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16x5. The Power of Kroll
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: Norman Stewart
Script Editor: Anthony Read
Producer: Graham Williams

Synopsis: The Doctor and Romana follow the trail of the fifth segment to a moon of Delta Magna, where the humans stationed at a methane refinery are in conflict with the native "Swampies," who revere an enormous creature known as Kroll as a god figure. In attempting to recover the segment, the Doctor and Romana variously find themselves squaring off against the devious human leader Thawn, the Swampie leader Ranquil's belief that they must be sacrificed to Kroll, the double-dealing gun-runner Rohm-Dutt, and Kroll itself, a giant squid grown to enormous proportions due to the power of the fifth segment.

Review: "The Power of Kroll" is one of those serials that I would file under "competent but uninspired." As a "monster" story, it's primarily remarkable for featuring what may well be the biggest alien monster ever to appear on Doctor Who - Kroll is estimated to be about a mile across, though perhaps necessarily we never see its full proportions in a single shot. The premise, meanwhile, is a fairly standard Doctor Who anti-imperialist fable. The human crew on the refinery are led by the devious Thawn, who hired Rohm-Dutt to deliver weapons to the Swampies so that he'd have an excuse to wipe them out, while his subordinates are less malicious. Fenner seems to be primarily a pragmatist who also understands that moral arguments will be lost on Thawn, and Dugeen (played by John Leeson - K-9 remains in the TARDIS due to the terrain) genuinely believes that the Swampies have been treated unfairly and voices support for a protest group known as Sons of Earth. The Swampies, while they have their share of traditions that we would consider archaic and even brutal, have clearly received the short end of the stick ever since the humans arrived in their system, and the seeds of progress are evident in that some of them gradually come to realize that Kroll is not a god and that Ranquil may be leading them down a self-destructive path.

The Doctor and Romana react about as we expect they would: the Doctor is more inclined to intervene at the beginning and is clearly sympathetic to the Swampies, responding skeptically to the claim that the humans' refining enterprise represents "progress" and that the Swampies should not be allowed to stand in its way. Romana is less eager to get involved, and when the Swampies prepare to offer her as a sacrifice, it seems that she expects that nothing will actually happen, mostly rolling her eyes at the situation until she is actually assaulted by one of them dressed as Kroll. While "The Power of Kroll" proves to be a decent showcase for the Doctor's humanitarian streak and his general whimsy (his curiosity and sense of humor prove irrepressible even in the face of imminent death), much of the story just has the characters going through the formulaic motions of accusations, captures, escapes, monster attacks, and other crises. None of the guest cast are likely to rank among the most memorable Who supporting characters, and the sociopolitical themes have been tackled in greater depth in other serials. Still, it's a serviceable installment that keeps the momentum of the Key To Time arc going as it approaches the conclusion.

Rating: **1/2 (out of four)

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