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All science-fiction, no matter how well filmed, is essentially silly. There’s no getting around this and no reason why anyone would want to. It’s all part of the fun. The science doesn’t really hold up, you can usually tell how most special effects are done if you think about it for a bit, and the fantastical exposition tends to clog up the script like cottage cheese in a sieve.

And then there’s the problem of names. Most alien races have silly names, often utilising letters which are relatively uncommon in our own naming rituals to make them seem more alieny: Zygons, Klingons, Bannakaffalatta of the Zocci. All named with perfectly reasonable intentions – an alien race called the Fluftygons would hardly be threatening – but still essentially daft.

Enter the Krotons, masters of the Gonds (what? Stop giggling). These frankly-implausible organic robots, with their smoothie-blender heads, sideboard bodies and stumpy claws are grown in a vat of primordial soup – no wonder they’re called croutons! Etc! – and they have a system set up whereby they can take the brightest members of the largely pre-electrical and human-ish Gond race, claiming they need them as “companions,” kill them and leave the rest in a pile of abject servility. They are rotters through and through, and if there’s anything in that vat beyond tomato soup, it is pure liquid evil.

When the Second Doctor, Zoe and Jamie arrive, they interrupt a handover of the Gondish cleverdicks, saving the life of one after seeing the other murdered. The Doctor realises the Krotons are engaging in social engineering, keeping the Gonds from becoming clever enough to revolt against the “self-perpetuating slavery” of their masters.

Here’s a whole episode, which feels rather luxurious, given it’s a Second Doctor adventure, and here’s the trailer for the forthcoming DVD release:

Having used one of their Teaching Machines to ascertain that Zoe is the cleverest Gond they’d ever come across, and that the Doctor is even cleverer, the Krotons summon both of them into the Dynotrope (the Kroton ship and base of operations), and then attack them. This is because the Krotons use mental energy for power, in the same way the monsters in Monsters Inc use screams (and then laughter). Did I mention the science doesn’t always add up?

Anyway, they escape, the Krotons give chase and capture Jamie (who isn’t bright enough to light their candles), while the Gonds prepare for civil war, having been inspired by their missing new friends. It seems the organic nature of the Krotons puts them at risk from acid attack, a state of affairs the Doctor can use against them by poisoning their vats.

You can’t blame the Gonds for failing to figure this out beforehand, of course, what with them being the thicko dregs of their own race. Frankly, after a few generations of this sort of treatment it’s lucky the leftovers are able to walk and breathe at the same time, let alone mount a sustained attack. But attack they do, spraying acid all over the Dynotrope, and they eventually prevail.

The thing to remember, should you be tempted to sneer at these slightly mad creations, is that there is nothing inherently different in design or ambition between a Kroton and a Dalek. It’s just that one managed to capture the public imagination and the other didn’t.

Plus you can’t make ‘Dalek’ sound like food.

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Filed Under: Doctor Who, Rogue's Gallery
By Fraser McAlpine