes the Krotons’ defense mechanism as “stupid.”
25. “Yes, well, Zoe is something of a genius. Of course it can be very irritating at times.”
26. Vana’s description of the interior of the ship as involving “flashing lights” “burning [her] mind” and a giant flashing ball over her head suggest that she was, in fact, attending a discotheque.
27. Perhaps, given the drug scene in such venues, this is why the Krotons say that they need “high brains.”
28. The Krotons’ machine is organic, and, when they enter it, it gives birth to a pair of Krotons. This isn’t a story about intelligence, apartheid, or video games; it’s about sex.
29. In which case, their strategy of taking individual candidates in on their own is also rather counterproductive, though it does explain why they emerge from the machine looking rather bleary-eyed and shaky-kneed.
30. The sequence after the Doctor and Zoe enter the machine involves them moaning orgasmically while pulling rather strained faces. Following which they wake up exhausted and the Kroton creatures are born.
31. The Krotons even have umbilical cords, of sorts, are obsessed with waste matter, and, when outside the ship, feebly blunder about.
32. And given the pseudo-familial structure of the TARDIS crew, with the Doctor as a kind of eccentric uncle to his companions, the whole thing takes on distinct overtones of incest, particularly when the fruit of their union is monstrous, blind and retarded.
33. “Oh Doctor, give me the wood.”
34. “Zoe, I think we’ve gone and done it.”
35. The Doctor uses the large slab of mica that he conveniently picked up in Episode 1 to get out of the ship in Episode 2. Is this Doctor Who’s first Deus ex Micana ending?
36. The story could easily be taken as a critique of traditional rote learning techniques and the use of the educational establishment to maintain the class system. In other words, it’s part of the reason kids nowadays can’t spell.
37. When Selris finds out the truth about the Krotons, he wants to bury the facts and have things continue as they were. However, when he learns Eelek is challenging him for power, he changes his mind and decides to attack the Krotons. He’s not really coming across as a particularly sympathetic character, is he?
38. The Gonds have some kind of relatively sophisticated weaponry in the form of “slings and fireballs”. Why? They’re the only people on the planet and haven’t been in any sort of conflict for thousands of years.
39. And, as so often in the Troughton Era, there’s a Gratuitous Educational Monument in Episode 3 as Zoe introduces us to Our Friend, the Tellurium Molecule.
40. What is the point of Jamie, Zoe and the Doctor wearing wristwatches? They travel in a time machine, for heavens’ sake.
41. For years a rumour persisted that the Krotons were the winning entry from Blue Peter’s Design a Monster competition. They weren’t, but at that they’re still better than the Abzorbaloff.
42. In the first few minutes of Episode 4, you can see Zoe’s bra-strap through the rip in her costume, and you don't even need to use the slow-advance button.
43. The same rip appears and disappears throughout Episode 4, although never again to quite such a revealing effect.
44. Jamie seems to be fielding an entry for the Most Awkward Way Of Walking Through A Collection of Vacuum Cleaner Hoses Award.
45. In Episode 2, Selris is completely adamant that the Doctor and Zoe must go into the Kroton machine. By Episode 4, when Eelek is insisting that they go into it, Selris suddenly starts arguing that the strangers mustn’t go in. He’s not actually any better than Eelek, is he?
46. Selris also made at least one attempt to kill all three of them, as, when he orders the Gonds to destroy the machine’s supports and bring the Dynotrope crashing down, he thought they were inside it (and indeed, Jamie still was).
47. Although admittedly he does redeem himself by jumping into the machine to give the Doctor the bottle of acid, it’s again a political move, and Eelek, who survives to the end of the serial, has the last laugh.
48 When the Doctor taps Zoe’s hands with the acid bottle in Episode 4, she thrusts her bottom out with a wiggle. What all this means, we’re not sure.
49. “Death to the Daleks,” written by Terry Nation and script edited by Robert Holmes, features a sealed off city that can be accessed through successfully solving intelligence tests, is guarded by mechanical one-eyed snake monsters, and which finally dissolves at the end of the adventure. It’s no wonder half of fandom is convinced Nation didn’t write his own stories.
50. The “happy ending” we’re presented with at the end of the story is Selris’ son announcing his plans to take over from Eelek based solely on the fact that he’s the offspring of the previous leader. Considering that he’s whiny, violent, and spent the last quarter of the story laid up with an injured leg, we’d have to say the hereditary principle doesn’t have much appeal in his case.