No one goes into the wasteland.
Imagine a warship, piloted by crystalline life-forms, that runs out of energy on a planet populated by a mentally undeveloped species. Because their ship is powered by mental energy, the crystalline life-forms must raise that primitive society to high intelligence over thousands of years in order to find suitable candidates to plug into the engine. Sounds smashing and just a bit sinister, yes? Well, not the Doctor Who version of the story, Robert Holmes’ “The Krotons” (Story Production Code WW).
Despite the relative strength of the concept, “The Krotons” just falls a bit flat in almost all aspects, from the uninspired design of the malevolent Krotons themselves through to the weak characterizations of the native Gonds and their internecine politics. Thrown in a bit of Keystone Kops near-misses between Zoe and the Doctor on one hand and Jamie on the other and the result is a workmanlike yet unremarkable four episode story that nevertheless hews to the overarching theme of the Second Doctor’s tenure: the importance of thinking for oneself rather than letting a machine do it for you.
The story starts agreeably enough, with the Doctor, Zoe, and Jamie arriving on a planet with two suns, necessitating the deployment of the Doctor’s “favorite umbrella” to ward off the heat. The TARDIS lands in a malodorous area of high sulfur content and interesting mineral deposits such as mica and tellurium, allowing the Doctor and Zoe to banter a bit about chemical compositions. And, pleasantly, it’s all foreshadowing, because the particular minerals play directly into the plot’s resolution. For, you see, if you know enough chemistry, you know that tellurium, from which the Krotons’ organic spaceship is conveniently made, is soluble in sulfuric acid, which the Doctor knows how to manufacture from the rocks at hand. It’s fairly clear how this one will end…