‘Soon you will wish you had died on the Stone of Blood,’ says a Swampy to Romana at one point. Fair point, but I suppose then she would have missed out on The Androids of Tara. Robert Holmes is positively tempting fate with the above and exchanges like, ‘A sort of Holy Writ?’ ‘I think it’s atrociously writ’; ‘Too glib by half’. It’s not as bad as all of that, but this is definitely not vintage Holmes. Double acts are in short supply and exposition scenes (like the one where Dugeen and Thawn stare at a screen) go on forever without any good jokes to lift them. I suppose the whole plot revolves around Kroll’s farts, which are generating the methane for the refinery: I expect that had Holmes sniggering at the typewriter.
The point was to do the “biggest monster ever”, which generates the laugh at the top of the episode, when it turns out Romana was being menaced by a man in a monster costume. It’s been 13 years since David Whitaker did the same gag, so I think it’s fair game. Elsewhere, there’s lots of ominous talk about ‘a creature of massive size’ stirring in the lagoon (or baygule as Holmes has it) before Kroll is revealed in all its underwhelming glory, courtesy of an inept split screen that manages to scalp one of the Swampies. Did you expect anything more from the director of the similarly flaccid Underworld?
Even the performances aren’t lifting this. Mary Tamm fluffs at one point, and Madoc and Leeson look completely unbothered as their characters contemplate their doom at the flick of one of Kroll’s rubbery tentacles. Glyn Owen and John Abineri are at least putting some effort in (on location film), but the studio work is pretty flat. It’s Robert Holmes, so it’s not awful, but it’s so weighed down by the massive millstone of Kroll that you can practically hear Holmes bridling at the brief he’s been given. Sadly, it’s not going to be the last time a producer expects him to work to order.
Next episode: The Power of Kroll – Part Three