Me: This is the first Patrick Troughton story I ever saw.
I tell Sue everything she needs to know about the BBC’s fabled Five Faces repeat season. And then I keep going.
Me: And thanks to Simon Harries, we’re watching the original off-air recordings! This is exactly how I would have seen this story in November 1981, when I’d just turned 12. Exciting, isn’t it?
When the title card appears, Sue cracks the obligatory gag.
Sue: Are you sure they aren’t called the Croutons? Geddit? Croutons? Make sure you write that one down.
Me: Yes, dear. Very good, dear.
Sue: Aren’t I the first person to crack that joke?
Me: Don’t worry, love, Steve O’Brien published fanzines with thinner material than that.
But forget that – it’s time to meet the Gonds.
Sue: I don’t care about these people straight away. I can tell it’s going to be another one of those feckless alien planets where everyone rolls over for their alien overlords, until the Doctor strolls in and sorts it out for them. Again.
The TARDIS crew make their way towards what the model maker has optimistically decided to call a city.
Sue: A city? It looks like some discarded egg boxes. This is cheap, even by Doctor Who’s standards.
Me: They spent the money on a helicopter last week.
Sue: It isn’t just the set – it’s the acting, as well. The guy who’s playing their leader is especially bad. He doesn’t seem to know what programme he’s in.
Thank God for the Madoc.
Sue: He looks familiar.
Me: You probably know him best as the German U-Boat captain in Dad’s Army who wants Pike to tell him his name, and Captain Mainwaring cries: “Don’t tell him, Pike!” He was also in UFO and Space 1999, but I’m sure that won’t ring any bells with you.
Sue: You know me so well.
Jamie picks a fight with an uptight local, and they engage in some vicious, no holds barred combat.
Sue: It’s not exactly Game of Thrones, is it?
Me: You see that bloke fighting Jamie? That’s Toby Hadoke’s agent.
Sue: Is it really? What a bizarre coincidence.
Me: Oh, I doubt it. He probably scoured the country looking for an agent with an episode of Doctor Who on their CV. It was either him or Janet Fielding.
Neil: We named one of our cats after the character she played, but never mind that now.
Sue: Just kick him in the nuts!
Me: Are you talking to Toby or Jamie?
The eponymous Krotons are known as the Silver Men in the Gond’s ancient legends, which leads Sue to believe that we’re watching episode nine of The Invasion.
Sue: Cybermen? What, again? Not that I’m complaining or anything.
When a bunch of students start smashing up the Krotons’ learning machines to, er, teach them a lesson, a booming voice orders them to disperse.
Sue: Well, at least I can understand them, so that’s a bonus. But what is that accent? I can’t quite place it.
The Doctor is attacked by a metallic snake-like object. Cue credits.
Sue: Well, that’s not even remotely phallic. It reminds me of that scene in The Abyss. Only shitter.
Sue’s brother Gary, and our daughter Nicol, joined us for the last three episodes. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Gary: I saw most of the William Hartnells, but I don’t remember watching any of these. I think I’d grown out of Doctor Who by then.
I let that comment slide.
Me: Do you have any memories of watching Doctor Who, Gary?
Gary: Yes, every Saturday evening we all sat down to watch it with our tea.
Sue: I don’t remember that.
Gary: You were too young to remember. There was this one week when you took a drug overdose…
Sue: I accidentally swallowed a bottle of Junior Aspirin. I thought they were sweets. They tasted of oranges.
Gary: We had to rush her to hospital so she could have her stomach pumped. She’d do anything to get out of watching Doctor Who.
Me: So you weren’t a fan of Patrick Troughton, then?
Gary: No, I was probably watching Lost in Space. It was much better.
Sue: Why was that?
Gary: It had a robot in it called Robby the Robot. What more do you want?
I don’t have the heart to tell him the robot in Lost in Space wasn’t called Robby. In fact, the robot in Lost of Space wasn’t called anything. How rubbish is that?
Anyway, back in The Krotons…
Sue: The Croutons seem to be powered by showerhead technology.
The scene where Zoe and the Doctor compete to be the best scholar – “I wish my students were this keen!” – goes down well with nearly every person in the room. Okay, Nicol snorted when they mentioned working in square roots, and Gary still has his doubts, but even so.
Gary: How can you watch this rubbish?
Sue: Leave it alone.
Yes, that was Sue leaping to the show’s defence.
And then the Krotons turn themselves into, well, it’s difficult to put into words…
Gary: The robots have the same arms as Robby the Robot.
Me: Are you sure you weren’t watching this instead of Lost in Space, Gary?
Gary: The pain! The pain!
Nicol: Are the Krotons meant to be South African? Weren’t they the bad guys back then?
Me: Yes, they were.
Sue: Are you sure they aren’t from Birmingham?
Nicol: They look like a salt and peppershakers.
Sue: They look like a Moka pot espresso makers.
Gary: They look shit.
The episode concludes with Jamie rushing onto the Kroton ship so he can be captured and beaten up.
Sue: How has Jamie survived this long being this thick?
Me: He’s brave.
Sue: He’s thick!
Gary: Ah, I definitely remember this ‘BBC-2’ logo…
Me: Oooh, shall we watch some Grange Hill for a bit? I think Simon kept his VCR running for another 10 minutes.
Everyone Else: No!
Gary can’t stop chortling as the Krotons boom their increasingly agitated instructions at each other. And who can blame him?
Sue: (In a very broad Brummie accent) Cup-a-Soup!
Me: (Ditto) Bostin’!
Nicol: They’re supposed to be South African!
Thank God for Sir Philip of Madoc.
Sue: This guy is acting everybody else off the screen. He looks like he’s having a great time. He’s trying to out-Shakespeare the other bloke now – and the other bloke doesn’t stand a chance.
Gary: The robot’s hands are a pair of curling tongs and a nutcracker. I thought I should point that out.
Me: I’m waiting for one armed with a garlic press.
Sue: I thought they were hiding the Croutons so they could ramp up the suspense. It turns out they were hiding them because they look dreadful.
Me: They make the Quarks look like the War Machines.
When the Doctor examines the slurry that’s being produced by the Krotons, he describes it as “Primeval soup”.
Sue: You see! Croutons in the soup!
Sue and Nicol are distracted when one of our cats (Captain Jack) snuggles up to our golden Labrador (Buffy) in front of the fire. Unfortunately, it means they miss the Doctor’s explanation for the HADS.
Sue: Did I miss something important? What are the HADS?
Me: I’m sorry but you should have paid attention. You HADS your chance
Sue: Gary, what are the HADS?
Gary: Don’t ask me, I’m barely awake.
Nicol: The Krotons’ heads are spinning again. They must be grinding more pepper.
And then the episode concludes with a familiar image.
Sue: It’s the crack! It’s Moffat’s crack!
Sue: Dynatrope sounds like a branch of plumbers.
Me: I’m pretty sure it’s listed in the latest Ann Summers catalogue.
When Zoe learns Jamie is stuck in the Dynatrope, she worries about his untrained mind.
Sue: Like I said – thick.
Nicol: How do the Krotons get around?
Gary: They have a skirt made of waffles and that hides their legs. How can you watch this rubbish? The effects are terrible!
Me: It’s 1969, Gary.
Gary: Lost in Space and Star Trek were out at the same time, and they looked a lot better than this.
Sue: But Doctor Who didn’t have their budget. And besides, it’s part of Doctor Who’s charm.
It’s at this point that the picture quality of Simon’s off-air recording goes tits up. The final 10 minutes are a rollercoaster ride of flickering and ghosting, and I can feel Gary’s eyes burrowing into me as the picture quality degrades.
Jamie cooks up some sulphuric acid so they can attack the Krotons. It seems ridiculously easy in retrospect.
Nicol: They signposted that solution two episodes ago! What took them so long?
The Krotons have been defeated and the Gonds are elated. “We’re free at last!” they cry.
Gary: Tell me about it
Sue: That wasn’t too bad.
Gary: Are you serious?
Sue: Look, it was only four episodes and it moved.
Nicol: You should see some of the stuff Neil makes my mam watch.
Sue: That was a walk in the park compared to something like The Toymaker or The Zarbi Planet (sic). Some of the episodes don’t even exist, and we still watch them!
Gary: You’re both mad.
Me: So, what score are you going to give it?
Sue: Well, the script was good, but the plot was terrible, if that makes any sense. The acting was variable, and the monsters were comical, but there were some enjoyable moments. And it was only four parts. And it moved.
Nicol gave The Krotons three out of 10. Gary gave it a one. Feel free to boo.