Big Finish Folly, Part 102 – Return of the Krotons, by Nicholas Briggs
Onyakis: a dead asteroid with plenty of mineral resources to be mined. When the Tardis turns up, the last remnants of the human race, fleeing a dying Earth, are doing exactly that. One crystaline mineral in particular seems to hold the key to unlimited power. But the commander of the colony ships brooks no resistance, and rules with a tyrannical, murderous hand. Yet when the crystals begin to melt and reform, he’ll discover entities far more lethally determined than himself…
Guess who’s back? Shady’s back – ah, no, wait, it’s just the Krotons…
This one was originally a subscriber bonus tale, and it does show a bit. Admittedly, with only an hour to play with the script does have to lose some depth to keep the pace flowing. Plus, we’re midway through a rather important story arc here – if any important plot points were let loose in this story, listeners who weren’t subscribers would miss out on them. So while the Doctor and Charlotte Pollard are still negotiating the twists and turns of trust and chronological mayhem unleashed by Charley’s appearance in the Doctor’s past, nothing can be resolved with any finality, meaning that this story can be removed from the arc without any damage to it. In other words, it’s a bit throwaway.
That’s not to say that Nicholas Briggs doesn’t try hard to keep it a) entertaining and b) interestingly canonical. For the latter, he references Nerva Station and, of course, brings back a Troughton monster-of-the-week. For the former, he gives us the tyrannical Cobden, a man who is so fixated on his quest for power (in all respects) that he ignores the dangers around him. There’s a race against time, an avalanche, a quest for a missing person. And there’s the slightly unsettling vision of a human/Kroton hybrid, with a single eye blinking frantically out from the mass of solid crystal (I’m old enough to be thinking of the finale of Disney’s epic SF misfire The Black Hole, where the evil robot Maximilian merges with its creator on the plains of Tartarus…)
But the “missing man” storyline, while it highlights Cobden’s violence, doesn’t really get anywhere, and the characters introduced by that disappear abruptly at the end of the play. The Doctor’s deus ex crystal is conveniently swift and Charlotte’s hypoxia feels a bit like a cheat mechanism to bypass further scenes on Onyakis. And I’m certain one of the Krotons (I’m certainly not old enough to remember them, but the Target novelisation of their story isn’t that wonderful) has a Brummie accent.
Well, it could have been worse. After a couple of brain-twisting stories, it’s a relief to hear something a little more straight-forward, though that also serves to highlight how much more sophisticated the other tales in this arc have been.