Synopsis: On the marshy moon of Delta Three, a methane refinery plant squats in the murky swamp. The small service staff have only minimal contact with the Swampies – primitive green natives whose village is nearby. The arrival of gun-runner Rohm Dutt on the planetoid coincides with that of the Doctor and Romana, still hunting for the Key to Time. Soon, the new arrivals will be forced into an uneasy partnership as they face the terrifying power of the Swampies’ god, Kroll.
- 1. The Swamp
- 2. The Gun-Runner
- 3. The Sacrifice
- 4. The Tunnel
- 5. The Thing in the Lake
- 6. The Attack
- 7. The End of Harg
- 8. The Storm
- 9. Escape Through the Swamps
- 10. The Rocket
- 11. Countdown
- 12. The Power of Kroll
Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Robert Holmes’s scripts from 1978. This followed The Androids of Tara on TV, so this is the first time that three stories are released consecutively.
Notes: In the prologue (and with a lovely opening line: ‘Deep beneath the waters of the immense lagoon, Kroll slept’), we learn that Kroll has slept for hundreds of years, drawing power and growing in size due to swallowing whatever it was that the Key to Time had been disguised as. Then the men in rockets land on the planet and set up their rigs, which awakens the beast below the lagoon. In chapter 1, we’re told more about the Sons of Earth, an environmental pressure group concerned that the overpopulation of Earth is happening again on Delta Magna, and also regret over the displacement of the Swampies from their original home on Delta Magna to this moon (named here as Delta Three). Romana is again called a Time Lady and she’s wearing a bright orange tunic as well as boots to guard against the mud. We’re once more reminded of the mission to find the segments of the Key to Time.
Unusually for this kind of story, we’re told that Thawn’s crew are ‘all expert at their jobs and they worked well together, an efficient team’. Thawn tells Fenner that he’s seen Rohm Dutt on Delta Magna many times, which is how he knows the Doctor isn’t him. The roles of the named Swampies are clarified, so in addition to the chief, Ranquin, we have the war-chief, Varlik, and Skart is the High Priest, rather than just a part-time rubbish Kroll impersonator. Rohm Dutt thinks Romana might be a government spy. When the deception over the monster in the sacrifice is exposed, Romana is ‘disgusted with herself for being so terrified by such a simple device’. Significantly, when Thawn calls the Sons of Earth ‘fanatics’, Dugeen says ‘We are not fanatics’ (on TV, it’s ‘they’), so he’s not just sympathetic to the Sons of Earth’s cause, he is one of them. After he’s salvaged the Key to Time segment and saved the day, the Doctor suggests to Fenner that he should share his food stocks with the Swampie survivors.
Cover: It’s not immediately obvious but this is a game-changing cover by Andrew Skilleter. A bemused Doctor smirks as Kroll thrashes behind him in the swamp, but it’s believed that this is the first cover to take reference from a screenshot from the episode itself instead of a publicity still (it’s the frame where the Doctor escapes Kroll’s tentacles and grabs the Key to Time segment). The back-of-book text included another promotional block: ‘THE POWER OF KROLL is a novel in the Key To Time Sequence. Also available THE RIBOS OPERATION, THE STONES OF BLOOD and THE ANDROIDS OF TARA. Coming soon: THE ARMAGEDDON FACTOR’. Hmm – one story is conspicuous by its absence (and will be for over thirty years!).
Final Analysis: So very close to the end of this rather dry period for the books. Dicks once again translates the TV story onto the pages and makes it look easy, but he’s working from one of Robert Holmes’ worst scripts so there’s very little to work with. Dicks manages to add a little socio-economic commentary, but I can’t help feeling Malcolm Hulke would have done something more with this, had he still been around. We only have to wait a few years to see Holmes’ second attempt at the same story, for the fifth Doctor’s finale, and wait to see what Terrance Dicks does with that. Until then, we just have that final segment to find in the next book…